Grapplers Graveyard

Pressure Passing & Control

pressure passing bjj

Pressure passing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a powerful technique that can help practitioners control their opponents, tire them out, and ultimately secure dominant positions. This blog post will dive into the fundamentals of pressure passing, key principles, and the most effective techniques.

Rather than imagining pressure passing as a large man’s game, it is best to think of it as a deliberate man’s, or woman’s, game.

The best pressure passers I know are under 130 lbs. Typically pressure passing is a slower game than more acrobatic passing games. This allows for more time to think and less room for error.

Introduction to Top Pressure

Top pressure is very important. It is key to remember that top pressure is about more than just dropping weight onto your appointment. It’s about knowing exactly how to drive pressure to immobilize the competition.

The basic steps of Pressure Passing bjj

  1. Weight Distribution: The essence of pressure passing lies in how you distribute your weight. By placing significant pressure on your opponent, focusing on their hips, chest, and shoulders, you can immobilize them and make it difficult for them to escape.

  2. Connection: Maintaining a strong connection with your opponent is crucial. This involves staying close, reducing space, and ensuring that your body remains in constant contact with theirs. This limits their ability to create frames or escape.

  3. Control Points: Focus on controlling your opponent’s hips and head. These are the primary points that determine their mobility.

  4. Patience: Pressure passing is a methodical approach. Rushing can create opportunities for your opponent to escape or counter. Patience and persistence are key as you slowly advance your position.

Tips and Tricks

While using pressure ensure that your weight is being explicitly driven into key points in your opponent. After completing a pass, drive forward pressure into your opponent’s body. Specifically, drive pressure into the hips and shoulders. This will reduce the space between you and your opponent, and allow you to feel shrimping attempts.

Key Principles of Pressure Passing

  • Flattening Your Opponent: Keeping your opponent flat on their back is essential. Use your weight and grips to prevent them from turning on their side or creating angles.

  • Eliminating Space: Stay tight and reduce any gaps that your opponent could exploit to create frames.

  • Incremental Progress: Progress your position inch by inch, maintaining control at every step. This might involve small adjustments rather than large, sweeping movements.

  • Breathing and Energy Management: Maintain steady breathing to keep your own energy levels in check. Pressure passing can be physically demanding, but it should always be more demanding on your opponent than yourself.

Effective Pressure Passing Techniques

Over-Under Pass

The over-under pass is a classic offensive pressure passing game technique. Here’s how to execute it:

  1. Establish Control: Start by controlling one of your opponent’s legs with your arm (under hook) while the other arm goes over their opposite leg.

  2. Drive Forward: Use your shoulder to drive into their hip, flattening them out and pinning their hips to the mat.

  3. Walk Around: Slowly walk your legs around to the side, keeping your shoulder pressure constant.

  4. Secure the Pass: Once you’ve passed their legs, secure a strong side control by maintaining your weight and adjusting your grips.

Headquarters Position to Knee Slide

This sequence begins from a strong standing position:

  1. Control the Legs: From a standing position, control your opponent’s legs and step between them into the headquarters position.

  2. Apply Pressure: Drop your weight onto your opponent’s leg while using your grips to control their knees.

  3. Knee Slide: Slide your knee across their thigh, using your free hand to block their hip and prevent them from regaining guard.

  4. Secure side control: Once your knee is through, establish side control (video) with heavy shoulder pressure.

Smash Pass

The smash pass is a direct attack style and forceful technique:

  1. Pin the Legs: From a standing or kneeling position, pin your opponent’s legs together and to the mat.

  2. Shoulder Pressure: Drive your shoulder into their chest or stomach, collapsing their guard.

  3. Step Over: Step over their pinned legs and move into a dominant position, such as side control or mount.

Maintaining Pressure After the Pass

Maintaining pressure after passing to side control requires a combination of proper body mechanics, strategic grips, and careful adjustments.

First position your chest over their chest and hips low to the mat to prevent them from creating space or turning into you. Use your knees and elbows to block their hips and shoulders, making it difficult for them to move or recover guard.

Effective grips, such as an under hook and a cross-face, will further immobilize their upper body, giving you greater control and an advantage by making it harder for them to escape.

In addition to these mechanical adjustments, maintaining pressure involves anticipating and reacting to your opponent’s movements. Stay relaxed and breathe steadily to avoid fatigue, allowing you to sustain the pressure for longer periods.

Make small, incremental adjustments to your position to tighten your control and adapt to your opponent’s escape attempts. For example, if they try to shrimp away, use your knee to block their hip and adjust your chest position to maintain chest-to-chest contact. By combining these techniques with a patient, slow, methodical approach, you can effectively maintain pressure in side control, wear down your opponent, and create opportunities for submissions or further positional advancements.

Best Pressure Control Positions

  1. Side Control (Side Mount)

  2. North-South Position

  3. Mount

  4. Knee on Belly (video)

  5. Reverse Kesa Gatame (Reverse Scarf Hold)

  6. Kesa Gatame (Scarf Hold)

  7. Modified Side Control (Twisting Side Control)

  8. Half Guard Top (With Crossface and Underhook)

  9. Top Turtle Position (video)

  10. Crucifix

  11. 100 Kilo (Headquarters) Position

  12. Top Half Guard (with Pressure from the Crossface and Hip Control)


Mastering pressure passing and maintaining pressure after a pass is a blend of art and science. It requires understanding the fundamentals of weight distribution, connection, and control points, alongside the patience and strategic adjustments that come with experience. The techniques discussed, such as the over-under pass, headquarters position to knee slide, and the smash pass, are all grounded in the principles of leveraging your weight and minimizing space to neutralize your opponent’s mobility.

By implementing these techniques and principles, you can develop a pressure-passing game that is not only effective but also adaptable to different opponents and situations. Remember that pressure passing is about more than just physical force; it’s about precise control, strategic positioning, and constant adaptation. Whether you’re aiming to tire out your opponent, set up submissions, or simply win and dominate the match, honing your pressure-passing skills will make you a more formidable and well-rounded BJJ practitioner. Continue to practice, stay patient, and refine your approach, and you’ll find yourself seamlessly controlling and advancing through your opponent’s defenses.