BJJ Grips: Do You Have to Break Them Before Passing the Guard?

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Here’s a question for those of you who practice BJJ with gi*:​

Do you think you have to break every grip when you try to pass your opponent’s guard?​

(Your opponent’s grips can bother you in no-gi as well, but usually not as much as in gi.)​

Or breaking some grips if not every grip?​

I don’t care so much about my opponent’s grips when I’m on top & trying to pass their guard.​

The major reason for this is that I believe improving my position will deal with their grips as a side effect.​

There are a few other reasons not to worry about your opponent’s grips so much. For example, they will always get some grips no matter what you do. So, if you worry about every grip and try to break them all, you won’t be able to move forward.​

Another thing to keep in mind is that their grips aren’t final. They are temporal and good for the time being, and their efficacy changes dynamically just like any other thing in BJJ. So, if you adjust your position, there’s a good chance their current grips may become less effective.​

Instead of dealing with my opponent’s grips directly, I usually pay more attention to my overall posture, my ability to post when necessary, and what kind of connection, angle, and weight distribution I have against my opponent. I also try to be aware of any potential, immediate threats.​

Now… in case some of you are thinking…​

“But Masa, you are not a high-level guard passer. You haven’t won any world championship!”

I’m going to play my Lucas Lepri card.​

As you know, Lucas Lepri is one of the best guard passers ever. So it’s natural to see and check what he does about his opponent’s grips.​

I’ve checked a handful of Lucas Lepri matches available for viewing on YouTube before writing this post. These matches include Lucas Lepri vs…​

  • Paulo Miyao (Lasso)
  • Lucas Valente (Lasso)
  • Levi Jones-Leary (De La Riva)
  • Jake McKenzie (Half guard/deep half guard)
  • Edwin Najmi (Lasso/single leg X/spider)
  • Leandro Lo (Spider)

​Obviously, Lucas Lepri competed much more, but you can see his the opponents I mentioned above are all great guard players. Lucas couldn’t pass Paulo Miyao, Lucas Valente, Levi Jones-Leary, or Leandro Lo in these matches after all.​

But in all these matches combined, the number of times Lucas actively tried to break his opponent’s grips is… zero. He spends no time directly dealing with his opponent’s grips, even though these guard players probably know how to get great grips more than most other guard players on the planet.​

Instead, Lucas generally leans towards his opponent and gives them constant pressure while keeping his base nice and low. At the same time, he keeps adjusting his position to create better openings for passing the guard.​

Is this just a Lucas Lepri thing? I doubt it.​

As I mentioned above, you can nullify your opponent’s grips indirectly by improving your position. So, it’s like this: you can advance your position without dealing with your opponent’s grips directly, but you can’t advance your position by getting rid of your opponent’s grips. For that reason, it’s better to focus on improving and advancing your position.​

If you are used to trying to get rid of your opponent’s grips all the time, you might initially feel awkward about ignoring these grips. But try this approach. If it works for Lucas Lepri, it should work for you.