John Danaher Details His Systematic Approach to No-Gi Guard Passing

John Danaher — the former head coach of the now-defunct Danaher Death Squad — is one of the best minds in all of jiu-jitsu. In a recent video with Bernardo Faria, Danaher described the overall approach to no-gi guard passing that he has taught to many elite competitors, including  Gordon RyanNicky Ryan, Garry Tonon, and Nick Rodriguez,.

Watch that video below.

Because much of the Danaher Death Squad’s success was found with leg locks, some might be quick to assume that Danaher puts little emphasis on guard passing. Quite the opposite; Danaher says that guard passing is a necessary element of a complete jiu-jitsu game.

“The only way you can attack the upper body from top position is to pass your opponent’s guard… If you can’t diversify your attacks into to passing and legs and back and forth between the two, you’re going to find it very hard after a period of time when everyone else catches up to your leg lock technology,” he says.

Always systematic, Danaher breaks down his approach to passing into four elements.

“The first big skill that we look at in this video is opening the closed guard in the minimum amount of time and the minimum amount of fuss,” Danaher says.

Second, Danaher addresses passing the guard of a seated opponent. When this is the case, he favors body lock and tight-waste passing because this immobilizes the guard player’s hips, thereby greatly limiting his attacks.

The third element is passing the guard of a supine opponent. Here, Danaher relies heavily on the torreando pass to out-flank the guard player. Danaher notes one key difference between gi and no-gi torreando passing.

“You have to understand in no-gi torreando your grips are transitory. They’re there for a second and gone.”

Finally, Danaher addresses passing the half guard.

“A big part of what we do is create pressure, drop into half guard, and pass from there,” he said.

Danaher prefers to pass the half guard because it is the only position in which the guard passer can control the guard player’s head while passing.

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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