Don’t You Wish You Could Pass Like Leo?

By: Tyler Bishop
In 2005, the event that everyone was talking about was Rickson’s Budo Challenge. It was a tournament done in an unusual format, with a unique scoring system that primarily rewarded submission attempts over positioning. Naturally, young up and coming jiu jitsu nerds watched in awe of the likes Leo Vieira effortless passing the guard, but what is most amazing is how impressive this performance remains today.
With the resurgence of submission only BJJ tournaments, many should look at this past event for inspiration. This was not a submission only event, but the rules certainly inspired action. However, I did not write this article to talk about tournament formats, and point-systems. I wrote it to talk about the impressive passing acumen of Leo Vieira in his prime. The reason the rules are important is because they allowed Leo Vieira to cut lose, and the results were down right scary. In his first match Leo Vieira fought Barret Yoshida. Yoshida was well known (and still is) for his dynamic and aggressive guard. In this case, Leo was far more aggressive in his passing. Leo attacked Yoshida’s guard relentlessly. It wasn’t until I finally broke down the film – piece by piece  – that I could finally understand the genius and detail of Leo’s passing style this day.
x-pass leo
Leo’s first pass was a great X-guard pass – in which Yoshida appeared stunned. Leo attacked the sit-up guard by positioning his legs out of reach, attaching his grip to the knee, and his other grip to the collar. Before Yoshida could react, Leo stepped out of range, and onto Yoshida’s stomach. Leo kept both grips, solidified his base through his opponent, and scored his first pass of the day.
leg weave leo
Another one of Leo’s impressive passes that day was from the leg weave position. It seemed to catch Yoshida by surprise. Leo attacked the pass by threading his arm between the legs, stepping his leg out of half guard, then pressuring Yoshida to defend the same side pass. When Yoshida commits to the defense, Leo steps over the legs, and switches his hips while maintaining his leg grip. This allows Leo to establish another effortless looking pass.
grips leo
Finally – one of the most important details I noticed in studying this match from 8 years ago – is the ability of Leo to control space when passing. A large part of this control comes from one specific grip. Leo dominated the grips in this match, and that is why he passed the guard close to 10 times. But, it was the grip shown above that really gave Yoshida the most problems. Many guard passers will control the knees or shins. Leo controlled the very end of the pants, and used this to continually nullify and pass Yoshida’s guard. He was able to setup multiple passes from this grip, and ultimately went on to when the match by double digits.
In this day and age – where the guard player has such an impressive arsenal of attacks, it is good to study someone who has effectively shutdown this time of game before. Sure, guard games are evolving, and there is only one Leo Vieira, but is it possible that we are missing techniques and strategies that could be saving all passers a lot of energy? You tell me. Hopefully this was as helpful and insightful to you, as it was for me. You can watch the entire match of Leo vs. Yoshida below.
God Bless – Tyler
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZdkQ4yHw2o&w=560&h=315]