How To Perform The Cartwheel Pass In BJJ

Passing the guard in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires great effort. It’s difficult to shut down and pass the guard of experienced guard players as you must constantly be mindful of the threat of sweeps and submissions while advancing your position. 

Although it is ideal to stick with the fundamentals as it works, even in the highest level of competition, adding unconventional techniques will work wonders and make your training sessions more fun. Having some level of unpredictability is always a good thing. In this article, we will talk about one of the most exciting ways to pass the guard, the cartwheel pass.


The Cartwheel Pass

Pressure and speed passing are two ways to pass the guard. Speed passing is a way of passing that catches the opponent off guard. Though it may be flashy and is usually performed by younger grapplers, speed passing is an effective way to quickly pass a timid guard.

Typically, what comes to mind when grapplers see the cartwheel pass is that it requires athleticism and that it is a risky move to perform. While it is true that certain attributes may be beneficial, like power, agility, and balance, to pull off the cartwheel pass, this technique can still be performed efficiently by anyone through consistent practice.

The cartwheel pass is best performed against seated opponents. In most cases, you may even bypass the guard and move directly to their back. You can also perform this pass against a standard supinated open guard – just remember to remove their grips before performing the move. The cartwheel pass is a great technique to circumvent the frames of many unsuspecting opponents. 

Let’s watch the video above so that we can fully understand the mechanics of the cartwheel pass.

The common problem that prevents grapplers from trying this pass is that they can’t do a basic cartwheel. Learning how to do a cartwheel is actually not too daunting if you train for it systematically. To start, you can work on your uneven height cartwheels using a small medicine ball. One hand goes to the ground and your second hand to the medicine ball. To add more difficulty, you can use a bigger medicine ball which offers even more uneven height and an unstable surface and perform the same thing.

Now that you can perform a basic cartwheel, let’s now use it to pass the guard. As mentioned above, the cartwheel pass is best used against a seated guard, like the butterfly guard. This pass is done standing up and starts with a staggered stance. 

Let’s say your left foot is forward. Use your left hand to post on the mat right between the opponent’s leg. Put your right hand on the opponent’s right shoulder to help you with the cartwheel and keep them in place. 

After putting your left foot forward, left hand posting on the mat, and your right hand on the opponent’s right shoulder, do a cartwheel to pass their open guard, and you will land right behind them more often than not. Remember that each step must be performed fluidly to leave the opponent with no time to react. Secure your position by locking the seat belt grip.

Most of the time, the opponent will defend, thinking that you will insert the hooks with your legs. Since you are now in a favorable position, it is best to take advantage immediately. Use the opportunity to directly apply a rear-naked choke from this position, as opponents rarely expect it.

Nick Rodriguez, a grappling phenom and master of the cartwheel pass, shows more details about the cartwheel pass in the video. Nicky sets up the pass by baiting the opponent to press forward with their seated guard as they look to make contact. 

When this happens, he grabs the opponent’s wrist (left wrist, for example) using his left hand and plants his left foot right between the opponent’s feet. He then places his head beside the opponent’s left shoulder and uses his right leg to propel him over while the left leg stays on the ground. The right hand is used to clear the opponent’s head and post behind the opponent’s neck as he performs the cartwheel.

Nick’s other way to clear the opponent’s head before doing the cartwheel is instead of using the right hand to post behind the opponent, he uses his left shoulder to put the head down while keeping the grip. Upon landing on the back, Nick uses a seatbelt wrist-to-wrist grip and finishes with a choke with no hooks. 

If the opponent goes to the side, he then applies hooks and transitions to a body triangle. Although the opponent might anticipate the cartwheel pass once you do it in succession, it is great when used in between other passing techniques. Hitting it the first time will surely give you the confidence to attempt it even more.


Cartwheel Pass And Guard Retention Drill

The cartwheel pass and guard retention drill can be used as a warmup if your goal is to practice the technique during the training session. To start, tell your partner to start the drill from the seated guard. 

Perform the cartwheel pass and have your partner scoot their hips forward, cross their ankles and speed back to guard, landing in the supinated open guard position. As your partner sits back up to the seated open guard, perform another cartwheel pass. Switch positions with your partner to also work on your guard retention.


Final Thoughts

The cartwheel pass is a valuable tool that can instantly make you a dangerous guard passer. As with all techniques, don’t forget to use proper form and slowly add resistance as you become more experienced. 

This technique can work in both gi and no-gi, so you’ll definitely get a lot of value if you add it to your repertoire. Training BJJ should be fun, so adding techniques like the cartwheel pass is absolutely fine to make your rolls enjoyable. Stay safe and have fun on the mats!


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