Understanding Headquarters Passing In BJJ

Understanding Headquarters Passing In BJJ

Guest post by Evolve MMA, Asia’s premier championship brand for martial arts. It has the most number of World Champions on the planet. Named as the #1 ranked martial arts organization in Asia by CNN, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, Evolve MMA is the top rated BJJ gym in Singapore.

There are different ways to pass the guard in BJJ. Some grapplers prefer to pass while standing, kneeling, and utilizing speed or pressure-based passes. Another strategy is by forcing the opponents into certain positions like the half guard. Most importantly, it’s best to develop a passing system that suits your style to stay ahead of your opponents, giving them an answer for every reaction they present in the different scenarios you create. In this article, we’ll delve deep into understanding headquarters passing in BJJ.


What Is The Headquarters Position?

The headquarters position occurs when the guard passer is on top of the opponent’s leg (shin) in an open guard position, with the opponent’s leg trapped between their legs. It is usually established when the passer splits the opponent’s guard and clears the opponent’s feet from their hips or upper body. By entering this position, the guard passer neutralizes the threat of modern guards like the De La RivaLasso, and Spider, as well as the danger of leg entanglements. Aiming for the headquarters allows grapplers to combine different guard passes and transitions, making building a robust open guard passing system a viable option to incorporate into one’s game.


The Value Of The Headquarters Position

The headquarters position accomplishes one of the essential elements of guard passing: bypassing the opponent’s feet, which serve as their primary line of defense. Bypassing the opponent’s feet allows the guard passer to move beyond the initial defensive barrier, putting them closer to the end goal of controlling the hips. Moving past the opponent’s feet keeps the guard passer safe from specific sweeps and submissions, putting the passer in a position to initiate a variety of mid-range guard passing attacks such as the knee slicelong stepX pass, and others.

The headquarters, reverse De La Riva, and half guard are all similar positions, with only slight differences in distance. Consider the headquarters as a safe spot. By clearing the bottom player’s feet, the guard passer is in a relatively safer position and is also within the distance of the guard pass, as generally speaking, allowing the guard players to place their feet on you comes with risks. Being in the headquarters limits the opponent’s hip mobility, and when passing the guard, remember that the opponent’s line of defense is their feet, knees, and hips. The feet are the first and most important line of defense, allowing the opponent to create distance as frames. The knees and hands are also used to frame the opponent from coming closer than they already are, but the feet can prevent guard passes by pushing the guard passer away.


Passing From The Headquarters Position

When passing the guard, the first thing a passer has to deal with is the feet, and the headquarters can be used to address them. A great example of getting to the headquarters position is from the De La Riva guard. As the opponent assumes the DLR guard, break their grips and use your hands to grab their shins. Drive in and lower your body weight as you extend your arms (stiff arm). Maintain the DLR hook as you lift your hips and pop back to remove the DLR hook. Step back and pull the opponent’s leg as you step over. Pinch your knees to trap their leg and squat back to secure the position.

The headquarters position occurs when you straddle the opponent’s leg. In this position, you aim to align with the opponent’s trapped leg; think about aligning your spine with the opponent’s shin. From here, you have sufficient weight that the opponent can’t simply elevate you using their trapped leg as you’re not leaning over them.

Assuming the opponent’s right leg is trapped, use your right shin to pin their left leg down. Utilize your hands for hand fighting to control the opponent’s hands or head. How you pass from this position is determined by several factors, such as how high the opponent’s knee is in front of you, how deep their foot is behind you, and the direction of their shin relative to your spine.

If the opponent has enough of their foot protruding towards your glute, you can overcome them by placing both hands on the mat above their shoulders. If you have the opponent’s right leg trapped, execute a pummel by kicking your left foot toward your glute and hooking your ankle around the opponent’s right ankle. Pike your hips as if performing a handstand, enough to clear your pelvis above the opponent’s right knee, and pass straight to the mount position.

When you reach the leg pummel position, and there’s no room to hook your ankle above the opponent’s ankle because their foot is too close to your glute, consider the positioning of their knee. If the opponent’s right knee is facing outward, thus misaligned with your spine, opt for the knee cut. Pull back and slide your right hand under the opponent’s left armpit, moving from being on top of their shoulder to create an underhook. Slide your right leg across the opponent’s right leg (trapped leg) and cut through to complete the knee cut pass. This maneuver requires finesse and an understanding of body positioning to execute effectively.

Conversely, if the opponent’s right knee is pointing inward (towards the opponent’s left side), the reverse knee cut becomes a viable option. In this scenario, maneuver your left leg behind the opponent’s right leg and cut over their left leg (far leg), while your right leg stabilizes on the mat. Keeping your left knee close to the opponent’s left hip is crucial to prevent them from creating space and pushing you away. This variation of the knee cut pass focuses on using your body’s movement and positioning to bypass the opponent’s defenses.

Transitioning from these positions requires understanding the opponent’s potential reactions and the ability to adapt on the fly. Control becomes paramount; using head and arm pressure to compress the opponent’s upper body can significantly reduce their ability to resist or counter your passes. Additionally, effectively maneuvering your right leg around the opponent’s blocking leg clears the path to more dominant positions such as mount or side control.

The art of passing from the headquarters position in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu encapsulates the essence of the sport: a chess match of physical prowess, strategic positioning, and mental acuity. For practitioners aiming to refine their guard passing game, the headquarters offers a launchpad for various techniques tailored to overcoming the guard player’s defenses. It underscores the importance of building a coherent system of guard passing that aligns with one’s personal style and the dynamic nature of BJJ and its engagements



The headquarters position in BJJ is not just a technique but a principle – a way of approaching the guard passing game that emphasizes control, versatility, and strategic foresight. As practitioners develop their skills and integrate the headquarters into their repertoire, they begin to see guard passing not merely as a challenge to be overcome but as an opportunity to express their understanding of BJJ’s profound tactical depth.

For those dedicated to enhancing their guard passing, the journey involves continuous practice, keen observation, and the willingness to experiment with techniques and transitions. With its foundational importance and adaptability, the headquarters pass serves as an essential component of this journey.