Dean Lister’s top 3 tips to improve my guard pass!

Well, The Real BJJ YOLO started last night at 5:30 pm at Kodiak Jiu-Jitsu in Delaware Ohio. I heard via facebook that there was a last minute opening for a private session with, none other than, Dean Lister: 3 time ADCC champ! I normally don’t spend the kind of money it takes get a private lesson with a world class BJJ player but with my new mindset of just “going for it” I jumped on it!

Dean Lister and I

Dean and I had a great conversation about BJJ YOLO and my dreams and aspirations to train BJJ while traveling the world and he was SUPER-SUPPORTIVE! Dean also took time to specifically mention how he would NEVER trade his BJJ lifestyle for the 40 hr., 5 day work-week lifestyle that we have here in the states. I could tell, after talking with him, that he is a genuinely sincere person who believes in the BJJ spirit and lifestyle and bringing good things into the world around him! I was really impressed with his passion for BJJ and his support of BJJ YOLO.

Of course, we trained some BJJ also! He asked me what I had wanted to work on and, although I know I was supposed to say “leg locks and foot game”! Somehow I found myself saying: “well, my guard passing sucks pretty bad”. He was really enthusiastic and said…”hey, I know guard passing too…not just leg locks” and then laughed. What I really liked is that the first thing he did was pull guard and said, “okay, just play. Pass my guard.” I am sure you can guess what happened next! Within 3 seconds I was swept and sitting on my butt. He said “okay, do it again” and again, there I was laughing and sitting on my behind. This went on two or three more times and finally he said. “Alright, you know…there are some simple things about guard passing…simple, but not easy that people don’t seem to get.”

He started outlining how the “stand-up pass” has gained a lot of popularity these days with tons of guys jumping to their feet in guard and playing out of there. But, he warned, this is not the simplest way to pass guard. “Watch…”

Then he jumped in my guard and said “Ok, play”. In the short span of about 45 seconds he passed my guard four times. I couldn’t help but laugh every time he passed. Ok, he wasn’t doing anything especially athletic or fancy, he would just put a hand here or there and the next thing you know, he was gone! We would stop after every few rolls and he would point out what was working in his guard pass and how I should simply focus on those “principles” and not spend tons of time learning step-by-step pre-packaged passes. Once he started talking about concepts and principles, he had me!

Here are the big three concepts that he shared with me to improve my guard passing. Some of you may already have these concepts down, others not so much but I wanted to share none the less. Maybe you can integrate some of them into your passing….

  • Concept one: MASS IS NOT WEIGHT. Don’t confuse them. “We all have mass”, Dean says, and Dean’s got a lot more than I do, “But”, he says, “We only have weight when we are on top of our opponent”. Dean says that when we hop to our feet (which is the rage right now, he says) we remove the advantage that having mass while on top gives us. “Why do that”, he asked? “We should focus on using the inherent advantages that each position gives us. When your’e on top, weight is your inherent advantage”. Obviously, Dean feels strongly about the “low pass”. “Keep your weight focused on your opponent. Don’t hop up and allow your opponent the space and mobility to defeat your pass attempts”. Alright. Well noted! Dean recommended keeping at least one hand on your opponents hip, pressing down, thereby using your “weight” to pin and counteract his hip mobility.
  • Concept two: PATIENCE. Not every pass attempt needs to be a pass! Dean felt that I was “pushing too hard” to try and make the pass work. “So you got by one of my knees. So what? Don’t get so excited about “almost” being passed that you force a fight between yourself and my knee-shield. If something comes up that you don’t like or is too strong, back-up. You’re not in any trouble”. We went over this one a lot and getting passed the knee-shield turned out to be a combination of concept two and concept one. I am still going to need to practice the hell out of it but i really liked the effect it had on my perspective!
  • Concept three: KEEP IT SIMPLE. This one he kept saying over and over as we worked one pass to the other and from full guard, half guard, 1/4 guard, etc. “Use your weight, be patient, and keep it simple. Cartwheels, handstands, spinning step-overs…sure they can work, but why do it? There are so many simpler ways to pass guard”. This one is the easiest concept to remember but maybe the toughest one to drive into my game. Dean noted that as I would encounter resistance in the pass I would inevitably pop to my feet and start adding things to his “simple” plan. “Why give your opponent space to move? Why give up your weight advantage”? “Just keep it simple, use your weight and be patient”. Thanks Dean I will do my best 🙂

My one hour private ended up running about an hour and a half since we spent an extra twenty minutes just sitting on the mat talking about Jiu Jitsu, his life choices, mine, etc. We ended up swapping e-mail addresses and gave mutual invitations to come stay with each for a couple of weeks: him in Cozumel with me, and me in San Diego to train at his gym. He even invited me to stay at his “training specific” competition team house…gotta say, it was pretty awesome to get that invite.

So, moral of the story: BJJ rocks and so do private lessons with BJJ greats! As long as I can afford the expense I will not hesitate the next time I get the opportunity for a private session with a world famous competitor / coach like Dean Lister! I use to think it was too expensive, and maybe some of them are, but the experience is just awesome and well, that’s really what I am going for these days  🙂 Alright, see you OTM!

5 thoughts on “Dean Lister’s top 3 tips to improve my guard pass!

  1. Will do Kelly! I am going to focus on using it and really integrating it into my game so that I can teach it effectively before I pass it on to others but as soon as I do, I share with everyone 🙂


  2. Congratulations on your journey. I wish you the best. I have also being thinking about taking some private lessons with world champs and Dean Lister is at the top of my list, but I have no idea on how to do get in contact with him. Would you shed some light on how the process is. Thanks


    • Hey Santiago! Dean is a great guy and grappler, you would be doing great to take privates with him. Where are you located? Dean has a school out in San Diego that he runs with Jeff Glover. He also has a “fighter’s house” where guys can stay and focus 100% on grappling! If you are not near San Diego,you would need to either travel or wait for him to come out to a seminar near you.I will shoot him an e-mail and see if I can get you in touch with him. Osss!


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