DVD Review - Little Tony's Sao Paulo Approach

I recently had the opportunity to watch Little Tony Pacenski’s Faixa Preta Series Volume 4 - The Sao Paulo Approach to Passing the Guard and Smash Passing. I was interested in this DVD not only because Little Tony is a fantastic BJJ practitioner, but he also produces very thorough and high quality products that don’t neglect the small details. I have seen many tapes/DVDs over the years that try to capitalize on a captive audience and merely show individual or isolated moves without any logical sequence or only show techniques from a macro level where the critical elements of a move are not explained.

For me, BJJ is always in the small details. Missing the sometimes not so obvious intricacies of a move or system usually means the difference in being able to effectuate the system/technique when you try to implement it into real time training. This is where this DVD really scores. Little Tony has been training for years and it is evident that he is a real student of the game. For more about his impressive credentials see http://www.soulfight.net/scbiotony.htm.

The DVD is also presented in a non-traditional format, which I find is very effective. The DVD starts with a partner drill. The drill focuses on redirecting your opponent’s legs which is crucial for applying the Sao Paulo approach to passing the guard. It is in this initial opening sequence when Little Tony’s experience as a competitor and instructor becomes evident. He demonstrates and explains the reasoning behind this system of passing and why the system and moves are done in a certain way. What is left is an extremely effective approach to passing the guard. Tony provides many cues to look for that your opponent will try to employ to thwart your move as well as the details you need to successfully pass the guard using this system. Little Tony states from the beginning what the ultimate goal of this method of passing is, what to anticipate as your opponent will try to escape and what to do if your opponent defends in a certain way. This helps you form a framework in your mind as the DVD/system unfolds, rather that watching a bunch of moves and then realizing later what you should be looking for and having to go back and watch the moves all over again to understand what you need to do.

The DVD then goes onto incorporate the Sao Paulo approach into the classic passes all practitioners learn from day one to establish that crucial foundation of BJJ. Watching this portion of the DVD was one of those “AHA” moments and made me rethink and reanalyze my first year of BJJ. It is one of those times when you realize that a small addition to something you have been taught, used and thrown away will drastically change the move and yield a high probability result.

The DVD then reviews Little Tony’s earlier DVD on the Sao Paulo Approach to Passing the Guard. After this review, the DVD then systematically explores this method of passing the De La Riva Guard from standing, Passing the Inverted De La Riva hook, Spider Guard to the Sao Paulo Approach, the Half Spider Guard, the Lasso Guard, Butterfy Guard and finally the Smash Pass. What is great about this DVD is that Little Tony demonstrates how versatile this system is by applying this approach to passing the guard to so many different guard games. Even if you don’t immediately incorporate this system into your own game, I am confident that you will find yourself unknowingly applying portions of this approach into your own passing without thinking about it.

Throughout the DVD, Little Tony explains moves within the moves. What I mean by this is that he demonstrates many options to do or switch to when applying a particular technique either because you merely want to, or to counter a defense your opponent might try to use. Little Tony also addresses many of the typical questions that are likely to come up or discusses variations of the moves that you will need to incorporate when you try to do the moves in real time training after watching the DVD.

As mentioned earlier, it is the little details in the DVD which makes this DVD a must buy. Little Tony presents an entire system of passing the guard that can work for anyone. Little Tony’ teaching is clear, well spoken and easy to understand. The camera angles allow the moves to be demonstrated and viewed so that it is patently clear of where your body positioning must be.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I highly recommend this DVD. The Sao Paulo Approach and Smash Passing is a system of passing that every practitioner should incorporate into their games. If you don’t incorporate it for whatever reason, you should at least be aware of it. Outside of being taught live by Little Tony, this DVD is a must have for the serious BJJ student. Go now to http://www.soulfight.net/enterpagefaixapreta4.htm and order this DVD. You will not be disappointed.

Tony Gioffre
Gracie Black Belt, Lead Instructor
Thornwood MMA & Fitness

Thanks Tony~

Read Up Son:

Faixa Preta Vol.4 Review by Daniël Bertina

Tony Pacenski, a black belt with the Carlson Gracie BJJ Revolution Team under Rodrigo Medeiros, has produced a fantastic instructional DVD based on the guard passing method made popular by top BJJ players from Sao Paulo.

In his DVD -The Faixa Preta Series (vol.4) The Sao Paulo Approach to Passing the Guard & Smash Passing – Pacenski shows a few simple concepts on how to constantly redirect the opponent's hips when applying guard passing pressure, greatly eliminating the opponent's options for escape.

All the moves on this instructional – and there are many, many variations covered – seem to revolve around only a handful of essential details. These can be added to your guard passing game almost instantly, making this DVD essential viewing for both the competitor and the recreational player alike.

As his nickname 'Little Tony' suggests, the small statured Pacenski cannot force his way through life – and BJJ. Combining years of training at Gracie Torrance and his current mentor Rodrigo Medeiros with his professional background in education, Pacenski shows a smart and highly refined technical approach to the art, with a clear curriculum and teaching method. Introducing basic concepts first, followed by all the logical and realistic variations in application.

At first, the Sao Paulo approach seems counter-intuitive. Instead of blasting past the opponent's legs using straightforward pressure, the Sao Paulo approach is a method of rotating the opponent's legs and hip in opposite direction to the side you are passing. As if you're moving back into the guard, while passing. But by moving this way you turn the opponent on his side and expose a clear path to attack the back or mount, It also blocks the opponent's guard retention. As Pacenski shows, this can be done using your gi grips, but also your own elbows, hips, knees, shins and feet – making a good percentage of the moves on The Faixa Preta Series Vol. 4 applicable to no-gi training as well.

The Sao Paulo approach itself has been a bit of a mystery in the BJJ scene for quite a while. Top fighters from Sao Paulo, mostly from the Behring lineage: Macro Barbosa, Fernando 'Margarida', Roberto Godoí, Roberto Tozi, Jorge 'Macaco' and Wilson Reis have shown great dominance using this strategy. But also Alliance stars Leo Vieira, Cobrinha, Andre Galvao and recently the Mendes Brothers have all developed and mastered this particular style of hip control. Up to this point, the basic concepts have not been put into a systematic curriculum for English speaking students. The Faixa Preta Series Vol. 4 fills this gap perfectly.

Using this method of hip control and redirection, the Sao Paulo approach and the additional postures for positional control create a sprawling, twisting and smashing style of guard passing pressure. And the great thing is, the moves seem to require very little strength or physical attributes. All of which make great viewing material for jiu jitsu enthusiasts with a love for sadism.

Review by Daniël Bertina (Brown Belt under Marcos Flexa, Carlson Gracie Holland)

Faixa Preta Vol 4. Review by Daniel Smith

BJJ Purple Belt

Faixa Preta Series Volume 4. by Tony Pacenski

Review by Rob Setree 6/21/2011


I spend hours a day, learning technique, drilling technique, and rolling. I spend this time following a path; I don't even know where this path is going. From where I stand, I can't see the top of the mountain, if there even is one. But still I train, day in and day out, in search of jiujitsu.

Every so often, I'm rewarded. To be honest, I'm not even certain how it happens, but rarely,someone says something or does something that changes my path. When it happens, I know it instantly. My epiphanies feel more like confusion than anything. That thing that someone did or said, I know instantly to be true. And from there I have to rebuild and make sense of everything else I knew to be true. I have to change paths. I have to draw a new map.

The Volume 4 Faixa Preta Series The Sao Paulo Approach To Passing The Guard & Smash Pass Fusion is both my epiphany and my path. It's exactly what I needed. Thank you for putting this together and sharing it.

Louisville, Kentucky


Faixa Preta Vol 4. Review by Daniel Smith

BJJ Brown Belt

Faixa Preta Series Volume 4. by Tony Pacenski

Review by Daniel Smith 6/17/2011

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Tony Pacenski's upcoming DVD on the Sao Paolo approach to Guard Passing and Smash Passing. Let me first preface by saying I've been on the receiving end of variations of both the SP Approach and the Smash approach. my BB instructor has used versions of both of these on me countless times and both are colossal pains in the butt to deal with from a bottom perspective b/c I feel as if my entire lower half of my body is totally nullified. I can have great sweeps and great submissions from the guard but if I can't move my hips b/c my legs are pinned together, none of them will amount to anything. so I was glad to finally start to figure out the method to my instructor's madness if you will after having seen Tony's previous seminar DVD about the SP approach and now this new volume.

The new volume is not comprised of seminar footage as the previous volume was, but instead takes a more conventional approach to BJJ instructionals. while he does address some aspects of the previous volume, he does not spend an inordinate amount of time on them since he assumes you've already seen the previous volume. the material on shutting down the DLR and Inverted DLR guards using the SP Approach is phenomenal. however what I personally liked most about the SP Approach portion is how he shows how to integrate the SP Approach into your existing guard passing system. with me being a bigger guy (6'4" 225), I've always been a big fan of the "old school" leg-on-shoulder style of passing. typically I just pass from this position, but when you integrate the SP Approach of redirecting your opponent's legs not only can I pass but I also now have the option to either take the back or mount. I'm for sure going to be spending a lot of time merging the SP Approach with my leg-on-shoulder passes.

The section on the Smash Passing is shorter than the SP Approach portion but I still found it a good compliment for those who have seen Xande Ribeiro's DVDs. Xande devotes a lot of time to Smash Passing. Tony's Smash Passing has a some slightly different wrinkles than Xande's version, but Tony's still works off the same premise of pinning your opponent's knees together thus nullifying much of his/her hip moment.

While I have a little bit more personal exposure to the Smash Passing than to the SP Approach, they almost seem like close cousins and can be integrated with each other seamlessly. I very much look forward to seeing where Tony's material takes my guard passing game!!