Jan 02

Side control micro battles 101

Following up:

I still see people struggle with escaping from side control. It’s understandable. You’re at a disadvantage. The position is inferior, and you have to deal with weight and a limited range of movement.

That’s why you have to give yourself every advantage.

Easy to say, but how do you do it?

Ahh, that’s the eternal question. How about we put it into the framework of micro battles. That might make a little more sense.

The big objective is obviously to escape. But you can’t get to that outcome unless you do a few things first. There’s no way to just magically transport yourself to a different position.

Setup is important.

And the first micro battle is the fight for head control. If I control your head, I control your body. Usually in the transition to the pass, there will be opportunities to prevent head control with frames. It just depends on the pass that’s used. So I encourage you to study passing. When you understand how a specific pass works, it’s easier to win the micro battle for head control in the transition.

And if you never let them control your head, you’ll be able to stop them from stabilizing the pass. And if you do that, guess what?

Your escape will be easy.

The second micro battle is the fight for a frame against the hip. Without that frame, not only will it be harder to move but it will also be easier for your opponent to take back any space you create.

Losing that battle is the easiest way to get completely stuck in the position.

The third micro battle is the fight for space. This is where you bridge comes in. And most people do it gloriously wrong. They DON’T bridge. They bump. They lift their hips for just a wee moment and hope that their opponent will levitate in the air instead of falling right back down like a ton of bricks.

When you bridge, you must bridge towards your opponent (onto your shoulder). And it must be done with a wide base so that you’re stable in the position. That will allow you to easily move at the highest point of the elevation when you have the most space.

Winning that first battle will absolutely make escaping easier. If you lose it though, you must win the other two.

Tactics and strategy. That’s what the game is all about.

And this week, I’ll be heading down to North Carolina to share as much knowledge as I can.

If you’re in that area, the details can be found here:


And for the first time ever, I’m creating a resource for everyone who plans to attend or wishes that they could. In a little hidden dimension, I’ll be adding supplemental lessons and a full recap of everything that is covered.

It’s going to be fun.

Dec 13

You don’t know what you are truly capable of

There’s an incredible scene in the movie, Facing the Giants.

It takes place on a football field, after practice. The coach catches his star athlete, the leader of his team, talking pessimistically about their upcoming match against one of the better teams in the league.

This was the STAR athlete. His words, his feelings and his beliefs were being transmitted to the rest of the team, and it could not be allowed to stand if they were to have any hope of victory.

So the coach did something about it.

He called the kid out and challenged him to the death crawl. One of his teammates strapped himself to his back, his eyes were blindfolded, and he started to crawl up the field.

Now this drill wasn’t new to practice. They had all done it before, many times. And the athlete had a sense of what he was capable of. But without sight, he had no idea where that point was.

He started moving forward. And his coach was in his ear.

“Let’s go, Brock. Show me good effort.”

He kept moving forward. His coach was in his ear.

“You gotta keep moving. You gotta keep moving. Let’s go. Don’t quit.”

His legs started to hurt. The spotlight was on him. The whole team was watching. But his coach was in his ear. And he kept moving forward.

“Keep driving! Don’t quit until you got nothing left!”

Fatigue was coursing through his body but his coach was still in his ear. And he kept moving forward.


The whole team stood up in amazement but he kept moving. One hand forward, one foot forward over and over again. And his coach was in his ear, driving him the whole way, until he finally had no more to give.

He collapsed, and when he took off the blindfold, he was shocked. He made it all the way to the in-zone, much further than he had ever gone before.

And in that moment, he truly knew that he was capable of far more than he once believed.

I thought about that scene last night because I saw someone quit in class.

We were finishing up the night with a little plank work. Pretty light work, but about 40 seconds in, I saw someone completely quit. He abandoned the position and sat down on his butt.

I tried to bring him back and after a long moment he got back in position.

It didn’t last though.

Not long after, he quit again, but this time he did something even worst. He got up, walked off the mat and started getting changed.


I came up in an environment where such behavior was unacceptable. And what’s worst is that he was in better shape than several people who stuck with it to the end.

I have no sympathy because quitting easily becomes a habit. If you do it on the mat, you’ll do it elsewhere.

But if you build up a resistance by smashing through obstacles over and over again on the mat, you will also reap benefits when it matters outside.

Don’t quit.

Dec 11

Covert mission deep into side control escape territory

Covert mission deep into side control escape territory

Here’s a little something for the conceptual minded.

It’s all the best things I ever learned about escaping from side control. Be warned though. It’s not technical. I’m not going to show you some magical move that works all the time against everyone even when they outweigh you by 200 pounds or more.

No, instead you’re going to learn tips and tricks for improving the techniques you already use. And you may even pick up something that fundamentally changes how you play the game. But more than all that, you’re going to expand your understanding of how escapes work.

Let’s go.

Learning Objectives

  • Escaping Side Control
    • Destabilizing Control
    • Creating Space
    • Adapting to New Situations
  • Preventing Control
    • Framing

These are going to be the four areas of focus for this conceptual lessons. And each plays a crucial role in improving your ability to prevent and escape from side control.

Destabilizing Control

When you learn side control escapes, two things commonly happen:

  • Your partner holds side control on their knees.
  • And they do not smash the hell out of your chin with their shoulder.

It leaves you ill prepared for the real thing when someone is doing everything in their power to make your life miserable. Little but significant things like pulling you into their shoulder pressure, driving off their feet to reinforce their weight with force, and shifting their hips to focus it all on one part of your body.

The difference between the two situations is shocking.

But understand that even in the worst case scenario their control must focus on your head and hips. So your task is to destabilize that control. And there are two specific things that you must accomplish:

  • You have to establish a forearm frame against their hips so they can’t follow you easily.
  • And you have to free your chin so that you maximize your ability to move in the situation.

Nothing else matters.

You have to regain some control of your head and hips. That’s the first battle once your opponent secures the position. After that, it’s time to create some movement. You’re not going to go for your grand escape yet, but the more movement you create, the more likely it’ll be that your opponent won’t be prepared when you’re ready to go.

Creating Space

One of the problems I notice the most when I watch people try to escape side control is that they don’t bridge. They may think they are but no, it’s not even close.

Instead they bump.

And there is a clear distinction between the two movements. When you bridge correctly, you do more than just elevate. It’s a diagonal movement that shifts your opponent’s weight off of you. And the BEST way to do it is with perfect base.

Your base must be wide enough and stable enough that your opponents will struggle to drive you back down. And when you’re at the highest peak of that movement, you shrimp. That’s when you have the most space possible, and you’ll shocked at how easy escaping will be.

When I see people struggle to escape, it’s because they don’t do that. Instead they bump. Their feet are close, they elevate straight up, and then they do the WORST thing of all.

They try to shrimp while their hips are already falling back down to the ground.

And do you know what their opponents have to do then?


They don’t have to do anything. Gravity will do all the work. And you will feel the result.

Actionable Advice:

  • Work on your bridge to the point when you can hang out at the highest elevation even against resistance.
  • Connect the shrimp and the bridge together so that they flow seamlessly.

Adapting to New Situations

Once you improve at creating space on the bottom, you’re going to force your opponents to adapt. They’ll start transitioning to different positions and they will also modify how they control you in side control.

Common side control modifications are:

  • Inside Hip Block (some people even like to grab the pants)
  • Kesa Gatame (switching their hips to face you with either head or arm control)
  • Elbow Pin (bringing the other arm around to pin your far arm to your side and it’s usually accompanied by an inside hip block)
  • Twister (switching their hips to face your hips with an elbow pin or inside elbow control on the far side)

Those are all different situations, even though technically they can still be considered side control. How you create space has to change a little or a lot (depending on the situation) but the fact that you must create space changes not at all.

There is a wrinkle in the fabric though.

Some of these top positions add another element of control for the top person. No longer is it enough to just get your some control back of your head and hips. Now you must also deal with the fact that both of your shoulders are firmly plastered to the mat. That gives your opponent rotational control of your body, and it kills a lot of movement.

Some thing must be done.

You must again destabilize their position with movement. Anything that you can do without leaving a limb dangling or your neck open to attack. It’s not easy, but that’s the price you pay for letting things progress to this point.


There’s one thing that you can do that will make escaping easy. Ridiculously so even.

Never let your opponent control your head.

In the transition to side control, sometimes there will be an opportunity to block your opponent’s top arm. You can create a frame against the bicep that will prevent them from hugging your head. And without that control, they can’t stop you from moving. Take advantage of it. Immediately. Give them no opportunity to figure out a way to get past the obstacle you put in their way.

Just adding that element to your game is going exponentially increase your escapes.

And the best part?

It’s going to frustrate your opponents to hell and back again. They won’t like it. But you will (and that’s all that matters).

Drilling Suggestions

Tips and Tricks

  • Drill your escapes against different levels of resistance. There’s a lot of room between 0 and 100. And if you want to gain a wide range of experience.
  • Make a list of all the passes that work on you. Pay attention to the process of their execution, and start looking for opportunities to frame. Start with just weakening the side control position and then move up to guard retention and pass prevention.
  • Devote time to drilling the bridge and shrimp together. Seamlessly connect the two movements.

Whoa, that’s a lot, right?

But if you’re still hungry for more, I’ve created a course on this very topic. And in it, I delve deep into the specific elements that go into great escapes.

Find out more here:

Nov 23

Side control better ready itself for oblivion


There’s some monsters out there that know how to make side control one of the most horrendous of experiences.

They settle their weight just right. They drive off their feet into the side of your ribs just right. And they smash their shoulder into your chin just right.

It’s almost seems like they putting no effort into it at all, as you flail around and struggle to breathe. It’s not a pleasant situation to be in. And to avoid, you’re going to need more tools in your arsenal when it comes to escape.

Let me help you out.

A Bit of Concept First

When it comes to obliterating an opponent’s ability to control you in side control, you must:

  • Prevent or weaken their control of your head.
  • Prevent or weaken their control of your hips.

You can find those elements in every effective side control escape, and the better you are at weakening or preventing control of your head and hips, the easier your escape will be, no matter what technique you use.

Keep that mind, as I show you one of the uncommon escapes I use.

Rolling Out Like A Ghost

I learned this escape when I was a blue belt, and it clicked right away. In fact, I remember using it during a roll THAT night. And I’ve never forgotten it since. At first, it might seem a little flashy, but it operates under solid principles.

The bridge is absolutely key.

That creates the space needed to move and weakens any control your opponent has of your hips. What might not be noticeable though is how the overhook is used to weaken control of the head. The side of the wrist digs into the armpit, which shifts your opponent’s body slightly, and if your chin is getting smashed, that little bit of space is a life saver. Oh, and it also makes the escape easier as well.

And the second part of the demonstration is a little drill, I’ve been using to develop the movement and counter the knee cut pass. It’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re doing. You’ll have fun doing it, and it’s a great warmup.

Nov 21

Smashing through plateaus like a boss

Argh! The dreaded plateau.

You can run. You can hide. But it will find you, and it has a particular set of skills. Skills that it has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make it a nightmare for people just like you.

And what skills, pray tell?


The first is illusion.

It can make you feel its presence when it’s not even there… You’ll think that you aren’t improving, even when you are. And as your motivation decreases, it will finally bear its sharp fangs and unleash its true fury upon you.

It’s horrible.

And many fall to its power.

You MUST not be one of them.


The second power is distraction.

It can make you focus on the wrong benchmarks for improvement. Your focus will shift to making every roll a competition. You have to win. And that desire will force you to play a very limited game and ignore many learning opportunities.

And then suddenly you’ll notice that others have improved and you haven’t…

Many people quit at that point.

The jiu-jitsu graveyards is filled with their corpses. And there’s a grave waiting for you as well, if you don’t smash through plateaus like the boss you are.


Here’s how you do it:

First, you must take responsibility for your own growth. And I suggest you get a notebook. But don’t use it to take notes. Let me repeat that. Don’t use it to take notes. At least not how most people do it.

I’ll explain.

Use it mainly for planning purposes. Write down your training goals. Write down the problems you’ve run into on the mat more than once. Write down techniques that you want to master. Write down your successes. Write down your failures. Write down questions you want to ask higher belts.

The notebook is a tool that will help you maintain focus and a sense of progress at all times.

Use it.