I hope you’re ready for this.
There’s a lot to absorb, but if you invest the time, you’ll receive a conceptual framework for learning all the dominant positions in Jiu-jitsu.
It’s geared, of course, to beginners. But all conceptual learners will find a tidbit that can be used to improve their training.
- Positional Control
- Defensive Posture
There are common elements in all of the dominant positions, and you can break down what must be learned into categories that can be applied across the board. Above is that framework. And it can be used to guide your learning process.
For the top positions, you start by focusing on positional control.
Learn the tricks of how to stay in the position once you get there. Then you add submissions and transitions on top of that to develop a solid foundation. All of them can be and probably will be learned together, but being stable in the position must be a priority.
For the bottom positions, you start with defensive posture.
Understand how you can be attacked and minimize the risk, and then develop your escapes from the position.
Positional Control on Top
Positional control is an extensive topic.
There are many tricks for shutting down escapes and maintaining dominance. And it can easily and quickly become a very advanced discussion. But here are some tips and drills to get you started on the right path.
- Always glue your chest to their back and your chin to their shoulder when you’re directly behind your opponent. The connection you create between your body and your opponent’s will give you control. And the majority of your control comes from the control of the upper body. The hooks are helpful, but they’re a weaker control mechanism. Your focus must always be on the upper body first.
- Always angle your opponent towards your choking hand. That angle opens up the armbar and bow and arrow choke. It also makes it harder for them to escape, which makes your position more stable.
- Sitting heavy on the hips can make it easier for someone to roll you. That seems counter-intuitive. You want to be as heavy as possible, right? Wrong! You want one of two things: Hip immobilization or disconnection.
The primary ways that you immobilize the hip is by:
- Dropping your hips slightly lower on their body and crossing your ankles.
- Grapevining their legs (it’s when you hook their ankles with your feet and stretch them out in opposite directions.)
And the primary ways that you create disconnection is by:
- Pinching your knees against their hips and elevating your hip slightly.
- Transitioning into high mount (it’s when you drive your knee into their armpits and sit high on their chest).
- Switching to butterfly mount (ask me about this).
- Switching to s-mount.
These are all small adjustments you can make to secure your position. And the longer you stay in mount, the more success you’ll have to finishing from mount.
When you’re on top of side control, there’s one thing that you can be absolutely sure of. Your opponent wants nothing more than to escape. They don’t want to be there. They want to somewhere where they’re comfortable.
Your job is to disappoint them. That starts with understanding where you have to control their body. And I’m about to give you a massive yet simple concept.
You have no control if you don’t control the head, hips, or both.
Nothing else matters. And if you lose those elements of control, you must transition to a different position.
Think about this concept and take note of what happens when people escape from your side control.
- Find a training partner before or after class. Get back pack control (over/under grip) without any hooks. Then see how you can control the position with just upper back control as your partner moves and tries to escape.
- Now try the same drill with your hooks and feel the difference.
- Then try it with just hooks and no upper body control. The goal is to give you a better sense of how important upper body control is and finetune your senses there.
- Mount your partner with your hips squarely over their hips and see how long you can maintain the position as they try to escape.
- Now transition to a high mount with your knees under their armpits. See how they move to escape the position and try to hold control as long as possible.
- Lastly, go low and either grapevine their legs or lock your ankles below their hips (low mount). Then do the test again.
- With your partner, establish whatever side control you know and test your control. The goal is to increase the time it takes for them to escape everytime.
These are all simple drills. Their goal is to reveal problem areas. You want to seeing the holes in your game so that we can address them. And problem solving is most powerful when you see the problem before the solution is revealed.
Submissions on Top
- Rear Naked Choke
- Bow and Arrow Choke
- Cross Choke
For those three positions, these submissions are the most common attacks. You must know them, because someone is going to try them against you. And the better you understand them, the easier it will be for you to prevent them.
In addition to that, it’s a great starting point.
Learn all of these submissions as soon as you possibly can.
The most important thing that you must know at the basic level is how to transition between the dominant positions.
You must know how to get from:
- Rear Mount to Mount
- Side Control to Mount
- Mount to Rear Mount
- Mount to Side Control
Those four are the most important transitions to learn as soon as possible.
These are all little tricks for staying alive in horrible situations. I’ve given tips in this area, but we’re going over this more in class. A lot of this comes down to awareness because some of the rules can be broken.
When someone is on your back, you must do two things right away:
- Bring your chin to your chest to close the path to the choke.
- Keep your elbows tight so your arms aren’t isolated.
After that you want to start attacking the angle of the position. Your goal is to move your body away from his choking hand (the arm that is over your shoulder). That will increase your safety in the position and also makes it easy for you to escape.
Another option would be to scoot down and create a disconnection between your back and their chest. That also weakens their position and opens the door for any escapes you want to try.
The key on the bottom is to keep your elbows tight to your side (it makes it hard to for your arms to be attacked) and block the path to your neck (it makes it hard for you to be choked). There are of course times when you have to break rules in order to escape. When you do that though, there’s always a risk involved.
Ideally, you should never allow your opponent to control your head. Accomplishing that will make any escapes you attempt easier. And you prevent that head control by gluing your ear to your shoulders and using your hands to frame against their neck and arm.
In the absence of those barriers, you have to frame against their hip, and look for underhook or neck frame with your other hand. There’s a sequence of good defensive postures, and every escape becomes harder the further you go down the list.
If you’re in a bad position, you have to get out. And the more time and effort you devote to honing your escapes, the more success you will have. Specific tips and tricks for escaping positions will wait for another article.
Tips and Tricks
- Every week, give yourself a learning focus. Pick a technique or position or anything you want to improve at it. And every day, find some way to make an improvement. If you come to class, drill it a few times. If you can’t make it, pull up something similar on YouTube and imagine yourself doing it.
- When you roll, give yourself an objective. It could be getting to a position. It could be setting up a specific submission. Or it could be anything else. The objective will give you increased focus.
- When you drill, start with one technique and then try to connect another technique to it in flow. It will help you start seeing combination possibilities will lead to better fluidity of movement.