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BJJ POSITIONS HIERARCHY
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BJJ POSITIONS HIERARCHY

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become one of the fastest growing combat sports in America, and now with the rise of the ADCC, the IBJJF worlds, and other high level prestigious events, BJJ is becoming ever more popular on a global scale. Learning the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can take a seriously long time, so it is extremely important to master the foundations bjj has to offer. There is an extensive range of technical aspects to learn, as most of these maneuvers derive from dominant control positions. All positions are extremely important, but in terms of which position is the most dominant, it does come down to a few different factors.

What This Article Covers:

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THE OVERVIEW OF THE MAIN POSITIONS 

The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has an extensive range of control positions, and transitional components. Learning such a complex Martial Art takes extreme hard work, dedication, and continuity, as athletes have a long road ahead of them. There are thousands of techniques to learn, and mastering them all is next to impossible, but when it comes to control positions it is a lot more feasible to become expertly proficient in these aspects. There are four major control positions which are considered the jiu jitsu basics, these are the guard, the mount, side control, and back control.

5X World Champion Bernardo Faria has created one of the most important BJJ instructionals available with his FOUNDATIONS OF BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU available from BJJFanatics.com.

bjj positional hierarchy

The guard is a defensive position, where a practitioner will wrap their legs around the waist of their opponent, in order to stop them from passing their guard. This position also has a large number of sweep, and submission attacks to launch for. There are many different guard systems, like half guard, quarter guard, full guard, open guard, x-guard, spider guard, 50/50 guard, de la riva guard, butterfly guard, and many more. The guard is a highly effective and important component to the success of a BJJ practitioner, as it has a high success rate of brazilian jiu Jitsu moves like; the armbar, the triangle, the kimura, the omoplata, the cross collar choke, and the guillotine.

The mount is one of the most important bjj positions, as it can be a dominant way to control an opponent. To secure the mount a practitioner needs to sit on the belly of their opponent, while driving their hips downward into the mats, as they use their hands to post high on the mat, giving them a good tactical base. There are different kinds of mounts like the high mount, the low mount, the s-mount, the reverse s-mount, the reverse mount, and the technical mount, as each control has a specific purpose. The mount is a good way for a practitioner to rest while driving pressure into their opponent, forcing them to use more of their energy. There are many popular submissions that can be achieved from the mount like; the cross collar choke, the clock choke, the armbar, the kimura, the americana, the mounted triangle, and the head and arm choke. 

Side control is definitely one of the most attacking control positions in BJJ, as the versatility of this position gives a practitioner ample access to submissions, while still being able to transition fast into other various control positions. To secure this control, a practitioner needs to lay perpendicular to their opponent with their chest pressuring on their opponent's chest. The practitioner will use a cross face, which is a heavy arm underneath their opponent's head, while driving their shoulder into the face of their opponent, as their arm is under hooking their far side. To be successful in his position the practitioner must use their knees, or their hips, to block the hips of their opponent so they can not retain any form of their guard. There are many submissions that can be executed from side control, like kimuras, armbars, triangles, various lapel chokes, and leg locks.

Back control is one of the most common and effective control systems in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Practitioners will secure this position by using both of their feet as hooks wrapped around the body of their opponent. They will then secure a seatbelt grip, which is one arm wrapped around the neck and their other arm underneath the arm of their opponent, as their hands stay connected. Back control can be extremely dangerous for an opponent, as they cannot see what is coming. These days many high level practitioners are using expert systems like the berimbolo to achieve taking the back. There are a multitude of submissions that can be executed from back control like the rear naked choke, the ezekiel, and the bow and arrow choke.

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OTHER POSITIONS IN BJJ

Although some of the other positions in BJJ may not seem important, this couldn't be further from the truth, as all bjj positions are important and have their own significant role to play. There are other positions in BJJ that are extremely important, and act as transitional components in the overall game. The knee on belly position is a vital position that requires a practitioner to use their knee and their shin across the abdomen of their opponent, as they push pressure driving into the mats. They will also lift the arm by gripping onto the tricep, causing this position to be even deadlier. The knee on belly is also known as the knee ride, and is an important aspect of passing the guard, and controlling an opponent before moving into either side control or the mount. This position has numerous submissions setups, and can be a good way to drain the energy of an opponent.

The north south position is another one of those pathway style of positions, as it is a way of avoiding an opponent retaining their guard. Practitioners will utilise the north south position, as they transition out of side control in an attempt to move to the other side of their opponent. Quite often staying in the north south position can create an opening avenue to attack submissions like the kimura, and the north south choke. Transitioning fast out of side control through north south and back to side control is a great way to frustrate an opponent,  in an attempt to drain their energy.

The turtle position can be secured when an opponent escapes to their hands and knees from another bad position, as they look to avoid attacks. This position can be extremely rewarding, as the turtle is a great platform to attack many other control positions like back takes and side control setups. Quite often an opponent will use the turtle as a way of stalling between positions. There are numerous submission attacks from the turtle including the darce choke, various leg attacks, armlocks, and even crucifix setups, which can be an extremely proficient series of movements.

The kesagatme, or otherwise known as the scarf hold is another important position, as it can be used as a good way to transition from side control into sneaky submission attacks. This move is utilised quite often in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as it incorporates a practitioner facing their hips towards their opponents head. They will then scoop the head, and lift the arm by the tricep maintaining pressure downward into the mat. This control position is good to execute americanas with their legs, head and arm chokes, and various lapel chokes.

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MODERN POSITIONS IN BJJ

Nowadays Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes are developing significant innovations within the game style of the art. The concept of staying comfortable when the practitioner is uncomfortable, is a crucial element in the makeup of BJJ. There are a multitude of different positions in the modern form of grappling like the 50/50 guard which is a comprehensive system of setting up leg lock attacks. The only problem with this position is that an opponent has the same chance of securing leg locks on you. Another modern position is the rubber guard, which can lead to some of the hardest bjj submission moves like the gogoplata and the twister. This extremely complex system of guard attacks are based on a lockdown control of an opponent. This system was designed by Eddie Bravo and has its own flowchart series which has become extremely popular with the modern No Gi grappler.

Another modern position that has become extremely popular is the Inverted guard. When a practitioner uses the invert game they will become extremely dangerous, as the unpredictability of attacks to the limbs and the body are comprehensive. There is a risk attached with this position, and that is that an opponent can stack the practitioner on their neck, which can result in receiving bad injuries, or lead to their opponent passing their guard. Nowadays with the development of the modern grappler they have built an incredible form of transitional elements, and inverted attacks. There are other positions in the new style of BJJ like the k-guard and the worm guard which is another creatively thought out process of attacking for berimbolo, leg lock, and arm bar attacks.

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WHICH POSITION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT 

The most important position in BJJ has to be the guard, as this is the catalyst for not only defending, but attacking in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fight. Practitioners will often find themselves in bad positions, and the most important techniques they need to know is how to achieve guard retention. Understanding the mechanics of a guard is extremely important, as the scramble from being stuck in a bad spot, to gaining control of the guard is crucial. It is extremely important to have a broad range of guard techniques from as many different positions as possible. There are many different guard positions that a practitioner needs to develop, especially guards like half guard, and open guard. The half guard is extremely defensive, and the open guard will open up many avenues of attack. Being a good guard player is a great way to avoid extremely tough athletes that have significant proficiency in the takedown aspect of BJJ. This is also quite common in MMA, as when a fighter is taken to the ground, and is being punched, utilising a defensive guard is crucial to the survival of the practitioner in the fight.

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WHICH POSITION IS THE MOST DOMINANT 

The most dominant position in BJJ, has to be the back control position, this is because their opponent's neck is exposed, giving the practitioner a high percentage chance at a submission. From this position the practitioner is also safe from their opponent countering any of their movements, as even escaping the back control position can be extremely difficult. In most cases when a practitioner achieves the back control position, their opponent has little to no chance at surviving the rest of the fight. This position is definitely proven to be the most dominant, as even high level BJJ athletes use the rear naked choke as the number one submission in all of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This formidable choke is not only the number one submission BJJ, but is also the highest ranked submission pulled off in Mixed Martial Arts. This is also the case in real life conflict situations where fights always go to the ground, and taking the back will give a person the best chance of staying safe from dangerous situations, while providing a high execution of winning the fight.

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WHAT IS THE RANKING ORDER OF POSITIONAL CONTROLS

Although there is no specific order to which control positions have the highest rank, there is a certain guideline that helps practitioners map out their flow. Different styles of grapplers will have various different control systems, as some of them may prefer the mount as opposed to side control. It is really up to each individual as to which position they find the most dominating.

5X World Champion Bernardo Faria has created one of the most important BJJ instructionals available with his FOUNDATIONS OF BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU available from BJJFanatics.com.

bjj hierarchy of positions

Below is a numbered list of control positions ranked first through to eighth.

  1. Back Control
  2. The Guard
  3. The Mount
  4. Side Control 
  5. Knee On Belly
  6. Kesagatme 
  7. The Turtle 
  8. North South

This list is not an official ranking, but rather a rough overview of which control systems are the best to the worst, or the most effective to the least effective. All practitioners are different, and it pays to explore what your strengths and weaknesses are, when it comes to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and positional controls. Having a game plan, and knowing how to execute the correct maneuvers is an artform, as this will only become possible when a practitioner discovers how to expertly procure these dominant control positions. 

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