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BJJ Side Control For Self Defense
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BJJ Side Control For Self Defense

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Sport Jiu Jitsu, or self defense Jiu Jitsu.  Is there a difference? What is the difference.  Is it possible to blend the two into unified method that will be likely to work in a sport or self defense situation?  

The short answer is that yes, there can be a difference.  Let’s just face the reality that there is no striking allowed in sport Jiu Jitsu.  However, just because striking is not allowed does not mean that we can not train as if it were and utilize similar grips to prevent under hooks rather than punches and things along those lines.  Ultimately what will determine how much of a difference there is between sport Jiu Jitsu and self defense Jiu Jitsu is your approach to your training. If you take a self defense perspective in every technique you drill, and every new technique you learn, then you will certainly be more prepared for a self defense situation than someone who has not taken these steps to close the gap in their training.  

One of the things I really like about the fundamentals classes at the academy I go to is that the instructor encourages experienced students to slap one another or even hit with mma gloves during rolling or live training sessions.  This quickly makes you realize just how vulnerable you are when suddenly there are no rules and striking is allowed. You quickly learn the importance of all of the details in the grips and how to most effectively prevent, or at the very least minimize the potential damage you take on.  

One of the things that I think is important to keep in mind is that this “sport” came about because of claims that were made stating that Jiu Jitsu is the most effective fighting style on the planet.  These claims were proven accurate time and time again, yet somehow now we have managed to separate sport Jiu Jitsu and self defense Jiu Jitsu. 

One of the most popular advocates of keeping sport Jiu Jitsu and self defense Jiu Jitsu similar is Eli Knight of Knight Jiu Jitsu.  Eli argues that only minor adjustments need to be made in order for you to transition from sport Jiu Jitsu to self defense Jiu Jitsu, or vice versa.

In his video clip “The Side Control Translated to Self Defense” Eli shows us a few options for using side control in a self defense situation. 

“I like to have a system that works in all of those different dimensions” - Eli Knight 

In this video Eli focuses on 3 escapes from side control, taking into consideration that in a self defense perspective the opponent may be looking to deliver strikes.  

In the first example, starting out in bottom side control while his opponent is sitting through towards Eli’s head.  Eli is framing with his left arm on his opponent’s neck and using his right arm to frame against his opponent’s left arm in the elbow area, keeping it pinched to their body.  Assuming the opponent is looking to pull his arm across Eli likes to capitalize on that movement and follow the momentum up, coming up to his right elbow while pushing his opponent with his right hand and working up to his right hand while still pushing the opponent over.  This should result in creating enough space for you to get away, or reengage from a more dominant position if you so choose. 

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A natural reaction to this escape attempt is for the opponent to swim their arm to the other side looking to switch their hips to be square to you and reaching to the other side to attempt to regain control.  If this happens, Eli is first catching the tricep, just above the elbow on the arm that the opponent is trying to swim across his body while also looking at framing in the opponent’s left armpit with his left hand.  Once this is accomplished Eli brings his left elbow to the mat and works to get up as he pushes the opponent away. He compares this motion to a Turkish get up like you would do with a kettlebell. This will also result in the opponent being swept and Eli landing in a much more dominant position, especially for self defense.  Once again providing the opportunity to re engage from a more dominant position or retreat if the situation calls for that. 

Finally. the last escape Eli shows is if the first one doesn’t work because the opponent tries to shoot their arm to the other side, and the second escape doesn’t work because we weren’t quick enough to catch the arm as the opponent shot it over, therefore the opponent is now on all fours over us likely clamping their knees and elbows together as to control us in this position.  The first thing Eli does is he sits up and using his left arm he over hooks over the opponent’s belt like basing out with his right elbow to help him drive into the opponent.   

Next Eli leaves his right elbow based but also cups over the leg closest to him.   From here it is assumed that the opponent is going to drive back into us. At this point Eli allows the opponent to flatten him back out and works to obtain a gable grip with his hands after getting his left arm around his opponent’s head.  

At this point Eli is looking for an opening, he has control over the opponent’s posture and therefore body weight but needs to find a place to move him to.  Eli then bridges over his shoulder pulling his opponent over him and ending on top in top side control completely reversing the position. 

What you may or may not notice in the video is that Eli is covering his face in anticipation of his opponent throwing a punch.  While we know in Jiu Jitsu that this is not allowed, this is the modification that he has adopted in every technique series in order to close the gap between self defense Jiu Jitsu and sport Jiu Jitsu.  If self defense is a focus area for you as well, it would make sense to look at Jiu Jitsu practitioners like Eli Knight and adopt some of the same modifications for your game.

In the even the opponent steps up with a kickstand near Eli’s head, he can no longer look at any of the reversal options and must switch to a spinning under the opponent and sliding into a guard of choice, full guard, half guard, butterfly guard, etc. 

If self defense is your focus checking out “Alpha Male Self Defense” is a must for you.  This video instructional was created by Dean Lister and his friend Brian Sargent, both of these guys are BJJ Black belts with tons of experience.  Brian brings experience from the seal teams as a Navy seal commander as well. There likely isn’t a more qualified pair of guys on the planet to learn self defense tactics from.  

The skills that are important to all of us are especially important to Police Officers.  Officer and black belt Jay Wadsworth has created a number of great resources here at BJJ Fanatics. Check out Police Self Defense Techniques for the Streets and keep yourself safe!  Check it out here!

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