SIDE CONTROL BJJ
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a ground fighting art that incorporates a multitude of transitional elements. The takedown aspects have a high impact just like Judo, and the neutralising factors of the positional control system bears resemblances to the art of Wrestling. What sets Brazilian Jiu Jitsu apart from these other forms of combat, is the magnitude of how extensive the list of submission maneuvers is. The evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has grown exponentially over the last one hundred years, as the technical systems from each position has improved beyond its initial expectations.
What this article covers:
- Principles of Maintaining Side Control
- Submissions from Side Control
- Escaping Side Control
- Submissions from Underneath Side Control
The four main control positions are the jiu jitsu mount, the guard, back control, and the side control position. All of these positions can be extremely effective to neutralise, and control an opponent, and all of these positions have multiple avenues to submission. The side control position is one of the most versatile in the game, as there are more attack avenues than any other position, but the downside to such a multifaceted position, is the effective ways that an opponent can escape the position, and turn their escape into an attacking movement. The side control position can be one of the most effective in the game, if the athlete knows how to use it properly.
PRINCIPLES OF MAINTAINING SIDE CONTROL
There are many different aspects to maintaining a tight side control position, and athletes will need to determine which control system they need to use. Different control types are used in different scenarios, like a short base side control is used in a more attacking way, compared to the long base side control which is used to control a heavy, or more aggressive opponent. The short base side control consists of an athlete blocking their opponent's hips, and rib cage with both of their knees, as they secure a cross face with one arm, and a farside under hook with the other. Traditionally the athlete's hands will be linked together in a gable grip, which is a highly strategic grip that will benefit an athlete extensively. The long base side control incorporates the athlete to be on their toes with their legs stretched out, as they control their opponent with a cross face, and a door stop, which is a forearm blocking the nearside hip. In this style of control the athlete will use the power from the mats into their toes, with driving pressure into the chest of their opponent.
Keeping an opponent trapped onto the mat consists of a few minor details. The cross face is a crucial element, and a good cross face will have an athlete's shoulder planted into the jaw of their opponent, which will keep their head facing away. The opponent must be pinned on their back, with both of their shoulders on the mat, and not on their side, or they will simply regain their guard. The athlete should be blocking the nearside hip with their forearm, their knee, or their hip, and this is to stop the opponent from scrambling back into the guard position. An athlete must be reactional, because an opponent will have ample opportunities to move, and the athlete must be ready to switch their hips, switch their knees, move from the door stop to the farside under hook, and be actively ready to move into positions like kesa gatame, the knee ride, the mount, or the north south position.
TRANSITIONING TO OTHER CONTROL POSITIONS
The side control position is the most pivotal position in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and this is because it is the centre of all transitional movements. Utilising a strong side control can be stifling to an opponent, while still having an extensive ability to attack submissions. What makes this position highly unique, is that an athlete can transition into other dominant control positions. The most common transition is moving from side control into a knee on belly position. This transition can be as simple as securing a collar grip, or pushing the shoulder into the mat, while the other hand pushes into the hip. With these grips secured, the athlete can use pressure into their opponent to pop up into a knee ride, by placing their knee into the sternum, and using their hook trapped against the hip. Using this position will give opportunities to move into nearside, and far side arm bars, or various chokes like the clock choke, the cross collar choke, or the brabo choke.
One of the most important transitions from the side control position is the movement into the full mount. There are a number of different ways to secure the mount position, with one of the most common ways is the transition into the knee ride, before windscreen wiping their foot over the belly of an opponent, and taking position in the mount. Another great way to transition to the mount is by moving the athlete's legs closer to their opponent's head, as they use their cross face to control the head, and their other arm to control the hips. From here they can easily step their leg over the chest, keeping it low, and sliding into a mount position. Another important transition from the side control position is the kesa gatame, or otherwise known as the scarf hold. This is an extremely common position, where athletes will switch from their knees to their hips, in a position where they are facing their opponent's head. With the right amount of pressure to the mid section of their opponent, this control position can be extremely uncomfortable. An athlete can also secure high quality submissions like the wrist lock, the head and arm triangle, the arm bar, and the americana with their legs.
Moving to the north south position is an extremely effective way to counter an opponent trying to regain their guard. The north south transition is basically moving from a traditional side control, which is a perpendicular angle, to a parallel angle covering their opponent's head with their chest, as their legs sprawl out above their head. This position is used to move from side control, to the opposite side control, and is a good position to execute the north south choke. Another transition from side control will see an athlete force their opponent to turn away, and onto their side. From here the athlete can secure a seatbelt grip around the neck, and under the armpit, before using their shin as a boat ramp. This is an easy way to pull their opponent up into a back control position. Transitioning from side control is a vital part of any high level practitioner's game style.
SUBMISSIONS FROM SIDE CONTROL
There are an infinite amount of jiu jitsu holds, and submission maneuvers from the side control position. Depending on whether an athlete is competing in the Gi or the No Gi divisions, is how they will determine which submissions are the most high percentage. In the Gi setting up a bow and arrow choke is extremely successful, and this is because they will already have a tight cross face position. All the athlete has to do is use their other hand to feed the nearside collar to their cross face hand, securing a tight grip from underneath their opponent's neck. The next step is to push their knee into their opponent's back, as they secure a grip on the pants, and begin to pull the collar, and the pants grip outwards in opposite directions. This can be a nasty choke that comes on really quickly, and is used by many world class level competitors.
Arm bars can be set up in both divisions, but in the Gi they can be really easy to secure, and this is because of the extra grip that the Gi provides. Setting up the nearside or the far side arm bar can work collectively, as the athlete can bait with one, and go for the other. The nearside arm bar only requires an athlete to shoot their knee up underneath their opponent's arm pit, as they secure an elbow to elbow grip on the arm. From here they can swing their other leg over the face of their opponent, maintaining the pinch with both of their knees together, as they slide their hands up to the wrist, and hyperextend the elbow joint. The far side arm bar is another easy transition, which starts with the athlete controlling their opponent with the cross face, and punching their other hand through the gap of the far side elbow. This will allow the athlete to secure a grip on the tricep, as they pull their opponent to their side facing the athlete. With their free hand they can reach over their opponent's head and post off the mat, before stepping over their head, and then switching the angle of their hips to land in a far side arm bar position. This submission can be executed flawlessly with precision at high speed, and is a high percentage technique.
In the No Gi division, going for certain moves like arm bars can result in loss of position, and this is due to the slippery conditions that No Gi is notorious for. An athlete would be best served going for more high percentage moves like a kimura, or a head and arm triangle. Setting up the gift wrap from the side control position starts by feeding an opponent's top arm around their neck, and securing the grip from underneath, with their cross face arm. This position can open up a range of options like threading the arm through the elbow, and gripping onto their own wrist, before stepping their knee over their opponent's head to go for the kimura. Another option is to thread their arm straight under the gift wrapped arm, and around the neck, as this will allow the athlete to secure a head and arm triangle. There are multiple submissions that can be achieved from this position like the cobra choke, the arm bar, the rear naked choke, and the triangle.
One of the most basic submissions from the side control position is the americana. This arm lock is usually the first submission that is taught to beginners, and can be an effective technique. To execute this submission the athlete will start from a traditional side control, before reaching their cross face arm over their opponent's head and placing their palm on the mat, with their elbow trapping their head. Their other hand will be reaching over the body, and pushing their elbow up towards their head. This will allow the athlete to secure a wrist grip with their former cross face hand, as they thread their other arm through the elbow, and grab hold of their own wrist. This is basically a reverse kimura grip, and the athlete will pull inwards trying to bring their opponent's elbow towards their ribs, as they force the hand from parallel to their body into a perpendicular position, which can put significant pressure on the shoulder joint. Even though this submission is really basic, it can catch an opponent off guard, and it can be really effective.
ESCAPING SIDE CONTROL
Escaping from the side control position is one of the fundamental maneuvers taught to a beginner. The elbow escape is one of the easiest escape techniques to use, when an athlete is stuck underneath a mount, or a side control position. To use this escape the most important aspect is to keep everything tight, including their chin, and their elbows. This is important so that their opponent cannot access choke holds, or isolate any of their arms for arm locking submissions. The first move is for an athlete to slide their wrist up underneath the chin of their opponent, keeping their elbow tucked into their body. Their other hand will form a frame into the hip of their opponent, but they must make sure that they use more than just their hand, as their forearm will create a stronger framing position. From here they can begin to create space, turning slightly onto their side, as they bring their top leg over, and scooping their opponent's leg into a half guard position.
The athlete can use the half guard as a way to attack their opponent straight away with sweeps, or even submission attempts. Using a lockdown on the half guard is a great way to whip up their opponent, and move into positions like the electric chair, where they can execute an easy sweep, or a back take. More commonly though an athlete will not stop at the half guard, as they will begin to frame off their opponent's hips, moving the angle of their own hips, as they free their second leg and look to square up into an open guard position, or lock their legs around the waist into the closed guard position. Using the elbow escape is an extremely effective weapon against an aggressive opponent that is trying to smash an athlete into the mat, with heavy top pressure.
SUBMISSIONS FROM UNDERNEATH SIDE CONTROL
Being stuck underneath side control can be a hard place to escape from, but can also be an advantageous position for an athlete if they understand the right ways to escape. Sometimes using the traditional escapes will just eat right into the hands of a higher level opponent, so using unorthodox maneuvers can be extremely effective. Using the ghost escape will open up a range of options that can lead to a guillotine choke, or sneaky darce chokes. From the side control position the opponent will have a cross face, and an under hook, and this will allow the athlete to secure the over hook over the top of their opponent’s under hook. From here all they have to do is bridge their hips high, so that when they drop their hips they have created enough space to shoot their other arm underneath their opponent's belly. This will create a movement, as they will turn towards their shoulder that has the over hook, giving the athlete an easy ghost escape. Now they can come up into a sprawl position, and shoot straight into a guillotine choke.
Halfway through the transition of the ghost escape, and as the athlete begins to turn towards their over hooked arm, there is another option they can utilise. From here they can scoop their opponent's head towards the over hooked arm, before shooting their arm up underneath the neck, and as they escape their head during the transition, they will reach up over the top of their opponent's head with their other arm, catching their hand in the crook of their elbow. As they trap their opponents tricep with their chest, they will scoot underneath and squeeze into an extremely tight darce choke. This technique can surprise many opponents, and even if they switch their hips into a reverse kesa gatame, the athlete can simply walk their legs towards their opponent's head creating a dead spot, and simply roll them over. From here they can re-pummel their hand underneath the neck, and shoot straight into another darce choke. This system is an extremely effective one, which can be utilised in both the Gi, and the No Gi divisions, but is more of a high percentage move without the rough exterior of the Gi material.
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