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Side Control Mastery

Side Control Mastery


Master The Side Control

Side control is an extremely dominate position in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and many, including myself, prefer it to mount. I feel it is easier to keep an opponent pinned down in side control and it offers more options in terms of attacks and transitions.

Though side control is often seen as a stopping point on the way to mount, we are going to show some ways side control can be the most dominate position in BJJ.

Side Control Basics

Side control does not give the person on bottom many opportunities to escape, in fact there are really only two options for escape; get back to guard or get to your knees. But that will be no easy task, you’ll be fighting the full amount of crushing pressure from your opponent and gravity. Your opponent also has several ways to control your hips making escape much more difficult. Controlling the hips is a fundamental concept in Jiu Jitsu and side control offers many ways to keep yours pinned to the mat completely eliminating a way to recover guard or get to your knees. And besides hip control, side control gives you exceptional control of shoulders and neck taking away your ability to turn in which eliminates your way of recovering guard. Since side control offers numerous controls you are able to transfer to without giving up top pressure, I feel it is a better position than mount. And we haven’t even gotten into the transitions into variations of side control.

Side Control Concepts Video:


Side control offers many transitions into variations of the position that you are able to go back and forth between. As a smaller grappler I don’t have the ass behind me to keep a larger person pinned down using just my weight and pressure. But using transitions you are able to constantly change position to keep control and start to wear them out quickly. Without really moving your body you can quickly change how you are controlling their hips depending on their movements. You can drive your knee into their close hip, you can kick your leg back and drive your hip into their hip, you can grab the near gi pants, you can follow them as they move, you can use your legs to take away their ability to post. All simple small transitions that help control your opponent and causes them to wear themselves out quickly.

Cyborg Side Control Video:

Besides a number of small transitions from basic side control, you can also do larger transitions into different types of side control. You can transition into Kesa Gatame, or the Scarf Hold, in which you can generate tremendous pressure sucking the life out of your opponent. The full amount of your weight and the drive you can create makes the bottom of Kesa a truly awful place to be. This is the same position Josh Barnett used to tap out Dean Lister with just pressure. And because of that colossal pressure, your opponent will often be focused on that opening up submissions.


(Kesa Fundamentals Video)

(Josh vs Dean 8:30 of video for Kesa)

(Kesa Subs)

Or you could go into the Kuzure Kesa Gatame, or Broken Scarf Hold, where you have an underhook instead of head control. This is a safer position than traditional Kesa, the underhook makes it harder for your opponent to take your back, but you sacrifice some pressure for that safety. But Kuzure Kesa opens up the same submissions as regular Kesa.

(Kuzure Kesa)

There is also the mounted crucifix, a personal favorite. This is where you slide your knee over their close arm pinning it to the mat while transiting your weight over their chest and shoulders. This completely pins their shoulders to the mat removing their ability to turn in or away from you, making escape almost impossible. This also completely isolates their far arm opening it up for several submissions such as an Americana, Kimura, or straight armlock.

(Mounted Crucifix Subs)

And there is the Knee on Belly position. And anyone who has spent some time on the mats knows how much it sucks to be on the bottom of that. Being underneath a high level guy feels like they are driving their knee through your body onto the mat. You can’t think of anything else besides how hard it is to breathe. You try to shrimp away, but they snatch your arm up and submit you. Yeah Knee on Belly is awful.

And the final major transition you can do is into the North/South Position. You are completely controlling their neck making it so they can’t really turn any direction making escape so difficult. They can move their hips, but since you are above their shoulders and neck it doesn’t make a difference, they’ll just get tired out trying to shrimp. And you already have the head isolated away from the arms opening up chokes for you.

(North South Choke)

And of course besides all these others, you can transition into mount. That is what I find so great about side control, I have so many very simple options I can use to keep my opponent down. I can transition to and from all of these very quickly, but I also always have the option to transition into mount as well. Where if I’m already in mount and my opponent is defending subs well and might toss me off, I don’t have too many options. Going back into side control from mount gives my opponent to get me back into half guard, which sucks after I did all that work to get into mount in the first place. Having multiple options to flow through is immensely important in being able to keep a larger person down. You may not be able to pin them with just pressure, but you can overwhelm them with positions and movement.

Sambo and Judo are known for the pins and variations of side control we just discussed. Vlad Koulikov is a Judo Black Belt, Sambo Master of Sport AND a BJJ Black Belt. His is known for his foot locks, throws and takedowns and his brutal attacks from side control. His DVD / On Demand Series will give you many options for attacking in side control and more.



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