| bjj resources

 BJJ FAQ  Academy

This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a brown belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

21 October 2020

21/10/2020 - Teaching | Side Control | Basic maintenance

Teaching #955
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 21/10/2020
Short Version:
  • Control the shoulders and head by using a crossface
  • Block their hip with your knee, their far hip with your elbow
  • Keep your hips as low as possibly, staying on your toes
  • Get the centre of your chest pressing into the centre of their chest
  • Don't lean too far forward: if they try to roll you, post on your forehead

Full Version: As ever, I kicked off with the 'control point theory' conceptual framework John Palmer described to me in Texas: the primary control points are the hips and the triangle of shoulders and head, secondary control is inside the knees and elbows, then finally tertiary control relates to the wrists and ankles. John goes into more detail over on this awesome old Bullshido thread. I think it's helpful to have that framework at the start, as then the students can hopefully see how that principle filters through everything we'll be training today.

A post shared by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

A particularly effective method of control is applying a cross face. If you're not familiar with the term, that means bringing your near side arm under their head: I like to reach right to their far armpit and anchor my arm there, either by cupping, or by getting a hold of the gi material. From that position, you can then drive your shoulder and/or arm into the side of their head or neck, aiming to get their head to turn away from you and/or generate some choking pressure to distract them.

If they can't turn their head back towards you due to the shoulder pressure, it will make it much harder for them to create space and escape. "The body follows the head" or "where the head goes, the body follows" is an old adage and a true one. This is what SBG call the 'shoulder of justice.' If you shift your shoulder from their face to their neck, that choking pressure can also open up opportunities to switch to mount or consider initiating a submission attempt. However, it does mean they can probably turn their head again, which improves their escape opportunities.

A post shared by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

Next, it is a good idea to deal with their far arm. Reach under that far elbow with your arm, coming under the armpit. You have a couple of options here. Option one is linking your hands together with a gable grip and sucking them in towards you, providing a very tight side control. This is how Tran showed it to me several years ago. Option two is gripping around their shoulder, to bring their shoulder off the mat: this is something Dónal likes to do, which isn't surprising as I think I first saw that on a Braulio video. You can also use the elbow of your far arm to squeeze into their far hip. This latter option makes more sense if you're already grabbing by their armpit with your near arm. You want to keep control over their far arm for two reasons: first, they can use it to defend, by getting it into your neck. Second, there are a number of attacks you can do from here.

I also wanted to emphasise chest position. Picture an imaginary line between the middle of their chest and also between yours. You want to bisect those lines: don't be too far over them, or they can easily roll you (if they DO try and roll you and it's working, put your far arm or your forehead out for base). Too far back, and it's easier for them to slip out and escape. Stay low, dropping your hips: don't leave them any space.

Moving on to the legs, there are a bunch of different things you can do. I used to prefer to bring both knees in tight, but I later started sprawling the leg nearer the head backwards, which enables me to bring my hips much lower. This is key: you must keep your hips low in side control. If your knees are in tight, widen them if your hips are still high.

The lower the hips, the more weight on top of them, which therefore gives you better control. However, if you have both legs sprawled back, there is a chance they might be able to bring their knee inside: you need to block it somehow, which would commonly be with the hip nearest their legs, your hand or your knee. Play around and see which position you like, and also be ready to switch depending on your partner's movement. Finally, if you're sprawling your legs back, keep your knees off the ground and stay on your toes. This helps with mobility and driving forward.


Teaching Notes: More of those transition drill sequences. The class went really well, I felt. This new format, as necessitated by covid, is coming together nicely. I didn't go in as much technical depth as I normally do, as the main purpose of class was to get people more familiar with the drills. Long term project, so will pay off in a couple of weeks if I keep doing the same drills. Assuming there isn't another lockdown, of course.

For the full video of the entire class, that's up on the Artemis BJJ Facebook page.

09 October 2020

09/10/2020 - Teaching | Side Control | Kimura hug

Teaching #952
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 09/10/2020

Short Version:
  • They grab their gi/belt to block your kimura
  • Release your grip on your own wrist, instead grabbing your other tricep
  • Release your grip on their wrist, reaching under their elbow and grabbing your remaining tricep
  • Walk your elbows out, then move your legs around past their head
  • With your weight on their shoulder, tilt your elbows towards their head

Full Version: This follow up to the kimura is a technique Daniel Bertina has been using since he was a child training judo, apparently. You go for the kimura, but they grab their belt or whatever to block your submission. Reach all the way through with your wrist gripping hand, hugging your own triceps. Your other hand goes under their elbow, reaching for your other triceps. Squeeze your arms together and wriggle them forwards, for a count of 1-2-3.

A post shared by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

Next, walk your legs around towards their head, until your can shift your weight onto their far shoulder. To finish, twist your elbow nearest to their head up to apply a shoulderlock. Daniel advises bringing your leg through into a scarf hold type position, then applying the finish. I've decided to call this the kimura hug, which feels appropriate (and I like that it sounds cuddly instead of nasty ;D). It's possible to get the tap from the cutting pressure of your forearm, though personally I prefer to avoid anything that relies on pain and leaves lasting soreness.

To avoid that pain, all the person on the bottom needs to do is keep their gripping fist horizontal, to avoid engaging the muscle (ligament? Something pops up when turn your hand). Make sure they don't turn their thumb up, as that will then increase the forearm pressure. You can do this on the near side too, as well as an acrobatic jump into the position off a guard pass.

A post shared by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on


Teaching Notes: Covering for Alasdair, hence why I was teaching on a Friday. The classes are continiuing to go pretty well, decent numbers and more opportunities to keep adding back more classes appearing. In terms of the technique teaching, I don't have too much to add, so I'll copy the notes from the last time I taught this. Which were:

It is of course important that people already know the kimura for this. Walking out the elbows is important, also dropping your weight onto their shoulder. Generally when people couldn't finish the submission, it was one of those two things, so that's what would be worth emphasising next time. I mentioned briefly you could do this from a north south kimura they were blocking too, which is worth mentioning as I find myself going for that far more often than a standard side control kimura.

05 October 2020

05/10/2020 - Teaching | Side Control | Americana

Teaching #951
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 05/10/2020

Short Version:
  • Use your chin to clamp their arm, when it's pressing into your neck
  • Lean forward to bring their arm down, lift your shoulder slightly, press on their wrist
  • Bring their arm to the ground, your elbow by their head, right angles
  • Lift their elbow, 'paint' their knuckles towards their legs
  • Bring their elbow in towards their side if they have flexible shoulders

Full Version: I see the americana as the classic submission from side control: I'm fond of that technique, as it is one over which you can exert lots of control. However, it does have a reputation of being a technique that is mainly used by stronger people bullying a smaller opponent, so if I'm going to continue viewing it as a core basic submission, I need to keep refining my understanding to make sure it is functional whatever your size.

There are various set ups, but I decided to show how to go for the americana from that strong, orthodox side control position I've mentioned before. To start, you need to isolate their far arm. Often the set up is that they've pushed their forearm up towards you (which is why from an escape perspective, you don't want to be shoving up with your arm and trying to benchpress them). A simple Roger Gracie method is to trap their wrist with your chin, then drive their arm to the mat with your weight. Lift your shoulder slightly to then insert your hand on top of their wrist.

There are different arguments regarding gripping their wrist using your thumb or not. Some feel that having the thumb there provides better control, and that is the instinctive way of holding something. However, most BJJ instructors I've seen describe gripping for the americana advocate a thumbless grip, so that all of your fingers are over the other side of their arm.

That's the direction they want to escape, so that's where you want your strength. It also means you can really push down, rather than squashing your own thumb. Then there's the point Kev at RGA Bucks makes, which is that he feels the thumb can act as a lever for their escape.

A post shared by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

Support your hand with your head if you're having trouble pushing their arm to the mat. Also be sure to keep their arm away from their body, so they can't grab their belt or gi. The aim is to put the arm at right angles. Another handy tip is to get your elbow into their neck. That means they can't turn towards you to relieve pressure on their shoulder and begin an escape. Finally, you also want to make sure that their elbow is stuck, keeping the arm you have underneath their arm tight so they can't slip their elbow free.

Finish by 'painting' the floor with their knuckles, moving their hand towards their legs, lifting their elbow off the floor. You may need to adjust the angle of their arm, depending on how flexible they are. Make sure you don't give them space by their shoulder, or they can relieve the pressure and perhaps begin an escape.

Saulo has a few extra details in the version on his instructional website, BJJ Library. If they are pushing up into his neck, Saulo moves his body forwards to move their arm away from their side. He then locks one arm under their elbow (again, to stop that elbow slipping free of your attack), grabbing their wrist with the other (this is easier to get if you time it for when they next try to shove into your neck. You can then drive it to the mat. Slide your elbow arm through, grab the wrist, then suck in their arm to tighten the angle, before completing the submission.

Yet another set-up option crops up if they are pushing you towards their legs. Move a little with their pressure into your neck, leaning away as if that escape attempt is working for them, then turn back towards them, driving their arm to the mat with your bodyweight, head and hand. You can increase the power by switching your legs as you move back, then switching again as your return your weight towards them. Alternatively, you can simply turn your body slightly as they push, with the intention to get enough space to go for their wrist, then push it to the ground, where you can finish as before.

Finally, you can also wrap their gi lapel over their arm, especially if they are begin very defensive and keeping that arm in tight. This is the same technique I teach from half guard: as a set up for the americana, I find it works just as well from side control. Many of the attacks will work in both positions (naturally side control attacks that function by swiveling round to the other side, like a baseball bat choke, won't have sufficient rotation in half guard).

Teaching Notes: It's been a long time, but I was finally able to teach an almost 'normal' class tonight, in terms of being able to demonstrate technique on a person. I've been doing grappling dummy and solo drill classes from home since March, which moved into grappling dummy sessions at the gym in the middle of September.

This time, I was able to organise a support bubble with Laura, meaning I can now demonstrate on her. Yay! I was feeling rather rusty, plus I don't think the camera recorded properly, but it was awesome to have a human arm to manipulate, instead of the rolled up towels I've been used to with my grappling dummy. ;)

Main thing, as is often the case with americanas, is making sure people are focusing on pushing the hand through rather than lifting the elbow up. I also want to keep working on the series Mike V showed at camp, though I still haven't mastered his fine details. I think I have some backlog to still write up from before lockdown too. Apparently 6 months isn't long enough for me to catch up. :P