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

19 May 2011

19/05/2011 - Teaching (Maintaining Side Control)

Teaching #002
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 19/05/2011

I covered escaping side control last week, so this Thursday I wanted to look at maintaining on top. I could have gone with more escapes, as there are plenty more to cover, but I'm intending to cycle through a position every three weeks, with escapes, maintaining then attacking (not necessarily in that order).

Like last week, there were only a handful of people, but that's still to be expected. Until all the house fixing has been done, it will be difficult to spend more than two evenings away, which limits how often people see that random purple belt who teaches on Thursdays. As long as there are even numbers, I don't mind: given that fellow blogger and recent(ish) teacher Leslie often has nobody show, I feel quite lucky to get anybody at all. :)

After the Gracie Barra warm-up, I wanted to use a drill to give them a quick refresher of last week. In pairs, one person escapes from side control to their knees, then they move to side control. Then the other person escapes to their knees, so the process repeats. From there, it can repeat in a continuous cycle.

In order to maintain side control, the first thing is to reverse engineer the escape. When you're underneath, one of the worst things that can happen is they control your near arm. Now that you're on top, that is therefore exactly what you want. Start by digging your knee in to get it into the armpit. You want to slip it right under, bringing your knees in close to their head. Liam Wandi did a good lesson on this recently, when I visited his class in Manchester.

Next, you want to apply the cross face. If you're not familiar with the term, that means bringing your near side arm under their head. From that position, you can then drive your shoulder into the side of their head, aiming to get their head to turn away from you. If they can't turn back towards you due to the shoulder pressure, it will make it much harder for them to create space and escape. This is what SBG call the 'shoulder of justice.'

So, you've got control of their near arm and their head. You're now going 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, and has been my preferred control ever since. Option two is gripping around their shoulder, to bring their shoulder off the mat. To mention Liam again, he demonstrated in his lesson how you can also use the elbow of your far arm to squeeze into their far hip.

You want to keep control over this 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, which I want to cover next week.

Final point I wanted to emphasise was 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 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.

This is what I would call orthodox side control, and it's the one I use all the time. I prefer this position, because here I feel like I have the most control, as my opponent has no space. I also tend to clasp my hands, in what Xande calls the 'super hold' on his DVD, with good reason. It's a powerful grip.

At this point, I wanted to note that there are a bunch of different things you can do with your legs. I prefer to bring both knees in tight. Other people like to sprawl them back and drop the hips. Then there are others who will have one knee up by the hip, the other leg sprawled back. Play around and see which you like, and also be ready to switch depending on your partner's movement

Like last week, I then had everyone drill that for four minutes each. Unlike last week, I wanted to try switching partners halfway through, like Julia suggested. However, for that to work, it needs to be a large enough class to have a broad range of body types. So, I'll save it for later.

This class wasn't so much about technique as a set of principles, so it needed some resistance to put into practice. So, I brought in the progressive resistance earlier, into the usual four minutes each of drilling.

Moving on, I discussed how you also want to keep your hips in close, which is something Saulo emphasises in his DVD. That offers an alternative to the clamped down version I like, so I wanted to show that to people as well, bringing in an element of choice. Like I said last week, I don't want people to come away with the impression that my way is the only way, as I'm a mere purple.

I wasn't sure beforehand if the Saulo method would take long enough to warrant a separate technical portion, so went into the lesson ready to switch things up if the earlier technique took more or less time than I was expecting. As it turned out, I asked people how much they wanted, which ended up being this and then some brief details on a sub-position, scarf hold.

Saulo's method for maintaining side control, which he shows on Jiu Jitsu Revolution, is to keep that hip stuck to theirs throughout. He keeps his hip constantly next to his opponent's hip. The only time he lets off the pressure is if he gets something better, like strong control on the far arm. As they move, turn and put your other hip to theirs, following them around with your legs sprawled back. Your elbow is across, blocking their other hip, like in the Liam tip I mentioned earlier. Your weight is constantly on them, because of that sprawl: don't touch the floor with your legs or knees.

I was keen to emphasise mobility in side control as well as focused pressure. Although it can be tempting to just seize up in side control, you have to keep moving: otherwise, you aren't reacting to your opponent and they're eventually going to escape.

In order to practice that mobility and weight distribution, I added in a progressive resistance drill where neither person is using their hands. The idea is that the person on top is simply using their weight to maintain control, moving around, focusing all the pressure through their chest. The person on the bottom also gets to practice their escape mechanics, focusing on their hips and legs. I wasn't sure if this drill would work, but wanted to give it a go anyway.

So, staying mobile means switching around, reacting to your partner's movements. That includes different types of side control, and also sub positions of side control. I was ready to show up to three, but people seemed happy with just the one.

That one sub-position was scarf hold, something I believe Miles already showed last Tuesday. This is a good one to switch to if they start shoving into your neck and bridge (again, like Liam showed in Manchester). Turn your body, resting your torso on them, leaning into them for extra weight. It is also very important you pull up on their arm and keep good control of that elbow. If they can get their elbow back and dig it back under your hip, they can start to make space and escape.

There are various attacks you can do on the arm, or like good judoka, you can simply pin them here. If they try and shrimp away, you can return to side control, and switch between the two. Also, make sure to stay right up into their armpit, rather than going low by their hip.

Finally, this can also combine well with the Saulo position I demonstrated earlier. If they are really shoving their forearm into your neck, you can go with that pressure but still keep control, 'connecting the hip' like Saulo advises.

Teaching that lesson served as a good reminder to try out Saulo's version myself, as I tend to stick with orthodox side control. In the future, I'll look to bring in north-south and knee-on-belly: I noticed both of those cropping up in specific sparring, so it will be fun to research them in greater depth. I could easily spend a whole class on each sub-position, but I'm still working out my lesson plans.

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