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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

02 June 2011

02/06/2011 - Teaching (Maintaining Mount)

Teaching #004
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 02/06/2011

Having shown a transition to mount last week, tonight my intention was to help people maintain the position once they got there. There are two basic types of mount to choose from, which I'll call low and high. In future lessons, I'll be looking in more detail at various sub positions like technical mount and s-mount, but for now we'll stick with basics. Once you've achieved mount, I find that low mount provides the most control. First off, you want to immobilise their hips, as their main method of making space is to bridge up forcefully.

Bring your feet right back, threading them around their legs to establish two hooks: this is known as a grapevine. Alternatively, you can also cross your feet underneath, which has the advantage of making it much harder for them to push your hooks off. Your knees are barely touching the ground, to generate maximum pressure.

Also be sure to thrust your own hips down into them. Use your hands for base, where again you have a couple of options. Either have both arms out, or put one under the head while the other goes out wide for base. Keep your head on the basing arm side, loading up your weight there. If they're bridging hard, you can switch from side to side.

As usual, I then had everyone drill this for four minutes each. Before moving on to the three minutes each of progressive resistance, there were a couple of points I wanted to make, having observed what people were doing. These were also points I was intending to make anyway: upon reflection, it would have been better to do them earlier during the main technique demonstration, as that felt a bit brief anyway.

First point was that a basic escape, which I'll be showing in a couple of weeks, is to trap an arm, bridge and roll. So, don't let them grab your arm and crush it to your side. Instead, swim it through, like Ryron and Rener demonstrate in the third slice of the third lesson in Gracie Combatives. Be sure to do it one at a time, or you may get both arms squashed to your sides.

Worth noting here that when I demonstrated this, I started with Clayton, then called up Miles to make sure Clayton could see it too. However, Miles' method of trapping my arm was different to what I'm used to, which confused me for a moment. It felt a bit like the classic "you attacked me wrong!" moment from the old Jim Carrey In Living Colour sketch, but hopefully people still got the idea. Something for me to be aware of next time. ;)

Second point was that you can also turn to what’s called technical mount if they roll to either side. I didn’t go into much detail here, but I think next time, I’ll go through it in full, as I ended up doing that later anyway. It is possibly good to introduce the basic version then explain more fully later on (which I know is what some instructors like to do), but I felt like I could have saved some precious rolling time by just going through it the once.

The drawback to the low mount is that there aren't many submissions from there: I'll be showing the main option next week. They are mostly going to be trying to unhook your feet, so you'll be battling to keep those in place.

To attack, you're better off climbing further up, into high mount. Again, you need to worry about their hips. To control them, put your feet by their bum, tucking your toes underneath: Roger Gracie points this out as of particular importance. In what you might call 'middle' mount where you're still over their hips, Saulo suggests that you 'ride' their bridges, like you were on a horse. Lean back, then as they bridge, lift up: you’re aiming to move with their hips, rather than just leaving a big space. So, this takes a good understanding of timing.

He also recommends against leaning forward, as he feels that gives them more space and leverage to escape. Hence why he leans back instead. Experiment, seeing how holding the head works for you versus leaning back. I think Saulo’s method requires more experience, and personally I feel unstable there, but as ever, I want to offer students choice whenever possible.

The danger of leaning back is when you're facing somebody with flexibility and/or long limbs. They might be able reach their legs over to kick into your armpits, either sliding out through your legs or pushing your over. You must control their hips with your feet, to prevent them from bending their body. Swimming the arms through might help you out here, this time against their legs, depending on how they attack.

Miles (cool to have him there) raised a good question while I was demonstrating on him, which was what do you do if they get the feet into your armpits, then start slipping out through your legs and looking to take your back. This has happened to me in the past: I normally just grab on the back of their collar, stay really low, then attempt to gradually work my hips back to flatten them out. However, something I’ll ask Geeza next time I get a chance, to see what his thoughts are.

Another option is to move off their hips, shifting into a higher mount. Gradually walk your knees into their armpits (pulling on the top of their head may help) being careful of the elbows. If they start to work an elbow into your thigh, twist to one side and raise that knee. Pull their arm up with whatever you can grab, then reinsert your knee.

You could also go to technical mount from here, as that's a position in itself with submission opportunities (though I wasn't covering that today). There is a good drill, turning to technical mount from side to side as they push, but I didn’t have time for that: however, something I’d like to incorporate into the warm up. Also, remember to use your arms for base against their bridge, posting out if you need to.

A final thing I wanted to mention, from Demian Maia, is that you can also use the cross-face. If they turn on their side to get their elbow back in, you can use the cross face to bring their head out of alignment: moving them with their head is easier than trying to move their shoulders or arms or whatever. Also, the body follows the head, so they are going to have trouble bridging or turning if you've got a solid cross face.

I had a question from one of the blue belts just after drilling, regarding removing that arm when they push into your knee. If they've got a tight grip, then how do you get it off? I suggested that if they've locked out their arm, you could move your foot back slightly to create some leeway, in order to then yank up on the arm and re-establish mount, or you could try cross-facing. However, I felt like I could have given a more conclusive answer, so that's something else I'll ask Geeza when I get the chance.

Again I didn't include as much sparring time as I wanted, with only about nine minutes or so of king of the hill, split into two groups by weight. So, I need to shave a bit of time from somewhere. Possibly the warm-up, or I could cut progressive resistance to two minutes each rather than three.

Classes have been getting bigger each week, which is nice: first class was barely a handful, this week it was around twelve students. That will also help when it comes to sparring, as I should eventually be able to institute my preferred 1-2-3 grouping, but we'll see how things go. Could be that class size will fluctuate depending on what I'm teaching.


  1. LOL @ the Jim Carey video - I know he's "joking around", but I've actually run across "black belts" like that!

    When I first moved to Houston, I was shopping around for Martial Arts schools. I came across this one instructor who "talked" to me (basicaly all about how great he was). He never asked me any questions, not even had I trained before. I didn't volunteer my training history because I didn't want to be a little "know it all" and say, "Well I did this and I did that." Honestly, he did enough of that for both of us. I tried the free introductory class anyway.

    First thing he did was teach me the first form. Easy. Done. Just like the bajillion other forms that I had learned. He said that I learned that quick and then included me in with the "class" 3 other people training. At first I was with the lower belt. I was a little more advanced than him, so the instructor moved me up to train with the intermediate belt. I was still a little more advanced than him, so he moved me up to train with the brown belt. I still maintained faster, smoother, more accurate techniques than his brown belt. The brown belt was getting flustered because some strange little girl had wandered in off the street and was smoking him. This time the "Black Belt" decided that HE would train with me... After I smoked HIM with cleaner, faster, and smoother techniques, he lost his temper and DEMANDED to know about my training. (finally he wants to know about me) Now mind you, we were just doing drills that he had told us to do! They were HIS drills! I didn't use anything that I had been taught by anybody else.

    I was shocked by his sudden anger. I explained that I had been an intermediate level in Karate. Then I explained that I had not trained for several years due to a shoulder reconstruction surgery. I also reassured him that I was more than a little rusty from the extended lay off. He clinched his fists at his side and his face turned red. I thanked him for his time, left, and never went back. His school closed shortly after that.

    The Jim Carey video could have been him! Everytime I see it I start laughing until I cry!

  2. Heh - yeah, I think the Carrey video, despite being comic, makes a lot of good points about how martial arts are often taught. Also makes me wonder if he - or whoever wrote the sketch - had a martial arts background.