| bjj resources

 BJJ FAQ  Academy

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

13 October 2011

13/10/2011 - Teaching (Maintaining Side Control)

Teaching #023
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 13/10/2011

Two exciting developments from the BJJ blogosphere this week. First off, Aesopian has just released his new gi survey. The questions have been carefully sculpted, so the results from this should prove very interesting. However, to get good results, lots of people need to fill it in. So, make sure you head over to the survey.

Secondly, Seymour from Meerkatsu has released his Honey Badger rashguard for pre-order. Bright colours, sublimated print and Seymour's famous design stylings have resulted in this (looks like you can get hold of it internationally, as they're on BudoVideos among other places).

In my previous lesson on maintaining side control, I went through some basic grips, along with a bit on scarf hold. This time round, I wanted to talk about north-south, as that is my personal favourite transition. I not a big fan of knee-on-belly myself, but planned to cover that as well: not only is it a good transition, it's meant to be ideal for small people like me, so a handy chance to practice.

When moving around to north-south from standard side control, start by shifting your grip. You'll need to place one arm by their near hip. A useful tip from Braulio is to anchor your hand flat on the mat by their legs, elbow near their bum. If you instead grab their gi or their trousers, they will be able to follow you with their legs as you turn. If you put your hand in the way, that acts as a barrier, meaning you can scoot around but they can't scamper after you. Your other hand will normally wrap under their far shoulder.

As always with top positions, you must make sure you are maximising the weight you're driving into them. Stay on your toes as you walk around, also establishing solid grips with your hands. Press your chest down to turn their head to one side: that is a good general rule of thumb from top position, as if you can turn their head to one side, it is tough for them to turn their body in the other direction.

As ever, there are numerous ways you can grip in this position. A common option is to basically flop your upper body onto their head, bringing your knees in. My personal preference is to move off to one side of the head, driving my weight onto their shoulder, my head low and pressing down, sprawling back with my legs.

You can also experiment with various grips. The most basic is probably grabbing under their shoulders and reaching for their belt, then pulling them in towards you. You could also try putting your elbows into their armpits, or maybe wrap up an arm, perhaps sliding your arm under the head. Another common approach is to have one arm over their arm, while the elbow of your other arm digs into their armpit.

Generally you want to keep your hips low, like in side control, but there are variations where you raise your hips, driving your weight through your shoulders. As Jason Scully over on Grapplers Guide mentioned, if they try that escape where they wriggle out and fling their legs over to take your back, raising your hips can be useful. You can then drive your forehead into their chest to stop them completing the escape.

The best place to learn about maintaining the north-south probably isn't BJJ: its parent art judo is much better at pins. In judo, the orthodox north-south is called 'kami shiho gatame', with lots of variations. For example, the picture on the left shows three options mentioned in an old instructional book from 1952, Higher Judo: Groundwork, by Dr Moshé Feldenkrais (not only a good judoka, but an engineer, physicist and founder of the eponymous 'Feldenkrais Method').

Along with scarf hold and north-south, the other major subposition of side control is knee on belly. To pop up there from a standard side control, as before you want to clear their elbow out of the way. That also helps you make lots of space to put the knee through. Establish a grip behind their head. Drive the knuckles of that hand into the mat, keeping hold of the back of their collar. You other hand presses on their hip, until you can hop your knee onto their stomach. An alternative is to grab their belt near the far hip, then bring your elbow back, which blocks the leg.

Once you've got up to knee on belly, move your hip hand to pull up on their knee, while your first hand stays behind their collar. Straighten that out, to make it more difficult for them to turn: your arm will be pressing into their head. You can then pull up with that collar grip too, bending them around your knee.

Make sure that your posting leg isn't near enough for them to grab, but not so far you're unbalanced: you want it roughly equidistant from their head and your hip, so a forty-five degree angle. That leg needs to stay mobile, as you'll use it to follow them if they try to spin away. Finally, take the toes of your pressing knee leg off the floor. That will put all your weight through your knee into them, rather than easing off the pressure by putting a foot on the floor.

Although this position is commonly known as knee-on-belly, or sometimes knee-on-stomach, there are different schools of thought as to where exactly you should place the knee. For example, Roger's father Maurição is well known for his crushing knee-on-chest. He recommends angling the knee up into their sternum, which is a lot less pleasant.


  1. Nice post Slidey. Side control and north-south are my two favorite go-to positions. I especially like the advice about anchoring the hand flat on the mat. I haven't really been a big fan of reading about BJJ technique because I find technique very hard to put into words, but yours is probably some of the best I've come across. I will definitely be visiting your blog on a more regular basis.

  2. Thanks for the kind words: I'm always pleased to hear I've been able to help!

    I agree it is tough to learn much about technique purely through text. Despite the fact I write reams of text about technique, personally I tend to learn a lot better from DVDs than books. Though obviously the best place to learn is in class, which should always be the first port of call. :)

  3. Sorry to have missed the class Can. It'll sound like a ridiculous excuse but I had a flu jab yesterday and by the evening couldn't lift my arm higher than parallel to the ground. Never had such a stupid reaction to a little needle prick before. What's your plan for next week?

  4. No worries Mike. Next week, I'm finishing off side control with attacks, this time submissions you can hit in transitions to north-south.