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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

05 April 2012

05/04/2012 - Teaching (Maintaining Side Control)

Teaching #048
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 05/04/2012

Very, very small class tonight, as only one person showed up. Hopefully that's due to it being the start of the extended Easter weekend (for those outside the UK, we have a national holiday on the Friday and the Monday), rather than my teaching being incredibly pants. :)

So, that basically meant I was teaching a private lesson. I'm fortunate that this week we're doing side control, where I'm fairly comfortable teaching techniques from the top and bottom. I was going with maintaining side control tonight, kicking off with the two technical sections I'd already planned (based on my previous times teaching top side control). To start, I went through the basics of holding side control.

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.

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

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. 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.

We followed up with a sub-position, scarf hold. This is a good one to switch to if they start shoving into your neck and bridge. 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.

As there was only the one guy, that gave us plenty of time to play around with that principle using the balance balls at the gym. I had him drill with the two balance balls for around four minutes, starting with the larger one then moving on to a smaller one. From what he said that made a difference, which is cool: his motion certainly felt more fluid on top when we did a bit of resistance afterwards.

I finished off by going through a transition to north south and the kimura very briefly, just to give him some further ideas of stuff to play with. It's a shame that my arm wasn't working very well and he's much bigger, as that meant I wasn't an ideal training partner when it came to upping the resistance to test if he's got the concepts down. Still, hopefully he'll now have a chance to put that into practice in later classes. I'll be interested to hear how (or indeed if) it works for him.

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