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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

07 June 2012

07/06/2012 - Teaching (Side Control Transitions: North-South & Knee-on-Belly)

Teaching #058
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 07/06/2012

I was thinking about running through my basic maintaining side control lesson, but I did that fairly recently, back in April. So instead, I went to the second stage of my current maintaining side control series, which is north-south and knee on belly. North-south is my personal favourite transition, whereas I'm not a big fan of knee-on-belly. Still, as well as being a good transition, knee on belly is supposed to be ideal for small people like me, so this was another 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 above picture 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. Keep your instep close to them, hooking around their body, so it is harder for them to try and pull it into half guard. Braulio also likes to stay low in knee-on-belly, putting an arm by their far hip to stop them shrimping away.

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.