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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

31 January 2013

31/01/2013 - Teaching (Side Control Top)

Teaching #092
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 31/01/2013

The new teaching schedule means both sides of a position are covered in a fortnight, so tonight I'm covering maintaining side control. This time I'm beginning with an emphasis on 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.

That transitional, mobile element to side control can be seen in Saulo's method for maintaining side control, which he shows on Jiu Jitsu Revolution. He keeps his hip stuck right by theirs throughout. 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: however, be careful of pinching that in too forcefully, as that may help them initiate an escape where they roll you over the top.

Your weight should constantly be on them, because of that sprawl: don't touch the floor with your legs or knees. You can also reverse, which Saulo's brother Xande discusses in detail on his DVD. Turn your hips in the other direction, so that you're now facing their legs. Control their far arm, also making sure to block their near hip to prevent their movement in that direction.

To continue emphasising the importance of that hip connection, I then brought in the drills from Saturday, with sparring from side control without using your arms, then another round where the bottom person can use their arms but the top person still can't. My intention was to help students improve their sensitivity and weight distribution, both on top and on the bottom.

Moving on from there, I then progressed to the more detailed section I normally start with. 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 and/or arm into the side of their head or neck, aiming to get their head to turn away from you and/or generate some choking pressure to distract them. If they can't turn their head back towards you due to the shoulder pressure, it will make it much harder for them to create space and escape. "The body follows the head" or "where the head goes, the body follows" is an old adage and a true one. Choking pressure can also open up opportunities to switch to mount or consider initiating a submission attempt. 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: this is something Dónal likes to do, which isn't surprising as I think I first saw that on a Braulio video. 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. 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 or your forehead 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


Teaching Notes: In previous side control maintenance lessons, I've taught the techniques the other way round. That's because I reasoned that the details are the important part everybody needs to know, then the Saulo variation is an interesting alternative which will appeal to some but not all. After Saturday's drilling class, Saulo's option probably makes more sense to teach first. It is also 'simpler', in that I don't need to go through a lot of details, but in another sense it is much more advanced, because it needs a high degree of sensitivity and understanding of weight distribution.

I wouldn't normally have sparring in the middle of the lesson either, but it seemed to work ok today. I think as with Saturday people find it a fun change from the norm, and it also gives me a chance to join in, as that doesn't put too much strain on my injured groin. I couldn't take part with typical specific sparring, however: I was tempted, but could already feel some twinges in my groin with the armless sparring if I tried to bridge too much.

The second part is quite detailed. It's all basic stuff, but I should perhaps avoid throwing in too many variations at this stage. Right now, I'm not just saying "keep your knees in tight and spread your legs to sink the hips," but also offering a few variations from having your legs sprawled back. Then again, if I don't have that in there, it doesn't connect up as well to the first half of the lesson.

I'll see if I get any feedback in regards to that, so will send out another Facebook message.

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