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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

26 March 2013

26/03/2013 - GrappleThon Passes £4000 & Teaching (Side Control Basic Maintenance)

Teaching #100
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 26/03/2013

For my hundredth class, it's a pleasure to be able to say that the GrappleThon has now passed £4,000! The team continues to grow: if you'd like to help the fight against sexual violence and rape culture, then please donate here. You can also get involved and start fundraising yourself, if you're able to get to Bristol on the 4th May. Feel free to contact me if you're interested. :)

Tonight I'm covering what has become a favourite topic of mine, maintaining side control. I kicked off with the conceptual framework John described to me in Texas, which I've mentioned before: the primary control points are the hips and the triangle of shoulders and head, secondary control is inside the knees and elbows, then finally tertiary control relates to the wrists and ankles. John goes into more detail over on this thread. I think it's helpful to have that framework at the start, as then the students can hopefully see how that principle filters through everything we'll be training today.

Another key point to keep in mind is that when you're underneath, one of the worst things that can happen is they control your near arm. Now you're on top, you therefore want to get control of that arm. Dig your knee into the armpit, aiming to slip it right under, bringing your knees in close to their head to trap their arm. You can also try switching to scarf hold briefly, scooping their arm up with your hip, then switching back to side control.

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 generally prefer to bring both knees in tight, although more recently I've been sprawling the leg nearer the head back. If you can sprawl, it will help your control in that you'll be able to lower your hips. That means more weight on top of them. However, if you have both legs sprawled back, there is a chance they might be able to bring their knee inside: you need to block it somehow, which would commonly be with your hip, your hand or your knee. Play around and see which position you like, and also be ready to switch depending on your partner's movement

That leads into the second section, where I wanted 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. The old "it's better to bend than to break" cliche comes to mind.

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 I first taught a while ago, 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. That progresses into general specific sparring.


Teaching Notes: I'm still not sure of the best order to teach this in. Last time I had the Saulo method first and orthodox side control second, but the problem with that is it means I'm saying "stay mobile, don't lock", followed by "here's how to really clamp down." It probably works better starting off with the tight control, then progressing to mobility. But meh, hopefully I'll get some feedback that will establish what students prefer and find more useful.

I'm also continuing to experiment with arranging people for sparring. I've tried counting people off, putting them in two lines and king of the hill. I went with king of the hill again today, initially in two groups, one heavier the other lighter. Two people stayed on top, then I switched in another two for the next round. The problem with that is that one person is often left out, so I have to either add in an extra round for them, or switch things around mid-round (which could potentially cut somebody's else go short).

At the end I did a typical king of the hill, except that if you stay on for three goes, switch out. I'm going to continue experimenting with that system and see if it works. Ideally I want something that gives everyone a chance to work the technique, doesn't confuse anybody in terms of where they are supposed to be and also enables me to jump in if I want to.

I didn't today, though I was sorely tempted, because I don't think my injury is up to extended side control bottom sparring yet. I'm fine on top, and progressive resistance with somebody I trust is ok, but I'm still being careful when it comes to sparring. Nevertheless, it was useful doing progressive resistance with Mike: he had an interesting escape attempt where he put his arm at his side and used that as a brace to try and spin the other way.

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