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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

10 September 2013

10/09/2013 - Teaching (Side Control Transitions to North-South & Scarf Hold)

Teaching #124
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 10/09/2013

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, especially if you're looking for a kimura.

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.

There are numerous ways you can grip in this position, as ever. 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').

Scarf hold is useful 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. You can have your knee up (to provide a counter if they start forcefully bridging into you), but be careful they can't hook that with their leg. You can also sprawl your legs out, one crossed over the other. Keep your head low for additional control.

The position is also handy for when you want to kill the near arm. Scoop up their elbow with your near hip, digging it underneath as you switch to scarf, pull up the arm, then return to side control. Bring your knees in tight and suck your partner in with your arms to remove any space for their arm. From there, you can turn your hips towards their legs and shift backwards, keeping your hip tight to the floor the whole time. From there, you can go for mount or start setting up submissions: it will be harder for them to see what you're doing as your body is obscuring their view.

Many instructors would say that it is very important you pull up on their arm and keep good control of that elbow in scarf hold. If they can get their elbow back and dig it under your hip, they can start to make space and escape. However, John Will disagrees. He feels that this position wasn't as common as it used to be, because people often have a bad experience. They go into scarf hold, pulling their opponent’s arm up...then the opponent links arms behind their back and rolls them over. The move can often be discarded by beginners as a result of that bad experience.

For Will, the key detail is that linking arm. Instead of pulling it up and trapping it under your armpit – which exposes you to that linked hands escape – jam your arm next to your raised knee so they can’t get their arm around your back. There are various attacks you can do on the arm if you use the non-Will orthodox scarf hold, 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 demonstrate in my side control basic maintenance class. 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.

Teaching & Sparring Notes: I spent too long during the demonstration section, which cut into the sparring time later. Partly that's because there were some questions which sparked a discussion, but I could also be more concise with the details I'm showing. As Tony said when we were talking about it afterwards, rather than trying to cover every potential eventuality, you can deal with at least some of them if they crop up in drilling.

I initially thought that perhaps I should switch to focused lessons on scarf hold and north-south, adding the transition to mount onto scarf hold and a kimura onto north-south. However, asking the class, they all agreed that they liked having that pure focus on transition. So, I'll stick with this arrangement for the next class, but try to be more concise.

Sparring with Tony is always useful. I found that trying to hold north-south was possible, but it took a fair bit of energy: I'm clearly not efficient with that position yet. Tony was able to get out by switching from side to side, meaning that once I loaded up my weight on one side, he would circumvent it by exploding to the other side. Side control was less energy intensive, as I'm more comfortable there, but at the same time I was wary of letting go of any grips, due to how close Tony was getting with his escapes.

Taking risks is something I don't often do: being willing to have someone escape for the chance of a submission set-up is something I should try more frequently. At the same time, I'm keen to develop a game where those risks are minimised as much as possible. When I go for a submission, I'd like to be able to do it from a secure position that isn't overly affected by that submission set-up (the reverse scarf position is good for that, fitting nicely into my favoured gi tail choke). Tony's breadcutter choke would be another good option for me to try.

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