Bristol Sports Centre, (Artemis BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 13/10/2014
Continuing with our position of the month, the topic for tonight was 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.
A particularly effective method of control is applying a cross face. If you're not familiar with the term, that means bringing your near side arm under their head: I like to reach right to their far armpit and anchor my arm there, either by cupping, or by getting a hold of the gi material. 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. This is what SBG call the 'shoulder of justice.' If you shift your shoulder from their face to their neck, that choking pressure can also open up opportunities to switch to mount or consider initiating a submission attempt. However, it does mean they can probably turn their head again, which improves their escape opportunities.
Next, it is a good idea 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. 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. This latter option makes more sense if you're already grabbing by their armpit with your near arm. You want to keep control over their 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.
I also wanted to emphasise 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.
Moving on to the legs, there are a bunch of different things you can do. I used to prefer to bring both knees in tight, but I later started sprawling the leg nearer the head backwards, which enables me to bring my hips much lower. This is key: you must keep your hips low in side control. If your knees are in tight, widen them if your hips are still high.
The lower the hips, the more weight on top of them, which therefore gives you better control. 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 the hip nearest their legs, 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.
Finally, if you're sprawling your legs back, keep your knees off the ground and stay on your toes. This helps with mobility and driving forward.
Teaching Notes: I think that first side control maintenance method Tran showed me is a good starting point for beginners who want to get comfortable on top. I therefore thought it would be worth teaching that as a class, rather than getting into the many other details that are important for maintaining side control. On the plus side I think that will give beginners a stable base to build upon, but on the negative side it isn't the full picture.
The question is how much to show at once. I tend to show too much, so hopefully by cutting that down I'm not overwhelming, instead giving people useful details they can retain. I can then add in the details for a more mobile side control later. The difficulty I have is that several of the students only show up to one class a week, so I don't want them to miss out. That means that at the moment, I'm planning to use Monday to show those essentials (as that's currently the biggest class), then Wednesday for additional techniques.
I've now also got Kingswood to play with on Tuesdays and Thursday: right now I'm repeating classes from Bristol Sports Centre, but I am still working out which Kingswood class at PHNX Fitness is busiest, along with the general level.