Basic Jiu-Jitsu Positions [Explaining the Fundamentals]

If you’re stepping onto the mats for the first time or looking to deepen your understanding of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, mastering the basic jiu-jitsu positions is your gateway to success. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the fundamental aspects of these positions, covering everything from the number of basic positions to key details and effective techniques.

Table of Contents

What are the Basic Jiu-Jitsu Positions?

Jiu-Jitsu is a ground-based martial art that revolves around positional dominance. The basic positions serve as the foundation for effective control, escapes, and submissions. These positions include the guard, mount, side control, back mount, closed guard, half guard, turtle, and more.

How Many Basic Positions are there in Jiu-Jitsu?

BJJ encompasses a diverse range of positions, each offering unique opportunities and challenges. While the exact number can vary, practitioners commonly focus on mastering approximately eight to ten fundamental positions, forming the core of their training.

The basic positions in jiu jitsu are:

  1. Closed Guard (or Full Guard): In this position, one person is on their back with their legs wrapped around their opponent, controlling them and preventing them from posturing up. The person on the bottom can work various attacks and sweeps from this position.
  2. Open Guard: This is a general term for any guard position where the legs are not completely closed around the opponent. Examples include the De La Riva guard, spider guard, and butterfly guard. Each has its own set of attacks and sweeps.
  3. Mount: In the mount position, one person is on top of the other with their knees on the ground beside the opponent’s torso. This is a dominant position that allows for powerful strikes and submissions.
  4. Back Mount (or Rear Mount): In this position, one person is on the back of their opponent, with hooks (legs) inside the thighs of the opponent. The person on the back has significant control and can work for a rear naked choke or other submissions.
  5. Side Control (or Side Mount): From side control, one person is on top, perpendicular to their opponent, controlling them on the ground. This position allows for various submissions and transitions.
  6. Knee on Belly: This is a transitional position where one person is on top, with one knee on the belly of their opponent. It can be used to control and set up attacks.
  7. Half Guard: In half guard, one person has one of their opponent’s legs trapped, providing a degree of control. There are various attacks and sweeps available from this position.
  8. North-South Position: In this position, one person is on top, with their chest facing the opponent’s head. It offers control and the potential for submissions.
  9. Turtle Position: The turtle position occurs when one person is on their hands and knees, often trying to defend against being taken down or in an effort to stand back up. It can also be used defensively to avoid submissions.
  10. Closed Guard (Bottom): While the closed guard is typically seen as a position where the person on the bottom is attacking, it’s important to note that the person on the bottom has their own set of strategies for sweeps and submissions.

These are foundational positions, and BJJ practitioners often work on transitioning between them and developing a fluid game that incorporates both offensive and defensive strategies. Keep in mind that BJJ is a dynamic and evolving martial art, and practitioners may develop their own variations and strategies within these positions.

What is the Starting Position for Jiu-Jitsu?

The starting position in Jiu-Jitsu depends on the context, but a common starting point is known as the “neutral” or “standing” position. From here, practitioners engage in a controlled approach to initiate their techniques.

Common starting positions in BJJ:

  1. Standing: In many BJJ matches and sparring sessions, practitioners start standing. This simulates a self-defense scenario or the beginning of a match where competitors begin on their feet. From the standing position, practitioners can engage in takedowns to bring their opponent to the ground or work on pulling guard if they prefer a ground-based strategy.
  2. Kneeling: In some training sessions or informal sparring, practitioners may start from a kneeling position. This is often done to minimize the risk of injury during takedowns, especially in less controlled training environments. Starting from the knees can also allow practitioners to focus on specific ground techniques and positional sparring.
  3. Guard Pulling: Some BJJ practitioners prefer to start directly from the ground by pulling guard. This involves sitting down and using their legs to entangle their opponent, transitioning immediately to a guard position such as closed guard, butterfly guard, or another variation.

What is the Guard Position in Jiu-Jitsu?

The guard position is a fundamental aspect of BJJ, where a practitioner on their back uses their legs and sometimes arms to control and defend against an opponent. The guard opens avenues for both defensive strategies and various submissions.

Guard Position in Jiu-Jitsu
Guard Position in Jiu-Jitsu

How many points for the Guard Position in Jiu-Jitsu:

The guard position itself does not award points. Instead, points are more commonly awarded for passing the guard or achieving positions of control from within the guard.

Here’s a general breakdown of point scoring in BJJ:

  1. Takedown or Throw: 2 points are awarded for a takedown or throw that lands the opponent in a position of control.
  2. Passing the Guard: 3 points are awarded for passing the guard and achieving a position of control, such as side control or knee on belly.
  3. Knee on Belly: 2 points are awarded for achieving the knee on belly position.
  4. Mount: 4 points are awarded for achieving the mount position.
  5. Back Mount with Hooks: 4 points are awarded for taking the opponent’s back and having both hooks (legs) inside the thighs.
  6. Back Mount (no hooks): 4 points are often awarded for achieving back control even without having both hooks in, though rules can vary.
  7. Sweeps and Reversals: 2 points are awarded for successfully sweeping or reversing the opponent from the bottom position to a position of dominance.

Explaining the Mount Position in Jiu-Jitsu

The mount position is a dominant ground position where one practitioner sits on top of the opponent, effectively controlling their upper body. From here, the person in the mount has a significant advantage, as they can unleash a barrage of attacks while the person on the bottom must focus on defense.

Mount Position in Jiu-Jitsu
Mount Position in Jiu-Jitsu

The Purpose of Side Control Position in Jiu-Jitsu

Side control is all about controlling your opponent from the side, making it challenging for them to escape. This position is crucial for setting up submissions and transitions to more dominant positions like the mount.

Escaping the Back Mount in Jiu-Jitsu

Escaping the back mount is a skill every practitioner must hone. By understanding the intricacies of hip movement and hand placement, you can effectively thwart your opponent’s control and turn the tables in your favor. Here are some general principles and techniques for escaping the back mount:

  1. Protect Your Neck:
    • The first priority when someone has your back is to defend against chokes. Tuck your chin to your chest and use your hands to create a defensive barrier, preventing your opponent from getting their arm under your chin for a choke.
  2. Hand Fighting:
    • Work to peel off the grips of your opponent. This may involve using both hands to address one of their hands at a time. Hand fighting is essential to create openings for escapes.
  3. Two-on-One Grip Break:
    • If your opponent has one arm over and one arm under your arms, focus on breaking the grip of the hand that is under your arm. Use two hands to peel off that grip, turning toward the side of the trapped arm.
  4. Trap and Roll Escape:
    • This is a classic escape from the back mount. On the side where your opponent has their hooks (legs), trap that foot with your hand and bump your hips to the same side. Simultaneously, turn into the space created and try to end up in your opponent’s guard or half guard.
  5. Back to the Mat:
    • Another method involves getting both shoulders back to the mat. This can be done by turning into your opponent and, while maintaining hand control, trying to slide your shoulders back to the mat.
  6. Peel the Hooks:
    • If your opponent has their hooks in (legs wrapped around you), work on peeling one leg at a time. Use your hands and body movement to break the hook and free your legs.
  7. Escape to Turtle Position:
    • Some practitioners prefer to escape to a turtle position. This involves coming up onto your hands and knees, presenting a different defensive posture and creating opportunities to escape further.
  8. Use the Top Leg:
    • If your opponent has only one hook in, focus on the leg that’s on top. Use your hand to control that leg and try to turn into your opponent, potentially putting them into your guard.
  9. Hand Fighting for Collar Grips:
    • If your opponent is trying to set up a collar choke, focus on hand fighting to prevent them from getting a deep grip. Hand placement and grip fighting are essential to disrupt their attack.
  10. Stay Calm and Patient:
  • Panicking can make the situation worse. Stay calm, focused, and methodical in your escapes.

Key Details of the Closed Guard Position

The closed guard is a classic position where the bottom person wraps their legs around the top person’s torso. Mastering the closed guard involves understanding how to control posture, break grips, and launch effective attacks.

The Utility of the Half Guard Position in Jiu-Jitsu

The half guard is a versatile position that can be both defensive and offensive. By trapping one of your opponent’s legs, you create a barrier that limits their movement and opens opportunities for sweeps and submissions.

  1. Defensive Capability:
    • The half guard is often used as a defensive position, allowing the person on the bottom to control the distance and prevent their opponent from advancing to more dominant positions like side control or mount. It can serve as a barrier against passes and transitions.
  2. Sweeping Opportunities:
    • One of the primary advantages of the half guard is its sweeping potential. From the bottom half guard, practitioners can employ various sweeps to reverse the position and end up on top. Sweeps from half guard include the traditional underhook sweep, butterfly half guard sweep, and others.
  3. Control and Lapel Grips:
    • Practitioners can use the half guard to control their opponent’s posture and movements. Lapel grips and underhooks are common in the half guard, providing the person on the bottom with leverage and control to set up attacks or sweeps.
  4. Kimura and Armlock Attacks:
    • The half guard offers opportunities for attacking the arms, particularly with the Kimura grip. The person on the bottom can use the Kimura grip to threaten sweeps or submissions, forcing the top person to defend.
  5. Back Takes:
    • Skilled practitioners can use the half guard to set up back takes. By creating angles and controlling the upper body, the person on the bottom can transition to the opponent’s back and work for chokes and control.
  6. Deep Half Guard:
    • The deep half guard is a variation where the bottom person goes even further underneath their opponent, creating unique angles and opportunities for sweeps and attacks. It’s a specialized form of half guard that some practitioners specialize in.
  7. Leg Lock Entries:
    • The half guard can be a gateway to leg lock entries. By controlling the opponent’s leg and creating space, the person on the bottom can set up entries into various leg attacks, such as the straight ankle lock or kneebar.
  8. Adaptability Across Styles:
    • Half guard is versatile and adaptable to different styles of BJJ. Whether a practitioner prefers a gi or no-gi, and regardless of their preferred submissions, the half guard can be incorporated into various game plans.
  9. Energy Efficiency:
    • The half guard can be energy-efficient, allowing the practitioner on the bottom to conserve energy while controlling their opponent and setting up attacks. This can be especially beneficial in longer matches or situations where stamina is a factor.
  10. Stalling and Resetting:
    • In certain situations, the half guard can be used strategically for stalling and resetting the match. By controlling the distance and preventing the opponent from advancing, the person on the bottom can create opportunities to stand back up or initiate a new sequence of attacks.

Its versatility makes it a valuable component of a well-rounded grappling game.

Fundamental Principles of the Turtle Position

The turtle position is a defensive posture used to avoid a direct attack. Understanding how to protect yourself and transition to more advantageous positions is crucial when you find yourself in the turtle.

How many points for the Turtle Position in jiu jitsu

Points are typically awarded for achieving and maintaining dominant positions or executing successful techniques. The turtle position is considered a neutral or transitional position, and points are not awarded specifically for being in or achieving the turtle position.

However, points can be scored based on actions taken from the turtle position. For example:

  1. Back Take:
    • If a practitioner takes their opponent’s back from the turtle position and establishes control with hooks (legs inside the thighs), they may be awarded points for achieving the back mount.
  2. Reversals and Sweeps:
    • If a person in the turtle position successfully sweeps or reverses their opponent, they may be awarded points based on the ruleset of the competition.
  3. Escape and Stand-Up:
    • Points may be awarded if a person in the turtle position successfully escapes to a more advantageous position or stands back up.

Point systems can vary between different BJJ competitions and organizations. Rulesets may also differ for gi and no-gi matches. Always refer to the specific rules of the tournament or event you are participating in to understand how points are awarded in relation to the turtle position and actions taken from it.

Passing the Guard in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Passing the guard is a skill that separates novice from seasoned practitioners. Techniques for passing the guard involve a combination of posture, weight distribution, and precise movement to overcome your opponent’s leg barriers:

  1. Maintain Posture:
    • When you are in your opponent’s guard, it’s crucial to maintain good posture. Keep your back straight, head up, and elbows in. This helps prevent your opponent from breaking your posture and setting up attacks.
  2. Grip Breaking:
    • Work on breaking your opponent’s grips on your sleeves, collar, or pants. Grip breaking is often the first step in passing the guard, as it allows you to control the engagement.
  3. Knee Cut Pass:
    • The knee cut pass is a classic guard passing technique. To perform it, you move one knee across your opponent’s thigh while using your other knee to pin their leg to the mat. This opens up the guard and allows you to progress to a dominant position.
  4. Torreando (Bullfighter) Pass:
    • In the torreando pass, you use both hands to control your opponent’s legs, pushing them to one side while you quickly move to the other side. This pass is effective for quickly navigating around your opponent’s guard.
  5. Leg Drag:
    • The leg drag pass involves controlling one of your opponent’s legs and dragging it across your body, passing to the side. It’s a dynamic and effective method, often leading to side control.
  6. Pressure Passing:
    • Pressure passing involves applying strong top pressure to flatten your opponent and open up their guard. This often involves using your chest, shoulder, and hip pressure to create discomfort and disrupt their guard.
  7. Toreando-style Passing:
    • This passing style involves combining grips on the pants or belt with lateral movement to create openings in your opponent’s guard. The goal is to off-balance them and pass to the side.
  8. Stack Pass:
    • In a stack pass, you stack your opponent by driving their legs over their head while controlling their upper body. This can be effective when your opponent is playing an open guard.
  9. X-Pass:
    • The X-pass involves stepping over one of your opponent’s legs while controlling the other, creating an X-like position. This pass can be effective against various guard styles.
  10. Leg Weave Pass:
    • In the leg weave pass, you weave one of your arms through your opponent’s legs and control the other leg, creating pressure and passing to the side.

It’s also crucial to be patient and to capitalize on openings as they arise during the dynamic exchanges of a match or sparring session.

Most Effective Submissions from the Mount Position

When you find yourself in the mount position, having a repertoire of submissions is essential. From the classic armbar to the formidable Ezekiel choke, the mount offers a variety of options for finishing a match.

  1. Armbar:
    • The armbar from mount is a classic and highly effective submission. To execute it, control your opponent’s arm, isolate it, and then extend your legs across their chest while pinching your knees together. The result is a powerful arm lock.
  2. Americana (Bent Armlock):
    • The Americana submission targets the shoulder joint. To perform it, control your opponent’s arm, pinning it to the mat with one hand while using your other hand to apply pressure to the elbow. This creates a rotational force on the shoulder.
  3. Ezekiel Choke:
    • The Ezekiel choke is a sneaky submission that involves using your own sleeve or the collar of your opponent’s gi. You place your hand through the collar and use it to apply pressure to their throat while maintaining control from the mount.
  4. Collar Choke:
    • Various collar chokes can be applied from the mount, such as the cross-collar choke or the sliding collar choke. These involve using the lapels of your opponent’s gi to apply pressure to their neck.
  5. High Mount (Arm Triangle):
    • Transitioning to a high mount allows you to work for submissions like the arm triangle choke. This involves trapping one of your opponent’s arms and applying pressure to their neck with your body and the crook of your elbow.
  6. Mounted Triangle Choke:
    • The mounted triangle is a submission where you trap your opponent’s head and arm using your legs while maintaining the mount position. This can lead to a tight triangle choke.
  7. Knee-on-Belly (KOB) Armbar:
    • If you transition to a knee-on-belly position from mount, you can set up an armbar by isolating your opponent’s arm and then transitioning into the armbar.
  8. S-Mount Attacks:
    • From the mount, transitioning to the S-mount (or technical mount) provides opportunities for various attacks, including armbar variations and collar chokes.
  9. Gift Wrap Choke:
    • The gift wrap is a control position that can be used to set up chokes. From the mount, you control one of your opponent’s arms and use it to manipulate their posture, setting up opportunities for chokes.
  10. Wristlock:
    • Wristlocks can be applied from the mount position by manipulating your opponent’s wrist and applying pressure in a way that hyperextends the joint.

The Concept of Open Guard in Jiu-Jitsu

The open guard is a dynamic position that involves maintaining distance from your opponent while also having offensive capabilities. It requires agility, quick reactions, and a strategic mindset to control the pace of the match.

In contrast to the closed guard, where the legs are wrapped around the opponent’s torso, open guard positions provide the practitioner with increased mobility and a range of offensive and defensive options. Open guard play is diverse, and different variations suit different styles and body types:

  1. Butterfly Guard:
    • In butterfly guard, the practitioner sits on the ground with their legs bent, feet on the mat, and knees pointing outward. This position allows for effective control of the opponent’s posture and offers opportunities for sweeps and submissions.
  2. De La Riva Guard:
    • De La Riva guard involves hooking one leg behind the opponent’s thigh while controlling their opposite-side sleeve. This guard provides a great deal of control and sets up various sweeps and attacks.
  3. Spider Guard:
    • Spider guard is characterized by controlling the opponent’s sleeves with the feet. The practitioner uses their legs to create distance, off-balance the opponent, and set up sweeps or attacks.
  4. X-Guard:
    • In X-guard, the practitioner controls both legs of the opponent, creating a sort of “X” configuration. This guard is effective for off-balancing and sweeping opponents.
  5. Single Leg X-Guard:
    • Similar to X-guard, the single leg X-guard focuses on controlling one of the opponent’s legs while keeping the other leg free. It’s often used to set up sweeps or attacks.
  6. Open Half Guard:
    • In open half guard, the practitioner maintains control over one of the opponent’s legs while using the other leg to create distance and set up attacks or sweeps.
  7. Reverse De La Riva Guard:
    • This guard is a variation of De La Riva, where the leg hooks around the opponent’s leg from the outside, creating different opportunities for sweeps and attacks.
  8. Shin-to-Shin Guard:
    • Shin-to-shin guard involves using one shin to control the inside of the opponent’s thigh. This guard is effective for controlling distance and setting up sweeps.
  9. Collar-Sleeve Guard:
    • Collar-sleeve guard involves controlling one of the opponent’s sleeves and the collar, providing a strong grip and opportunities for sweeps and attacks.
  10. Closed Guard with Open Legs:
    • Sometimes, practitioners will open their legs from the closed guard to create space and opportunities for attacks while still maintaining control.

Training and experimenting with various open guard styles are essential for developing a well-rounded BJJ game.

Difference Between Top and Bottom Positions in Jiu-Jitsu

Understanding the dynamics of top and bottom positions is crucial for effective strategizing. While the top position provides control, the bottom position offers opportunities for sweeps and submissions. Balancing these aspects is key to success in BJJ. Here’s an overview of the distinctions:

Top Position:

  1. Dominant Position:
    • The top position is generally considered more dominant because the person on top has gravity working in their favor, allowing them to apply more pressure and control over their opponent.
  2. Scoring Opportunities:
    • Points are often awarded for achieving and maintaining top positions. Examples of top positions that may score points include mount, side control, knee on belly, and back mount.
  3. Attacking Opportunities:
    • The person in the top position has direct opportunities to attack and apply submissions. They can work on chokes, joint locks, and positional control to wear down their opponent.
  4. Passing the Guard:
    • Passing the guard involves transitioning from a standing position through the legs of the opponent to achieve a dominant position on the ground. The top person is typically the aggressor in guard passing.
  5. Pressure and Control:
    • Top positions allow the person on top to use their weight, pressure, and body positioning to control and apply pressure to their opponent. This can make it challenging for the person on the bottom to escape.

Bottom Position:

  1. Defensive Position:
    • The bottom position is often associated with a more defensive posture. The person on the bottom needs to defend against submissions, sweeps, and positional advances while working to improve their position.
  2. Guard Play:
    • The guard is a key component of the bottom game. It involves using the legs and hips to control and manipulate the opponent while creating opportunities for sweeps, submissions, or stand-up escapes.
  3. Submission Defense:
    • From the bottom, practitioners need to be vigilant in defending against submissions, including armlocks, chokes, and joint locks. Proper positioning, hand fighting, and awareness are crucial.
  4. Sweeping Opportunities:
    • While on the bottom, practitioners look for opportunities to sweep or reverse their opponent, transitioning from a defensive position to a more dominant one.
  5. Guard Recovery:
    • If the person on the bottom is in a compromised position, they often work on recovering the guard or creating enough space to stand back up.
  6. Inversion and Movement:
    • Bottom positions often involve more movement and fluidity, including inversions, hip escapes, and bridging, to disrupt the top person’s control.
  7. Submission Setups:
    • Despite being in a defensive position, the person on the bottom can actively set up submissions. For example, they might use their guard to set up triangle chokes, armlocks, or omoplatas.

Maintaining Side Control in Jiu-Jitsu

Once you achieve side control, the challenge lies in maintaining it. Effective weight distribution, pressure, and anticipation of your opponent’s movements are vital for keeping them under control.

1. Establish a Strong Crossface:

  • Use your shoulder to create a crossface by applying pressure to your opponent’s face and neck. This helps control their head and limits their ability to turn into you.

2. Underhook Control:

  • Secure an underhook on the far side of your opponent’s body. This helps prevent them from turning toward you and provides additional control.

3. Hip Pressure:

  • Apply hip pressure to control your opponent’s upper body. Keep your hips low and heavy, making it difficult for them to shrimp or escape.

4. Knee-to-Belly Pressure:

  • Utilize knee-on-belly pressure to control the upper torso. This can be an effective tool for maintaining control and creating discomfort for your opponent.

5. Chest-to-Chest Control:

  • Maintain a chest-to-chest connection with your opponent. This ensures that you are close and heavy on them, making it challenging for them to create space and escape.

6. Block the Hips:

  • Use your far-side knee to block your opponent’s hip. This helps prevent them from turning into you or regaining guard.

7. Control the Near Arm:

  • Control your opponent’s near arm to limit their defensive options. You can use an underhook or overhook, depending on the situation.

8. Be Aware of Your Base:

  • Maintain a solid base to prevent being swept or reversed. Keep your weight distributed evenly and stay low to the ground.

9. Maintain Active Awareness:

  • Stay alert and anticipate your opponent’s movements. React quickly to any attempts to escape or counter your control.

10. Switching Sides:

  • Be prepared to switch sides when necessary. If your opponent is successful in turning into you, transitioning to the other side of their body can help you maintain control.

11. Transitioning to Submissions:

  • While maintaining control, look for opportunities to set up submissions. This can include attacks like armlocks, kimuras, or even transitioning to the mount or back mount.

12. Stay Relaxed and Efficient:

  • Conserve your energy by staying relaxed when possible. Use efficient movements and maintain control without unnecessary exertion.

13. Use Shoulder and Head Pressure:

  • Apply shoulder and head pressure to control your opponent’s upper body. This can make it difficult for them to breathe comfortably and can be used to set up attacks.

14. Prevent the Shrimp:

  • Anticipate and shut down your opponent’s attempts to shrimp (create space) by maintaining a tight connection and controlling their hips.

15. Training Variations:

  • Practice maintaining side control against different levels of resistance and skill levels. This will help you adapt your control to various scenarios.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Closed Guard Position

While the closed guard in jiu jitsu is a powerful position, certain mistakes can compromise your defense and lead to vulnerability. Avoiding these common errors, such as neglecting posture or allowing your opponent to control your wrists, is essential for success.

  1. Inactive Hips:
    • Mistake: Allowing your hips to become inactive or flat on the mat.
    • Correction: Keep your hips active and mobile. Use hip movement to create angles and off-balance your opponent.
  2. Leaving Space:
    • Mistake: Allowing too much space between you and your opponent.
    • Correction: Maintain a tight closed guard with your legs securely locked around your opponent’s torso. Minimize the space they have to posture up or escape.
  3. Incorrect Posture Control:
    • Mistake: Neglecting to control your opponent’s posture.
    • Correction: Control the head and posture of your opponent by gripping their collar or the back of their head. This prevents them from posturing up and passing your guard.
  4. Overcommitting with Grips:
    • Mistake: Holding onto grips too tightly, leaving you vulnerable to sweeps and submissions.
    • Correction: Develop a balance between controlling your opponent and staying mobile. Don’t overcommit to grips that can be easily broken.
  5. Ignoring Breaking Posture:
    • Mistake: Focusing solely on submissions without first breaking your opponent’s posture.
    • Correction: Prioritize breaking your opponent’s posture before attempting submissions. A broken posture makes it harder for them to defend against attacks.
  6. Neglecting Head Movement:
    • Mistake: Keeping your head stationary and predictable.
    • Correction: Move your head off-center and create angles to make it more difficult for your opponent to attack or pass your guard.
  7. Poor Weight Distribution:
    • Mistake: Allowing your weight to be too far forward or backward.
    • Correction: Maintain a balanced weight distribution, staying centered over your opponent. This makes it harder for them to sweep you.
  8. Failure to Open Guard at the Right Time:
    • Mistake: Holding onto the closed guard for too long, especially when your opponent is effectively defending.
    • Correction: Know when to open your guard to transition to other positions or attacks, such as sweeps or submissions from open guard.
  9. Lack of Active Attacks:
    • Mistake: Being too defensive and not actively looking for opportunities to attack.
    • Correction: Always be on the lookout for sweeps, submissions, or transitions to other positions. A proactive closed guard is more challenging for your opponent to deal with.
  10. Not Adjusting to Your Opponent’s Movements:
    • Mistake: Failing to adapt to your opponent’s reactions and movements.
    • Correction: Stay dynamic and adjust your strategy based on how your opponent is reacting. This helps you stay one step ahead and control the pace of the match.

Breaking Someone’s Posture from the Guard Position

Breaking your opponent’s posture from the guard is a fundamental skill that opens avenues for attacks. By controlling their head and upper body, you limit their ability to generate power and create opportunities for sweeps and submissions.

  1. Establish a Solid Closed Guard:
    • Begin with a secure closed guard, wrapping your legs around your opponent’s torso. Ensure your ankles are crossed behind their back for maximum control.
  2. Grip Control:
    • Control your opponent’s posture by establishing strong grips. Common grip options include:
      • Collar Grips: Grab the back of their collar with both hands, pulling downward to control the head.
      • Sleeve Grips: Grab their sleeves and pull their arms across their body to disrupt their posture.
      • Wrist Control: Grab their wrists and pull their arms down and inward.
  3. Elbow Control:
    • Use your knees or feet on their hips to create space. Insert one or both hands between their elbows and ribs, lifting their elbows slightly. This prevents them from posturing up.
  4. Head Control:
    • Control the distance between your chest and your opponent’s chest. If their chest is too close, it can be challenging to break their posture. Create a bit of space to work by extending your hips and keeping your opponent at a manageable distance.
  5. Hip Movement:
    • Move your hips and angle your body to the side. This prevents your opponent from aligning their spine and maintaining a strong base. It also makes it more difficult for them to posture up.
  6. Use Your Legs:
    • While maintaining your grips, actively use your legs to break their posture. Pull with your legs as you push with your grips. This creates a dynamic force that makes it harder for your opponent to maintain an upright position.
  7. Off-Balance:
    • Work on off-balancing your opponent. Use the combination of grips, hip movement, and leg control to disrupt their balance. When they are off-balance, it becomes easier to break their posture.
  8. Continuous Pressure:
    • Maintain constant pressure and be persistent in your attempts to break their posture. Your opponent will likely try to regain an upright position, so be ready to adjust and continue breaking their posture throughout the match.
  9. Attack Opportunities:
    • Once you’ve successfully broken your opponent’s posture, look for attack opportunities. This could include setting up sweeps, submissions, or transitioning to other positions.
  10. Stay Active:
    • Don’t be static in your approach. If one method of breaking posture isn’t working, be ready to switch grips, adjust your angle, or try a different strategy.

Basic Sweeps from the Butterfly Guard Position

The butterfly guard is a dynamic position that allows for rapid transitions and sweeps. Mastering sweeps from this position gives you the ability to destabilize your opponent and dictate the flow of the match.

  1. Basic Butterfly Sweep:
    • Setup: Start in the butterfly guard with both feet on the inside of your opponent’s thighs.
    • Execution: Grab your opponent’s wrists or sleeves, and as they try to maintain posture, use your legs to lift and extend them slightly. Then, shift your weight to one side, creating an angle, and use the power of your legs to sweep them to the opposite side.
  2. Hook Sweep (Elevator Sweep):
    • Setup: From the butterfly guard, control your opponent’s wrists or sleeves.
    • Execution: Use one foot to hook inside your opponent’s thigh while simultaneously lifting that side of your body. This creates an elevator effect, off-balancing them. As they tilt, use the other foot to push them over, completing the sweep.
  3. Butterfly Sweep to X-Guard:
    • Setup: Start with the basic butterfly guard grips.
    • Execution: As you initiate the butterfly sweep, control one of your opponent’s legs with your arm, guiding it to the outside of your body. This transition puts you into the X-Guard position, providing opportunities for sweeps or submissions.
  4. Scissor Sweep from Butterfly Guard:
    • Setup: Maintain the butterfly guard with grips on your opponent.
    • Execution: Shift your weight to one side, extending one leg while pulling the other knee toward you. This scissoring motion, combined with a push-pull action with your grips, sweeps your opponent over the extended leg.
  5. Hip Bump Sweep:
    • Setup: Grips on your opponent’s sleeves or wrists in the butterfly guard.
    • Execution: Shift your hips to one side and perform a quick hip bump, creating space. Simultaneously, use your hand on the same side to push against your opponent’s chest or shoulder. This unbalances them, allowing you to come up on top.
  6. Double Underhook Butterfly Sweep:
    • Setup: Secure double underhooks around your opponent’s arms.
    • Execution: Lift your opponent by using your underhooks and your butterfly guard hooks. Angle your body to one side, off-balancing them, and then sweep them to that side.
  7. Arm Drag to Back Take:
    • Setup: Control one of your opponent’s wrists or sleeves.
    • Execution: As you start to sweep to one side, use your free hand to arm drag your opponent. This can lead to taking their back as you come up to a dominant position.

Practice these sweeps during sparring sessions to develop the timing and coordination needed to make them work seamlessly in live situations.

Establishing Dominant Control in the North-South Position

The North-South position offers a unique perspective on control, with the top person facing the bottom person’s head. From here, mastering transitions and submissions becomes essential for maintaining dominance.

  1. Transition from Side Control:
    • Often, the North-South position is achieved by transitioning from side control. From side control, move your body upward, maintaining control of your opponent’s upper body. Keep pressure on them as you slide into the North-South position.
  2. Maintain Chest-to-Chest Connection:
    • Ensure that your chest is pressing firmly against your opponent’s chest or head. This helps control their movement and makes it difficult for them to escape.
  3. Underhook and Overhook:
    • Secure underhooks by wrapping one arm under your opponent’s head and the other arm under their near arm. Simultaneously, use your chest and shoulder to create an overhook on their head, trapping it against your body.
  4. Head Control:
    • Control your opponent’s head by cupping their chin or by grabbing the back of their head. This not only limits their mobility but also sets up potential submissions.
  5. Hip Pressure:
    • Apply pressure with your hips, lowering them onto your opponent’s upper body. This makes it challenging for them to breathe and increases your control.
  6. Knee Positioning:
    • Place one knee on each side of your opponent’s torso, close to their armpits. This helps to control their upper body and prevents them from turning into you.
  7. Leg Positioning:
    • Experiment with different leg positions. You can have both legs on one side of your opponent or straddle them with one leg on each side. This depends on the situation and your attacking preferences.
  8. Transition to Submissions:
    • From the North-South position, you have access to various submissions, including chokes and armlocks. Common options include the North-South choke, arm triangle, and kimura. Transition smoothly between submissions to keep your opponent guessing.
  9. Maintain Awareness:
    • Be aware of your opponent’s movements and anticipate their escape attempts. Keep your weight distributed evenly, and be ready to adjust your position based on their reactions.
  10. Pressure and Patience:
    • Apply constant pressure while maintaining patience. The North-South position can be challenging for your opponent to escape, especially when you control their head, underhooks, and apply proper hip pressure.
  11. Back Take Opportunities:
    • Look for opportunities to take your opponent’s back. If they start to turn or shrimp, you can capitalize on their movement to secure a back mount.

Stay focused on maintaining dominant control while being ready to transition to submissions or other positions as the situation unfolds. Practice and experience in live rolling are crucial for developing your proficiency in establishing and maintaining the North-South position.

Importance of Positional Control in Jiu-Jitsu

Positional control is the essence of BJJ. It dictates the flow of a match, enabling practitioners to set up submissions and control their opponent’s movements. Understanding the importance of each position is key to success on the mats.

Transitioning from One Jiu-Jitsu Position to Another

Seamless transitions between positions are a hallmark of an advanced practitioner. Developing the ability to flow effortlessly from one position to another enhances your overall control and strategic options during a match.

  1. Understand Connection Points:
    • Each position has specific connection points where you control your opponent. Understand where these points are and how to maintain control as you transition.
  2. Maintain Control of Limbs:
    • Control your opponent’s limbs to prevent them from escaping or countering your transitions. This may involve controlling wrists, elbows, or other key points of their body.
  3. Timing and Fluidity:
    • Timing is crucial in transitions. Be aware of your opponent’s movements and capitalize on openings. Aim for fluid transitions to catch your opponent off guard.
  4. Use Grips and Hooks:
    • Grips play a significant role in Jiu-Jitsu. Use grips on your opponent’s gi, wrists, or limbs to control them during transitions. Hooks, whether with your legs or arms, can also help you maintain control.
  5. Create Off-Balance:
    • Before transitioning, off-balance your opponent. This can make it more challenging for them to resist or counter your movements. Off-balancing can be achieved through grips, hip movement, and pressure.
  6. Chain Techniques:
    • Chain together techniques and transitions. For example, if your opponent defends one position, have a follow-up transition or attack in mind. This constant threat keeps your opponent on the defensive.
  7. Use Movement and Angles:
    • Move around your opponent, changing angles during transitions. This can make it harder for them to follow and react appropriately.
  8. Recognize Opportunities:
    • Recognize when your opponent makes a mistake or opens up opportunities for transition. For example, if they overcommit to a movement or leave a limb exposed, use that as a chance to transition to a more advantageous position.
  9. Anticipate Escapes:
    • Anticipate your opponent’s escape attempts and be ready to counter them with transitions. This requires a good understanding of common escapes from each position.
  10. Control the Head:
    • Controlling your opponent’s head often means controlling their body. Use collar grips, underhooks, or head control to dictate the direction of the transition.
  11. Practice Transitions Drills:
    • Set aside specific training sessions for transition drills. Practice moving smoothly from one position to another with a partner, focusing on maintaining control throughout.
  12. Adapt to Your Style:
    • Adapt your transitions to your style and body type. Some transitions may feel more natural or effective based on your strengths and preferences.

Examples of common transitions include moving from side control to mount, transitioning from closed guard to the back, or going from the back to the crucifix position. As you gain more experience, you’ll develop a sense of when to transition and which paths work best for you. Consistent practice, live rolling, and experimentation with different transitions will help refine your ability to seamlessly flow between Jiu-Jitsu positions.

Expert Data Table: Key Information on Basic Jiu-Jitsu Positions

PositionMain CharacteristicsCommon AttacksKey Defense Strategies
Closed GuardLeg control, defensive postureArmbar, triangle choke, omoplataBreak grips, maintain posture
MountUpper body control, high offensive potentialArmbar, Americana, Ezekiel chokeBridge and roll, trap and roll
Side ControlDominant side position, restricts movementKimura, Americana, knee-on-bellyFrame and hip escape, reguard
Back MountControl from the rear, potential for chokesRear naked choke, collar chokeHand fighting, escape hips to the side
Butterfly GuardSeated position with both feet insideSweeps, hooks for controlUnderhook, maintain hip mobility


Mastering the basic jiu-jitsu positions is a journey that combines technique, strategy, and a deep understanding of the art. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned practitioner, continuously refining your skills in these positions will elevate your BJJ game. Remember, it’s not just about the moves but also about the flow and seamless transitions that make you a true jiu-jitsu artist.

For further exploration and in-depth learning, check out authoritative sources such as the Gracie University, and BJJ Fanatics. Happy rolling!

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