You have defended the triangle, passed your opponent’s guard and achieved side control…Now what? How do you keep the position without your opponent recovering their guard and squandering all of your hard work?
Side control can be the most secure top position with numerous submission possibilities, but requires some technical details to be effective.
Here is a 5 point Side Control check list for you:
1) Control the head
The best way for your opponent to escape your side control is to turn in towards you. By controlling the opponent’s head with a “cross face” you prevent their ability to turn and face you. Applying pressure with your shoulder is critical to controlling the head! There is a saying in bjj: “If you control the head, you control the body”
2) Get the underhook
After your opponent replacing the guard, the next biggest threat to them escaping is for the bottom person to dig an underhook and use that to get to turtle position (or even take your back!) Your job on the top position is to get the underhook and prevent your opponent from squirming up and out towards your back. This is one of the things your coach will be shouting at you from the side of the mat.
* Important! Whoever gets the underhook is likely dominating the position!
3) Apply your bodyweight
UFC fighter and top grappler Josh Barnett says “There are no free rides on the bottom!”
What does this mean?
Barnett is saying that the top guy should be applying their bodyweight on the bottom. It should not be easy for the opponent to move and breath if you are applying your bodyweight and pressure! When your opponent is uncomfortable, they make mistakes and leave openings for your submission attacks.
* Tip: If your knees are on the mat, your bodyweight is likely on the mat and NOT on your opponent.
4) Keep them flat
Most of the best escapes from side control must be executed when the bottom person is not flat on their back and gets onto their side. Your job is to keep applying pressure by driving in with your weight to keep them flat.
Toes on the mat, drive forward into the opponent pushing them flat. Don’t rely only on squeezing with your arms…use your ENTIRE body!
* Tip: If you have the underhook, drive the shoulder you are using to underhook into their far shoulder to drive them back flat.
5) Change side controls
There are in fact several different variations of side control – (in addition to the cross face / underhook common variation).
Scarf hold / kesa gatame
Reverse scarf hold
Knee on belly…etc
As your opponent changes their strategy to escape, you must also adapt your position to counter their movements. Be willing to move along with your opponent instead of being static and stiff and giving them an opening.
ex. Opponent is attempting to put a knee inside to regain their guard > change you underhook hand to use to block their leg from sneaking inside for guard.
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam