Position Before Submission

3 Ways this advice can help your submission game.

This is one of the pieces of jiu-jitsu wisdom that is communicated to new students at the bjj academy early in their learning. There are several different meanings to this simple piece of advice.



1) There is a positional hierarchy in bjj and the dominant positions are much more advantageous to attempt a submission from, than from an inferior position.

In fact, attempting to submit your opponent from an inferior position, such as bottom of side control or inside the opponent’s guard will usually result in you being submitted!

x guardI recently observed a white belt student trying to choke the opponent from inside the opponent’s closed guard. Worse, I saw another student attepting to cross collar choke the opponent while the opponent was fully mounted!
Predictably, an armlock soon followed.

I explained that this was a poor strategy, as the person on bottom could easily armlock the extended arms of the person attempting the choke. Furthermore, the person on top (in guard) was wasting energy trying to submit from a poor position that they could use far more effectively trying to advance their position by passing the guard.

2) Everyone loves the submission in jiu-jitsu. Nobody makes highlight videos of great posture or good defense!

But the truth is the submission is a small period of time in most matches between similarly skilled opponents. 95% of the match will be spent battling for the dominant position.

375720_10153725473295710_168946013_nMore of the match is spent trying to pass the guard or prevent the escape of the opponent than any other area.

Similarly, in a soccer match, how much of the time is spent actually striking / trying to score on the goal vs. getting the ball and attacker in position to even attempt that kick?

You can’t expect to be successful with your submission unless you are attacking from one of those superior positions (see Tip #1) therefore it makes much more sense to spend more of your training time learning your positioning and control than the more sexy submissions.

Most blue belts have this realization and decide to focus their rolling more on positional control and transitions.

By all means, practice your submission skills, but understand that you can’t submit unless you can GET TO your submission position!
Examine your routes on HOW you are getting to your submission positions.

3) Lunging for the submission

This is a problem I see most often with students with close to a year or more of training.

BJJ SubmissionAt this level, they know several submissions and have a good knowledge of positions and guard passing.
They pass the opponent’s guard and as soon as they are in side control – before completely flattening out the opponent and controlling the head – they try to snatch an armlock.
The opponent on the bottom makes a powerful bridge and escapes the bottom and both the side control and armlock opportunity are lost.

The mistake? In trying immediately for the submission, they skipped a crucial step: getting full side control of the opponent BEFORE going for the armlock.

It is tempting to try to use speed to catch the submission, but your opponent’s defense will nearly always be faster than your offense.

As a consequence you miss your submission and also lose the position. All of that work for nothing!

submissionInstead, pay more attention to controlling your opponent, preventing their avenues of escape and then more methodically (and successfully) attack with your submission!

My first judo instructor gave me some solid advice that I remember to this day: “Control the opponent. Once you can control them completely, then you can move to the submission at any time.”

Share in the comments how you discovered this wisdom in your own training.

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ

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