Maintaining top position in jiu-jitsu is very much a dynamic process. You constantly have to adjust and maneuver to account for your opponent’s attempts to escape. Your movements may not be big ones. They may even be invisible to the naked eye. But movement matters. If you get stiff and static, your opponent will find an opening and escape.
In this class, we focused on dealing with a near-arm frame. If you have achieved side control, this arm will typically frame against your hip to create space for a re-guard or to reduce your pressure to the point that they can turn and escape to their knees. If you aren’t aggressive and diligent about neutralizing this threat, your opponent will use it against you to weaken your position. Technically, there are four ways to beat this arm.
- Turn your hips toward the head to drop under your opponent’s elbow, assuming a kesa gatame position.
- Turn your hips toward the legs, dropping your hips in the groove between their shoulder and chin, assuming a north-south position.
- Turn your hips toward the legs, dropping in front of the hips, assuming a reverse kesa gatame position.
- Elevate your hips and assume a knee on belly position.
In this class, for the sake of simplicity, we look at the first two options and tie them to two basic submissions, the Americana and the Kimura. The idea here is to keep your hips active, to never let your opponent establish and exert control over your hips with his arm. Basically, you rock your hips side to side until you find a weakness in your opponent’s frame. Given his position on the bottom, it’s difficult for him to cover all fronts at once, so you have to learn to feel the openings with your weight.
When you transition into a kesa gatame position, the Americana is one of the basic submissions that will pop up. There are other options, of course, but I wanted to get my students to couple maintaining control with hunting for a submission in their minds, specifically with a simple submission that would not compromise their position if they missed it.
In the second technique, we drop into a north-south position. As you watch this, note the positioning of my hips, how I keep myself low and spread my weight out. I use my ribs to create pressure on my opponent’s chin and commit my control to one shoulder rather than both. Once I am in this position, I immediately look for a Kimura.
Admittedly, this transition to the Kimura is a bit tricky, and it took me a while to get it down. Once you are confident with it, it becomes a high-percentage, reliable attack. If you can get your hand under their elbow to wrap their arm, you should feel like you are about to finish the match because you are that close to a submission.
Next week, we are going to look at the other two options and work to develop a fluid top game, where you swivel and dig your hips until you find a dominate top position where your opponent’s framing arm is out of the game.
Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.