4 Beginner Side Control Mistakes

You work so hard to pass the guard, narrowly avoiding getting swept or triangled, and at last you reach side control. But just when you are ready to work for a submission, your opponent escapes. Uugghhh!

Why does it seem that when you are under side control you get trapped forever under your opponent’s weight, but you have difficulty to keep side control?

If you are losing side control often against training partners of similar weight and experience, I’ll wager that it is because of one of these four common mistakes.

1) Weight On The Mat

How to be heavy in side control? Start by making sure that your bodyweight is concentrated on your opponent and not wasted by resting your knees on the mat.

When you are in side control, pause a moment to take notice of where your weight is focused. If your weight is on your knees, then that means your opponent has freedom to move and begin to escape.

A little cross face pressure might help.

2) Hips High

This is the opposite of the first problem. In an attempt to be as heavy as possible many BJJ practitioners will cover the opponent’s chest completely with their own.

Unfortunately, they often go too far toward. This leaves them open to be rolled over by a strong opponent.

Secondly, when you go too far forward, your hips come up high and create space for the bottom guy to replace the guard.

Your hips should be sprawled back and low to the ground making it difficult for the bottom guy to sneak a hook in.

3) Being Too Static

Many think that you get the cross face and underhook then clamp on as tightly as possible to keep side control. However, your opponent can start to bridge and shrimp and slowly create space.

You need to change your technique to one of the different side control variations (ex. Scarf hold, reverse scarf hold or knee on the belly) to stay ahead of your opponent’s defense.

Be willing to adapt to the changing conditions in the match.

4) Rushing The Submission

“Position before submission.” Your priority is to be able to control your opponent when you are in the dominant position, leading to a submission. Don’t abandon a good position for a low percentage attack.

All too often a new BJJ practitioner will get excited, finding themselves in a dominant position, and try to hurry and grab a submission. Unfortunately, this haste creates room for your opponent to escape. Feeling like you are losing your side control you try a “Hail Mary” rushed and desperate attempt at an arm lock that is doomed to fail before it starts.

Boom! You are reversed or put back in guard.

If your opponent starts to escape as you are working for a sub, you need to calm down, abandon the attack and go back to controling the position.


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