There is a timeless piece of jiu-jitsu training wisdom:
“Position before submission”
What does this mean?
Before you are ready to attack with a choke or arm lock, you need to achieve a dominant position over your opponent.
In fact, MOST of jiu-jitsu is fighting to achieve a dominant position on your opponent or escaping their dominant position.
The submission is like the knockout punch in boxing, comprising 5% of the match.
My LONG time training partner Stephan Kesting from Grapplearts.com introduced me to the concept of the “Positional hierarchy” from his excellent Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
This is one of the very first concepts beginners must understand about Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Without a solid understanding of the positions, a ground fight is just chaos and disorder or “2 guys just grabbing onto each other” as the casual fight fan sees it.
The Positional Hierarchy:
BEST / DOMINANT position
Knee on Belly
Guard Top / Guard Bottom
Turtle Top / Turtle Bottom
Half Guard Bottom
Side control Bottom
Knee on Belly Bottom
Rear mount Bottom
This places the entire ground fight into identifiable positions turning chaos into order.
If we pause the video of a match, you should be able to identify which position each fighter is and what they should be looking to do from there.
When you find yourself in a dominant position you can look to:
1) maintain your position
2) advance to the next higher dominant position
3) attack with a submission
When you find yourself in an inferior position you can look to:
1) look to escape and advance up one position on the hierarchy (ex. move from half guard to recover full guard)
2) protect yourself and understand the submission threats
I was teaching at a MMA gym and one of the fighters put it succinctly: “We know the arm locks and chokes, but the difficult thing is: Can we even get to the position where we can attack?”
When we watch 2 high level black belts in a competition match, 99% of the time they are fighting for position.
For those schools who use a curriculum to plan classes: the positional hierarchy is a great structure to teach from.
Each week, the classes can be taught within the position.
This way, the students get an overview of ALL of the ground positions and develop a COMPLETE ground game.
on Jiu-jitsu Times: The Most Important 6 Submissions that White Belts Should Learn in Bjj
Great article! Where would you place the north-south position within this hierarchy?