Sharing: Side control


I’m not the biggest person in the world, or in my gym, most people in my there out weight me by 10 to 20 kg (20-40ish pounds), maybe more. There were, and probably still are, people I couldn’t work with, simply because I had no way to move them or control them like I could somebody smaller. I just didn’t know how to do it, I’d put all my effort into trying to get them to move or stay still and in a moment, it was all gone. 

It’s terrible because in the years I’ve been doing BJJ, I’ve not really developed a top pressure game. Everything I did usually got passed easily, or I’d be bench pressed out of the way by the bigger guys. I’ve been trying to work on it with my coaches, but they are all 80+ kg on don’t have really this problem anymore. 😕 I also keep getting told BJJ  is a small person’s game, and that I should be able to beat the bigger guy 9 times out of 10, but I think that only works on bigger guys who don’t know the sport. 

So, with some insight from my coaches and training partners as well as a liberal use of google I started putting together a pattern of small techniques and adjustments, experimenting with ways to help me gain relatively strong top pressure game. Bear in mind, I still lose top position a lot, but it’s usually now as a consequence of my and my opponents actions, rather than me being smaller than my opponent. 

The first position I wanted to work on was top side control, I wind up here a lot. Here and bottom half guard, but I’m going to talk about top side for today. I actually find I can maintain more control in top side than I do in full mount. But, this is where I had the most difficulty in my early days. I’d land in side control and immediately the knee was in for an escape back to guard. One of my training partners has a great hip bump switch to guard recover I still haven’t found a way to counter (the jerk). He just has that technique down.

Getting the position. 

In the beginning, I couldn’t even get the full position. I’d be benched up and the guys would have guard or escape me 100% of the time. I’d be kept at arm’s reach of the position via stiff arming, while they adjust to better their position, so my first fix was simple getting to side control. 

To deal with the stiff arm on hip I have 2 options, the first is just switching my hips a little, to give myself space then swim the knee up and around to pin their arm to their side. The next is sprawling out the blocked leg, easing up their pressure and quickly using my hand to drop their arm to the floor, then pinning it under my knee. Both require good top pressure and a little bit of speed. 

With a stiff arm at my shoulder, I tend to over-hook this arm or grab the inside of their elbow. Then drive my chest at my opponent, not really downward, more down and at an angle. Gravity is on my side in this position not theirs, so it typically works to break they stiff arm, helping my gain the position I want. 

I usually try to get side control before any stiff arming can happen, not that it always works. 

Maintaining the position. 

The biggest thing for me is where to apply the pressure, I had absolutely no game when I tried the bog-standard side control. It’s not that I leave space, it was just these guys hips where way stronger than my pressure could control, they could just bridge and shrimp out. To fix this, I switched my pressure more towards their head and shoulders. With 1 knee above their head and the other at mid rib level. They could still bridge this in this position, but couldn’t really do much with it. (except for that one guy).  

From here, I don’t press straight down on my training partner, I bring my pressure in from the side, gliding my chest along their ribs in towards their centre. Sort of like I’m smearing them across the mat. If they’re wearing the GI I pull their lapel towards myself whilst driving my shoulder into their jaw or neck to prevent them from turning, keeping the shoulder flat to the mat. If i need a little extra pressure, I lift my knees up a drive a little with my feet. 

Make sure to not drive too far forwards or you leave yourself open to being swept, that can be fixed by keeping your ear glued to their shoulder and keeping your head turned towards their feet. Other than that, this is my main go to pressure game in side control.  I actually use this position a lot now, because I’ve been working hard on my arm bars from side control and a few north south attacks, so having that initial pressure is hugely beneficial to my game. Maintaining this pressure and transitioning to a new position can still be kinda difficult for me, and I lose it a lot even now, i’m still working on it.

I don’t claim these techniques, they are simply a variety I found on youtube/google and with some insight from my coaches, that I thought i’d share. They work for me, and maybe they can work for you too. Try it out and if it doesn’t work, keeping searching until you find the techniques that do. That’s the name of the game, isn’t it? We just gotta keep learning.


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