It’s all about control. One of the things you will start to notice as you train live (roll) with more and more people is everyone has a different style, and each person has their strengths and of course weaknesses as well. In Jiu Jitsu, the ability to control another human body that is fighting against you is ultimately what will lead to the ability to execute submissions and lead to victory, be it on the mats in competition, or in the streets in the form of a self defense encounter. As you train with different people you will likely find the handful of people that have the ability to make your life utterly miserable when they are in a top position, simply by applying pressure. It’s not that all Jiu Jitsu players don’t try to apply pressure when in a top position, they do, it’s a matter of technique, like everything in our sport.
Being good at applying pressure from a top position requires proper technique. Techniques around pressure are often glazed over, or ignored completely because there is not a “finish” per say. These techniques are not fancy, and in all honesty can seem rather basic from a high level. We are going to break down “Side control pressuring by Stephen Whittier” to explore the details of maintaining pressure, and therefore control from a top side control position.
Professor Whittier states very early on in the video that Jiu Jitsu players as a whole typically have an overreliance on grips when in a top side control pressure. This is less than ideal for many reasons, but the obvious reason is that it is exhausting our grip and therefore limiting our ability to use our grips when it matter later in the match.
Professor Whittier uses the phrase “notch yourself into place”, what he means by this is starting from a perpendicular position, if you were to slide your chest across your opponents chest you can feel your chest almost “click” into place. This positions should put your chest in the center of their chest with your chin just past the opponent’s rib cage.
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The next tip Professor Whittier provides is relating to knee positioning. At no point during the time in top side control should your knees be on the mat. He goes as far as to say you should be imagining a “dive bomber” position where you are using your toes on the mat to drive your hips slightly above the rest of your body allowing you to apply more pressure downward where you are chest on chest with the opponent.
The next common problem is once we get used to not having our knees on the mats, is resting our weight on our hands and elbows as we start to create more forward pressure. It is important to stay disciplined about not only keeping your knees off of the mat, but also keeping our hands and elbows off of the mat to ensure 100% of the available pressure is driving into our opponent. The only exception to this is if we have the cross face. The cross face in itself has many benefits that balance the risk of taking some of our pressure off of the opponent.
Once you are able to get to this position, chest on chest, with your knees off of the mat, you can determine based on what you are looking to do, which grips you want to do. Remember, it’s imperative that you keep the weight off of your hands and elbows, in addition to the knees.
It’s a good idea to drill this position to build the muscle memory of where the “sweet spot” is. To do this, first you can start in the position and have your partner move around, bridge, etcetera. This should be exhausting for your opponent. It should feel as if they are toting a heavy bag around with each and every movement.
When you feel like you have a good handle on holding the position you can start the drill from a little earlier in the position. Have your opponent facing you on, laying on their hip, as if they are going to hip escape and replace guard. From this position Professor Whittier uses his head driving into the opponent’s top arm and rib cage area to flatten the opponent. Doing this forces Professor Whittier to close the space between his chest and his opponent’s chest as he flattens the opponent, putting him immediately in the right place as the opponent ends up on their back.
As you likely already know two of the biggest factors that can lead to your success with any Jiu Jitsu technique are paying attention to the details, and drilling. Each and every detail matter, there is a reason it takes thousands of repetitions to “master” a technique. It takes thousands of hours, adding up to years of training to obtain your black belt in Jiu Jitsu, unlike any other martial art. It simply takes an investment of time and dedication each and every day you are on the mats to drill for perfection and build the muscle memory necessary to be “good” at any technique.
Side control is a favorite position of many practitioners, often times Jiu Jitsu players will prefer side control over mount, or vice versa. Regardless of your preference on position, we can not ignore the fact that it I necessary to have a deep understanding of this fundamental position in Jiu Jitsu and the importance it plays in, if nothing else, allowing us to control the opponent until we can get to our preferred position, or equally ideal executing submissions from the side control position after exhausting the opponent with our top pressure.
For more details on how to take your side control game to the next level check out “The Pillars Side Control Mastery” by Stephen Whittier. This video instruction is certain to bring your attention to the details, however insignificant they may seem, and help you to refine your top side control game so you can be one of the ones people in the academy talk about. “Man, that guy has insane top pressure”, who doesn’t want to be that person?