BJJ Side Control Essentials For Beginners

BJJ Side Control Essentials For Beginners

If there’s one thing I would have liked to know as a white belt it would be how to maintain side control. BJJ side control is the one position most people actually struggle with at the beginning. To be honest, side control is anything but an easy position. In fact, it is much easier to work form the top half guard or mount, then it is from BJJ side control. Still, it is one of the best position to set up attacks and it offers a lot of variety. Plus, you do not need any particular physical attributes to be successful with It. All you need is to follow three basic principles and you’ll master it in no time.

When we talk about the common issues that beginners face in terms of side control there are two usual culprits. People either struggle with maintaining side control or attacking from the position. The tricky nature of side control makes it impossible for you to both pin an opponent and successfully attack at the same time. OR so it seems. One of the best tips I can offer beginners is to change their either-or approach to this issue by implementing the three basic principles of BJJ side control mastery we’ll discuss below.

The Essentials Of BJJ Side Contol

The first thing you need to get out of your head as a beginner is the notion of side control as a control position. Actually, let me rephrase that. Side control is not a position that’s as comfortable as the mount or back mount. From BJJ side control, you actually need to stay mobile WHILE you stay heavy. That is actually at the core of the first two principles of a successful side control game. Furthermore, you need to know precisely what kind of attacks you can get with a high degree of success. Remember that in order to finish some high-percentage submissions, you’ll actually need to either switch position or abandon side control altogether.

The tricks to having an easy time in side control are not complicated. All you need to do is remain heavy, be willing to switch between side control variations (there are plenty) and know how to attack. IN fact, you should actually mix attacks as well, as you’ll see later on. If you can get the hang of these three principles, side control is going to turn into one of your best weapons. Give them a try and shave months and years of frustration of your side control mastery.

Be Heavy

If there’s one thing in BJJ that makes all the difference, it is pressure. While the concept is easy, learning how to apply it is actually really hard. Moreover, explaining someone how to put pressure on an op[ponent is equally as challenging. In all honesty, this will take years as you can only develop a pressure game trough experience. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be heavy.

BJJ Side Control EssentialsThe distinction here is that you do not need the pressure to stay heavy. BJJ side control is atop position, meaning all you need to do is let gravity work for you. Conversely, the heavier you are, the harder it’ll be for an opponent to move. Remember that pinning someone doesn’t just mean you need to get into wrestlers side control and hold them down. It will work, undoubtedly, but it’ll require all your limbs. In other words, if you hold someone down like a wrestler you won’t be able to transition or attack.

Instead of trying to pin your opponent’s down. Just do one simple thing – relax. AS you get side control, relax all your body weight on top of your opponents. I know, it is counterintuitive and it’ll take a few weeks until you get a feel for it. However, it is worth the effort as it’ll allow you to both pins the bottom person down, and be able to look for attacks.

Know All BJJ Side Control Variations

Another cardinal rule of BJJ is that tacks work best when they’re done form the correct position. IN regard to BJJ side control, this is particularly important. The best part about side control is actually the fact that there are a bunch of variations of the position. Basically, anything between the half guard and the mount is a version of side control. In fact, there are 5 positions you absolutely have to know if you want to have success with BJJ side control attacks.

First up, you have what everyone sees as side control as beginners, the wrestler’s side control. This is great to stabilize the position and get points but not to attack. This is where the 100 kilos variation comes into place, or a kind of a sprawls fro mBJJ side control. This makes you heave while allowing you to start setting up attacks. Depending on your preferences and the opponent’s reactions you can go in three more directions.

BJJ Side ControlThe Kesa Gatame or scarf hold is the first. This is another position you’re all too familiar with but most likely do not consider to be a side control variation. Well, both the scarf hold and the twister side control (reverse scarf hold) are. Moreover, the fifth (but by no means last) variation is North-South. This is one more position people do not really think of as being a side control variation. The more you can transition between all of these, the harder it will be to escaper. Furthermore, each variation brings about unique attacking opportunities as well. In other words, more positions = more attacks in your arsenal.

Be Versatile In Attack

Finally, let’s talk a bit about attacks. Once again we have duality here. Attacking from side control can either mean getting a better position (back mount or mount) or getting a submission. In terms of attacking you need to be able to use everything that;’s at your disposal. For example, when you’re attacking with the Gi, you can get better control, and even submissions by using the lapels. However, if that doesn’t work, you can switch to No-Gi attacks like the North-South choke and surprise your opponents!

Another great way to get what you want is to use threats. You can threaten your opponent with a transition to mount, for example, and make them give up a submission (think D’arce or lapel Brabo choke). Or you can go for a submission (say an Americana) in order to get a transition to the mount or back mount. There’s no real limit here as long as you remember to be heavy and work with all side control variations when you attack.

A Bernardo Faria DVD Review Side Control Submissions instructionalIn fact, one of the best things you can do to master BJJ side control is to pick up Bernardo Faria’s latest instructional. In it, he covers pretty much every way of dominating from side control. Across 4 volumes, “Side Control Submissions” is going to teach you how to finish anyone that ends up in your side control!


All it takes to master BJJ side control is to understand how attacks work. It is as simple as being heavy, switching between side control variations, and having multiple threats ready. If you keep doing that over and over again your opponents will be left guessing what comes next. And, the more they’re in the dark, the easier it will be for you to get a tap. God, I wish someone told me all of this back when I was a white belt!

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