Grapplers Graveyard

Side Control BJJ: Dominating With Pressure

side control bjj
  • Denali Keefe

    Denali Keefe is a mental health writer, focused on the intersection of science and experience. He is currently perusing graduate studies in psychology, regularly trains Jiu Jitsu and currently holds a Blue Belt.

Side control is my favorite position to play. It won’t give you the points or control that mount or back control will, but it has many nuances and directions that you can go making the possibilities endless.

With that said, everyone has a slightly different game they prefer. Even if pressure and side control are not your game it’s important to learn the pressure game at the very least to understand how to defend against it.

Side Control BJJ Position Basics

In Brazilian jiu jitsu, mastering the side control position is essential for having a well-rounded game. At its core, side control involves establishing a dominant position beside your opponent, with your chest pressing into their torso and your arms controlling their upper body and hips. To excel in side control, focus on keeping proper posture and weight distribution to immobilize your opponent effectively. This involves keeping your chest heavy on their torso to limit their mobility while controlling their hips and far arm to prevent escapes.

I like to make sure that I keep the knee closest to their legs pressed up on the hip to prevent shrimping, and a gable grip with my hands right behind my opponent’s armpit. This allows me the most balanced control of my opponent.

Next, staying mobile and adjusting your position as needed is crucial for maintaining control and capitalizing on openings. By mastering these basics of side control, you can effectively control your opponent, set up submissions, and transition to more dominant positions, ultimately dictating the flow of the fight on the mat.

What is my key to side control?


Or more specifically, closing all space between yourself and your appointment. Once this is mastered the rest of the position will follow.


Making the Person On the Bottom Miserable

  1. Establish Side Control: Begin by positioning yourself beside your opponent, chest facing their torso, with your top arm under their head and your bottom arm controlling their hips or underhooking their far arm.

  2. Apply Weight Distribution: Distribute your weight deliberately on your opponent, ensuring your chest is heavy on their torso to restrict their movement.

  3. Control Hips and Far Arm: Use your arms and body to control your opponent’s hips and far arm, preventing escapes and limiting their mobility.

  4. Stay Mobile and Adjust: Continuously adjust your position to maintain control, staying mobile to prevent escapes and capitalize on openings.

  5. Look for Submissions and Anticipate Escapes: Keep an eye out for submission opportunities while anticipating your opponent’s escape attempts, ready to counter their movements and maintain dominance. I often find that in keeping good control a kimura will present itself as your opponent makes a mental error in disperation.

When in top side control position it is absolutely critical that you keep pressure on them. To do this, intentionally drive your elbow or knee into their hip, while maintaining a strong grip behind their neck. Remember that just like a good mount escape a good side control escape involves creating space. To keep your side control or side mount make sure that you win the game by removing space every time your opponent tries to shrimp.

Key Points to Pay Attention To

Pressure is NOT laying your weight on your opponent. It IS deliberately driving force into specific focal points. These are primarily their hips, shoulders, solar plexus, and at times neck/face (Crossface).

How to Escape Side Control

  1. Create Space: Start by framing against your opponent’s hips or chest, using your arms to create distance between you and them.

  2. Shrimp Out: Execute a shrimp motion, pushing off your feet and driving your hips away from your opponent to create more space.

  3. Regain Guard: Bring your knees back in front of your opponent, aiming to re-establish your guard position.

  4. Establish Frames: Use your arms and legs to establish frames against your opponent’s body, creating barriers to prevent them from regaining control.

  5. Transition to Guard: Once you’ve created enough space and established frames, look to transition to guard and maintain control of your opponent.

When escaping the side control position you must create as much space as possible until you have successfully transitioned to another position, such as re-guarding. Remember that your opponent will be attempting to close that space.

Key Points for Escaping a Bad Position

When escaping a bad position remember that your opponents’ defense will always be looking to close space and secure their good position. It is important not to get lazy and slowly give up little positions.

For example, when escaping side control, back control, or mount shrimping and CREATING SPACE KING.

Lastly, remember the position before submission. This is my mantra when I compete. It is important to escape a bad position before hunting for any submission. This is a way of “trying” without really putting the work in to secure a win on the mat.

Submissions from Side Control

Here is a list of my favorite submissions from side control:

  1. Kimura: Controlling your opponent’s wrist and elbow, then rotating their arm behind their back while applying pressure to the shoulder joint.

  2. Arm Triangle Choke (Kata Gatame): Utilizing pressure from side control to trap one arm and your opponent’s neck, applying a choke with your own arm and shoulder.

  3. Americana (Keylock): Isolating your opponent’s arm and applying pressure to their shoulder joint by locking their arm behind their back and leveraging your body weight.

  4. Bread Cutter Choke (Brabo Choke): Utilizing the gi to choke your opponent by applying pressure on their neck while controlling their far arm.

  5. Ezekiel Choke: Utilizing your own gi to choke your opponent while controlling their head and arm from side control.

  6. Straight Armbar (Juji Gatame): Transitioning to a perpendicular position and hyperextending your opponent’s elbow joint while controlling their arm.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, side control in BJJ offers a versatile and powerful position to dominate opponents with pressure and control. While it may not always yield immediate points or control like mount or back control, its intricacies and adaptability make it one of my absolute favorites. Understanding and mastering side control is crucial for a well-rounded game, as it allows you to immobilize opponents effectively while setting up submissions and transitioning to more dominant positions.

One key aspect to focus on in side control is eliminating space between you and your opponent, ensuring constant pressure to make them uncomfortable and limit their movement options. Whether you’re maintaining side control or escaping from it, the key lies in controlling space and applying pressure strategically to dictate the flow of the fight on the ground.

Side Control BJJ: Dominating With Pressure