BJJ / Grappling Tips: Cross Side Top Theme Part 1 - maintaining the side control

What is the easiest position to control someone in grappling?

Most people I know love the side mount and will put it ahead of the mount. Especially beginners as they still haven't developed their mount maintenance techniques and attributes and always feel in danger of getting flipped. With your body off your opponent in the side mount (aka cross side or side control), the risk of the position getting reversed is reduced.

Personally, I see the side mount as a portal to the mount. Yes I use it to exhaust my opponents and yes I have a number of submission attacks from there, but my goal is to mount my opponent.

While I am laying cross side on my opponent, I'd like to use the following postures and pressures to open them up for the aforementioned attacks, including the transition to mount. The position itself is most reminiscent of the kuzure yoko shiho gatame in judo, or "broken side 4-way hold-down", with an adjustment or two.


Position, relative to the opponent:

Alignment: My spine is at 90-95 degrees to their spine, angling north. My chest / breastbone practically right on top of theirs and my chin near the outside of their far deltoid which my own north side armpit is close to their chin. I like to keep my head super low both to deny space but also to prevent damage from effective strikes (accidental or otherwise). The hips, controversially, are higher than my shoulders, but I stay behind an invisible wall defined by their centre line to prevent getting flipped.

Arms: my north arm wraps around their far arm / shoulder. I also like grabbing the belt with that hand and making sure the far shoulder is isolated from the ground by that arm. I also pull that arm to my hip so it restricts the movement of his head. The south arm is guarding against their attempts to replace me into their guard by hovering between the level of their knee and mid-thigh. I sometimes go lower, but I'm always aware of the risk of them bringing their shin through the space potentially created by my elbow. I'm always alert to hug, especially with the south arm, if they bridge explosively.

Legs: my north leg is straight. My south leg is bent with the knee close to my south elbow / their nearside hip

Picture courtesy of JiuJitsu Mag's Youtube channel


This positional alignment creates a ton of pressure against the opponent's far shoulder, but also their chest. As you become comfortable on top, listen to their breathing and deepen your position and hold over them at the end of their exhale.

Weight distribution: Play around with this until you find the sweet spot. For me, it's usually sternum-to-sternum. If they start to turn towards you, distribute your weight to turn them flat again. If they try to frame against your north-side hip, drop your other hip to contour around their pressure.

Comfort: Get your knees and elbows off the ground to direct all the weight into the opponent at all times, hence tipping the comfort scales in your favour.

It goes without saying that this is only a narrow, specialised 6-week deep-dive into one variation of how to hold your opponent from the side mount. You can orientate your arms, legs and torso in a variety of other ways and I will investigate these in the future, but for now: This is my go-to strategy.

In the next article, I will talk about the pathways I've been investigating to go from the side to the full mount.



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