Are you new to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? If you’re just starting out, it can often get intimidating on the various techniques and positions available for you.
In this guide, we go over some of the most basic BJJ Positions that every practitioner should know. If you are new to the art, learning the basic positions can really get you ahead on your training.
It is expected for a white belt to get smashed or submitted when you start sparring and have no idea about what’s going on. At this level, learn to know what position you are in and what position you want to be in next. It will take time and several training sessions more, but it is important that you understand BJJ’s positional hierarchy.
You might find yourself wanting to learn several advanced or maybe those flashy techniques you watch on YouTube. But keep in mind that it is really important that you do not forget the basics! The BJJ basics will be your foundation and would be your starting point. Once you get the fundamentals down, you can transition yourself into more creative and advanced techniques out there!
Now let’s go over the significant positions and what you need to know about each position.
What Are The Main Basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Positions
When you watch a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match, you can often see so many various positions out there, it can be hard to count! So often you’ll hear the question come up – how many positions are there in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
In reality there are really only four main positions in BJJ – Guard, Side Control, Full Mount, and Back Control. However, there are many variations to the Guard and it can be broken up into different subsets: the half guard, the open guard, and the closed guard. And the open guard can even be broken down further into specialized guard positions! But for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it with the basics.
The Guard (also sometimes known as the full guard) is a position where you are on your back, and your opponent is in front of you. Compared to other martial arts, where being in your back is a disadvantage, in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, when you have your opponent inside your guard, you have a big chance to either sweep or submit him/her.
When you start training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the Closed Guard will undoubtedly be the first type of guard you will learn as a beginner. In the Closed Guard, you will use your legs and wrap it around your opponent to lock them in place, and your feet will be crossed behind their back.
To control your opponent, you must break their posture. To do that, you can grip your opponent’s hand in one hand, and your other hand will grip their collar. After breaking your opponent’s posture, there will be a lot of sweeps and submissions available for you in the closed guard position.
The Closed Guard is the most basic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Position there is and has been a signature position for BJJ due to many successes through MMA and BJJ Competitions for almost a century.
The Open Guard on the other hand is a slightly more advanced guard position in which you don’t have your legs interlocked behind your opponent’s waist. Your legs are essentially “open” - hence the name. With open guard, you have to have at least three points of contact with your opponent.
It can either be a grip on the sleeve and ankle along with a foot on the hip; it could also be both feet on the hip with a grip on the ankle and collar, or a grip on both sleeves and a foot on the hip, etc. It is all about good control, and once you have established control, there’s a good chance for you to sweep or submit your opponent. The Open Guard is slightly more advanced and more difficult to master, but it can be much more versatile. You got a ton of options from here!
In the bottom Half Guard, you will be lying on your back and would be using both legs crossed around one of your opponent’s legs for control. Some people look at it as a survival position, but as BJJ evolved, a lot of practitioners now utilize the half guard as an attacking/sweeping position. There are many types of half-guard, and some can be used in Gi or in NoGi like the Regular Half Guard with Hand Framing, the Z-Guard, the Deep Half, and Half Guard with Lockdown, the Butterfly Half Guard, Lasso Half Guard, Spider Half Guard, etc.
This position is a dominant and a basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Positions that you can get after passing your opponent’s guard and be in a position where you are perpendicularly on top of our opponent. In the Side Control Top position, you will be able to neutralize your opponent’s attacks, let your opponent carry your body weight, control your opponent’s hip mobility and be able to access a series of submissions like the armbar, chokes, etc. or transitions to other dominant positions like the mount or back control.
In the Side Control, you have to make sure that you keep your opponent flat on his back, establish head-and-arm control, and block your opponent’s hip to prevent mobility.
There are a lot of popular submissions in the side control position like the “Ring Of Fire” or the Armbar/Straight Armbar/Kimura series, the “Paper Cutter” or the “Bread Cutter” Choke, as well as the Near Side and Far Side Armbar.
The Full Mount position is very powerful and is undoubtedly a basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu positions that involves sitting either on top of your opponent’s stomach or chest while pinching your knees tightly on their side.
In MMA, it is a classic position where you can Ground and Pound your opponent, and in BJJ, it is where you can get opportunities to submit your opponent or transition to the Back Take or Rear Mount. Getting to the mount would be one of your main goals in competition next to back take as you will be awarded four points for gaining the mount.
In Jiu-Jitsu competitions, it is far less effective compared to being in the Back Control or Rear mount because the opponent inside the mount has a better chance of preventing submissions by just protecting their neck or by keeping their elbows tight. In addition to this, in NoGi grappling, the amount of submissions is being reduced due to the lack of the Gi for chokes, limiting it only to either the Arm Triangle, Mounted Triangle, and Guillotine.
In NoGi Submission-Only tournaments, leglock specialists would let themselves get under the bottom mount position, and use their escape to access leg lock submissions, and an example of which would be the member of the Danaher Death Squad, Gordon Ryan.
The Back Control is the most effective position where you can easily control your opponent; they won’t be able to figure out the technique or submissions that you will apply, see what your opponent is doing, and go to another dominant position or submission, and many more.
The Back Control can be achieved through transition from other basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu positions like the Mount, Side Control, Half Guard, and the Closed Guard.
When controlling the back, you need to make sure that you use your legs properly by putting what is known to BJJ practitioners as the “Hooks”. A common white belt mistake is that they cross their ankles or legs when in the rear mount. Crossing your legs will allow your opponent to put their foot on top of your ankles and apply pressure to force you to tap.
Also, make sure that you have the seat belt grip by having one arm going underneath your opponent’s shoulder and the other arm going over his other shoulder. The seat belt, along with the hooks, will give you a better chance of securing the rear-naked choke or even the Bow and Arrow Choke.
In any sport, learning the fundamentals is an absolute must – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is no different. Arguably its even much more important in a grappling sport like BJJ. If you go on and jump around and try some fancy technique you saw on the internet, with little to no experience, you’ll have a high chance of getting injured or getting your training partner injured! Not a good first look in your first week of class! Be mindful of the fundamental basic BJJ positions, the techniques and different transitions and attacks from here. Once you get the basics down, you’ll find yourself instantly hooked! Train Hard! Roll Safe!