Let’s talk about an advanced concept that top submission artists use all the time.
But first, let’s set the stage by talking about the limited number of common positions in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
The six most common positions are the Guard, Sidemount, Kneemount, Full Mount, Rear Mount and Turtle (click here to get a free book with a full explanation of this concept).
Now most of the time when you learn submissions – chokes, armlocks or leglocks – you start from one of these six basic, static positions.
And after you learn the mechanics of a technique, you then have to drill it to get your reps in, right?
Once again, 99% of technique drilling occurs from a static position. You pick a technique, start in a recognizable position, and go through a series of steps until you end up locking on the final submission.
Drilling a single technique, step by step, with a partner in a specific static position like this is a great way to become familiar with the basic mechanics of a technique.
And there’s nothing wrong with this approach, at least initially…
But it’s NOT the most powerful way of applying these submissions. You can do a lot better, and the key is that a lot of grappling occur BETWEEN positions, during the TRANSITIONS!
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If you own the DVD series that Emily Kwok and I did on fighting bigger and stronger opponents then you’ll already familiar with the concept of defending and escaping bad positions during transitions (click here for a video clip about transitional escapes…)
Taking advantage of openings that present themselves during transitions is really important for advanced grappling. And this applies not only to escapes, but also to the most exciting part of grappling, namely submissions.
Attacking with a submission when your opponent is on the move between formal positions is better because as he’s scrambling he’ll inevitably give you openings for your attack. His defenses are down. He’s thinking about moving and scrambling, NOT about defending your submission.
In fact, your opponent often won’t even see the attack coming until it’s much too late.
I once saw Marcelo Garcia tap out a really good MMA fighter with a guillotine. Marcelo slapped it on during a scramble. Then the dude tried to cartwheel out of it which didn’t work. He ended up tapping out in mid-air while upside down, with none of his limbs actually touching the floor.
That’s how quick a transitional attack can finish a fight.
Once people become familiar with a specific submission it becomes pretty hard to tap them out with it. So you’ve got to catch them when they’re not quite expecting it (or at least not as able to defend)…
When people are safely settled down in a position they often become extremely defensive. They tuck their chin, hold their arms close to their bodies, and are on the lookout for your attacks.
But movement creates openings.
Consider the guillotine choke for example…
Imagine sparring someone who is hunkered down in a really tight turtle position. His hands are up, his neck is down, and he’s on high alert for any sort of attack.
How easy will it be to apply a guillotine on someone like that?
Right! Not very easy at all.
But somehow your opponent must have gotten to that turtle position…
Maybe he shot in for a double leg takedown and you sprawled. Or maybe you had him in sidemount and he turned in to his knees. Or maybe he turtled because you were about to pass his guard…
There were probably a LOT more opportunities to get his neck while he was moving into the turtle compared to him being fully hunkered down in the turtle. During that brief period of movement he’s much more vulnerable
This is a super-powerful concept.
The only downside of this style of attacking is that that your game needs to be sharper…
You fight the way you train, so if you want to catch your opponent during the transitions between static positions then you need to have a deeper understanding of the game, drill transitional attacks, and be ready to jump on opportunities the split second they present themselves.
In the words of the famous philosopher Marshall Bruce Mathers III (also known as Eminem)
“Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted, one moment
Would you capture it?
Or just let it slip, yo”
Nailing a tough opponent with a submission is kind of like that…
Your homework is to take a look at some of the more common transitions in your sparring matches, some of the predictable scrambling patterns that occur over and over with your training partners, and figure out how to slap on some of your favorite submissions DURING the transition, BEFORE the position becomes fully stabilized.
This will really boost your finishing percentage, yo!