Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Techniques and Basics - Positions

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Techniques and Basics - Positions
Page content

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ can be both mentally and physically demanding at first. As the practitioner gains ranks, moves he learns and performs become extensive. Though this might be daunting to a white belt, usually Brazilian Jiu Jitsu moves can be divided under two simple categories: submissions and positional moves.

Submissions may include anything from chokes to arm-bars. They are used to cause your opponent to submit and immobilize. But that isn’t what BJJ is all about if you heed to the much-quoted phrase “position before submission”. This is where the positional moves come into play.

Since our motto is “position before submission”, it is only fair to start with the positional moves. But before we do that, a brief introduction to positions themselves is necessary.


The positions a white-belt might encounter are somewhat limited to mount, side-control, knee-on-belly and guard positions. Each of these positions has a hierarchical relationship to other positions. Renzo Gracie categorizes BJJ positions according to this relationship in his Mastering Jujitsu book. Left side of the “guard position” you’re in the advantageous position and on the right, your opponent has the advantageous position.

“Mounted position - Knee-on-belly position - Side-control position - Half-guard position - Guard position - Half-guard position - Side-control position - Knee-on-belly position - Mounted position”

While it simplifies things to categorize BJJ moves by submissions and positional moves, you might consider looking at the moves from which position they can be applied. This will provide a structured look on your game, making the choices easier in a live setting–almost as if you’re following a flow chart.

Positional Moves

Positional moves are used to get you out of a tough spot or put your opponent in that very same spot. Also, they open up opportunities for submissions. Escapes, throws, sweeps and transitions from one position to another could be categorized as positional moves.

Here are a few basic positional moves that you will most likely encounter in early days of your training.

  • Upa mount escape: Upa is used to escape the mounted position. You trap your opponent’s arm and leg on the side you want to escape to and use a mix of bridging and rolling to get your opponent off of you. In most cases you’ll end up in your opponent’s guard, but it’s still a more preferable position than the mount.

  • Hip throw: It’s an effective and easy to control throw variation used for transition from stand up to the ground.

  • Pulling guard: This technique can be used if you don’t want to use a throw for transition to the ground. It works by pulling your opponent in to your guard while lowering your body to the ground.

  • Passing the guard: Even though with his back on the ground, a skilled opponent will have a lot of control on you while you’re in his guard. Hence, it’s important to learn a guard passing technique properly in early days of your training.


Submissions are used to subdue and neutralize your opponent. Most submissions can be listed under chokeholds and joint locks.

The chokes in BJJ are mostly blood chokes. In contrast to air chokes, they don’t cut the airway, and work by putting pressure on the carotid arteries and cutting the blood supply. It’s important to remember that, like other Brazilian Jiu Jitsu moves the choke holds –while safe to practice under safe training rules, can be harmful if applied improperly or outside of the gym.

The joints locks are used to put pressure on the larger joints of the body; knees, shoulders, ankles and elbows. The force you apply could be directional or rotational.

Listed below are a few basic submissions you might encounter in the early parts of your training.

  • Tapping: Tapping is the built-in safety mechanism in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. By tapping, you let your opponent know that you submit. While this isn’t exactly a technique, knowing when to tap and tapping early in most cases will protect you from unnecessary injuries and joint problems.

  • Rear naked choke (RNC): RNC is a blood choke like the most other chokes used in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The necessary pressure is applied by your forearms and biceps.

    Rear Naked Choke

  • Collar choke: The collar of your opponent’s Gi is used to help with this choke. By reaching with your right hand to your opponent’s right side and grabbing the collar, and reaching under with your left hand you form a tight “X” with your arms. Combined with the collar, this helps putting pressure on necessary points.

  • Armbar: Armbar can be done either from the guard or the mount. The basic idea is to trap the opponent’s arms between your legs while immobilizing his upper body. By pulling his hand towards your chest, you put pressure on your opponent’s elbow.

    Armbar from Guard

If you’re looking for some background information on Jiu Jitsu, you might find this article useful, as it explains the differences between Judo and Jiu Jitsu

Images and References

Gracie, Renzo and Danaher, John, Mastering Jujitsu, Human Kinetics, 2003

Gracie, Renzo and Gracie, Royler, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Theory and Technique, Invisible Cities Press, 2001


Wikimedia Commons/Shawnc

Wikimedia Commons/FlickreviewR via Flickr

Wikimedia Commons/Howcheng

Wikimedia Commons/-Marcus-