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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Overview and Basic Positions

Updated: Dec 15, 2023


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on takedowns, ground fighting, and submissions. BJJ places a strong emphasis on ground control and submissions. The emphasis is on techniques that allow a smaller or weaker person to defend against a larger and stronger opponent. Achieving a submission against an opponent includes joint locks (such as armlocks and leglocks) or chokes to force an opponent to concede defeat. BJJ practitioners learn a wide array of submission techniques and how to apply them from various positions. BJJ involves learning and mastering various positions, including but not limited to mount, technical mount, guard, half-guard, side control, north-south control, and back control. Practitioners also learn escapes from these positions to regain control or advance their own positions. BJJ can be practiced with or without the traditional uniform called a gi. While gi training involves using grips on the fabric, no-gi training typically involves wearing shorts and a rash guard, and it places more emphasis on clinching and controlling without relying on gi grips. BJJ uses a belt ranking system to signify a practitioner's level of proficiency. The order of belts typically progresses from white to blue, purple, brown, and finally, black. Black belts may have additional degrees, indicating further expertise. While BJJ is often practiced as a sport, it also includes self-defense aspects. Techniques are designed to allow practitioners to defend themselves in real-life situations, particularly in ground-based confrontations.

How to Improve

Becoming proficient in BJJ requires a combination of physical, mental, and technical skills. Here are key factors to consider for success in Jiu-Jitsu:

  • Consistent Training: Regular and consistent training is crucial to improving in any martial art. Dedicate time to practice, attend classes, and spar regularly to reinforce your skills.

  • Fundamental Techniques: Master the basic techniques. Focus on learning and perfecting fundamental movements, positions, and submissions before advancing to more complex techniques.

  • Positional Awareness: Knowing how to gain and maintain advantageous positions is fundamental to controlling the pace of a match and setting up submissions.

  • Escapes: Learn effective escapes from various positions. Being able to escape unfavorable positions is as important as achieving dominant ones. Work on escapes from mount, side control, and back control.

  • Submissions: Develop a solid understanding of submissions and their setups. While it's crucial to have a diverse submission arsenal, it's equally important to know when and how to apply them strategically.

  • Adaptability: Be adaptable and open to learning from different styles and techniques. Jiu-Jitsu is a dynamic art, and being able to adapt to your opponent's movements and strategies is essential.

  • Physical Conditioning: Jiu-Jitsu can be physically demanding. Improve your strength, endurance, and flexibility to enhance your overall performance and decrease the risk of injury.

  • Mental Toughness: BJJ can be mentally challenging, especially when faced with adversity during sparring or competitions. Develop mental resilience, patience, and the ability to stay calm under pressure.

  • Live Sparring (Rolling): Engage in live sparring sessions regularly. This is where you apply your techniques against resisting opponents, helping you refine your skills and develop a sense of timing and strategy.

  • Energy Conservation: There are times to perform bursts of movements and times to relax muscular tension and recover to enhance overall performance. Many early athletes, even those with excellent conditioning, burn their energy quickly due to a lack of energy conservation strategies. This is skill that is hard to teach and typically comes with rolling and competition experience.

  • Knowledge of Rules and Strategy: Understand the rules of BJJ competitions and develop a strategic approach to matches. Knowing when to be aggressive, when to be defensive, and how to score points is crucial.

  • Positive Attitude and Humility: Approach training with a positive attitude and be humble. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; be open to learning from both higher-ranked and lower-ranked training partners.

  • Injury Prevention: Take care of your body to avoid injuries. Warm up properly before training, stretch after training, have adequate nutrition, hydrate, listen to your body, and don't push yourself into injury.

  • Patience: Remember that progress in Jiu-Jitsu is gradual, and there is always something new to learn. Stay committed, be patient, and enjoy the journey of continuous improvement.

Common Jiu Jitsu Positions


The mount is a dominant ground position where one practitioner is on top of their opponent, straddling their torso. The practitioner in the mount has their knees on either side of the opponent's torso, offering significant control. This position provides the opportunity for effective striking, positional control, and submission attacks. Maintaining balance, weight distribution, and preventing escapes are crucial aspects of the mount. The mount can be achieved from various positions, such as transitioning from side control or during a guard pass. It is considered one of the most advantageous positions in BJJ, offering the top practitioner numerous offensive options while limiting the options for the bottom practitioner.

Technical mount

Technical mount is a variation of the mount position. In the technical mount, the top practitioner shifts their weight to one side while bringing their knee close to their opponent's head, creating a more diagonal and elevated position. The technical mount is a transitional position that provides the BJJ practitioner with additional attacking options while maintaining a dominant posture on top of their opponent. Common moves from this position include armbars, chokes, or setting up transitions to the back. Stay aware of your opponent's attempts to escape. If they bridge or turn, be prepared to adjust your position to maintain control.


The guard is a fundamental ground position where a practitioner is on their back and uses their legs and sometimes arms to control and defend against an opponent. The guard is a versatile position with offensive and defensive capabilities. There are several variations of the guard, but the basic concept involves using the legs and hips to control the distance, disrupt the opponent's balance, and create opportunities for attacks or sweeps. Guards can be open or closed, depending on whether the legs are wrapped around the opponent or not. BJJ practitioners often develop a variety of guard techniques, such as the closed guard, open guard, spider guard, and more, to suit their preferred style and strategy. The guard is a key aspect of BJJ strategy, offering both a defensive fallback and a platform for launching various attacks and submissions.

Closed Guard:

More Information on Other Guard Types:


Half guard is a ground position where one practitioner has their legs entangled with their opponent's legs, securing at least one of their legs while being on the bottom. The half guard offers a middle ground between being fully on the bottom and having a more offensive guard. It provides opportunities for both defensive strategies and offensive attacks. Common variations of the half guard include the traditional half guard, deep half guard, and lockdown half guard. Practitioners in the half guard position often aim to control the distance, prevent the opponent from advancing to more dominant positions, and create opportunities for sweeps, escapes, or submissions. The half guard is a dynamic position that allows for a range of techniques and strategies based on the practitioner's skill level and preferred style.

Side control

Side control is a dominant ground position where one practitioner is on top, chest-to-chest with their opponent in a perpendicular orientation. From side control, the top practitioner aims to control the opponent's body at the neck, trunk, and hips, while preventing escapes and creating opportunities for submissions or transitions. Effective side control involves distributing weight to immobilize the opponent, often using the hips and chest to maintain pressure. It's a versatile position that can lead to submissions, transitions to other dominant positions, or opportunities to advance the position for increased control.

North-South Control

North-South control refers to a position where one practitioner is on top of their opponent with their chest facing the opponent's head. In this position, the practitioner aims to control the upper body, typically under the arms, while keeping their hips positioned near the opponent's head. North-South control provides opportunities for various submissions, such as chokes and armlocks, as well as positional control and transitions. It's a strategic position that allows the top practitioner to apply pressure and limit the bottom practitioner's movement, creating opportunities for attacks and advancements in the match.

Back control

Back control is a highly advantageous position where one practitioner is behind their opponent, with their chest against the opponent's back. The practitioner on top typically has their legs wrapped around the opponent's waist or hips, securing back mount. Note: do not cross your feet when you are controlling back mount as the opponent has the opportunity to break your ankles using a technique with their legs. This position offers significant control, as the practitioner on top has the potential to attack with chokes and various submissions while minimizing the defensive options for the opponent. Back control is considered one of the most dominant positions in BJJ.

More on Back Mount:


BJJ is a complicated art that takes many years to master. There is plenty more information to dive into! Please stay tuned for our future educational blogs! TLR also plans to add educational videos in place of these references in the future.

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