BJJ For Beginners: Side Control

BJJ For Beginners: Understanding Side Control

If you’re involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), one of the most important things to learn is side control.

While you might think that this type of pinning action is limited to one position, it actually has a few variations and offers you many powerful positions to up your game. 

What, exactly, is BJJ side control?

This is a ground grappling position in which the combatant on top lies in a perpendicular position over the combatant who’s on the bottom. Side control can be defined as one of the most dominant positions in BJJ.  

Side control is empowering because once you lock the position It gives you the chance to control, attack, and transition to more dominant positions like the mount. Also, it’s a common position to land after passing the guard.

However, you have to know how to maintain it and use it to transition. With that in mind, let’s look at side control in more detail.




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How To Keep Your Side Control Position

How To Keep Your Side Control Position

There are some important things you can do to ensure that you maintain side control so that your opponent can’t escape. Here are some tips to bear in mind. 

Head Control

One of the most vital things is to control your opponent’s head so they can’t turn and face you. You can do this by putting pressure on them with your shoulder. 

Keep Them Flat

Another important thing is to ensure that you keep your opponent flat so that they can’t move around. You must keep your toes on the mat and push into your opponent, not just with your arms but your whole body!  

Lock the hips

An important detail that is often overlook is to place a knee to the hips to block the possibility of an elbow scape. If you don’t lock your training partner’s hips he will slide the knee in and recover guard.

Use The Underhook

If your opponent wiggles around, they’ll be able to escape you or dominate you. To prevent this from happening, you need to get into an underhook position and prevent them from being able to move around.

The underhook is crucial in side control and BJJ in general because it can determine who wins and who loses a match. Basically, the underhook is a move used in grappling and to achieve it you should follow these steps: 

Head Control In Side Control
  1. Since the underhook is basically a way to pull your opponent in and maintain control of them, you need to reach under your opponent’s arm, then move your hand back over their shoulder to have a proper grip.  
  2. Make sure you pull them towards you — at this point, your elbow should be aimed towards your ribs so your opponent can’t reach your arm. 
  3. To increase your control, you should try to put the top of your shoulder underneath your opponent’s armpit. Even if that causes them to try to wrap their arm around your neck, they won’t be able to successfully put you in a headlock.  
  4. Position your body so it’s perpendicular to your opponent, as this gives you the opportunity to control their hips. 
  5. Remember that it’s important to move with your opponent as they will be trying to escape. The side control move is not static so you need to be flexible and go with the flow. This will ensure that you don’t give your opponent an inch of space in which to escape. 

Ready to try your hand at side control?

It’s time to do some drills!  

Best Drills To Help You Improve Side Control

Best Drills To Help You Improve Side Control

Once you know the basics of side control and how to maintain it, you can work to improve it with drills. These are essential to help you get into a rhythm when using side control. So, with that in mind, here are three drills to help you up your game. 

Drill 1: The Hop Over 

  • To start this drill, your opponent should be lying on their back on the ground in front of you, with their knees bent and slightly turned to the side with their face towards you. 
  • Get into a kneeling position next to them. With your head in their chest, kick your legs up and over your opponent. When you reach the other side of their body, land back into the kneeling position. 
  • So, in this drill you’re basically moving your legs over your opponent in a fast and smooth movement. 
  • A tip to remember when doing the hop over drill is that when you kick up to hop over, your hands should be on your opponent’s slightly bent knees. This helps you to keep them still and exerts your control over them.  

Drill 2: The Shin Staple 

This drill is similar to the hop over, but the difference is that you won’t jump. In addition, you’ll focus on your opponent’s legs. Here’s how to do it.

  • Let your opponent get into the same position as they were for the hop over. Kneel next to your opponent, with your hands on their bent knees. 
  • Pull their knees closer to you (they should remain slightly bent) as you move over their lower legs. You should do this with your knees slightly bent too, almost like you’re crawling over them. 
  • However, do it in a fluid movement: move your bent leg over your opponent’s legs and touch the ground with your knee, then bring your other leg back over behind you, kicking it away from your opponent as you move. Keeping your other leg away from your opponent is important so that they can’t try to reach it. 

Drill 3: The Knee Cutter 

  • For this drill, which is slightly a bit more complicated, your opponent will lie on his back with his knees slightly bent. You will be on your knees next to your opponent, with your body facing them. 
  • Then, you’ll move so that you’re facing away from your opponent and your leg is alongside them. Your knee should be next to their arm, and this enables you to swat their hand away as you move, again to prevent them from trying to grab it. 
  • Then, in a swift movement, you will put your arms on your opponent’s ribs on the side of the body that’s furthest from you and swing one leg over your opponent’s body. Then bring your other leg over. When you do that, your hands should be back on your opponent’s body, around their rib area. 
  • Then, do it again. It’s good to try to get into a rhythm with your drill so that you can do it as quickly as possible.   

What To Do After Side Control

What To Do After Side Control

After side control, you can engage in some submissions. There are many different ways in which you can do this. Here are some examples. 

Get your opponent in a wrist lock

Earlier, we mentioned that during side control your opponent could try to get their hand on your neck. You want to use your chin to block their wrist —your chin should go right on their wrist and press it.

Your next goal is to get your opponent’s elbow on the ground, so use your hand to reinforce that movement and make sure you finish off by dropping your right shoulder so that you have them in a secure wrist lock.  

Go for the Kimura

Basically, your partner will be on their back with their knees bent and you’ll have your arm around their head and placed a bit lower than their armpit. Their hand will be at your neck as they try to defend themselves during the side control.

Now, the best thing to do in this situation is to use your chin to exert control, which is close to your opponent’s hand. You want to push their wrist with your chin. You can increase the pressure by moving and punching with your shoulder.

This will probably cause your opponent to try to reach for your head. When they do this, you can roll your head a bit back and use the thumb of your hand that’s around their armpit area to press into their armpit.

This will bring your opponent’s hand down from your head so that you can press your chin into their arm to make it pop up.

When their arm goes up, you can hold their arm with your hand (the one that jabbed their armpit earlier), and then make your chin rest on the knuckles of your hand so that you have your opponent in a lock. 

Doing the above will prevent your opponent from being able to reach for your head. You’re not done yet, though! Next, you have to ensure that your other hand is resting by your opponent’s hip to further control them.

While you’re still in the same position, you should raise your body up while remaining on your knees. This position allows you to dig deeper into your partner’s chest with your elbow as you move over them.

You can then rock on your knees and move up to get your partner off the floor. When their hand pops up, you can then also take it to get them into a grip.

What About Side Control Transitions?

What About Side Control Transitions?

You can also use side control to transition into another move, such as the mount.

A mount position is sometimes necessary, such as when you want to ensure you’re in a better position to control your opponent and in sports Jiu-Jitsu is worth 4 points. You can transition into a mount from the side control in this way: 

  • First, make sure you’ve got your opponent locked into a side control that involves having their head by your left shoulder. 
  • You will then squeeze your shoulder to turn your partner’s head to the left. This enables you to raise your right knee across their stomach so you can drive it to the ground. 
  • To prevent your opponent from blocking your knee with their hand, you can push your right arm out to move it away from your knee.
  • Swipe your right foot over your opponent’s hips to secure them (via How They Play).

Another transition you can make from side control is to the back. Although this isn’t usually done, it’s really effective. 

  • How it works is that you need to put your right hand between your opponent’s chest and tricep. 
  • Your left hand will move underneath their head. This enables you to lift him a bit on his side so that you can drive your left leg up to his shoulder. 
  • Leave your right leg straight out behind you to give you better control and force. 
  • Then, while keeping your left arm underneath his head, you’ll move both your legs up towards your opponent so that you can pull him over onto you. 
  • By this stage, you should be lying on your back and his back should be against you. You need to be hugging your opponent with your legs to keep them in place. 
  • Your arm that’s around their neck can get him into a choke position. 

To see a video of making the transition from side control to back, check out this YouTube video

Related Questions 

How can you get out of side control? 

Hold your opponent’s shoulder to reduce how much they can drive into you. Then move to the side, stretching your arm like you’re waving.

Your other hand should push their head away. Use your elbow to lock their shoulder and this should give you momentum to roll your body out of the side control. 

Is the side control effective when your opponent is bigger than you?

The side control is useful if your opponent is larger because it enables you to do something different than trying to keep them in a mount. Side control offers you greater mobility so that you can maintain your dominant position.  


Side control is a useful way to take control during BJJ rolling sessions.

In this article, we’ve outlined what it is, how to do it, and included various drills you can try to practice it so that you’re ready for your next opponent! 

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