10 Essential Jiu-Jitsu Positions Every Grappler Must Master

November 22, 2023
From: Spartacus
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In the intricate dance of Jiu-Jitsu, the power lies not in the punches thrown but in the mastery of position. It’s a game of human chess where each move sets the stage for victory or defeat. The art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is about controlling an opponent by outmaneuvering them, making the understanding of key positions not just an advantage, but a necessity. 

Enter Spartacus, the digital Colosseum for combat sports aficionados. Here, Jiu-Jitsu enthusiasts converge to sharpen their skills, drawing from a wellspring of resources ranging from live broadcasts and pay-per-views to a dedicated combat sports social platform and expertly curated blogs. Spartacus is not just about viewing the sport; it’s about immersing yourself in it.

In this arena, we dive into the crux of Jiu-Jitsu—the positions that every practitioner must master to dominate on the mats. This article is your playbook, revealing the essential stances and transitions that form the foundation of this ancient art.

The Pillars of Position

In Jiu-Jitsu, control is king, leverage is the scepter, and submissions are the crown. The meticulous mastering of positions forms the backbone of a grappler’s strategy, providing a blueprint for dominance and the ultimate pathway to victory. 

Control is the invisible thread that connects each maneuver. By mastering positions, a fighter dictates the pace of the bout, restricts the opponent’s movements, and paves the way for attacks. Think of it as holding the reins in a battle of wills, where each position is a calculated step towards incapacitating an opponent’s options.

Leverage, the unseen force magnified by position, acts as a force multiplier, enabling a lighter or less muscular combatant to manipulate someone larger or stronger. It’s the principle of the lever and fulcrum applied to human limbs, where technique triumphs over brute strength, and the right position can turn the tide of a match.

The ultimate endgame is submission, and positions are the map that leads there. Each position is a question posed to the opponent, and with each transition, a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner narrows down the answers until the only one left is to tap out. By mastering positions, a grappler systematically breaks down an opponent’s defenses, leading them down a narrowing corridor where each step is closer to the inevitability of submission.

This is not just a fight; it’s a strategic conquest. Each position holds within it the seeds of victory or defeat, and the master grappler knows how to sow them wisely.

The Guard Position


In the intricate dance of Jiu-Jitsu, the guard is a fundamental stance that serves as both a bastion of defense and a springboard for offense. It’s where a combatant, from their back, can turn the tides, framing an intricate web of tactical engagements. Defensively, the guard is your shield, keeping the opponent at bay and neutralizing their advances. Offensively, it’s your slingshot, loaded with a variety of attacks ranging from sweeps to submissions.

Each variation, like the petals of a flower, offers unique advantages. The Closed Guard locks an opponent in place with legs wrapped around their torso; the Open Guard is a dynamic canvas of possibilities; the Butterfly Guard, with hooks in place, sets the stage for fluid sweeps.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Establish a connection with your opponent using your legs and arms.
  • Step 2: Decide on the type of guard based on their stance and your strategy.
  • Step 3: 
    • For Closed Guard: Wrap your legs around the opponent’s waist and secure your ankles.
    • For Open Guard: Use your legs to control the distance and set up attacks or transitions.
    • For Butterfly Guard: Place your feet inside the opponent’s thighs, using them as levers.

Mount Position


From the summit of Mount Position, a grappler reigns supreme. This is the throne room of Jiu-Jitsu, where you control an opponent with the full weight of authority and the law of gravity on your side. The mount is a position of power, offering a smorgasbord of submission opportunities while you dictate the pace of the battle. The key is balance and base. Keeping your center of gravity low and spreading your base prevents being unseated. Mistakes often stem from overreaching, which gives the opponent a chance to escape.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Secure the position by placing your knees snugly against the opponent’s torso.
  • Step 2: Distribute your weight downwards and remain balanced.
  • Step 3: Avoid leaning too far forward to prevent being rolled over.
  • Step 4: Use your hips to apply pressure and maintain control.
  • Step 5: Stay aware of your opponent’s movements and be ready to adjust to maintain dominance.

Side Control


The chessboard of Jiu-Jitsu reveals its complexity in Side Control—a position that presents a catalogue of attacking sequences while pinning an adversary in a tactical vise. From this vantage, you can launch an array of submissions or transition to other dominant positions. Your opponent’s vulnerability is at its peak as you straddle the line between control and offense. The cornerstone of achieving this position is pressure and transition. A seamless flow from securing the position to launching an attack defines the expertise of maintaining side control.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1 :Gain the upper hand by passing your opponent’s guard.
  • Step 2: Position yourself perpendicular to your opponent, keeping your weight heavy on their chest.
  • Step 3: Control their head with one arm and their hip with the other.
  • Step 4: Stabilize your position by keeping your knees tight to their body and your hips low.
  • Step 5: Prevent escapes by adjusting your weight and pressure in response to their movements.

Back Mount


Dominating the back mount is akin to having the ‘checkmate’ in Jiu-Jitsu—a position where the endgame is near and submission is a whisper away. Controlling an opponent’s back drastically limits their defensive options and sets the stage for high-percentage submissions like the rear-naked choke. Strategy is paramount; one must maneuver with precision to secure this position, using every opportunity to slide into the back mount.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Identify the opportunity to take the back during a scramble or from another control position.
  • Step 2: Secure your position by wrapping your arms around the opponent’s chest.
  • Step 3: Insert your legs inside the opponent’s thighs, establishing your hooks for complete control.
  • Step 4: Maintain a tight upper body grip, preferably under the opponent’s arms and around the chest or neck.
  • Step 5: Use your hooks to control their hips and prevent them from turning into you or escaping.

Half Guard


Half guard, a chameleon within the grappling arts, serves as a pivotal junction between defense and an offensive springboard. This dual-natured position is an undercurrent that shapes the flow of a match. Mastering half guard opens a Pandora’s box of transitions, allowing for sweeping movements that can reverse fortunes with deft agility. On the defensive end, it’s a bastion when other positions fail, while offensively, it provides a launchpad for intricate sweeps and submissions.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Ensure control over one of the opponent’s legs, using your own legs to trap it.
  • Step 2: Use your free leg to create space and leverage for potential sweeps or to prevent the opponent from flattening you out.
  • Step 3: Frame against the opponent’s neck and body with your arms to maintain distance and manage their pressure.
  • Step 4: Look for opportunities to underhook the opponent’s far leg or arm to initiate sweeps.
  • Step 5: Stay dynamic in your movement, ready to transition to a more dominant position or to stand up if the situation allows.

Knee on Belly


The Knee on Belly is the embodiment of dynamic control, presenting a volatile springboard for transitions. It’s a position where the intensity of pressure applied is a direct dial to submission or further positional advancement. It serves as a fulcrum for control, balancing precise pressure on the opponent’s torso while poised to catapult into advanced positions or submissions. Regular drilling is crucial for refining the delicate balance between immobilizing pressure and the readiness to transition.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Transition to knee on belly from side control by placing your knee firmly on the opponent’s torso.
  • Step 2: Keep your other foot on the mat for balance, and your hands braced on the opponent or the mat to maintain posture.
  • Step 3: Apply pressure with your knee, adjusting based on the opponent’s reactions and your intended next move.
  • Step 4: Stay mobile on your feet, ready to ride the waves of resistance and to switch sides or transition to full mount.
  • Step 5: Use one hand to control the opponent’s head or arms, while the other hand remains free to attack or help in balancing.

Turtle Position


The Turtle Position is a shell of defense in Jiu-Jitsu, embodying a last bastion of protection when other defenses have been breached. It’s a crouch that conceals potential energy for explosive reversals or cunning escapes. It acts as a fort, with the practitioner tucking limbs tightly to deny opponents’ grips and prevent submissions.

From this coiled state, savvy grapplers can unleash a surprise counter-attack, turning the tables with adroit movements. While in the turtle, one must be vigilant of common attacks such as back takes and chokes, fortifying the position with calculated defensive maneuvers.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Tuck your chin to protect your neck and keep your elbows close to shield your sides.
  • Step 2: Keep your knees under your body to maintain a base and to prevent opponents from inserting hooks.
  • Step 3: Be aware of the opponent’s position and movements, ready to block attempts to take your back or to secure submissions.
  • Step 4: Use your hands to block and grip-fight, keeping the attackers at bay.
  • Step 5: Look for opportunities to roll or transition to a guard position when the opponent shifts their weight or balance.

North-South Position


North-South Position is a compass of control on the Jiu-Jitsu mat, allowing a practitioner to navigate around an opponent’s defenses. Dominance here is not just about positioning but also about the subtleties of pressure and presence. By neutralizing the opponent’s guard, it provides a clear map to various submission territories.

The north-south is rife with opportunities for chokes, arm locks, and more, often catching opponents off-guard. The lynchpin of this position is effective shoulder pressure, which can immobilize opponents and pave the way for finishing techniques.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Secure the position by placing your chest over the opponent’s upper body, controlling their head and arms.
  • Step 2: Keep your hips low and legs sprawled to prevent being rolled or pushed off.
  • Step 3: Apply shoulder pressure to the opponent’s chest or face, adjusting your body to maximize discomfort and control.
  • Step 4: Use your arms to block the opponent’s arms, pinning them to the mat or setting up for submissions.
  • Step 5:Constantly adjust your weight distribution and pressure to respond to the opponent’s movements and to transition into submission attempts.

Leg Drag Position


The Leg Drag is a tactical maneuver, a silken thread that weaves through an opponent’s guard, immobilizing their limbs and paving the path to dominance. This position is about control — immobilizing one leg while passing the guard to secure a superior position.

The essence of the leg drag is to bypass the fortress of an opponent’s guard, dragging their leg across your body to neutralize their defenses. Once the leg is dragged across, it’s imperative to clamp down on their movement, using your body as a barrier to their escape or recovery.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Begin by gripping the opponent’s leg at the pants or ankle with one hand and the knee with the other.
  • Step 2: Pull the leg across your body, “dragging” it to the opposite side as you pass the opponent’s guard.
  • Step 3: Secure the dragged leg by placing your nearest leg behind the opponent’s thigh, creating a barrier.
  • Step 4: Clamp down on the opponent’s hip with your arm to prevent them from turning into you or re-establishing guard.
  • Step 5: Solidify your control by connecting your chest to the opponent’s body and establishing a strong base to prevent escapes.

Spider Guard


The Spider Guard is a web of strategy, each limb a thread intricately placed to manipulate an opponent’s movement and balance. This guard is an intricate dance of push and pull, leveraging grips on the sleeves and feet on the hips or biceps to create a barrier of legs.

The spider guard is a bastion of distance management, allowing the practitioner to keep opponents at bay while preparing to strike with sweeps or submissions. Mastery of the spider guard lies in the finesse of grip fighting and the strategic placement of hooks to disrupt and dictate the opponent’s posture.

Step by Step Guide

  • Step 1: Establish a grip on both of the opponent’s sleeves.
  • Step 2: Place your feet on the opponent’s biceps, using the crooks of your knees for control.
  • Step 3: Stretch one leg while bending the other, creating tension and pressure on the opponent’s arms and posture.
  • Step 4: Constantly adjust your hooks and grips in response to the opponent’s movements, maintaining control and preparing to off-balance them for attacks.
  • Step 5: Use the leverage created by your legs and grips to execute sweeps or set up submissions.


As our exploration of the essential positions in Jiu-Jitsu comes to a close, it’s crystal clear that the mastery of these foundations is not merely a recommendation; it’s an imperative for any grappler looking to dominate on the mats. Each position, with its unique advantages and strategic significance, forms a vital chapter in the grand narrative of Jiu-Jitsu prowess.

The journey towards Jiu-Jitsu excellence is a rigorous one, laden with the need for constant evolution and refinement. Resources like Spartacus have become invaluable in this quest. They offer a wellspring of knowledge, from the analytical breakdowns of each position to the latest strategies used by the world’s top practitioners. Leveraging such resources can accelerate learning, hone skills, and keep a grappler abreast of the ever-evolving art.

The path to Jiu-Jitsu mastery is a mosaic of complex positions, each one an artful expression of control, leverage, and the subtle dance of human chess. As you continue to train, compete, and learn, let platforms like Spartacus be your guide, your digital mentor, as you embark on the lifelong odyssey of growth and perfection within the art. Remember, in the world of Jiu-Jitsu, position is not everything; it is the only thing.


What are the 10 essential Jiu-Jitsu positions every grappler must master?

The 10 essential Jiu-Jitsu positions that every grappler must master include:Guard (and its variations such as Closed, Open, Half, and Butterfly)MountSide ControlBack MountHalf GuardKnee on BellyNorth-SouthTurtleStanding PositionTransitioning Skills (which is not a position per se, but the ability to move fluidly between positions)

Why is control considered so important in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Control is paramount in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because it allows a practitioner to dictate the pace of the match, conserve energy, and systematically break down an opponent’s defenses. It’s about securing a position that prevents the opponent from countering or escaping, which is essential before one can safely attempt submissions.

How does leverage work to a grappler’s advantage in Jiu-Jitsu?

Leverage in Jiu-Jitsu is the tactical use of fulcrums and pivots that allows a smaller person to amplify their force to overcome a stronger opponent. This is done through the efficient use of body positioning and mechanics, such as using the hips as a fulcrum when executing an armbar.

What is the goal of achieving different positions in Jiu-Jitsu?

The goal of achieving different positions in Jiu-Jitsu is to progressively secure more dominant positions from which one can control an opponent, defend against their attacks, and eventually execute submissions. It’s a hierarchical strategy aimed at reducing the opponent’s offensive options while increasing one’s own.

How do you properly execute the Guard Position in Jiu-Jitsu?

To properly execute the Guard Position in Jiu-Jitsu, one must:

  • Use the legs actively to manage the distance and control the opponent’s hips and posture.
  • Keep the opponent’s head down if in closed guard to prevent them from gaining leverage.
  • Utilize grips on the opponent’s sleeves, wrists, or collar to break their balance and set up attacks or sweeps.

What are the steps to maintain dominance in the Mount Position?

To maintain dominance in the Mount Position, one should:

  • Keep the base low and hips heavy to prevent being bucked off.
  • Position knees high under the opponent’s armpits to limit their movement.
  • Use grips on the opponent’s arms or collar to maintain control, set up submissions, and prevent escapes.

What is the significance of the Side Control position in Jiu-Jitsu?

The Side Control position is significant in Jiu-Jitsu because it offers a plethora of submission and transition opportunities while allowing one to apply heavy pressure and exhaust the opponent. It’s a very secure position, making it difficult for the opponent to escape without giving up another advantageous position or submission.

How can one achieve and utilize the Back Mount position effectively?

To achieve and utilize the Back Mount position effectively, one must:

  • Secure the position by getting hooks in (inserting the feet inside the opponent’s thighs) to control their hips.
  • Maintain upper body control with underhooks or by securing a seatbelt grip (one arm over the shoulder, one under the arm).
  • Work for a choke or other submissions while preventing the opponent from escaping by keeping chest-to-back contact.

What are the defensive and offensive uses of the Half Guard?

The Half Guard has both defensive and offensive uses. Defensively, it can be a transitional safety net when an opponent passes the guard. Offensively, it can be used to sweep, submit, or transition to more dominant positions by utilizing underhooks, framing, and hip movement.

Why is the Knee on Belly position a dynamic control point in Jiu-Jitsu?

The Knee on Belly position is a dynamic control point because it allows the grappler to apply significant pressure on the opponent’s diaphragm, making breathing difficult and promoting mistakes. It offers mobility to transition to other positions and attack with submissions while being able to disengage quickly if the opponent initiates a dangerous counter-move.

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