8 Basic Positions for Beginning Grapplers

With all the unique attacks and moves in jiu jitsu comes plenty of positions. Learning all the advanced positions in jiu jitsu can be confusing at first but Head Coach of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu Van Nuys Alder Hampel and I have come up with eight basic positions to get you started. After learning and mastering these, you’ll be ready to go on and learn all the other fun stuff in the vast world that is jiu jitsu.

The most basic position out there is where every fight starts… standing. With both fighters on their feet, people have a variety of options. Grapplers can lock up for a clinch, shoot for a takedown, or go for a trip or throw in order to get the fight to the ground. If you’re looking to develop your grappling game for self defense, MMA, or competition, you should be familiar with at least 1 or 2 takedowns to start with.

After the takedown, the most common position to land in, is the infamous Guard position. This is achieved when one fighter is kneeling in between another grapplers legs and the legs are around the waist. What makes BJJ so unique from other grappling arts is the ability to attack from the bottom position which most of the time, is deemed “inferior.” From here, the person playing bottom has a variety of sweeps and submissions depending on the type of guard they want to play. With things like Standard Closed Guard, RubberGuard, Overhooks,  Underhooks,  and more, the guard is an incredibly versatile position with endless moves. However, start by familiarizing yourself with the standard guard position and from there, you will prepare yourself to learn all the other guards. Some of the attacks that are well known in the guard are the armbar, triangle, kimura, or the guillotine choke. The top player however, should be looking to stay safe from attacks and eventually pass the guard.

One of those other forms of guards is the downed or Open Guard with your opponent still standing. If you are on the mat and your opponent is standing in front of you, they are in your downed open guard. This can happen many ways. The person on top can complete a trip takedown of some sort to drop their opponent or they could have just stood up from inside the bottom persons guard. Also, the bottom player could have initiated this by simply siting to their butt without contact with their opponent. In MMA, the standing fighter could have landed a powerful shot sending their opponent crashing onto the mat. And the list of possibilities goes on and on. Also, it’s important to note that there are multitudes of different Open Guards: XGuard. De La Riva, Reverse De La Riva, and more.

From here, the person on bottom will be playing the same game as the previously mentioned closed guard working for sweeps or submissions. The person standing will also be doing the same as before by trying to pass the guard to gain a more dominant position.

While attempting to advance to a dominant position, the top grappler can often get trapped in the bottom fighters Half Guard. Half guard is when the bottom player has their legs trapping one of the top fighters legs, preventing them from fully passing the guard. Although it’s still a bottom position, this position is perfect for sweeps. There are a few submissions to hit from half guard, but sweeps are the go-to move for most half guard players. The 10th Planet system is known for developing an incredible sweep game for bottom players by utilizing the Lockdown.

The previously mentioned Side Control is when the top player has cleared the legs of the bottom fighter and secured a position to the side. This position is adominant position because it sets up a few different submissions and has many different places to transition to. North/South, Mount, or even the Back Mount are all positions that can become available to the top player once they have secured side control.

North/South position sets up a few different submissions as well for the top fighter. North/South allows the top fighter to hold down the bottom one by dropping their chest/ belly onto the head of the bottom fighter and controlling their hips with the hands. This position is dominant and especially good for the North/South choke, an extremely powerful submission.

The Mount is one of the most dominant positions in grappling but even more so in MMA or a self defense situation. Being on top of your opponent with all your weight pressing down, allows you to utilize your whole body versus your opponents two arms. In MMA or a Self Defense situation, the top player can reign down with punches, attack with a strong submission, or take the rear mount.

The rear mount or Back Position is the most dominant position in my opinion. Here, your opponent has exposed their back and allowed you to latch on and control them with no line of defense. Because their arms are forward, it takes lots of time and energy for most people to escape the back mount. The most common attack from the Back is the RNC (Rear Naked Choke). The RNC is quite possibly, the most powerful choke out there. Within seconds of applying it, you will be forcing your opponent to tap out or they’ll be taking a nap!

Now that we’ve covered the 8 Basic Positions of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I hope that you guys have learned a lot. Remember, if you want to learn more about the eight basic positions or how to utilize them for yourself, come down to 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu Van Nuys and try a class! Happy rollin!


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