Mastering Top Control In BJJ: The Balance Between Balance, Pressure, and Power

More often than not, your entire objective when rolling or competing is getting to top position.

Once you’re there, however, you need to know how to maintain the position because even the most simple of mistakes can make all of your hard work and persistence to earn the position redundant.

So, what’s the secret to mastering top control?

Is it superb balance? Does it all come down to applying heavy pressure? Do tight grips matter? What about the ability to stay relaxed and begin to flow?

The answer is that it requires a combination of all of them.

Having exceptional balance won’t mean anything if you can’t transition to submission attempts or apply enough pressure to make your opponent uncomfortable. Likewise, staying heavy on top position doesn’t mean much if your opponent can unbalance you without problems.

So today, Evolve Vacation brings you “Mastering Top Control In BJJ”.

Developing an exceptional mount


BJJ Chokes

Mastering the mount position begins with balance.

Without adequate balance, you will be unable to set-up submission attempts or apply heavy pressure because you will be too concerned about posting your arms and hands out to secure the position.

You shouldn’t need to post out with your hands consistently. Once you can master keeping balance in the mount position while your opponent is moving, turning, and trying to buck you, you’re probably at a level where your opponent will have a hard time escaping the position.

To develop your balance, practice drills from the mount position in which you try to sustain the position while your partner tries to buck you. Try to limit using your hands as much as possible.


Tightening up

By tightening up, we are referring to leaving no possible weaknesses or opportunities for your opponent to escape. This shouldn’t be interpreted as flexing or tightening the muscles in your body because it is important to stay relaxed instead.

An example of how to tighten up your mount and top control is by reducing the space for your opponent to recover half guard. Transitioning to half guard is often the easiest natural path for an opponent trapped in a bad position, so you should look to hide your feet or tuck them underneath your opponent’s body. This way, your ankles are relatively safe from being trapped.

Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste by making a simple mistake.


Pressure and position

Heavy pressure can be important, but only if it is applied to the most efficient areas of the body.

For example, pressure that keeps your opponent’s shoulders pinned to the mat will be incredibly effective. With shoulders on the mat, your opponent likely cannot attempt a counter and escape the position. You will be forcing them into a defensive position.

The other recommended form of pressure from top position is by pushing your hips into your opponent. Don’t go and start framing your hands against their chest, because you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Instead, rely on the strength of your hips to push down into his stomach and chest to keep him pinned down.



The ability to flow when on top of your opponent is what can separate you from the pack.

Flow can be associated with many things in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but we like to think of it as an ability to relax all of your muscles while applying masterful pressure and maintaining exceptional balance. It might look like you are floating. While you are in a state of flow, you are carefully planning your next move and predicting your opponent’s moves as well.

Now that you’ve got some ways to master the mount position in BJJ, it’s time to focus on another form of ‘top’ position, which is from side control.


Staying heavy (and tight) in side control

While side control can be a great position to attack your opponent, it is more commonly represented as the step before the full mount.

For this reason, it is important to win the battles in the position and ensure you make the transition, rather than your opponent recovering half guard.

You can also apply incredibly powerful pressure from the side control position without allowing too much opportunity for your opponent to escape.


Driving forward

Pressure all begins with how your weight is transferred through your body. You should look to be up on your toes from the side control position so that you can generate power and strength. While on your toes, you can push forward and drive the rest of your weight onto your opponent. If you have other points of contact, you are essentially removing potential weight from your opponent. So, it’s a good idea to keep your elbows and knees off the mat and just keep your toes and upper body as the two points of contact.

Be careful not to drive too powerfully into your opponent because they can use your momentum to sweep you. It should be enough pressure to make them uncomfortable and restrict their shoulders or hips from moving, though.


The floating rib

Advanced students of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can start mastering applying pressure through smaller points of contact.

One of the major focuses of higher level belts is to apply pressure through the floating (lower) ribs. If you are making contact with your opponent only with the floating rib area, you are reducing the contact size and increasing the pressure.


Get your hips down

You want your hips to be low and driving.

It’s difficult to achieve this with your hips if your feet and legs are closed together in a narrow stance. If you separate your knees and legs just a little more, it allows your hips to drive down further.


Threatening with submissions

If your opponent is defending the transition into full mount, it might be time to consider threatening a submission attempt.

From side control, there are plenty of different types of submissions available. There is an entire armlock series that is possible, and you can consider locking up an Americana, Kimura, or armbar submission. Once your opponent becomes distracted by these threats, you can then slide into knee on belly and begin passing.


Make sure to remember and practice all of these different techniques and strategies next time you are on the mats so that you can begin to master top control in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.


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