There are two facets of top mount control we will discuss. First up is maintenance, where your goal is to remain in mount until an attack or transition opportunity presents itself, then we’ll cover a good secondary option when you are about to lose mount.
There are various methods for maintaining mount, but staying mounted is a lot easier if you reduce your opponents options for escape. If your hips are near their hips, you are susceptible to upas and bridging that will knock you off balance and possibly result in reversals. This means once you have your mount, transitioning to a high mount should make it easier to maintain mount. Without going off on a tangent, I’ll note that there are very good ways to maintain mount without going to high mount, however for a fundamentals student, high mount is the simpler option.
To get to the high mount, your chief obstacle will be your opponents elbows. They want their elbows just inside your legs, and they are using their elbows as a shield against a high mount. If they do not have their elbows sufficiently inside, a good starting attack is to slide your knee along their ribs with the goal of getting your foot up to their hip. Placing your foot on their hip accomplishes a number of different goals:
- Reinforcement: Having your foot on their hip and driving your heel into their leg helps prevent them from shoving your legs back down their body
- Hide escape options: A common escape is to turn on the side and scoop up the attackers foot with the top foot. If your foot is on the hip, this becomes impossible.
- Feel: having your foot on your opponents hips also helps you predict what they are doing. They need their hips to be mobile for any kind of escape, so your feet act as antennae, feeding your information about the orientation and elevation of your opponents hips. This is valuable information that would be dulled or missing if you just have your feet on the floor.
Sometimes you’ll need to reinforce the knee slide with a grip on the elbow, leaning forward and pulling with your hand and pushing with your knee. Placing your head on the floor is a good way to maintain base while freeing up your hands to consolidate the high mount. Once you have control of the elbows with your knees, you can even do things like push on the shoulders with your hands to help reinforce your high mount.
Once you get used to this style of getting to high mount, focus on using your knees and thighs to push the arms together, then you can start to look for all the different attacks that are available from high mount. Another option is to start your attack while in low mount, then finish after pushing towards high mount, like some styles of cross collar chokes utilize to get in position.
Throughout all of this, staying low is your friend. You don’t want to sit upright unless you already have a high mount, some measure of control of the arms, and are ready to attack with a submission in mind. Otherwise you are elevating your base unnecessarily and risking more kinds of escapes.
If you feel like you are about to be reversed, switching to a technical mount is a good plan B. The tricky part here is your foot on the side you are being reversed towards. Your opponent will be trying to control that foot by pinching it between their heel and butt. You need to pop it out of there, then rotate your body 90 degrees and shift your weight back away from the reversal. As you do this, drive your heel into your opponents hip and try to stay behind their back as much as possible. It’s likely that they will have control of your arm, but if you stay low and stay back as much as possible, you can turn the reversal into another good attack position.
Since we spent a lot of time talking about high mount, this time we are just going to cover the defense/escape against high mount. This technique requires good timing, but when you get the sequencing down, it’s a very effective way to defend against a high mount, both after your opponent gets high mount, as well as when they are trying to get high mount.
The most important thing to realize here is that we are using the same style of escape that is common to many different jiu-jitsu escapes. First, you create space, then you use that space to alter the position. In this case, you are popping your opponents weight up, then shoving them down your body with your elbows as your body returns to the ground a split second before theirs does. Even the smallest bump can be enough to start the process, but obviously the further down your body you can get your opponent, the more effective your bump will be, and the easier your shove will be.
Before you can even start the bump, it is important to still protect your neck, and fight your elbows to the inside as much as possible. This can get very awkward, but you’ll need this positioning to both protect your neck as well as give you leverage against their legs.
I can’t overemphasize the timing of the bump-fall-shove sequence. Too often, students try to shove too early or too late. In both cases, you end up working against a lot of friction since your opponents weight is still on you. Giving a very hard bump will momentarily ease the pressure on your body both at the top of the bump, as well as while you are falling back to the mat. This weight transfer away from you is what makes the shove effective.
High mount is your friend. It is easier for fundamentals students to maintain, and it still has plenty of chokes and arm attacks available to it. No matter what, you should be treating mount as a go-to position, and you should never willingly transition to a lesser position. Use the above techniques for controlling high mount, as well as defending against the control techniques. As always, protect your neck, keep your elbows in, and stay aggressive.