Class 2014-05-21: Side Control Escape and Transition

If an attack from side control isn’t happening, it means that the person on offense should be considering transitioning to a better position for more attack opportunities, or the person on defense should be using the successful defensive position to launch their escape. 

TransitionsSide Control To Top Mount

When transitioning to mount from side control, you want to make sure that you don’t give your opponent any openings that they can use to either hinder your progress, or use to escape.  An excellent choice for these goals is to use a knee slide transition to mount.  If for some reason you need to abort, it’s trivial to return to a strong side control.

To start, keep your body low and shift your weight towards your opponent’s head.  This will make your leg on the hip side light and mobile and allow you to drive your knee across your opponent’s belly.  Once your foot is engaged on your opponent’s hip, start to get your upper body more aligned with your opponent’s body.  You won’t be directly in line, but close to a one o’ clock position, and as you get to this position try to get your knee on the floor.  Against larger opponents, you’ll find that your knee isn’t touching the ground.  The next part of the transition will drop it down, but if you put your knee down too quickly in this scenario, a larger opponent will use your momentum against you and reverse the position and you’ll end up with a larger opponent in your guard, which isn’t ideal.

The next part of this technique is highly exaggerated for practice.  It will always work, but it’s not always necessary.  There a a few things happening at once.  The most obvious is a hip switch motion that will automatically pull your foot across and clear your opponents legs.  Less obvious are elements that maintain your balance and position.  Your underhooking arm should be driving your opponent’s arm up, which will give you space to work with and prevent them from collapsing your outside arm for a reversal.  You should also be rotating your body slightly with your head going from 1 o’ clock to 11.  This will keep your center of gravity more centered and make a reversal harder.  So as your hips are switching to the other side of your opponent’s body, your shoulders will be shifting back towards the side you started on.

Your foot should slap out loudly on the mat during practice, and often during sparring.  As long as your foot clears your opponent’s legs, and they are not actively hunting for that foot with their feet for an escape, getting your foot just past the legs is enough, but make sure you immediately establish a good mount.

escapesEscaping Side Control With Bridge Variety

Instead of just showing the classing bridge and shrimp escape, we are going to look at the bridge and how it needs to work when the simple method doesn’t work.  In my first competition, one of my opponents got side control and I immediately knew what to do.  I bridged, and. . .I couldn’t shrimp because I couldn’t bridge enough to create the space I needed.  So I tried again, same result.  My opponent held me down, then worked for a submission.  Nothing I did worked.  The match ended with my opponent attempting to choke me out, and me looking at the ref and making sure the ref knew I was still conscious since the choke wasn’t set properly.  When I got off the mat, I went to my black belt and asked him what I did wrong.  He filled me in on the real world style of escaping side control.  It’s not that the basic escape doesn’t work, it’s just that there’s more that needs to be done when someone is intent on holding you down.

The simplest modification to the basic bridge and shrimp method is to use your opponent’s reaction to your initial bridge.  As you bridge in, they are going to try to put pressure on your outside shoulder and ribs to flatten you back out.  Once they have committed to this pressure, it’s hard to just turn it off.  Drop back down and roll hard to the outside.  Again, your opponent is going to put pressure on you, but it’s going to be on the inside.  If they don’t put pressure on, you may just reverse the position by dragging them over your body.  Again, use this counter pressure and reinforce it with another roll into them.  Often this is enough to create enough space for a proper shrimp and regaining guard.

This action is similar to how you swing on a swing.  With each pass, you try to reinforce the motion that is already in progress, and with each pass, your ability to magnify the force is built up until you reach your goal.  As with the playground swing and gravity, you are using your opponents force and your added force in the same direction to build up momentum that you can use for your escape.

Time To Get RaNdoM

What happens if your opponent is a mat monster and even this doesn’t work?  First, you have to realize that the likely reason it’s not working is your opponent is able to anticipate your rolling pattern, and they are disciplined enough to avoid putting too much counter pressure on you.  Then, you need to make it impossible to anticipate your motion.

So, after a couple side to side motions, do another hard bridge straight up, then out, then in, then out, then up, etc. . .  Make it random, and treat each bridge as if it is the one that is going to let you escape.  Every single one needs to add more energy into the system.  If you are the one leading and directing the energy, then you are the one that can use it for your escape.


This is the dynamic portion of side control.  The static position is just the battle to maintain the position or to establish an impenetrable defense.  The winner of that battle gets to advance their goals.  In this class, you learned how to get to mount efficiently and safely, and you learned how to deal with real world side control escapes, where the basic bridge and shrimp is the foundation, but the additional bridge and roll methods create the space that a single bridge isn’t able to open up.

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