Feel More Confident in Your First Class

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is one of the most effective martial arts in practice today. Entire fights can be won or lost without a single strike being thrown. Practitioners learn to engage opponents both standing and on the ground. Fights can be finished with neither person being injured, and oftentimes altercations can be avoided all together. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a tremendous way to build discipline, confidence, and friendships. However, going to Jiu Jitsu classes for the first time is often intimidating when you don’t know the basic positions or terminology. To eliminate this intimidation factor, I have outlined the six fundamental positions of BJJ below. Take this knowledge and feel more comfortable at your first class!


1. Guard - The most fundamental of all BJJ positions. In fact, this position is what separates BJJ from nearly all other martial arts. This position allows a BJJ practitioner to end a fight from the bottom, or remain as defensive as possible while laying on one’s back. The basic concept of the guard is having your opponent wrapped between your legs and in front of your hips, as you are fighting with your back on the mat. However, as the sport has progressed, many variations of the guard have emerged. These forms of guard do not require having the opponent wrapped in your legs. These variations require only that your opponent's hips remain in front of yours as you continue fight from the bottom position. Guard is considered the most defensive position you can be in while fighting off of your back. In fact, numerous submissions exist from this seemingly disadvantageous position. The person in the top position meanwhile, has very few if any submission options, and will typically expend most energy in attempting to pass the guard. Passing the guard occurs when both legs and hips are free from the downed opponent, and the top player has advanced passed the hips of the bottom player.


Guard Variations

A. Spider guard

B. butterfly guard

C. De la riva (pronounce “heeva”)

D. Inverted guard

E. rubber guard


2. Half-guard - a position that is halfway between side control and guard, hence the term half guard. This position occurs when one leg remains trapped between the legs of your opponent. Depending on your orientation, you are considered in either top half guard or bottom half guard. Half guard is considered a somewhat neutral position because either person can attempt and complete submissions.


3. Side mount - occurs when the top player has freed his legs and hips from between his opponents legs and has passed the hips of the downed opponent. In this position the top player is typically perpendicular to the bottom player. Just as in the guard, there are variations of side control:


Side Control Variations:

A. Scarf hold

B. Reverse scarf hold


4. Mount - an extremely dominant position for the top player. This is when the top player's hips are entirely free from his opponent’s guard, and the top player’s hips are straddling the stomach or torso of the downed opponent. Again, different mount variations exist:


Mount Variations:

A. Big boy mount

B. “S” Mount


5. North south - another extremely dominant position for the top player. For perhaps the quickest visual, this position is also called 69 by some BJJ practitioners. This position occurs when the chest and torso of the top player is in contact with the chest and torso of the bottom player. The top player's head is in the direction of the bottom player's feet, and vice versa – hence the term north-south.


6. Back mount - viewed by some as the most dominant position in BJJ. This is when the dominant player is behind the other person and his legs are sunk in around the other person's waist and resting on their opponent’s inner thighs. This is also known as "sinking in the hooks." If both legs have not been sunk around the opponent, this position will not be officially counted in most competition settings.