Transition, Position, Submission (diary entry)



The third hour of my client’s course on Basic Submission Grappling moved us onto submissions from adjusted scarf-hold, north south and resistance-based work. I reinforced the importance of consolidating positions and maintaining pressure as well as tactile awareness throughout the transitioning. It is not good enough to just teach individual positions and submissions. The maxim “position before submission” cannot be emphasised enough, but I think it should be prefixed with “transition before position”. The top position should be a sealed yet moving trap that steers an opponent towards their inevitable defeat… at least that is the way it always felt to me when I was on the receiving end at Gracie Barra Birmingham!


We began with some new ground-fighting specific agility ladder drills. These included bear crawls, lateral crawls, alternate hand lateral drills, single hand jump-overs and sit outs. Such drills train specific muscle groups and force vectors, whilst focusing on strong top position movement/agility plus one escape exercise. The warm-up was completed with regular backwards and forwards snaking and side-winding. From here we moved onto partner drills. This began with our pin-transition exercise, moving through all the major pins trained in the previous lesson. The purpose of this exercise is to promote fluidity when fighting from the top and ease of transition. We then put this exercise under progressive pressure from underneath. Such a progression is not specific sparring but more of a check to prevent sloppy habits from forming from regular compliant practice.


Our lesson then focused on two pins: adjusted scarf-hold and the north south position. As I have explained several times in these lesson reports, the former is taught as an under-hook pin because the regular (and more primal) scarf-hold is not usually a good attack beyond the early stages of submission grappling training. This isn’t to say that the traditional version should not be addressed or respected – we will cover escaping it in a later lesson – but the adjusted version needs to be ingrained for effective sport ground fighting.


From adjusted scarf-hold we went back over the arm-triangle and far side Americana key-lock, which were covered in the previous lesson on side control. However, I first covered the nearside arm-bar submission as this is a technique that is immediately presented from the transition from side control. The fighter secures an under-hook on the far-side with this arm but the pin’s unique quality is the way the nearside leg feeds under the opponent’s nearside arm. From here the arm can be trapped in an arm-lock. The Americana to the far-side arm often requires a degree of adjustment to prevent the opponent defending with the nearside arm or reversing the pin. The arm-triangle is very similar in application to the side control version; however, we also covered the snake choke variation as a counter to the opponent defending the original attack.

Submissions from scarf-hold

From the scarf-hold pin we transitioned to the north south position. Here the transition can immediately feed into either a reverse arm-triangle or a Kimura key-lock. The Kimura is an extremely versatile submission, which has a range of variations and can be performed from virtually every single position imaginable – I even once was taught as a defensive reversal from under a pin. These two submissions are readily accessible when moving from scarf-hold to north south because of the way the opponent’s nearside arm is being moved. This can be easily isolated either across the opponent’s neck for the choke or away from the body as the opponent’s head is being pinned.

The lesson finished with a five minute round of specific sparring. Here the opponent fought from the top position, using the pins taught over the past three lessons. He aimed to not be swept, to prevent the opponent from escaping and ultimately to secure a submission.





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