Technical Knowledge

General Overview & Concepts

Underhook Side - Body Positioning and Control
Head Control
Which Side to Fall to Win the Hand Fight?
Using Head Control to Retake the Back (Arm Trap Overhook Side) 
Control & Maintainence

The Back is the most dominant and dangerous position in submission grappling (see the ADCC stats in the last post), however, if you can’t maintain the position long enough to finish, it’s irrelevant how good your back takes or how powerful your RNC is. We need to be able to hold the position with as little outlay of energy as possible until we can win the hand fight and apply the finish. 

What I want to start with are what I refer to as resets. The way resets work is, for every stage of a potential escape, we have a way of neutralising it and bringing our opponent back to a fully controlled position. In reality we don’t want our opponent to even reach the first stage of an escape, and the more we look at the overall system the less likely this will become. However, in learning the distinct phases and mechanics of the core escapes and how to shut them down, we will become better at identifying them at the earliest phases and increasing our chances of maintaining control. 

There may be times in which you allow your opponent to reach a certain phase of an escape in order to open them up to potential attacks. The same concept of the Transitional Window applies here as well. When your opponent is in a bad position their priority is defence, they will focus the vast majority of their resources on staying safe until there is an opportunity to escape. When your opponent finds an opening and starts to work through the phases of escape, their focus will become divided and resources previously attributed to defence will be used in the escape process. This creates opportunities for attack. Any time in which your opponents attention can be taken away from the job of defence, there will be potential for attack. 

Kill the Bridge and Preserve the Shoulder Line

Don’t allow your opponents shoulder line to be higher than your own shoulder line.

Preventing your opponent dominating the shoulder line is essential, and if this starts to occur, it must be dealt with immediately, as it can lead to strong escapes. The key thing to remember with this is the control you have on the upper body (reverse head and arm control) is more important than your lower body control. Relinquishing lower body control to maintain upper body control is sometimes your only option, however, giving up upper body control to try and save lower body control is NEVER an option. 


Underhook Side
Phase 1 Reset (Head Reset)

Don't allow your opponent's head to reach the floor.

The first and simplest resets on the underhook side is that of the ‘Head Reset’. This would be a Phase 1 reset, and is simply forcibly moving your opponents back towards the centre and replacing it with your own head. The assumption here is that we have allowed our opponent to beat our head in the first place and start to get their head to the floor. Correct head positioning makes this initial phase of escape difficult to achieve, and the Head Reset makes it easy to fix. 

Phase 2 Reset (Hip Reset)

The next phase (Phase 2) of the back escape we need to deal with is when our opponents beats our head and managed to connect their own head to the floor, and we are unable to carry out the Head Reset. By itself, our opponents head being on the floor is not a problem, however, it allows him to start using the floor as a barrier to almost scrap us off their back and place their back safely on the floor. 

So, we must prevent our opponent from moving their centre line further away from our own in order to move to the next phase, which can easily be imagined if you consider your spine as your centre line. The primary question we must ask in phase 2 is ‘Are our hips still in contact with our opponents hips?', if this is true then we can attempt the phase 2 reset, which is referred to as the ‘Hip Reset’. The further your opponents hips are from your own, the weaker the reset will become. The concept of 'Heavy Vs Light Hips' applies here, the further away you opponents hips are from your own, the heavy they will become. Consider it in the context of the Butterfly Guard, the closer you can pull your hips to your opponents the easier it will be to elevate, whereas, if your opponent sprawls their hips back away from your own, they become almost impossible to elevate. 

The Hip Reset is simply a forward shrimp, which utilises an undercut mechanic to load your opponents weight back up and switch side. You scoop your hips back under your opponents and redirect the weight to a stronger position. So, the hours of stupid forward shrimps we are always making you do…you’re welcome! 

Phase 2 Reset (Hip Reset) - Opponent Prevents Hook Replacement

Phase 3 Reset (Hook Reset)

Are opponents hips in contact with my hips? When our opponent has managed to move their hips far enough away from our own to break the connection, the Phase 2 resets will be unsuccessful as it will no longer be possible to load up our opponent's weight. 

At this point, they have successfully managed to get their shoulders (at least partially) to the floor, as well as their hips, and they have managed to break the alignment of our centre lines, meaning for all intents and purposes they have hidden their back. So, their next objective will be to turn in to complete the escape, which is the first issue we must deal with. Once we have managed to prevent our opponent turning towards us, we must create some form of back exposure, be that upper (shoulders) or lower (hips) in order to re-take the Back position. 

At Phase 3 we have two option to reset the Back position, one relies on creating back exposure at the shoulders and one creates exposure at the hips. Both of these require that maintain a strong upper body connection using either a tight seat belt or a harness grip. 

Hook Reset - This involves taking out the top hook and hooking the back of the knee to prevent our opponent from turning towards us. Once their movement has been neutralised, the hook kicks the top leg away, turning the hips and creating exposure at the lower back. This allows us to reattached our hips and carry out a similar reset to Phase 2 by loading and undercutting. 

Phase 3 Reset (Grapevine Reset)

Grapevine Reset - The top hook remains in this time and hooks the lower leg with the foot, similar to the grapevine mechanic used in Mount control. This locks the nearside hip down and prevents our opponents from turning in. From here we push our chest into the nearside shoulder and raise the knee of the free leg towards the head on the nearside, wedging under the shoulder, similar to that of a Chair Sit Back Take on the Overhook Side. The upper body control allows us to pull our opponent over the wedging leg and create back exposure at the shoulder line to re-take the back using a Chair Sit mechanic 

Phase 4 Reset (North South Reset)

The final phase of resets occur when the position breaks down so much that a new position or system has to be used to re-take the Back or maintain dominant control.

Once our opponent has sufficiently hidden the back, we established own the last phase that their next objective is to turn back towards us. In the final phase, they have walked the hips out far enough to prevent the use of our lower body to inhibit their rotation, and they will be likely attempting to bridge their weight back into you to prevent a predictable transition to the mount. Our objective also remains the same, we must prevent out opponent being able to turn in, and then create back exposure. 

North South Reset - Without the ability to obstruct our opponents lower body our focus goes back to controlling head direction. If our opponent cannot turn their head back towards us, they cannot effectively move their body in that direction either. Once we have sufficient head control, we scissor the leg and turn belly down moving to a North-South position. From here we can continue the offence from the new position or force our opponent to sit creating exposure and allowing a re-take. 

Phase 4 Reset (Open Kimura)

Open Kimura - If you have managed to retain the harness grip though out all the previous phases or are capable of establishing a cross grip on the far wrist (highly unlikely!), you have the option to transition directly into the Open Kimura position and comforting familiarity of the Kimura System. Which, you should remember, is a very high percentage back position. If you haven’t figured it out yet already, you can also force the other Phase 4 Reset from this Open Kimura position to take the back.

Overhook Side

The different configuration of the arms means that this side is very different from the Underhook Side but a lot more straightforward, and only really requires two phases in the reset process. 

Firstly, we need to consider the primary escape that will be employed by our opponent on this side. Going back to the idea of creating a complete circuit around our opponents head, you will remember that the weak point will always be on the underhook side where there can be a break in the connection, however, with this now being on the top side our opponent can’t exploit this and get their head to the floor. This leaves our opponent with two viable options from the Overhook Side, the first of those is forcing a switch back to the Underhook Side, which is incredibly difficult given the dominant control we have. The second and probably the most common option is taking a 2-on-1 grip on the overhook arm and forcing it over the head to allow them to get their head to the floor. 

Before we start to think about resetting the position when our opponent begins to escapes, need to understand how to prevent them even getting to the first phase and control the position efficiently. The upper body control is paramount to maintaining the position and retaking it when it breaks down, so our focus needs to be on upper body control points. Whether we have a Seat Belt or Harness control, what we have is head and arm control. What we need to retain is the head on the far side to prevent our opponent removing the barriers and getting their head to the floor as we discussed before. The other key control point is the nearside elbow, which is isolated by our underhooking arm. The contact point of the underhook must be closer to the shoulder than the elbow, the closer the connection to the elbow the easier it will be for our opponent to turn in, slip the elbow, and escape (this is the same concept with Kimura Control, however, errors there can lead to a fractured wrist, not just an escape!). If our opponent cannot get their head or elbow free, we will always be able to control or re-take the back. 

Phase 1 Reset (Arm Switch Reset) 

Arm Switch Reset (Phase 1) - As soon as our opponent takes a 2-on-1 grip on the overhook arm, we take advantage of the undefended neck by pulling our underhook arm out and attacking the neck directly with a second overhook. It is preferable to have a strong form of lower body control such as a closed body triangle during the switch, as relinquishing the body control of the underhook can momentarily lead to an escape window in which your opponent can slide down (Saulo Escape). 

Phase 2 Reset (Chair Sit Reset)

Chair Sit Reset (Phase 2) - This should become so familiar it is ingrained in you over time. As I’ve emphasised before, if we need to lose Lower Body Control to maintain Upper Body Control we will do this 100% of the time. Again…



Upgrading from Half Back Control to Body Triangles
Rear Naked Choke: Basic Finish
Rear Naked Choke: Trapped Arm
Jaw Compression
Jaw Compression to Rear Naked Choke
One Arm Choke
Full Crank
Hammer Lock
Hand Fighting

This is a commonly overlooked part of a lot of Back Systems, yet it is one of the most integral parts when it comes to being able to efficiently finish. We have looked at controlling and maintaining the position, and some of the mechanics of the RNC finish but in between these things you have the issue of Hand Fighting. Any good opponent will intelligently defend their neck using systematic layers of defence that will easily prevent you just smashing on an RNC. 

As with most systems, we will approach the Hand Fighting System in a phasic manner, moving through the phases as our opponents hand fighting becomes more efficient.

Phase 1 - Transitional Window
Phase 2 - Base Level (2vs2)
Phase 3 - Arm Traps (Systematic Removal of Defensive Layers)

We will focus primarily on phases 2 & 3, as these are the phases that are required once the back position has been established. The first phase will be explored in a lot more detail when we look at the Back Takes module. 

Firstly, we must establish a few rules and core concepts that will be relevant throughout the System and will enable us to amplify the positional advantage we already have. 

  1. Top Control - This applies to hand positioning. Put simply, it means that we must always attempt to have our hands on top of our opponents, so we are actively gripping and controlling the end of their levers and not the other way around. 
  2. Types of Grips - You will either have a grip on the same side arm of your opponent or a cross grip on the opposite arm, and it is crucial that you differentiate between these two types of grip.
    • Same - A grip on the same side must be on the hand. Your basic reference point is that your thumb and index finger will be covering and gripping along the line of your opponent's knuckles. 
    • Cross - A cross grip must be on the wrist. Your thumb and middle finger should be trying to touch around the Wrist Line/Distal Crease.
  3. Pass Offs - These are grip changes between hands. Once a wrist/hand his controlled, there should never be a loss of contact during a grip transition. Whether passing a cross to same side or vice versa, the incoming hand must always go under the current gripping hand. 
Three Phases of Hand Fighting
Top Control, Grips, and Pass Offs
Phase I: Transitional Window

Exploiting the Transitional Window - Harness Chair Sit Back Take 
Phase II: Base Level (2-on-2)

Base Level (Phase 2) is the most common phase of hand fighting you will see, it is characterised by a straight-forward 2-on-2 battle, in which the attacker has two hands to attack, and the defender has two to defend. It’s as close to an even contest as you will get in the Back position.

The diagram shows the logical path that we roughly follow during the 2nd phase of hand fighting. I refer to this as a ‘Root Sequence’ and it provides a solid progression we can follow, with multiple attacking options at each point. 

Initial Attack

This first section is subdivided into three scenarios depending on the reaction of your opponent. 

  1. Uncontested - They don’t control the attacking arm (Overhook). 
  2. Weakly Contested - They have a Defensive Hook on the attacking arm, but it is not deep enough or covering a sufficient amount of the arm. 
  3. Strongly Contested - Deep Defensive Hook and intelligent control strategy.


This will be a low standard of opponent, and it will mean that the attacking arm has no barrier or interference on its route to the neck. 

Weakly Contested

Just having some form of grip or contact on the attacking arm is not sufficient to defend. With the Seat Belt control, I always emphasise having it as tight to your opponent’s chest as possible because the less space between your attacking arm and their chest, the shallower their Defensive Hook will be. A shallow Defensive Hook can be cleared with the use of a ‘digging’ mechanic on the attacking arm. This is rotating the wrist away, digging the radial bone between their chest and fingers of their Defensive Hook. 

Strongly Contested

This becomes more problematic and a series of grip changes and breaks may be required to create an opening. At this point, we move onto using the Cross Breaks approach. 


Cross Breaks

If you are unable to dig under your opponent's defensive arm initially, you will need to release your grip on the Seat Belt or Harness and give a defensive opening to progress. 

The one thing we want to try and avoid as the attacker is our opponent getting a cross grip on the wrist of our attacking arm, this is one of the reasons we always cover the hand/wrist of the attacking arm with the underhook arm when using a Seat Belt. The inevitable problem is, we cannot attack our opponent's neck without releasing the grip we have covering the end of the attacking arm, thus presenting an opportunity for our opponent to control the end of the lever. This is where we need to understand efficient grip breaking mechanics  to free the attacking arm again. 

Cross Break A

Cross Break A is the most straightforward and easily accessible, merely applying two of the most critical concepts of grip breaking. Firstly, we create two directionally opposing forces that will act upon the grip, those being the trapped arm pushing down, while the other hand pulls the gripping hand in the opposite direction. Secondly, we attempt to free the arm through the weakest point of the grip, which will be through the fingers.

Seat Belt - Cross Break A

Cross Break B

The second Cross Break works in a very different way, by linking our hands to create a kinetic chain and forcing a twisting /spiral mechanic through our opponent's wrist to break the grip. Where the first Cross Break focused on directly affecting the grip to release the arm, the second primarily applies pressure to the wrist joint causing a joint lock, forcing our opponent to release the grip to escape.

Seat Belt - Cross Break B
Seat Belt - Cross Break A
Seat Belt - Cross Break A
Seat Belt - Cross Break B
Hand Control & Shoulder Hook - Walking Hand
Hand Control & Shoulder Hook - Underhook Grip Breaks
Seat Belt - Cross Break: Opponent Strong Hook Control of Overhook Arm
Seat Belt - Cross Break: Creating Double Same Side Grips & Quick Trap
Seat Belt - Cross Break: Opponent High Elbow Defence
Harness - Root Sequence to Straight Jacket
Deep Underhook - Clearing the Overhook Path

Phase III: Defensive Restriction (Arm Traps)

Straight Jacket - Establishing Cross Grips from Seat Belt and General Overview
Straight Jacket - Trapping the Arm
Straight Jacket - Exploiting Defensive Errors
Straight Jacket - Getting Under the Chin: Digging the Ear
Straight Jacket - Getting Under the Chin: Nose Manipulation and The Muffler
Straight Jacket - Getting Under the Chin: Halpin Frame
Deep Underhook - Clearing the Overhook Path
Other Attack Positions

Harness - Armbar
Reverse Triangle - Entry from Arm Trap
Reverse Triangle - Body Position and Finish