The back position is regarded by many as the most dominant position in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). Controlling your opponent’s back opens up a world of attacking opportunities while severely limiting their ability to escape or counter. This comprehensive article will provide everything you need to know about getting to the back, maintaining control, staying aligned with your opponent, and finishing from this powerhouse position.
Why the Back Position is So Powerful
Before diving into the specific techniques and concepts, it’s helpful to understand why the back attacks hold such primacy in BJJ. There are a few key reasons:
Asymmetry of Human Body
The human body is well-adapted to defend against threats from the front but vulnerable to attacks from behind. The back position maximizes this asymmetry.
Primacy of Strangles
Rear chokes like the rear naked choke are the highest percentage submission from the back. Strangles force unconsciousness or submission no matter the opponent’s toughness or pain tolerance.
With their back turned, the opponent cannot see your movements or anticipate your attacks.
The back position allows you to attack while minimizing counter attacks. It blends offense and defense perfectly.
For these reasons, controlling the back is an essential part of any grappler’s game. Now let’s examine how to get there and what to do when you arrive.
Establishing Back Control
The first step is controlling your opponent’s back. There are a few key concepts to keep in mind:
Maintaining the “head trap” is critical. You must trap their head between your head and your choking arm. This alignment is essential for executing chokes like the rear naked choke. If their head escapes the trap, your choke will fail.
You must control your opponent’s ability to move left and right. Do this by establishing “frames” with your elbows and knees. Use one elbow behind their far shoulder and one elbow in front of their near shoulder. Your knees should pin their hips between them.
Keep your hooks as high up on your opponent’s thighs as possible, just beneath their buttocks. The higher your hooks, the more control you have and the harder it is for them to escape.
Create a “closed circle” around their head and shoulders with proper head position and hand placement. Don’t leave gaps for their head to escape.
With proper head trapping, left-right framing, high hooks and a closed circle, you can achieve solid control of your opponent’s back.
Once you secure back control, the biggest challenge is maintaining alignment of your chest to your opponent’s back. If they create space between your bodies, they can more easily escape. Here are some tips for staying perfectly glued to your opponent:
Defend the Bottom Hook
Your opponent will typically try to beat your “bottom hook” first when attempting to escape your back control. Reinforce your bottom hook by switching to a body triangle, crossed ankle lock or “posted” rear mount. These positions make it extremely difficult for them to beat the hook.
Move With Your Opponent
As your opponent moves, you have to move with them to stay attached. Don’t remain static. If they escape your bottom hook, recover it by extending your knees out behind them to increase the distance.
Switch Your Arms
If you feel them about to escape, switch your control arm and choking arm. Bring your choking arm under as a control arm and snake the under arm up into a choke grip. This disrupts their escape.
Trap Their Arm in Turtle
Before taking the back from turtle, wedge your knee behind their arm. That way when you fall back, their arm is still trapped beneath them, reinforced by both your weights.
Overcoming Defensive Hand Deficit
One of the paradoxes of the back position is that despite its overwhelming control, you are often at a defensive disadvantage in terms of arms and hands. Your opponent almost always has more “defensive instruments” to block your attacks.
For example, you typically only have one “offensive instrument” – your choking arm. But your opponent has two defensive arms and a neck. This “deficit” means you need ways to isolate their arms and create an uncontested choking situation.
Trap Their Arms
By trapping one of their arms under your leg, you leave them only one free arm to defend against your choking arm. This creates an “uncontested” choking situation more likely to succeed.
Use Your Legs
Your legs can be used as “hooks” to isolate and trap your opponent’s defensive arms. Combining leg and arm traps is more effective than arms alone.
Don’t just focus on their neck with chokes. Attack their arms with arm locks and legs with leg locks. Spread your attacks across their whole body.
Finishing from the Back
Establishing control of the back position means little if you cannot finish the fight. Here are some methods to reliably finish opponents:
Master Hand Fighting Concepts
Learn hand fighting positions and movements like the Seatbelt, Strap, Reverse Seatbelt and more. Use these to expose the neck while controlling the defensive hands.
Apply Chokes Methodically
Don’t rush chokes. Set up your grips first before attempting to squeeze your arms for the finish. Gain the position, achieve the submission.
Use the Legs Actively
Your legs can do more than just hold position. Use them to actively break their posture, disrupt their hand fighting and expose the neck.
Don’t panic or rush if your choke isn’t working. Calmly transition between chokes and arm traps until you find the opening.
With proper control, reliable alignment concepts and fundamental finishing knowledge, you can submit anyone from the back. Test and develop your skills with beginner classes and free trials at Apex MMA on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Takedowns, guard passing and transitions will put you in the back position. Our back control and submission system will show you how to devastate opponents when you arrive. Come train with us today!