Kaizen · Training

Training Tuesday: Fasten Your Seatbelts


So, it’s been a little while since I did one of these, so I thought I better get back into the habit. This week we’re looking at back control and specifically the seatbelt grip.

In BJJ the back is clearly the one of the most dominant positions. It’s worth four points under IBJJF rules. That it is a dominant position is especially true for smaller practitioners like me. If I manage to attain side control on someone, if they’re much bigger than me, whether they’re skilled or not, they can probably just sit up or bench press me off. I only weigh 52kg. For an 80kg+ guy, lifting me off them is not a particularly difficult issue. Yet, if I’m on their back, clearly the bench press is useless. Muscles are no use when somebody is clinging to your back like a monkey.

I’ve been told by all my instructors that I should seek the back at every opportunity, rather than anything where strength and weight could be a factor. So (just for the purpose of this blog), say that you’ve got to the back – what do you do once you’re there? And how do you stay there?

The key principal is to keep your hips in line with the other persons hips. All their escapes come from them manoeuvring out to the side, down or up, so that their hips are no longer in line with the person attacking the back. In doing this it makes it a lot easier to escape the position and to negate any submission attempts. So for the attacker to be able to progress to a submission, it’s important that their position is maintained long enough to be able to see it through.

One of the key ways of doing this is by maintaining the seatbelt grip.

So called the seatbelt because you’re effectively strapping yourself to your opponent like a seatbelt, one arm under theirs and one arm round their neck to meet in the middle. An over-under hug from the back if you like. Key point to the seatbelt is that your choking hand should be on the bottom of the grip to hide it from the defenders attempts to pull it down. Another key point is that your grip should be high with your elbows squeezing together. Clearly you can’t actually make your elbows meet ’cause your opponents body is in the way, but the tighter they are, the tougher it is to break the grip.

A lot of people say that the key to back control is the hooks on the legs, and yeah sure this is very important to complete control, but it is not impossible to stay on someone’s back without hooks, as long as the seatbelt is maintained. We have a drill that we do at Kaizen sometimes where upon getting the seatbelt grip the attacker tries to stay on the opponents back without the hooks. It’s surprising just how effective this is if the grip is tight and correct, and you follow your opponents hips with your own (manoeuvring your opponent to make the most of a back take is a whole ‘nother post).

The seatbelt grip isn’t everything, clearly, but it was amazing how much easier it became for me to stay on someone’s back once I’d figured out how to use it alongside the principal of hip alignment. Sometimes I still fall off if I lose my grip, or am too hasty attempting a submission, but my back control taking has certainly become a lot stronger since making minuscule adjustments to the way I fastened my seatbelt.

Until next time…




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