This article was written by 3rd-Degree Roger Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Nicolas Gregoriades
Often called the ‘King of all Jiu-Jitsu Positions’, the mount is a powerful, yet complex position that needs to be properly understood in order to be utilised correctly. I once asked Roger Gracie, the best jiu-jitsu fighter of all time if he could choose to start his BJJ matches in any position, which one would it be? Without thinking twice, he replied ‘the mount’. Until I reached the brown belt level, I used to believe that the mount was overrated. So much so, that once I had secured it and scored the 4 points I used to just leave it by switching to side-control. But after seeing Roger's success with it and studying it intensively for several years, I finally began to understand just how effective it could be. Here are seven of the most important details which have helped improve my ability to fight from the mount.
If you don’t have good balance, the mount position is practically useless to you. It’s next to impossible to set-up an attack when you’re just trying to avoid being rolled off. This balance has to be instinctive - it’s not something you want to have to think about because your focus should instead be on your attacks. There’s a drill I use that can really help with this. Establish the mount position on a training partner and have him place his hands behind his head, while you do the same. Then have him try to buck you off while you attempt to maintain your balance. Once this becomes easy, the next progression of the drill is to have your eyes closed while doing it. This will teach you the timing and sensitivity required to hold the mount without using your hands, which can then be freed up to start working your chokes and armlocks.
2. Foot Positioning
This simple little tip from my teacher Roger Gracie really reduced the number of times opponents were able to trap one of my legs into half-guard. When you are in the classic mount position, make sure your feet are constantly ‘tucking under’ into your training partner’s body. Any room between your feet and his body is a potential opportunity for him to trap one of your ankles and allow him to start his re-guard process, and we all know how frustrating that can be.
Keeping your feet tucked against your opponent will make it harder for him to escape
3. Hip Flexibility
There is a common misconception that squeezing your opponent tightly between your knees while holding the mount position is the most effective way to control them in the mount. It’s been my experience that the best mount-specialists do exactly the opposite. While keeping their feet tucked, they widen their knees and ‘sink’ their hips into the other fighter. This greatly improves their balance because it both broadens their base and lowers their centre of gravity. It also puts far more pressure on the person beneath them. (If you’re ever unlucky enough to have Red and Black Belt, Mauricio Gomes
, holding you in mount you’ll understand exactly what I mean.) The only way to allow yourself to sink low enough to apply this kind of pressure is by having a certain amount of flexibility in your hips. If you don’t yet have it, it’s time to start stretching more. (hint: do yoga!)
4. Understand the Different Types
The main variations of mount you will work with are:
Low Mount - in which you are almost lying flat, with your legs ‘grapevined’ around your opponent. The low mount is good for control because it allows you to drive down into your opponent’s hips with yours, completely nullifying his bridge. It’s quite limited when it comes to submissions though.
Technical Mount - this is usually used as a counter to the most common mount defence, the elbow-knee escape, allowing you to maintain a reasonably good attacking position when your opponent has made it onto his side.
High Mount - In my opinion the most lethal of all the variations, the ideal high mount has you sitting up, right over your opponent’s sternum, with your knees forcing his arms far away from his mid-section. It’s best to choose one of the mounts and not spend too much time in ‘no man’s land’ (i.e. sitting over your opponent’s stomach, between high and low mounts). Also, as a general rule, you should be trying to work your way towards a high mount as it has the most attack options available.
5. Chain ‘High’ & ‘Low’ Attacks
Although there are many submissions from the mount, the three ‘bread and butter’ are the straight armlock, the cross-choke, with the Ezekiel-Choke. Now if a smart jiu-jitsu guy finds himself defending the mount he will be trying to do two things matter what: 1. Protect his neck 2. Keep his elbows close to his centre But here’s the thing - he can only do one of those properly at a time. He can protect his neck perfectly with both hands, but then his elbows will start to flare exposing him to armlocks. Or he could keep his elbows glued in at his sides, in which case his hands invariably move away from his neck, meaning he’s vulnerable to chokes. Knowing this, you can keep combining the armlock and choke attacks until he gives you an opening, making you far more dangerous from the position.
6. Keep His Shoulders on the Mat
Almost every escape from the mount necessitates that the person defending will have to lift one or both of his shoulders from the mat because he will either need to sit up or turn to his side. Knowing this, we can adopt a wrestler’s mentality when attacking and try to pin both of his shoulder’s to the mat at all times. This will make escaping much more difficult and give you more time to move to a high mount and set up your subs.
7. Know When to Transition
Sometimes, no matter how good of a job you are doing at holding the mount, a strong opponent will be able to power out. There is a ‘point of no return’ at which there is no use trying to fight his escape (whether it be a bridge, or a shrimp etc) because he’s gone far enough to have gained sufficient leverage. If you can identify this point and your timing is good, you need to make the tactical decision of giving up the mount and transitioning to side mount or the back. This is especially important for smaller fighters, who may have difficulties holding bigger players down due to the weight differential.