Words by Nic Gregoriadas
Cover Photo by William Burkhardt
Often called the ‘King of all Jiu-Jitsu Positions’, the mount is a powerful, yet complex position that needs to be deeply understood in order to be utilized correctly. I once asked Roger Gracie, arguably the best jiu jitsu competitor of all time: if he could choose to start his BJJ matches in any position, which would it be? Without hesitation, 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 established the mount position I used to just leave it and switch to side-control.
After studying the position for several years and implementing some of the approaches of those who had great success with it, I finally began to understand just how effective it could be.
Here are seven of most important details which have helped to 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 swept. This balance has to be instinctive - it’s not something you want to have to think about, as your focus should instead be on your attacks.
There’s a drill I use that can really help here; 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 keep your eyes closed while performing 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 frequency that my 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-guarding process, and we all know how frustrating that can be.
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 him in the mount. It’s been my experience that the best mount-specialists do precisely 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 center 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 of Mounts
The main variations of the mount you will work with are as follows:
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 defense, 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).
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
Athough there are many submissions from the mount, the three ‘bread and butter’ attacks are: the straight armlock, the cross-choke, and the Ezekiel choke.
Now, if a smart jiu jitsu athlete finds himself defending the mount, he will be trying to do two things no matter what:
1. Protect his neck
2. Keep his elbows close to his center
But here’s the issue; 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, as the mount-player, you can keep combining the armlock and choke attacks until he gives you an opening, making you far more dangerous from this 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 shoulders to the mat at all times. This will make escaping much more difficult and give you more time to move to 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 to the back. This is especially important for smaller fighters, who may have difficulties holding bigger players down due to the weight differential.