7 Ways To Create Openings For Submissions In BJJ

Misdirection and distractions are often underrated aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts. When factors like size and skill cancel out, it’s often the ability to out-strategize opponents using tools like distractions and misdirection that separates winners and losers. 

Feints, misdirection, and distractions are as integral to BJJ as they are to striking arts like boxing, where they might be more obvious. For example, Royce Gracie often feigned front kicks to set up takedowns. He also loved slapping opponents up to get them to extend their arms so he could armbar them once he had them mounted. 

Just as is the case with striking-based martial arts, the higher up you go in competitions, the more you’ll have to set up your transitions and submissions by getting opponents to think one thing, while you’re really planning to do something else. That might be done by chaining multiple submissions together or doing things that get your opponent to react predictably. 


Five Ways To Create Openings For Submissions In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Ready to learn some new tricks that make it easier to secure submissions? Let’s dive right into our list:


1) Smother Your Opponent’s Face

Smothering your opponent’s face triggers feelings of claustrophobia. It can cause them to take unwise steps to get rid of the annoyance even if there’s no real threat of a submission. If you have a free hand while controlling your opponent’s body, plant it on your opponent’s face, neck, or chin. 

If you have top-side control, use your shoulders to apply pressure on your opponent’s face and point it away from you. It feels uncomfortable, and it restricts their ability to see what you’re doing. You can also drive your forearms into your opponent’s neck to make them uncomfortable.

An opponent reacting to anything opens up space for you to establish better grips, advance to a better position, or go for a crossface. Just make sure you ease up on these tactics when rolling with your training partners. You don’t necessarily want to smother your training partners like you would an opponent during a competition. Make sure your training partners are okay with such tactics before using them. 


2) Squeeze Your Legs

Your legs are the strongest part of your body, so start putting them to work when grappling. If you have your opponent’s back or full guard, you might as well squeeze your legs and make the most out of the position. Squeezing your legs won’t tap out anyone besides perhaps a white belt who panics due to the discomfort. The goal of squeezing your legs is to make your opponent uncomfortable enough to make them try to get your legs apart. That’s your cue to go for a sweep or submission. 

Body triangles are an effective way to apply pressure on your opponent’s torso. Look to secure one if your legs are long enough whenever you have an opponent’s back or are in full guard. A body triangle limits your submissions in the guard, but it’s an effective way to drain opponents while you get some rest at the bottom. 

To understand how uncomfortable squeezing your legs can be, ask one of your training partners to squeeze their legs while they’re in full guard. You won’t need much convincing after that. 


3) Constantly Threaten With Submissions

cross collar choke

Submissions can be divided into two groups: high and low risk. A submission is high-risk if there’s a good chance you end up losing position if you don’t get it, while you typically get to maintain position even if your opponent escapes low-risk submissions. Collar chokes are an example of low-risk submissions, while armbars are high-risk. 

Make it a habit of always threatening your opponents with low-risk submissions whenever you see openings. If your opponent successfully defends against it, fine; if they don’t, make them pay. 

The goal of constantly giving your opponent something to worry about is to get them to eventually make a mistake you can capitalize on. The more time they spend defending against your subs, the less time they have to strategize their offense. 


4) Feint With Submissions

rear naked choke

At times, going for one submission opens up others. For example, you can feint a rear naked choke to get an opponent to overly focus on defending their neck if you have back mount, and use the opportunity to secure an arm bar. 


5) Chain Submissions

Chaining multiple submissions is one of the most effective ways to secure submissions. Your opponent’s defense might hold up for the first two submissions you go for, but the third one might get the job done. 

For example, advanced BJJ players often look for omoplatas if their opponents successfully defend against triangle chokes. You can follow up with a bulldog choke or something along those lines if the omoplata fails. Practice chaining submissions together in practice until it becomes second nature to you. Make it a habit to start looking for your next submission as soon as you think an opponent might get out of the current one you’re applying. 


6) Pressure With Your Head

rodrigo and thales bjj breaking grip

Head pressure is extremely important in grappling-based martial arts like BJJ and wrestling. Your head works well as a battering ram for blocking, pushing, and grinding down opponents. Good head pressure makes you more dominant on top and makes framing challenging for your opponents. Framing is a fundamental part of many of the escapes and sweeps used in BJJ, so use your head to deny those opportunities. 

Making it challenging for your opponent to frame increases the odds of them doing something silly to create space like pushing on your chest. That’s when you show off your armbar skills and teach them a valuable lesson. 


7) Wristlocks

Wristlocks aren’t the most popular submissions used in BJJ, but they serve an important role in helping to open up other submissions. Wristlocks often allow you to control your opponent’s elbow, making it easier for you to control their body. 

Wristlocks are low-risk submissions, and they can quickly force a tap when performed properly. Use wristlocks to make your opponent constantly have to think about where they put their hands. The more distractions you get your opponent to worry about, the higher the odds of you successfully tapping them out.


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