An Introduction To Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that focuses on ground fighting or grappling. Your goal, as a BJJ practitioner, is to take your opponent to the ground and control them using specific positions that help you gain leverage on your opponent’s body. The end goal is to get a submission such as a triangle choke or an armbar.

BJJ is one of the most effective martial arts ever developed. BJJ practitioners have dominated the early days of mixed martial arts events, with an overwhelming number of champions representing the art.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, while originally created for self-defense, has evolved into a combat sport through the years. A time limit and points system was put in place to assist in the regulation of BJJ competitive events. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation or IBJJF is the largest governing body of sport jiu-jitsu in the world, and its official point system is commonly cited in most BJJ academies around the world. Currently, the majority of the practitioners of BJJ practice it as a combat sport. It has recently made its way to mainstream sporting events such as the South East Asian Games. 

In our featured video, Professor Gamal Hassan, a BJJ Champion from the EVOLVE Fight Team, walks us through the basic concepts and positions of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He uses the basic progression of: 

  • taking the opponent down
  • opening and passing guard
  • side control to
  • mount
  • back control
  • submission


Taking The Opponent Down

double leg takedown

As a BJJ practitioner, you are expected to be able to use technique and leverage to overcome bigger and stronger opponents. To achieve that, you must first take your opponent down to the ground, where the height and reach advantage of an opponent will become less of a factor when compared to superior positioning and technique.

At 1:30 in the video, Professor Gamal shows us the double leg takedown. He changes his level so that his line of sight is below his partner’s head, lunges or “shoots” in to grab the legs, and finishes the takedown to land inside his partner’s guard. Notice that Professor Gamal does not hunch over as he changes levels and as he shoots in. He keeps his back straight, with no curvature of the spine. He eventually lands inside his opponent’s guard. A successful takedown awards the attacker 2 points in IBJJF rules.

The guard is a defensive position, wherein Professor Gamal’s partner will be able to create opportunities to attack. 


Opening The Guard And Passing 

Opening the guard

The goal, now, of the person on top, is to open the opponent’s guard, get past the legs, and establish a dominant position such as side control. The attacker is awarded 3 points for passing the guard.

At 4:45 in the video, Professor Gamal shows us one of the basic ways to open the guard. Using his left hand, he grabs his partner’s belt with his palms down and uses a pushing motion on the belt to stabilize himself and create pressure. He then uses his right hand to push on his opponent’s knee to force the guard to open.

As his partner’s guard opens, Professor Gamal immediately stands up to create distance as he grips his partner’s pants at 5:15 in the video. Using the grip on the pants, he moves around his opponent to establish side control. Note that his opponent will not be able to put him back into guard because the Professor is controlling his legs using the pant grip.


The Side Mount And Knee On Belly

Side mount

The side control position is the first dominant position we have in this series. Professor Gamal now has full control of his opponent and can now start an offensive attack. He has two choices to make in this position, he can either 1) work on a submission or 2) work on progression. Progression means further moving up to a more dominant position, which in this case, he chooses to go to the knee-on-belly position.

At 6:00 in the video, the Professor, now grabs his partner’s lapel with his left hand and posts on the hips with his right hand as he elevates his entire upper body and brings his right knee to his partner’s stomach area. He posts his left foot on the floor for balance. In IBJJF competitions, you will be awarded 2 additional points if you are able to go to the knee-on-belly position.


The Mount

The mount

The next position discussed is the full mount. From side control, the Professor flares his partner’s left elbow using his right arm, as he slides his knee across the belly to achieve full mount as seen in the 7:20 mark. 4 points are awarded for establishing full mount.

The full mount is the most dominant position in BJJ. In real combat situations, the full mount allows the person on top to have free use of both hands to punch and control his/her opponent. Against an untrained opponent, the full mount usually means victory for the person on top. Professor Gamal shows multiple ways to control the opponent and hunt for submissions from the full mount at 8:35 in the video.


The Back Mount

Back mount

As his partner turns to the side to try and escape from the mounted position, the Professor shifts his weight to his left, so as not to get off-balanced, and quickly takes the back of his partner. 

Notice how he places his hooks in (his own shins against his partner’s inner thigh) at 10:30 in the video. This is done so that he will be able to follow his partner wherever his partner turns. He then controls his partner with a seatbelt grip – one arm over his partner’s shoulder, the other under his partner’s armpit – as seen at the 11:15 mark. From this position, his main goal is to look for a submission, which is commonly a choke. 4 points are awarded for a successful back mount.



There you have it, an introduction to BJJ! We hope we have achieved our goal of giving you an organized overview of some of the basic positions in BJJ. We will be covering the rest of the basic positions in future articles and videos. Stay tuned!