BJJ Drills Series: Transition Drills

The ability to transition from one position to another indicates that a grappler has situational awareness in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. With positional control, grapplers can pin the opponent into dominant positions, which can then be advanced to submission attempts that may end the match. In Jiu-Jitsu and in life, knowing when to keep or give up a position and transition to another is an important skill to master. In this article, we will discuss transitional drills in BJJ. 


What Are Transitions In BJJ?

In BJJ, a transition happens when a grappler moves from one position to another or from one submission hold to another. Developing this skill is critical for grapplers, especially when facing more formidable opponents. In a sense, it is moving from plan A to plan B if the initial plan fails. As problems in Jiu-Jitsu are dynamic, it is essential to have a contingency plan. When you start imposing various techniques, opponents constantly propose different threats and responses. 


Positional Transition Drill

Fundamentally in BJJ, securing the position before attempting a submission is vital. It is a critical skill to master when recognising, abandoning a position, and transitioning to another. This drill starts from the closed to open guard and ends in top side control.

Starting from the closed guard, secure a collar grip using your right hand and a sleeve grip with your left. As your training partner stands up, trying to break your guard, open your guard while pinching your knees together to your left side. If the opponent does this and drives forward, your shin will block them across their stomach. 

From there, step on their hip with your left foot and their bicep with your right foot. Break your training partner’s posture even more by pulling their sleeve with your left hand and collar down with your right hand as you step on their hip by extending your left leg. Now that their torso is almost parallel to the mat, you are in the collar sleeve guard. With the collar sleeve guard, you can impose threats like triangles and omoplatas. 

The opponent will usually try to break the sleeve grip from the collar sleeve guard by pulling their arm. As they pull back, go with it and control their ankle with your left hand. The tripod sweep is now accessible in this position. Move your right foot from the bicep to behind their left knee. Sweep your training partner by pushing your left leg and pulling with your right-hand collar grip. As they fall, come on top to the knee slice position.

Maintain the collar sleeve grip with your right hand while pressuring with your elbow on their chest to keep your training partner flat. Grab their tricep with your left hand and pass the guard with the knee cut. As you pass, drop your elbow down the mat from their chest to get the underhook. Finish the drill by securing the side control position.  


Side Control Transition Drill

This side control drill combines different types of side control pins in a flow drill. This drill can be a part of your warm-ups to help you practice transitioning from position to position.

Starting from side control with a chest-to-chest connection and head and arm control, the opponent will usually begin pushing their forearm to your hip to frame and recover their guard. When they do, use your underhook to lift their far arm and stick your palm on the right side of your face to keep the space between you and the opponent’s arm tight. Since the opponent is pushing on your hip, use your left hand to lift their elbow off the mat.

From there, switch your legs to the kesa-gatame position (underhook variation). Avoid switching your hips first before controlling their elbow as the opponent can use it to keep their elbow closer to your hip, making it easier for them to recover their guard. In the kesa-gatame position, walk forward to put pressure, force their near arm beside their face, and transition back to the side control pin. As you attack their far arm and start losing control over their arm, the opponent may start pushing your neck, creating space, and facing you. You can transition to the reverse kesa-gatame when this happens.

Transitioning to the reverse kesa-gatame, keep your hips low, sit on top of your training partner’s bicep, and use your right hand to frame their legs. Keep your left elbow on the mat over your training partner’s shoulder. Now that you’re in the reverse kesa-gatame, if the opponent starts pushing you with their near arm, lift your hips and pass over their arm, and land in the north-south position.

Back to side control, another common transition from the chest-to-chest, is if the opponent starts framing on your neck, pushing your head too high, you can transition to reverse kesa-gatame. Likewise, if they push you down with their near arm, move your hips up and transition to the north-south position. 

You can also transition directly to the north-south position from side control. As you control the opponent’s far arm with your near arm next to their neck, use your far hand to control their hip so they cannot follow you as you move around. Control their hips and move to north-south.


Solo Side Control Transition Drills

Here are five solo side control transition drills you can perform at home or before training sessions.

  • Knee On Belly
  • Side Control Sit-Out
  • Knee on Belly to Side Control
  • Sit-Out to Side Control
  • Knee on Belly Hip Switch to Opposite Side



Knowing how to transition both in positions and submissions is a sign that you are a competent grappler. It signifies that you have built the awareness required to respond to various situations and the coordination to move around fluidly to keep the opponent out of pace. Keep on drilling, and master every position to help complete your game.


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BJJ Drills Series: Guard Drills