Understanding The Neutral Position In BJJ

More than leveraging BJJ‘s ability to create openings from a defensive perspective, the offense is often initiated from neutral positions. Fighting to advance from a neutral position to a dominant one requires proper setups and grit, as opponents will fight hard and rarely concede a position. An experienced grappler can effectively impose their will on the opponent rather than the other way around. Today, let’s explore the neutral positions in BJJ.


The Neutral Position In BJJ

A neutral position in BJJ means that both athletes have equal opportunities to attack and advance into a dominant position. Neither athlete is at a disadvantage, and they often mirror each other. A neutral position allows both athletes to create openings from a fair vantage point, an excellent way to work on offense and create dilemmas.


The Different Neutral Positions in BJJ


1) The 50/50 Position

As the name suggests, the 50/50 is a neutral position focused on leg entanglement. It occurs when one of your legs and the opponent’s are intertwined. The positioning of the legs offers equal options to both grapplers and can typically lead to technical (and sometimes dull) exchanges.

Being in this position means that both grapplers are seated on the mat, giving them options to transition to sweeps, lapel controls, and attack with leg locks. Modern BJJ competitors widely use the 50/50, though initially, it was used as a final line of defense to prevent the opponent from passing the guard. It has evolved and become a threat to enter leg entanglements, which are very common nowadays.

Some elite grapplers who use the 50/50 system include the Mendes brothers, Lachlan Giles, and Ryan Hall. Each has built a system around the guard that has brought them success against world-level competition.


2) Closed Guard

Being inside a passive opponent’s closed guard, who makes little effort to attack but to break your posture and control you, can be frustrating. While some may argue that being inside the opponent’s closed guard is akin to being at their mercy, many consider it a neutral position. As the grappler on top, you have a small chance to submit the opponent inside their closed guard; thus, the usual option is to open it and pass.

Unlike the top player, whose primary goal is to pass, being the grappler on the bottom gives you avenues to attempt sweeps, go for various submissions, and find paths to take their back. While the closed guard may be a fundamental technique in BJJ, grapplers like Roger Gracie, Nicholas Meregali, and Xande Ribeiro have proven that having different ways to set up your attacks from the closed guard works even at the highest levels of competition.


3) Open Guard

The use of the open guard can be described differently, but in this article, we will use the seated open guard variation without grips as an example. The seated open guard, having your glutes and feet on the mat and your elbows close to your body or your arms extended while your opponent looks to pass standing, is considered a neutral position.

Being the grappler on the bottom allows you to enter other open guards, such as shin-to-shin, variations of the ashi garami, or lapel and collar guards. While this may sound promising as it enables you to set up your desired guard, without grips and control, the opponent can swiftly pass your guard in the blink of an eye.

As the guard passer looking to pass the open guard, you have various guard passing options such as the cartwheel pass, leg drag, toreando, knee cut, and pressure passing variations. Closing the gap also puts you in a better position to pass the guard and advance to side control or mount.


4) Dogfight

The dogfight is a position that typically arises from the half guard, where the bottom player wrestles up, or when defending from a single leg takedown. This position is commonly seen in wrestling and, when used in BJJ, can be effective for both grapplers.

Typically, the dogfight occurs when the bottom player has the underhook, and the top player has an overhook (whizzer) while both grapplers are on their knees, side by side.

Both grapplers can set up different attacks from this position. While the underhook gives access to the back or a sweep, the whizzer allows you to pin the opponent’s shoulder to the mat, continue the takedown, or swiftly jump to submissions like a triangle. Like the 50/50, the dogfight offers many options for attacks.


5) Over Under From Standing

The over-under from standing occurs when you and the opponent both have an overhook and an underhook. It is considered a neutral position, as both can set up throws and takedowns. Some ways to advance from this position are to get a body lock, push/pull your opponent, or move to the sides to create an off-balancing effect. However, be aware of opponents who are skilled in wrestling, as throws like the lateral drop are always a threat from this position.

There are many ways to set up throws or takedowns from the over-under position in standing, such as entries to the single and double leg, arm throws, leg trips, and suplex variations.


6) Standing Collar Tie

A one-arm collar tie is considered a neutral position in the stand-up. Who gains the advantage depends on how you use the other free hand: to get inside control with an underhook, hand on the biceps, or by controlling the wrist/triceps of the opponent. Effectively using your free hand enables you to create angles or misdirection, which opens up the opponent for a takedown or throw.

Hand fighting is an essential skill to learn both in stand-up and on the ground; make sure to practice them as you go along with the setups, as all encounters in grappling start with the grip.



Recognizing neutral positions gives you a deeper understanding of the setups you can employ to advance to a more advantageous position. Remember that openings can be found in inferior, dominant, or neutral positions. Therefore, positional awareness is a skill every grappler must develop to elevate their game to the next level.


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