The Scariest Place for New Jiu Jitsu Students

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

Mounted, with their hands pinned on either side of their head. Think about it. It’s usually the first place people get really “stuck”. Even brand new people seem to instinctively try and put other people in this position to control them. Having your hands pinned to the floor makes you feel totally helpless. Bump and roll can’t save you. Because it’s so easy to get stuck there I think it’s important to show this position to new people of all ages as part of an introduction to the sport.

One possible progression for a brand new student

  1. Show someone what ‘mount’ is. Sit on them. Ask them if they have any idea how to escape. If they’re game to try, ask them to do so. Enjoy your feeling of superiority, secure that you know how to sit on top of an untrained person for a long time in your pajamas (or superhero costume if it’s no gi).
  2. Teach them bump and roll from being mounted. This is probably one of the top three things almost any school shows someone off the bat and for good reason. You’re very likely to get mounted a lot in the beginning, and it demonstrates a lot of key principles in one move:
    1. Your hips are powerful (bridge).
    2. There is a way out from under the most dominant positions.
    3. You need to engage your muscles to hold on to people (holding the hand).
    4. You want to be on top/get back to the top.
  3. Mount them and pin their hands to the ground. Ask them to escape again or what they would do. They are less likely to freak out since they now know there’s at least one way to get out of a tricky situation (bump and roll). However the top person now has two kickstands braced wide and their weight is shifted higher than if they were just going for a choke. Bridging doesn’t do as much and the hapless newbie can’t use their arms to take away a post. The new student will probably nervously laugh or at least be a little concerned when they realize their new move isn’t doing them too much good here. The good news is that you already showed them one escape, building trust that you continue to show them similarly helpful techniques.

What I would say:

“This may feel kind of awful [make sure you’re smiling nicely] but you really aren’t in a lot of danger here. Even in a street fight someone would have to let go of one hand in order to punch you, giving you an opportunity to take action again, like with the bump and roll we just went over. If they wanted to head-butt you they would first have to offset their weight in such a way that your bridge is back to being helpful again and frankly that movement is awkward and unlikely from here. In a sport Jiu-Jitsu world, pretty much any attack they want to launch also involves letting go of one hand. So essentially all this position is good for is stalling. Note it in case you ever need to control a drunk friend or want to irritate your little brother with a spit string [c’mon you know you either did it or at least witnessed this gross thing kids do to each other]. But otherwise you can either bridge more suddenly and forcefully to try and off-balance them enough to get a hand free or sit there and amusedly wait for them to get bored. Then you strike back with your escapes.”

People are afraid of what they don’t know. Jiu-Jitsu is already primal and weird for people that didn’t grow up grappling. By introducing this position, offering options and explaining the dangers or lack thereof, you can help people stay calm in the trickiest of situations. It places the idea in their head that they have the power to assess danger and eventually escape from almost anywhere.

When all else fails, remind them that in the safety of a Jiu-Jitsu bubble they can always verbally tap and the game is over. We literally have a safety word that at this point I would probably respect even in a street fight because I’m so conditioned to it.

Do you have any better ideas? Let me know! I’d love to hear them.