The "Basic Four" ground position flow drill

Discussion in 'MMA' started by YODA, Mar 29, 2008.

  1. YODA

    YODA The Woofing Admin Supporter

    The "Basic Four" ground position flow drill
    by Dave "Yoda" Green


    In this article I will examine our basic 4 position groundwork flow drill. This drill is designed to teach & develop three key areas in basic ground grappling...

    1. Correct top position structure in the basic 4 pins
    2. Correct bottom position structure in the basic 4 pins
    3. Good transition skills from position to position.

    We use this drill at an early stage in our student's development as a starting point for learning to fight on the ground. Strikes, locks & strangles are of no use if you lack the positional control and mobility required to apply them without becoming vulnerable to an escape or counter.

    Reasons to change position...

    1. He is about to escape. It is often possible to use a transition of position to counter an almost successful reversal attempt.
    2. A limb that is not controlled in the position you are in becomes a key threat - either in a grappling mode or maybe he has drawn or otherwise acquired a weapon. A good example would be holding him in side-top position at his right side and he acquires a weapon in his free left hand. You move to X-Body position where the focus is on that limb.

    The drill provides a foundation that is later built upon to include other positions (Another ten or so) and basic striking, reversal and submission skills. So - on to the drill…

    I will list each position in turn - starting from the side-top position. Be aware that this is a circular "round robin" type drill that may start at any position. I will also list key points on both the offensive & defensive structure (How to hold and how to be held) as well as the method of moving from one position to the next.

    Position1 : The Side-Top Hold (also known as "Scarf Hold")


    Offensive Structure

    NB: Described when sitting at your opponents right side as in the accompanying photo. The photos where taken to illustrate the offensive positions only.

    • Your right leg is pointing as near forward as your flexibility will allow. This "post" prevents your opponent from bridging you in that direction.
    • Your left leg is bent at the knee with the knee on the floor (If your "rules" do not permit leg locks then the knee may be up). This post prevents your opponent from simply sitting up & driving you to your back.
    • Your upper bodyweight is pinning the opponent's chest to the floor.
    • Your head is down towards your right knee.
    • Your right arm is around his head. Without this your opponent will simply climb on your back - not good! You should keep the back of his head raised off the floor to minimise his bridging strength.
    • You are holding your opponent's arm at or above the elbow, preferably under his elbow so that his arm circles your chest rather than your waist. This will make it much harder for him to lift you onto his upper chest as he attempts to bridge & roll you over.
    • Your right hand is either holding his triceps, hooked into your inner thigh, or (if he has a suitable jacket on) gripping his upper sleeve.
    • It is vital that you keep his upper arm on top of your right thigh. If he gets his right elbow to the ground he has several very efficient escape options.

    Defensive Structure

    • You should be lying on your right side and maintaining constant pressure into his back. This will nullify him trying to pin your back to the floor and will mean that he must maintain constant counter pressure towards you rather than downwards - very useful in escaping this position.
    • You should have your left leg bent and your foot close to your butt. This is the post that you will start your bridge or shrimp enabling you to move his body or your hips.
    • You should have your hands joined together to prevent him from applying one of many locks on your right arm.
    • You should tuck your chin into your chest & look directly at him. Turning your head to either side will expose you to a variety of chokes & strangles.

    Transition to Cross Body Position
    1. Move your weight slightly towards his hips and wipe your right hand and arm in an arc to pin his free left arm against his left side.
    2. Switch your feet so that your left foot comes up in line with his shoulders and your leg is bent with the knee raised.
    3. Rock your weight onto his right triceps as you plant your left knee at the side of his head. This will facilitate tight control of that arm by pinning it between his ear & your knee. Many of his escape options involve making space using this arm & elbow.
    4. Bring your right knee up to his right hip keeping your knees wide & your body low.
    5. Bring your left elbow tightly to the side of his left ear so that by pushing your elbow & knee together you can raise his head off the floor - having a negative effect on his ability to bridge.

    Position 2 : The Cross Body Position (Side Control / Side Mount)


    Offensive Structure

    • Keep a wide base - this will make it harder for him to turn you over.
    • Keep the back of his head off the floor - this will weaken his bridge.
    • Remove all space between your hips & his body; paying particular attention to his right arm and elbow.
    • Hand positions and the position of your right leg can vary but we start with the basic position as shown in the photo.
    • Be ready to use either arm AND your head to manipulate and control his left arm. This is the target for most of your submissions from this position.

    Defensive Structure

    • Join hands over his back - this will make it harder to pull bits of your arm off!
    • Bend your knees and bring your heels into your butt - this will enable you to bridge.
    • Be ready to raise your right knee to block his mount attempt.
    • Try to turn towards him rather than away i.e. either try to push into him with your left side or shrimp away from him with your right side.
    • Do everything you can to create space between his hips and your body - pay particular attention to getting your right elbow into his hips.
    • Remember the two most important factors when escaping any position - Weight & Space. Try to move his or your weight & create space. This applies in any position!

    Transition to the Mount

    1. Move your left arm over his head and around the back of his neck.
    2. Keeping your weight low, slide your right knee across his hips, using your shin to keep his hips down. (He has several options to block this move - this is where some of the first modifications and additions to the drill occur)
    3. Rotate your upper body to the left and complete the mount by moving your right knee all the way over his body.

    Position 3: The Mount


    Offensive Structure

    • We are going for a low mount here - designed to control & set up submissions rather than to strike from.
    • Keep your chest vertically over his head.
    • Keep your bodyweight low.
    • Extend your arms to "10 & 2 O'clock" to form the top part of your four corner posts.
    • Keep your knees tight against his side to prevent him from pushing them down.
    • Be ready to move sideways with him using your hands to maintain a stable base.

    Defensive Structure

    • Keep your hands up
    • Keep your elbows in to prevent him from moving his knees up
    • Protect your neck at all times

    Transition to the Guard

    1. Wrap his left arm, clockwise, with your right, and pin it tightly to your right side.
    2. Trap his left foot with your right foot.
    3. He should now have no base on his left side - the only thing he can post with is his right hand, by crossing it over to his left side.
    4. If he tries to move his right arm across block it by pushing his right biceps up and over his right shoulder.
    5. Bridge hard and then roll him to your right.

    Position 4 : The Guard


    Offensive Structure (Person on their back)

    • Cross your ankles behind his back and pull him towards you.
    • Wrap your right arm around his neck and pull his head into your right shoulder.
    • Keep your head to the left (You should be right ear to right ear)
    • Wrap your left arm over his right arm and hold it tightly against your left side.
    • He should have use of his left arm and that's all.
    • He should not be able to get at your head or neck with his free arm.

    Defensive Structure (Person on their knees)

    • Keep your knees wide and hips low.
    • Push your arms into his biceps.
    • Pin your head tightly into his chest.

    Transition to Side-Top (Passing the guard - 1st method I teach)

    1. Sit back and keep your head up, out of range of his hands.
    2. Grab onto his waistband with both hands
    3. Move your right knee into the centre of his butt and move your left leg out & back as you push his hips down as you turn your torso to the left. This will break apart his crossed ankles.
    4. Keeping your right hand firmly on his waistband & your right elbow on the inside of his thigh, scoop your left arm underneath his right leg. You MUST keep his left leg down with your right elbow or you will present him with a nice gift - a triangle strangle. You must also keep hold of his waistband to prevent him pulling your arm forward.
    5. Sit upright with his leg on your shoulder at the calf (NOT at the back of his knee)
    6. Still pushing his left thigh down with your right elbow, drive forward so that his right leg goes straight towards his left shoulder.
    7. Roll around his leg keeping close to his hip.
    8. Release your right arm and wrap it around his head as you move your left foot up in line with his shoulders about 50cm out and take control of his right arm by over hooking it with your left.
    9. Sit through with your right leg to assume side top position.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2010
  2. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    This is very cool. Nice one yoda!
  3. forever young

    forever young Valued Member

    can i ask what style of grappling you do? there is a few 'mistakes' (from a purely bjj perspective) for example linking your hands from underneath side control is a bad idea. Apart form gifting him an armbar You need to get your elbow across his hip to both block/hinder his hip movement and also a point of leverage with which to create space. Also if you hold on/link hands you are simply trapping yourself there and are unlikely to ever escape. you really need to have your elbows tucked in/down with your hands protecting your neck with your arm closest to him on his hip and your other arm you want the blade of your forearm pressing on his neck to make it uncomfortable for him to press down and make it easier to bridge him off.
    hope this helps.
  4. Fire-quan

    Fire-quan Banned Banned

    Thanks for posting this - it is informative, practical and useful - me and my lads love wrestling, and we're always looking for tips and things to practice.

    It makes such a difference from the usual mystical nonsense that uses a lot of words to say nothing at all that we get in CMA. I hope we can learn to present informative, practical stuff like this.

  5. JaxMMA

    JaxMMA Feeling lucky, punk?

    Good write-up.
  6. h-c-michaels

    h-c-michaels Valued Member

    thank-you yoda
  7. mattsylvester

    mattsylvester One proud daddy!

    Awesome article and very helpful Dave! Can I put it on my site/in my newsletter?


  8. HoAmPacMan

    HoAmPacMan Proud Daddy

    Good Article.
    I agree with Forever Young on the Side Control Question...
    But, you cant cover it all in this short of a instructional though, SO I would say it is good post.. Thanks
  9. RandomTriangle

    RandomTriangle Valued Member

    Not bad.

    I always consider cross body and side top to be the "same" position. I mean i see why you split them, but i usually wouldn't consider them so different as to put them as different categories in a transitional position flow chart.

    i would have included taking the back. The funny thing is you could have any position leading directly to the back.
  10. vismitananda

    vismitananda Valued Member

    I really hate MMA, but this thread is cool. Thanks for sharing.
  11. mo30dc

    mo30dc New Member

    grappling holds & wrist exercises

    i must agree, i'd be keen to know what style of grappling you do, as there are a few variations to what i've been taught in MMA. personally i would not opt for the traditional scalf hold as it puts you in danger of being swept or worse having your back taken, especially in no-gui competition.

    instead i would opt for the fourth position as being the north-south position, as it allows you to move quickly and control your opponent without trying to physically restrain them.

    BTW, if anyone is looking to improve their grappling by building grip strength then go check out this site on wrist exercises. enjoy.
  12. ShiroTora

    ShiroTora Valued Member

    A great article.

    We just started a new MMA session at our club this week. One of my members is a former Judo competitor and he is great with these positions, gives you a challenging workout.

    Well worth the time taken to learn these, and well worth seeking out instructors like the author.

  13. shift

    shift Valued Member

    Love the write up. Solid
  14. ShiroTora

    ShiroTora Valued Member

    I see this great article has come to the top so I read it again!

    I like the progression from grappling to MMA to Vale Tudo.

    In Judo you can win by holding the pin. In Submission wrestling you have to get the tap. In MMA there will be strikes with the gloves, and in all out Vale Tudo and the fights we saw in the original UFC you will have heads, knees and elbows to deal with.

    But as Royce Gracie so expertly showed us, get that pin secured and there's nothing the opponent will be able to get you with. Then you can work your finish.

  15. reedk

    reedk Valued Member

    Great writeup and info. Will try these with my judo training partner.

    mma fanatic

    ANGELSGYMSINGH Valued Member

    Great Post

    Thanks for the info and the manner by which it is presented and thought out. A lot of work went into this. The "flow stuff I was looking for and maybe you will post some of that on here later.

    Please talk a look at these videos and tell me what you think (visit website The guys study the form of Tai Chi and try to apply it when transitioning from standup-to clinch-to takedown and to ground work..... in AngelsGym our method and philosophy of flow comes from the ancient idea that from form we learn about ourselves and fromsparring we learn about others. The two are interdepent because we believe in Lao Tzu's adoge, "Know yourself and know your enemy win every time,know yourselfand don't know enemy and you win some and lose some, don't know yourselfor your enemyand lose every time...

    We know there are other philosophies that work but here is were we start fromand we invite additions to these foundational concepts



  17. Commander Nitro

    Commander Nitro Valued Member

    Very cool info. Looking forward to your next post

  18. AnxietyCoachJoh

    AnxietyCoachJoh Valued Member

    This is great! It's really hard to explain/teach martial arts in pen and paper, but you did a very good job.
    Thanks for sharing Dave!
  19. Infected

    Infected New Member

    i know this,i training it in jet kune do
  20. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    "Jet Kune Do"? Is this from Boeing?

    Sorry, I could not resist :)
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2011

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