Priorities: Any time you’re in a bad situation it is imperative that you prioritize the most most serious threats first and address them before the secondary threats. Any time you are in a bad spot in Jiu jitsu you will face multiple threats. Some will be more serious than others - make sure those are the first ones you address. Here, Gordon Ryan is in a critical situation. Because he is addressing the primary threat first (the strangle) he can remain calm and start making decisions as to how to deal with the secondary threat (the rear mount position). Bad position is already bad enough without making it even worse by mistakenly trying to deal with secondary threats before primary threats.

Only one position truly merges position and submission - the back

Only one position truly merges position and submission - the back: If you look at the pins of Jiu jitsu you will see that as desirable as they are - you still have quite a bit of work to do to go beyond the pin into the submission. Getting side pin or mounted or north south or knee on belly is good, but getting the arm or neck from there requires a significant set of skills. The rear mount on the other hand leaves you VERY close to submission. Unless your opponent has good defensive skills a simple wrapping of your arm around the neck is enough to end it. You can see how closely the position (rear mount) is to the submission (rear strangle) by the fact that the escape from one entails the escape from the other. This is not true for say, a mounted arm bar or Kimura from side or knee on belly. Usually escaping the pin is one thing, the submission from that pin is another. As such rear mount/rear strangle is the single best synthesis of position and submission in the sport. Mastering the art of getting there, staying there and finishing from there is the best way to close the gap between position and submission in your game

When you’re starting on the path to back control mastery - focus on the upper body first

When you’re starting on the path to back control mastery - focus on the upper body first: The back is the most dominant position in a grappling match without striking. Nothing else creates such a mismatch between the control and submission opportunities of the attacker vs the defender. The SCORE comes from the legs - getting your two legs hooked into an opponents hips is what creates the score. However, the real world control comes from maintaining chest to back connection with or without the legs. When you first begin the back game - focus on the upper body connection first and foremost. You can always get the hooks in later to score. Use your arms in seatbelt or double under control to form a tight initial connection and create a strangle threat. As you get more advanced you’ll find there are ways you can get legs in first without conventional upper body connection but they aren’t the best place to start since you’ll be using those far less than conventional methods. Here, Gordon Ryan, a true master of back control, uses a safety first upper body connection to secure himself in a winning position, knowing that once this is done, getting the legs in later will be relatively easy

There are an infinite number of possibilities in a scramble - but there should be only one goal - the opponents back

There are an infinite number of possibilities in a scramble - but there should be only one goal - the opponents back: It can be hard to know what to do in the fleeting time and motion of a scrambles. The single most useful thing you can have under these circumstances is A SENSE OF DIRECTION. You can actually go in several good directions in a scramble, but in my opinion the best direction will always be towards your opponents back. The back is a big target, a huge percentage of our body’s surface area, so it will always be available at some point as you move through a prolonged scramble. Once you get there it enables you to control and finish the toughest opponents. When your world is a confusing tangle of limbs flying around the mat - keep your thought process simple and clear - AIM FOR THE BACK. Here, Gordon Ryan does exactly that at the ADCC world championships. He is a fine example showing you don’t need to the fastest athlete to be a superb scrambler - just an athlete with a good sense of direction. Remember, in a race between a speedster with no sense of direction versus a plodder who knows exactly where he wants to go - the plodder will beat the speedster every time

Passing guard as a route to the back

Passing guard as a route to the back: When you first begin the study of Jiu jitsu you learn to pass the guard into top pins, usually side pins but sometimes directly to mount. As you go against better and better opponents you will soon find that they employ many methods of guard retention that make passing very difficult. It can be a very frustrating thing to run into the many roadblocks that good opponents can create to your favorite passes. Understand however, that many of these methods of guard retention are intended to stop passes into top pins, but in doing so they very often create momentary BACK EXPOSURE. You must have your mind programmed to jump on this new opportunity immediately - it won’t be there for long. Every sequences of guard passing versus guard retention is essentially a PROLONGED SCRAMBLE and as such, the back is one of the best targets. Program your mind to hunt for the back in these scrambles just as much as you do for the side pin and you will double your chances of a score against tough guards

All strangles are good - but rear strangles are generally the best

All strangles are good - but rear strangles are generally the best: The back is the king of positions when engaged in no gi submission grappling. When using a gi you can use the collars to create strong strangle threat from the mount and in MMA you can use punches from mount to set up myriad submissions - so you can make a strong argument for the mount as the ultimate position (or at least AS good as rear mount) in those contexts - but no gi submission grappling I rate rear mount above all. The statistics back up this belief. Strangles from the rear greatly outperform other upper body submissions in success rate. It’s like a perfect storm of submission success. Your opponent has almost no attacks upon you once you settle into rear mount, so you can totally focus on your attacks without distraction. Your opponent cannot simply explode out of the position (especially if you lock a body triangle) as a strong man can sometimes do from mount - he is only going to get out if he KNOWS how to get out - so again, you can focus on your attacks. Lastly, anyone you are behind someone they cannot use pushing strength against you. You must become adept at all strangles - but out the lions share of your strangle training into rear strangles - for they will provide the lions share of your successes.

The back - How should I play between the position and the strangle?

The back - How should I play between the position and the strangle? I coach always that in a no gi submission match with no striking, the back is the ultimate position. When athletes wear a gi the mount is arguably as good as the back because you have the collars to creat a strong strangle threat that combines will with arm bar threat. When punches/elbows are allowed the mount becomes a devastating position, but for no gi grappling the back is king. A natural question to ask is - what is the relationship between the position and the main submission from there - the rear strangle? In the great majority of cases focus first on solidifying the position first and strangle second. As you get more advanced, your opponents will get very adept at defending the strangle and you must then start trapping arms to get the breakthrough - my students are all very adept at this crucial skill and employ a step by step system to get the breakthrough. Understand that the higher you go, THE MORE YOU MUST START TO CLOSE THE GAP BETWEEN THE POSITION AND THE STRANGLE. The moment you lock the position, YOU SHOULD BE THREATENING THE STRANGLE and in some cases where appropriate, you can even get you strangle arm set FIRST and then get the position AFTER. Look at how Garry Tonon immediately creates a strong strangle threat against the great ADCC champion Davi Ramos the second he locks in the position - this is very important against such a skilled opponent as this. The more threat you can create at the neck, The easier it will be to trap arms and sometimes even get a quick finish as your opponent defends the position instead of the submission

The back is the perfect marriage of position and submission

The back is the perfect marriage of position and submission: Normally we think of position and submission as differentiated. One comes before the other. Most players tend to be either a positional player or a submission player. The back is the position that lets you be both at the same time. Not only is it the strongest position in the sport - no other position creates such a massive difference between your attacking potential from there and that of your opponent. You have access to the most high percentage attacks in the sport plus devastating strikes if this were a fight, whilst your opponent has almost nothing. At the same time, no other submission comes close to rivaling the principle submission from this position - the rear strangle. Thus the back represents the intersection of the two main elements of Jiu Jitsu - position and submission. Make it your lifetime study to get there and finish from there - the day you make positive progress in this direction you will see the results

Pathways to the back - the elbow

Pathways to the back - the elbow: The back is king of positions in grappling. You score maximum points for getting there and you are in a position to attack with the most high percentage finishing methods in the game whilst your opponent has virtually no effective attacking options. There are many pathways to the back - it is the duty of Jiu Jitsu students to study and master them all - but the best one all round and the method you should start with is the ELBOW. If you can get past the elbow - the back is yours for the taking. There are many ways to beat the elbow - you can drag it, duck it, slide by it - they all work well. Here, Gordon Ryan uses an arm drag to beat the elbow in an attempt to take himself from in front of his opponent to a situation where he can get behind him and where everything is easier. When you are in front of a tough opponent, don’t just look at his elbows - see them for what they - A GATEWAY TO THE BEST POSITION IN THE SPORT! Once you make that perceptual change then you can start changing your position to one where you can win!

The back and the serpent

The back and the serpent: There is something very serpentine about a good back attack. Whenever a constrictor snake goes to attack it’s prey, it needs several key elements. The first is an initial connection or anchor to the body of its victim. This is done by biting. The bite is almost always applied close to the head in order to optimize the subsequent actions. Then the snake wraps itself around the victim in order to apply constructing pressure that can stop the victim from breathing and according to recent research, stop blood flow around the body causing unconsciousness and ultimately heart failure leading to death. Now when humans go to the back there are some important similarities and differences. Just like constrictor snakes we need an initial anchor to the opponents body. We have neither the ability nor the desire to do this with a bite, so instead we use our hands, which, like the snake, must be applied close to the head. The hands lock around the head on one side and under the elbow on the other - offering an anchor as good as any serpents bite. Then, just like a snake, we need to throw some coils around the middle of the body to solidify our connection to the opponents body. For us humans, this is best done with our legs. The other big element we share with constrictor snakes is the need for the ability to stop blood flow. Snakes are blessed with power and length that we feeble humans will never have, so we we have to be very specific in our target - the neck. This target is small and vulnerable and the human arm is more than sufficient to close off blood flow at this location. Here is Gordon Ryan, looking remarkably serpentine as he shows all the classic features of a strong back attack - a strong initial anchor to the head via a control hand under the elbow connected to the wrist, backed up with coiled legs around the torso, finalized with an arm around the neck directly attacking blood flow in the opponent. Learn your lesson from the serpent, who has been performing this mode of attack for millions of years before humans even existed, and watch your back attack improve dramatically as a result