Knee on Belly, Turning Featherweights into 300 lb Gorillas

Knee on Belly, Turning Featherweights into 300 lb Gorillas

Coach Drew and Coach T at it again to bring you the last newsletter of the year! Over the last few weeks we’ve been studying the knee on belly position and using it effectively to 1. Control our opponent and 2. Dictate what our opponent does. When your knee on belly is effective, your opponent shouldn’t be able to turn into you. Really, they shouldn’t be able to move at all. Their only option, after much struggle, is giving you their back. Let’s take a few minutes to break down the knee on belly position and understand how our featherweights can make themselves feel like a 300 lb. gorilla.

The Problem:

Imagine yourself in side control. You’ve just passed the guard and you’re feeling pretty good. Now as you try to use that cross face you’ve been perfecting over the months, your opponent blocks your shoulder. Your opponent is inhibiting your ability to create a “fixed point”. We’ll talk more about this concept next month; but briefly, this fixed point is where the torque is focused. You’re past the guard and ready to submit your opponent but you can’t get that last bit that you need. How can this happen?!?! What to do? Let’s take a closer look at knee on belly.

What is Knee on Belly?

Knee on belly is a surprisingly important position. If you were to think about it in passing, it seems like a bad idea: you’re giving up space from say, side control, and letting your opponent move more freely. When you see knee on belly being used correctly, however, you realize that the bottom player has a very difficult time moving, with the added inconvenience of being INCREDIBLY uncomfortable. They’re uncomfortable with good reason too; the top player is creating torque in an effort to literally put their knee to the ground through your solar plexus! (It’s scientific name is “celiac plexus”. #Science). Like most movements in Jiu Jitsu, though, the pain is not without purpose. That purpose is to make your opponent react and place himself in a bad position in an effort to relieve the pressure. This is where the nuances of knee on belly come in; and with them, we will be able to trap our opponent in our web. (Insert evil laugh here).

Setting up the Knee on Belly:

Back to side control. Remember, our opponent is stopping us from creating a fixed point (i.e. our shoulder) on which to create torque. If we can’t create the fixed point using our shoulder, then we can move to a point lower down the body. Ideally, we would get our knee to be the fixed point, straight away. We’d be wise to take an extra step or two, though. Remember, “Position before submission!” While we’re still trying to create shoulder pressure (with no luck) we can use our bottom elbow (that is, the elbow that is far from the head) as a fixed point on their stomach. How do we fix this point? Grab your opponent’s arm from the bottom and try to drag it across their stomach (think far-side arm bar set up). Your opponent is going to try to get their arm back to the mat and will actually help you create torque this way. Just plant your elbow on their stomach and give them a taste of what’s to come!

Transitioning to the Knee on Belly:

With our elbow planted on our opponent, we can start to think about getting to knee on belly. The trick here is to replace your elbow with your knee without your opponent feeling any pressure release. “Magic!” you say? Far from it! Remember that scene in Indiana Jones when he has to switch the sand with the statue without letting any pressure off the altar? Well, if a young Harrison Ford can do it, so can you! Since you’re already on your toes in side control you have the mobility to pounce up to use your knee. Make this easier (and exert more pressure) on your opponent by leaning into your elbow. With your weight on your elbow, slide your knee onto your opponent’s stomach.

Creating Torque and Solidifying the Position:

With your knee on your opponent’s belly, focus on rotating your foot into your opponent’s hip. If you’re doing it correctly, you should feel as if you are rotating (remember that?) them away from you. Now, with your foot tracking their hip there is another point from which to create torque. Even without any grips, if you rotate their hips away with your foot while at the same time trying to scoop your knee under their chest, your opponent should want to start moving. What do we mean by “scooping your knee under their chest”? Imagine picking up their sternum with the top of your knee. Wincing? Yeah, that’s knee on belly :].

But wait a second, guys… This whole time you haven’t really talked about the hands, what gives?

Excellent question! Because you all are so awesome at creating torque, you know that hand position is crucial. The focus here should be getting deep enough grips to easily remove slack. The hand closest to the head (the one you were/should still be trying to cross face with) should have a thumb in collar grip with your hand on the other side of your opponent. Your elbow should be under their head, ideally. They will be trying to fight this, though, so don’t worry too much if you can’t get that deep. For your bottom side hand, you should focus on grabbing something near their hip. Our favorite grip is on the pants, just below the belt loops. We wouldn’t recommend grabbing the belt, as it’s liable to come off.

With everything in position (twisting your opponent with your foot, trying to scoop your knee under their chest, and both of your grips) pull your hands toward your hips (elbows in!) and hip extend into your knee. Your opponent shouldn’t be able to turn into you and their only option (if they have one at all) will be to turn away from you and expose the back. At this point, you can insert the hooks at your leisure. Want to know what to do once you get to the back? Check out this past newsletter!

– Coach Drew


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