Jiu-Jitsu Letter

Get to Your Spots

One of the common things you hear good defensive players say about Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan is that their only hope was to prevent them from “getting to their spots.” On the flip side, you often hear the great offensive players say if they can get to their spot, it’s an automatic basket.

When Shaquille O’Neal gets the ball deep in the left post, we already know what’s coming. A couple dribbles backward, then either a drop step and spin to the baseline for a dunk, a spin over his right shoulder for a fade jump shot, or spin over his left shoulder for a jump hook.1 In jiu-jitsu, do we have similar situations?

When I’m mounted on someone, my favorite “spot” would be a neck hug and underhook. Of course, what makes this much more difficult than basketball is the defensive man’s attempts at “forcing a turnover” (escaping mount) are harder to manage than someone merely trying to swipe the ball away.

So, control is the priority. Once you’ve demoralized your partner by countering all his escapes, your attack will be much easier. (The other path is to simply attack so relentlessly that he cannot even attempt an escape because he’s too busy defending. But that’s tiring for an old man like me.)

When I get a neck hug and underhook, my next move is somewhat predictable. I’m going to walk my partner’s elbow up and set up a side choke (aka arm triangle). If my partner’s arm slips out, I attempt one of a few Ezekiel choke variations.

What about on defense? What do you do to prevent your partner from getting to his spot?

From the bottom of the mount, it’s being on your side, and a hand or elbow on front knee, and my rear forearm across the waist. I typically threaten an elbow escape, and if my partner insists on attacking, I’ll usually get to half guard. (The better guys scoop my wrist/elbow, or dismount to side control.)

Get to your spots. Prevent your partners from getting to their spots.

  1. On the right post, it’s similarly predictable and hard to stop: two dribbles and then spin to the baseline for a jump hook, or a spin toward the key for a jump shot drifting left. Note the asymmetry↩︎

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