I have often heard many a student and instructor recite the mantra, “position before submission”, only to later watch as they trained and sparred completely contrary to their words. It seems this “position before submission” idiom is misunderstood by most practitioners at best, practitioners who lose the spirit of this most valuable lesson while instead questing  for the hot new submission or latest sweeping fad.  At Scranton MMA students are taught to view this adage akin to a recipe; a delicious meal prepared upon a stove top, the chef directed by the recipe to “allow to simmer to perfection”.  In other words, by achieving your position and allowing it to “simmer” you will ultimately cook your opponent and savor the delicious final moments when you stick a fork in him.

Below you will find a listing of the most widely recognized positions in Gracie Jiu Jitsu. This list begins from the perspective of the top practitioner. Note, however, that if the top practitioner is in a dominant position, then by default the bottom practitioner is in an inferior position. The more dominating the top man’s position the more inferior the bottom man’s position. Thus this list goes two ways, starting with the perspective of the fighter in the top position, working down to neutral positions (where neither the fighter on top nor the one on the bottom has a decisive advantage), down to the increasingly bad positions of the fighter on the bottom.

TOP REAR MOUNT (dominant)


MOUNT  (dominant)

KNEE-ON-STOMACH  (dominant)

SIDE CONTROL  (dominant)

TURTLE  (dominant)

HALF GUARD (neutral)

GUARD (neutral)

HALF GUARD (neutral)

TURTLED (inferior)


KNEE-ON-STOMACH (inferior)

MOUNTED (inferior)



Note that there are many variations of each of these positions and other irregular position that may occur in the course of a fight. In addition certain position that do not easily fit into certain other positions (such as head locks and scarf holds) are not covered above. Nonetheless, this hierarchy should serve as a guide to the positional strategy that is vital to the realm of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Note immediately that the objectives and strategies of the two fighters are different according to whether they occupy the top or bottom position — indeed the objectives of the two are usually polar opposites!