Danger Zone – Attacking in the Transition in BJJ

This article was based off of a 1-hour interview with Stephen Whittier from 40 Plus BJJ. Stephen’s given me more article material than almost anyone else, and I wanted to thank him here. If you’re an older grapplers, it’s definitely worth check out the review of his “40 Plus BJJ Success” course. Thanks again Stephen, and enjoy the article, guys!

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In this article we are going to discuss a couple of chokes shown by Stephen Whittier, these particular chokes are set up from very common positions and could be applied to almost everyone’s game! 

The technical explanations in the videos speak for themselves, in this article were going to try and distill the real concepts behind these moves.

Attacking during transition

When is the ideal moment to submit someone? Once you are in the mount or in our opponents back? Everyone is always talking about position before submission so it must be, right? 

The answer to this question is kind of two fold. 

Why mechanical advantage isn’t always enough

From a biomechanical standpoint the dominant positions seem to be the best place to look for a submission, because all of the dominant positions give you some kind of mechanical and structural advantage over your opponent. So yes, in theory the best positions to finish someone are the major point scoring positions. I mean when I’m in the mount can pretty much use all of my limbs and all of my weight against just your arms and your neck right? In practice it often proves difficult though..

While everything I just said about dominant positions is true, there is a whole other side to this. Every time you mount someone or take his back, your opponent is expecting a submission.

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It’s important to note that the positions like the mount and the back are SO dominant that the only way to get out of them is the guy applying them making a mistake. If I escape your backmount it’s not that I’m great, it’s that you aren’t good enough at maintaining the back.

All your opponent is thinking about when you have is back is not getting submitted, he’s probably more than 4 points points behind by know and the chances of him winning the match are kind low at the moment. All he can really do is defend himself and hope you make a mistake which he can capitalize on in order to escape. It’s very hard to submit someone who’s only thinking about not getting submitted.

Why making your opponent forget about the submission isn’t always enough

Its way easier to submit someone is he isn’t thinking about getting submitted; the thought of you gaining points is a great incentive most of the time. A lot of the time though he isn’t thinking about getting submitted when he isn’t really in danger. Mentality wise the best moment to submit someone would be when he is in his closed guard not worrying about getting choked at all. But as you know it’s not a good idea to try and choke someone from inside his guard.

The position-mentality submission sweet spot!

The real sweet spot in between making your opponent forget about the submission and having the mechanical advantage of a dominant position is during the transition. In a competition setting this means that the moment just before you get your points is probably your best opportunity for a submission. And the guard pass is as good a transition as any other for submissions. 

In the knee slice specifically you have a pretty mechanically sound position (you are able to use your weight and stuff) and the opponent hasn’t lost all hope of regaining his guard yet so it’s the perfect position to start going for all kinds of submissions. The most obvious ones are chokes of course.


Another great way to utilize this concept is attacking while sweeping, some of the greatest submissions happen when the guy on top is trying to defend the sweep. The triangle works great with this because every time someone posts a hand to the mat whilst in the closed guard he is opening up for some crazy triangle action.


-Daniel Faggella

PS: I want to say thanks agains for Stephen for taking the time for our interview together. We’re both BJJ nerds so it’s eassy to get carried away. Check out an additional article about Stephen’s knee-cut pass here.

PPS: Happy Holidays to everyone on BJJ Legends!

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