Critical Control Points

For every technique, there are only a handful of control points that really matter.

Ever had that experience where you struggle to remember each of the ten steps to the technique your instructor showed you? Good news: you probably don't have to.

Most of the details for a given technique are context-specific, and if you understand alignment you can adapt them on the fly. There are, however, a small set of details that are always the same for a given technique, regardless of context. These are the critical control points.

Critical control points are the controls used to break your opponent's alignment, and help you maintain this broken alignment. These control points allow you to transition to different positions and use different systems without using strength or speed. They're a crucial part of alignment over position.

Whatever system you are using, it's important to always consider the critical control points. These are the most crucial controls which make the position work. Without using critical control points, your opponents will find it easier to “slip out” and escape your controls.


Examples of critical control points

Critical control points for the Kimura:

  • 2-on-1 internal rotational control of the shoulder
  • ratchet control (keeping uke's arm perpendicular)
  • keeping an open elbow

Critical control points for the armbar:

Critical control points for the 411:

  • controlling both legs (double trouble)
  • strong wedges to lock the hips

Critical control points for the rear mount:

  • chest-to-back connection
  • strong head position
  • denying rotational control

Critical control points for the crucifix:

  • controlling both arms (double trouble)
  • creating dilemmas

Critical control points for the front headlock:

  • maintaining height advantage
  • wedging behind uke's head
  • keeping uke in un-athletic positions


Critical control points and transitions

When using critical control points, you'll be able to enjoy dominant positions for longer periods of time and seamlessly transition to other systems. For example, you can use the Kimura control to take your opponent's back. As long as you maintain the critical control points associated with the Kimura, you should be able to transition wherever you want and still maintain control. Failure to maintain the critical control points of the Kimura described above will allow your opponent to scramble, regain alignment, and escape before you can transition to the back. This is why focusing on internally rotating the shoulder is paramount when using the Kimura as a control system.

This concept is used any time you are trying to immobilize or control a portion of your opponent's body, especially when transitioning from system to system, or using multiple systems at once. You need to understand why these systems work, and what characteristics of said systems are necessary to maintain broken alignment. Every attack critical control points. Learn the critical control points behind each of your favourite attacks and watch your transition and submission rates increase dramatically.


Further study

Master this mental model with our audio courses.


Learn over 150 mental models for Jiu-Jitsu.

Exclusively on BJJ Mental Models Premium.

Try it free. Cancel anytime. No bullshit. Only $20/mo.