Do you prefer playing mount or back mount? How about if I told you that you could actually play both at the same time? Obviously, you can’t be in the traditional mount and back mount positions at the same time. However, you could use a hybrid of both positions with the goal of obtaining maximal control and more submissions than either position offers on its own. Enter the BJJ gift wrap position.
Mount or Back Mount?
There are two positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that everyone wants to obtain: the mount and the back mount. Both positions are worth 4 points, which is the maximum you can get at once under the most popular BJJ rulesets. That makes them both the spots every grappler aims to conquer and hold.
Holding mount and back mount is where things get interesting. And even perhaps boring. You see, once you arrive in mount or back mount, you do not have a next position to hunt for. It is the top of the mountain, meaning that you do not need to be active and can just remain on top. It is the bottom person’s task to try and get out, which often makes for quite boring matches.
Another thing people expect when they reach one of these positions is that they are supposed to be in a prime spot to finish somebody. However, that often proves to be a lot more difficult than originally expected, given that the opponent is also aware of your submission opportunities and can defend them.
In most cases, people usually chose a favorite when it comes to the mounts. They either like to play back mount or full mount. Both open up opportunities for different submissions.
The usual submissions suspect from mount are armbars, Americanas, Gi chokes, and the odd guillotine or triangle. The back mount is the hub for choking, from rear naked chokes to bow and arrow chokes.
Now, which one is better is impossible to say, given the highly individual tendencies people have towards different techniques at different periods of their BJJ journey. Both pistons are high-scoring ones simply because you get massive amounts of control from them, and can successfully submit or strike an opponent.
That said, how would you react if I said that there is a position that combines the best of mount and back mount, allowing you to explore and attack in more ways than either of those positions offers on its own?
What is the BJJ Gift Wrap?
The BJJ gift wrap position is an upper body control position. It helps you control the neck and shoulders with your arms, leaving your legs free to mess around with the opponent’s hips or legs. The positioning of your torso during the gift wrap position is halfway between mount and back mount, which makes this control point somewhat of a hybrid of both.
Namely, for the gift wrap you need an opponent to be sideways whale you have them mounted. In fact, you can get to the gift wrap upper body control the easiest from the technical mount position.
What defines the BJJ gift wrap is the configuration of the grips you have. In order to obtain rotational control, you’ll need to establish a Kimura grip, a.k.a. a figure-four grip, on one of the opponent’s arms. What makes this different from the regular Kimura grips is that for a gift wrap, you also include the head in the loop.
In simple terms, you ended a Kimura grip from a seatbelt. This places your torso to the side of an opponent, not quite in back mount, but not in mount either. In fact, if your legs are in the technical mount position, and your arms in the aforementioned Kimura grip involving the head, then you’re in the perfect gift wrap position.
BJJ Gift Wrap Control
Now that you are aware of what the gift wrap in Jiu Jitsu looks like, let’s talk more about how you can control people from there.
First, let’s define control for the purposes of BJJ. If you can prevent somebody from moving in a specific direction, and cause them to move in another specific direction, then you have control over them. The gift wrap position is an extremely powerful one in that sense, simply because it prevents the opponent’s shoulders from rotating.
The grip you have is already a very powerful one and used in another similar system (the Kimura trap). Here is a little hint that will help you control both the gift wrap and the Kimura trap: Keep your elbows straight!
Yes, contrary to popular belief, you do not need to pull with your arms when holding on to a gift wrap or Kimura. Extend the elbows, and you will bend the opponent’s elbow at an angle that will almost completely restrict the range of their rotational movement.
Another very useful hint in terms of grips is not to grip the opponent’s wrist with one of your hands. Rather, palace the pinky and ring finger over their palm, and the middle and index finger over their wrist. That way, you will completely block any motion in their wrist, hence preventing any chances of the opponent wiggling out.
Depending on where you are in regard to your opponents, your legs will play different roles when you’re holding on to the gift wrap with your arms. Apart from the mount and back mount, which are eh two best spots to set the gift wrap from, the closed guard and side control also provide entries into this control system.
Mounted Gift Wrap
By far, my personal favorite mount control. Well, okay, tied in first place with the mounted spiderweb. Nevertheless, the gift wrap is easy to get to and will offer easy mount control, removing the danger of bridging as an escape altogether.
Whether an opponent turns to their side looking to shrimp out of your mount, or you force them to turn (for example, threaten with an Americana), you can quite easily get the BJJ gift wrap. All it takes is to place one of the opponent’s arms across their chest and grab it with your arm from underneath their head.
Using this grip, you can open the elbow up and sneak the other arm in to get the Kimura grip configuration without any resistance.
As you do so, the opponent will most likely decide to stay on their side, given that they don’t want to expose their back, but they can’t get both their shoulder blades on the ground because of the gift wrap. This means that you’ll need to change the position of your legs so that you are in a technical mount, a.k.a. the chair sit position.
Let’s analyze the control you get from here. The opponent can’t turn either way unless you want them to. They can’t bridge, they can’t shrimp, they can’t do an armpit escape, nor can they use modern defensive postures properly because one of their arms is completely trapped.
Back Mount Jiu-Jitsu Gift Wrap
From the back mount, the gift wrap will give you an easier alternative to the Straight Jacket system, in terms of control. It is not the best option to pursue chokes from the back, but it does open up a whole host of other submissions. Moreover, it is easy to connect to the Straight Jacket, which is a submission-oriented system.
Getting the BJJ gift wrap from the back mount is easy, especially with a seatbelt. You need to use the choking arm to get a hold of the opponent’s wrist on the control side. Then you need to use your control arm to grab your choking arm. Thus establishing the gift wrap configuration.
From there, you can proceed to use the legs in any way you see fit. It will also allow you to push on the opponent’s hips using your feet, exposing their shoulders to rear triangle and Spiderweb armbar setups. You could even consider going for Twister or truck setups with a simple adjustment if 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu stuff is more to your liking.
The gift wrap allows you to pretty effortlessly switch back and forth between the back mount and mount, if you want/need to, without ever losing control over the head and shoulders.
Side Control Gift Wrap
From side control, the BJJ gift wrap can be a bit tricky to set up, but getting it will pretty much guarantee that you’ll proceed to obtain a mount or back mount.
The method I like to use is to place the palm of the arm that is underneath the head (the crossface arm) in the far side armpit. This causes the opponent to look away, and wherever the head goes, the body follows. It means that the opponent will lift their near side shoulder off the ground, thus explaining the nearside arm to manipulation.
A simple push on the elbow of their near side arm will get it straight into position, where the grip you have on the far side armpit is already in place to receive the incoming wrist. From there, it is just like in mount – open up the elbow and sneak the second arm in.
You could do all this from pretty much any side control variation, but I do prefer to be tight with the knees, blocking space as the opponent inevitably turns as a result of the gift wrap. The North-South is another position that is already highly utilized when it comes to setting up Kimura traps, and can double as a gift wrap launchpad as well.
Gift Wrap from the Closed Guard
One of my favorite ways to annoy people. From the get-go, I disclose that this is by no means a high percentage setup, nor something to be your guard game on. It is, however, a very cool and surprising variation of closed guard that will confuse those not expecting it.
The arm drag is the most obvious entry to the BJJ gift wrap. It gets both the opponent’s arms to one side of your body, which means one of them is running across the opponent’s chest. A simple hip escape, as if you were going for the back, will open up a great angle for the gift wrap.
In fact, most people will try and stop back takes from there, which means you can just sit back and proceed to get an arm around their neck, passing their wrist up as you do to get the first grip. Once again, use it to pen the elbow up and sneak in the second arm for figure four. Now, you can just relax.
There’s literally no way for your opponent to get away from the position without giving away a sweep or submission. If you want to be proactive, you can sweep easily with a pendulum sweep in the direction of the trapped arm, as there is no post to prevent it.
BJJ Gift Wrap Submissions
The gift wrap does offer a modicum of control that the traditional mount and back mount positions do not. However, the beauty of the gift wrap is that it also offers a bunch of submissions without having to sacrifice positioning or do major adjustments.
From all the available chokes from the gift wrap position, my personal favorite is a punch choke that comes via a simple punch pressure to the carotid. It can be done from any position once you have a BJJ gift wrap established.
All you need to do is release the arm holding your own wrist, make a fist, and place it on the carotid artery of the opponent. The other artery is under pressure by the forearm of your other arm. Extending both elbows will get you a very powerful and reliable blood choke.
The triangle choke is another option that you can easily set up via a gift wrap. From mount, you just need to transfer the leg that is over the opponent’s torso underneath the arm you’re controlling and over their neck. This brings your hip into place for a triangle, which you can finish mounted or from guard.
The rear triangle is the best triangle option from the back mount. All it takes is to get a leg over the shoulder on the choking side and grab and then pull the opponent’s torso so that they tilt to the opposite side, This will make them fall into a rear triangle which you can finish at will.
From side control, you can opt to transition into an arm-triangle choke when you are controlling someone with the gift wrap. The choke is already there, just thread the arm that goes under their armpit around their neck, and you’re all set.
From both the mount and back mount gift wrap, the best arm locking option is obviously the armbar. In order to get to it, you will need to get the head out of the figure four-loop, which is as easy as circling the elbow that cradles it over the top of the head. From mount, this will bring you to a nasty S-mount, while from the back, you’ll be directly set up to finish an armbar.
The back and side control gift wrap also provides Kimura options, by doing the same motion as you did previously, letting the head go free. The North-South would be the preferred finishing position in both cases. In both cases, you can also transition into the crucifix position, which opens a whole different can of submissions worms.
From the closed guard, you can also set up an armbar very easily, simply by pushing the opponent to the side of the trapped arm and swinging one leg over their head.
The BJJ gift wrap position is highly versatile, available from top and bottom, and works in Gi and in No-Gi. It ticks all the boxes of a high-percentage position. Moreover, it provides exception control by preventing rotation, and providing specific directions in which you can force an opponent. The bow tie on the top of the gift box is the sheer number of submissions you can set up, combine, and easily finish from every positional variation of the gift wrap.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.