Mastering the North South Position – History and the Basics

Last updated on 07.06.2022 by

One position which doesn’t get as much use as it deserves is North South. This powerful pinning position not only offers control, but also quite a few different submission options. Check out part one of our two part series on the North South position below!

In part one, we’ll go over the history of the position and examine how to get to and maintain the position. Part two (soon to be published!) will examine attacks and defenses for the position.

The History of the North South Position 

The North South position in BJJ, like many positions, was adapted from Judo, where there are two names for different variations of the position. In Judo, the position is referred to as kami shiho gatame or kuzure kami shiho gatame.

Credit: Wikipedia

In the kami shiho gatame, you pin your partner’s arms to their side and either hold their belt or pants. The kuzure kami shiho gatame is where one arm is pinned to their chest, and you’re over-hooking the other arm.

In Judo, you would normally get to the North South position after successfully completing a straight over head throw. If you hadn’t achieved ippon with your throw, holding your opponent on their back would be your path to victory.

When the technique was first adapted for BJJ, it was primarily used as a transitional position, allowing attackers to move from one side-control to the other.

Later on, grapplers saw the potential of North South and started coming up with attacks from the position. Everything from kimuras, arm locks, gi chokes, back takes, darce chokes, foot locks, and of course the North South choke.

Legendary grappler Marcelo Garcia is a master of the North South choke and made numerous innovations to the submission.

Today, the North South position is still quite underutilized, but is a robust position you can use to attack your opponents.

How to Hold the North South Position

Chest on Chest

The first thing that you need to do to have good control in North South is to be chest on chest with your partner. Your chest has to be right on their chest without any space between you and them.

If there is any amount of space, your partner will be able to slide their arms in, create frames, and escape without much resistance.

Hold the Hips/Belt

Next, you need to control your partner’s hips to limit their movement and prevent them from doing the pendulum escape. You can either hold your partner’s hips, their belt, or their pants.

In the gi, I prefer to grab the pants and pull them up to help keep them in place. Holding the hips is the best option for no-gi since you’re not allowed to grab your partner’s shorts in that format.

Keep Partner’s Head Between your Knees

Make sure to have the partner’s head right between your knees and squeeze them together. Not to try and pop their head off, but just enough to make it where they can’t move around a lot.

Head Down

For self-defense purposes, make sure to keep your head low on your opponent’s body.  If you’re in a self defense situation (or rolling a spazzy white belt) there’s a good chance that you’ll eat a knee if you keep your head up.

Keep your head down and avoid that headache!

Flair Partner’s Elbows

One really good way to establish even better control over your partner is to make them flair their elbow. You do this by sliding your arms up their body and turning your elbows out.

This prevents them from keeping their arms in and attempting to bench press you off of them.

Tight Overhook

If you decide to hold the kuzure kami shiho gatame style North South, make sure to hold a tight overhook. Keeping their arm tight to your body will keep them from framing and make it harder to escape. 

Common North South mistakes

Even the most seasoned grapplers make mistakes with how they hold North South. Here are the most common mistakes that you should avoid when holding the North South position.

Being too High Up

One of the biggest mistakes that grapplers make with North South is that they hold it too high up. They try to put their chest on their opponent’s head and have their hips a foot away from them.

When you do this, the person on bottom has no pressure on their chest and no control on their hips. They can easily move and get out of your north-south control.

Not Positioning Your Weight Down

Another big mistake people make in North South is they don’t have their weight down on their opponent. If your weight isn’t down on your opponent, there is nothing stopping them from getting up.

Not Separating Your Opponent’s Arms

When you put your opponent in North South, their first move will be to try to keep their arms in. By keeping their arms in, this makes it easier for them to frame and make space or defend against chokes.

That is why you need to try and separate their arms from their body, so they can’t frame and to escape.

Tune In For Part Two!

North South is a great position that when done right is a great controlling position to attack from. If you follow these tips for holding North South, you will add a whole new facet to your game.

Stay tuned, because part two will be coming out shortly, where we go over North South attacks and escapes.