Knee on Belly

Jiu Jitsu black belts in traditional gis demonstrating Knee on Belly

AKA Knee Mount. As the name implies, the goal of this position is to control your opponent through pressure of your knee into their belly.  Obviously, this can be a very uncomfortable position for the person on bottom, especially when the opponent is large. Size, however, is not as important in this position as you would think. With proper grips and positioning, the person on top can pull themselves down into the bottom person’s belly. This creates a tremendous amount of downward force into the opponent’s core no matter how much you weigh.

This is a favored position for the active roller, though they tend to not stay here for long. This position is usually achieved when the attacker is able to pass the defender’s open Guard or as a transition from Side Control to another dominant position. From this position, the person on top can monitor the movement of their opponent and quickly react. Given enough time, the person on bottom will escape this position, so this position is often used as a stepping stone to a stronger position or to a sneaky submission. You’ll see a large number of Lapel Chokes and Armbars come from this position, as well as transitions to Side Control or Mount.

What do you do when in Knee on Belly?

Attacks and Details for Knee on Belly (for person in blue)

  1. Control high and low! For this position to work properly, you need to keep your opponent flat on their back, which means you have to control both their shoulders and hips–the two most important body parts for rolling over. There are a few different grips you can take to accomplish this. The most popular of these is to grip their belt across their body and their lapel on the near side (as shown in the diagram). Another popular option is to grab their lapel in the same place but with the opposite hand, and with your now free hand grab the defender’s arm at the elbow. In this option, you’ll need to be actively pulling on the lapel and arm to keep the defender’s shoulders off of the mat and driving down with your knee onto their hips to control them.
  2. Posture up! Posture is one of the biggest mistakes an attacker will make in Knee on Belly. If your posture is low and bent over, you’ll be putting less focused weight on the defender (that’s bad) and also bringing your upper body close enough to them for them to start getting grips on your upper body (this is worse). Stay tall and strong in Knee on Belly if you want to stay King (or Queen) of the Mountain.
  3. Push and Pull! This position is powerful for both big people and small. Even if you don’t weigh much, you can still generate a lot of downward force by pulling yourself down using your grips. A 130-pound person can easily feel like over 200 by pulling on the belt and lapel while keeping a good posture as mentioned in number 2. If your posture is tall and strong, then all of your pulling force gets directed straight into the sharp point of your knee and therefore into the opponents softest body part–their core.
  4. Stay active! This isn’t a position that you can stay in for a long period of time. Eventually, the defender will commit to either rolling towards you or away from you in an effort to clear the weight off of their belly. You know it is coming, so be ready to move as soon as they choose a direction. Pivoting your weight on your knee will give you opportunities to land in Mount or Side Mount, and depending on the grips you decide to take you will have access to a variety of chokes and Armbars.

Defending and Escaping Knee on Belly (for person in white)

  1. Elbows in! In defending this position, you want to keep your hands and elbows tucked as close to your body as possible. If you extend either of your arms straight out, you are inviting the opponent to grab this arm and easily pivot into an armbar.
  2. Be Shrimpy! Your hips are your best tool for escaping this position. If you are positioned like in the diagram, push against their knee using your right elbow (remember don’t straighten your arm! Keep your hands and arms tight to your chest) and roll your body towards the person. Your elbow in their knee will hopefully prevent them from shifting their weight and stopping your roll. Once you are partially on your side, shrimp your hips away from the attacker. Using this new space between your lower body and theirs, use your legs to try to recover Half Guard or Full Guard.
  3. Get to your belly! This takes some practice, but if you can roll to your belly properly, you have the opportunity to quickly get into a dominant position. My favorite thing to do is grab the attackers belt at the knot using my outside arm (the left arm in the diagram). Don’t push on the knee with this hand and don’t leave your arm out straight for long without a grip on the belt or else you will get armbarred. Grab the belt with your left and immediately grab the opponent’s pants at the ankle with your right hand. Note that you will grab the pants of the leg that is straight on the floor, not the leg that has the knee in your belly. The purpose of grabbing the pants here is to prevent the attacker from being able to step around and over your head to fall into the armbar.  With these two control grips, you should be shrimp your hips away and roll onto your belly and start the process of standing up.

Here is one of my favorite instructionals on escaping Knee on Belly.

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