Prefer positional advancement and security over submission attempts. Do not attempt submissions unless you are fully secure in your position.
“Position over submission” is a common adage in Jiu-Jitsu, and probably something your instructor has told you before. It means exactly what you’d think: your main goal in Jiu-Jitsu should be securing position, not attempting submissions.
That said, the fact that everyone’s heard this advice hasn’t stopped generations of white belts from diving for Hail Mary submissions as soon as they see an opening.
Breaking this submission-driven mindset, and moving toward a goal of positional dominance, is one of the signs you’re reaching an advanced Jiu-Jitsu mindset. You can advance your game significantly by moving to a position-based strategy sooner rather than later.
But first, let’s clarify exactly what we mean by “position.” A position is more than just guard, side control, mount, or another pre-defined position. Per the Theory of Alignment, position means:
- maintaining or improving your posture, structure, and base
- compromising your opponent’s posture, structure, and base.
Position is more valuable than submission attempts because:
- if you can maintain your position, you can re-attack if your first submission fails
- better positions lead to better submission opportunities
- losing position means your submission opportunities decrease
- losing position opens you up to your opponent’s submissions.
Diving for submissions is a gameplan based on luck, chance, and surprise. This is unlikely to work more than once against most opponents, and usually won’t work against high-level opponents at all. If you dive for submissions, should you fail, you lose everything. Diving for submissions is like gambling, whereas securing position is like investing.