Tight vs Loose Control


Once you have achieved a dominant ground position there are
two basic ways of controlling your opponent – tight or loose.

Tight control can be thought of as ‘pinning’. There is an
attempt to essentially immobilize your opponent by applying mount, cross side,
or an equivalent top position. It emphasizes heaviness, stability, and tends to
slow down the action of the match. This is excellent if you need to catch your
breath, or if your opponent is more maneuverable and agile than you. Larger,
stronger athletes tend to play this game against smaller ones.

Another aspect of tight control is that it is very conservative
and can decrease your opportunity to finish make the opponent tap. It is
entirely possible to pin someone so tightly that you shut down most of your
chances at a submission. This may be fine in some situations such as winning
ippon in Judo by osaekomi or running out the clock if you are ahead on points
in the final seconds of a jiu-jitsu match. If this is your preferred strategy focus
on submission techniques that can be applied with minimal body movement.

Loose control involves maintaining a dominant position while
allowing your opponent to move freely. There is little attempt to commit to a
particular dominant position but rather you just move with your opponent from
position to position, always maintaining the advantage. This approach
emphasizes lightness, mobility, and tends to speed up the action of the
match.  It is a great way to get an opponent tired if your agility, positional awareness, and mat mobility are superior. Loose control also provides ample opportunity for transitional submissions. When smaller, lighter grapplers face larger opponents this is usually the best strategy.

Using loose control requires a high degree of transitional
skill. Being able to flow seamlessly from one position to the next and to seize
opportunities to catch submissions on the way is essential. This approach demands
muscular and cardiovascular endurance. Using this as your primary game means
you will need to spend some additional time conditioning.

Any given individual will tend towards one of these styles,
but it is important to train both.  Different
opponents present different challenges and require different solutions. Improve
your skills by training both strategies during drills or sparring.

Brian Jones, PhD

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