I’ve noticed through the years after observing thousands of students, that very few trainees understand the nature and concept of the control position. The correct timing, access point(s), feel, and relative commitment to the control position are a few of the more important considerations we can explore in a training environment as a means of improving trainee performance.

As a general rule, control position should only be accessed/attempted after the defender has adequately “softened” the attacker with combatives – dulling the attackers response time and allowing for more powerful combatives to finish the violent encounter.

Far too often, I see students move to control, only to develop a false sense of capability due to a compliant partner. In this sense, we must first direct partner work to be more aggressive in actively attempting to escape from the controlled position. And, the first lesson we need to address in this scenario is the proper response to disengagement – specifically, when the aggressor breaks free from control.

As a general rule, if control position was attempted too early and/or without proper “softening of the attacker”, it is somewhat likely that the non-compliant attacker will break free from control. In this scenario, it is vital to avoid developing “training scars.” In my mind, the three most common training mistakes made in this scenario (loss of control position) are 1) chasing a freed arm, 2) chasing control position, and 3) quitting on the drill. Let’s take them one at a time:

  • Chasing a freed arm from control can quickly lead to disaster because the attacker almost immediately regains a strong relationship between his/her platforms (feet, hips, and shoulders). Not only is the trainee unguarded and within range of several of the attacker’s weapons, he/she is also neglecting to develop a barrage of combatives. Please, don’t chase a freed arm. If the Surgeon General could warn you about its adverse affects to your health, he would!
  • Chasing a control position – having just lost it – is akin to attempting to skip the first two principles of Krav Maga – jumping right to control as violence erupts. It’s not an option for many people who cannot simply over-power an adversary. In short, there are a myriad of issue here that are identical to the issue and dangers raised above when chasing a lost control arm. It’s just not a good idea.
  • Quitting on the drill is a terrible idea, a reaction in part, to the trainee’s impression that he/she has failed and needs to reset the drill to attempt a successful outcome. Wrong. Things go squirrelly all the time, and in this moment, we can find valuable training opportunities. Training when things go wrong is the BEST training!

My solution to this issue is to build these challenges (think opportunities) into drills that support your self-defense curriculum. One of the ways I address the issue specified with control position is through a drill called the Di Vinci Control Game. In this drill, one trainee stands in the Di Vinci’s Vitruvian Man pose – feet are shoulder width, hips and shoulders are square, and arms directly out to the side.

The student training starts with Thai (double neck tie) control position. On command, the student changes control position moving left into a head/shoulder control position, then to head/arm, then head/elbow cradle, then transitioning from front to back – and so on – until the student has returned to his/her starting position. At first, the drill will confuse a fair amount of your students, but they will improve over time with coaching and helpful transition ideas.

This drill progresses by adding one/some/all of the following concepts:

  • Non-compliance,
  • Combatives/Striking (before and/or after transitions)
  • Other attackers (where control can be used to wall off others)
  • Changing directions (transition left, left, right, right, left, etc.), and
  • Hidden weapons (that demand certain types of control or response)

In the end, your students will perform much more effectively, transitioning with combatives to other control positions as tactically required with more sensibility as to when to withdraw or engage fully.

Check out the video. Please let me know if this was useful information, and as always, walk in peace.

Leave a Reply