Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
S-mount has proven to be one of the most devastating and uncomfortable positions (for the bottom person) in all of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Here, we'll take a look at a few different ways to get to S-mount against a more knowledgeable opponent who is attempting to have good defensive posture, and a couple of high percentage finishes from the position once it's established. As always, the devil is in the details, so we'll focus on the more important key transitions that will make the difference in establishing the position, finishing the submission, and destroying your partner's will to live. Let's get started!
Getting There With the Head Joystick
On the one hand, it would be great if your opponent would simply make the fundamental mistake of turning away from you, essentially halfway giving you their back, so that you can easily transition to technical mount, and then on to S-mount. However, let's start by assuming that our partner isn't quite so gullible.
Instead, as your partner begins with their elbows in super tight, start with a low mount (I prefer having my ankles crossed beneath their hips, just like with the reverse armbar set up, but that's up to you). From here, scoop under their head with your left arm, palming the side of their head as shown in the video. Next, pull their head up, and then to the side (to your left side). Now creep your left knee up underneath their shoulder, and pinch your knee in tight. Notice that your partner will make "accordion arms" here, with their elbows, flared out. Lean all the way to your left so that your right leg is free to kick straight out, and then underneath your partner's armpit. The ultimate place you want to be is with your partner's head on your knee, like a pillow, and your legs perpendicular to your partner.
Once again, if you start by pulling your partner's head up and then to the side (same feet crossed low mount position as described above), you'll take your partner's spine out of alignment and make their core strength go away. Sneaking your left knee up under their shoulder and elbow suddenly becomes much easier. Make sure you have live toes here with your left foot, lest a strong opponent bridge into you and end up on top. Now, if you can make your left knee touch your right foot, that's a super tight S-mount, and just what you want here. If you can finish the armbar as shown without stepping over your partner's head, this is an excellent test to see if there are places where you could be a little tighter with the position.
Sweeping to Get There
Establishing S-mount from the arm drag sweep series is another fairly uncomplicated way to destroy your opponent's will to live. The nice thing about this pendulum-like sweep is that it will very nearly always finish with you in S-mount. We're essentially following the blueprint laid out in the "setting up the S-mount from the reverse armbar" tutorial here. Just be sure that your partner's head is on your knee, just like a pillow, and that you can come as close as possible to touching your knee and foot, as shown. Don't forget the live toes! If you land the underhook, you can also finish the reverse armbar first.
One More Sweep to Get There
Starting with the initial arm drag sweep position, when your partner's reaction is simply to be heavy, just move your left arm out of the way, behind you, so that you can use it for the base. Now just climb up on top of your partner's back (they're going to have a hard time stopping you since their arm is trapped across their body from the initial arm drag position). Turn yourself perpendicular to your partner, and block their far arm. Now just push them over with your free hand pushing against the ground. Again, you're going to land right in a technical mount position, so the transition to S-mount should be almost second nature by now. Just straighten your right leg and make sure you can put your right knee pit into your partner's armpit, then remember the other reference points (head/pillow, foot touching knee).
The S-mount is a terrific position (for the person on top, anyway!) because you're already 95% of the way to the submission, and it's terribly difficult to escape. Nevertheless, you might benefit from this tutorial on escaping S-mount into leglocks. Remember to take care of your training partners whenever practicing any new techniques, and, as always, let me know how these moves work out for you!