Knee on Belly (Uki Gatame)

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Below is a good video example of the utility of jiujitsu for professionals. This security guard takes down a wilding attacker and effectively controls him using the “knee to belly” pin, or uki gatame (浮固).

Note that he is able to monitor both of the man’s hands, and his surroundings. Should the security officer decide to disengage, he simply needs to stand up and away – in environments where weapons and other concerns are present, or where there is no need to detain or control a subject, this is often the better course of action. Though not a solidly dominant position in jiujitsu, knee to belly is positionally advantageous. It’s advantage lies in its mobility and the ease with which you can transition to other methods or positions, or disengage.

When an encounter is not one-on-one, is not based on positional dominance-to-submission, and where situational awareness is of no concern – in other words, like when playing jiujitsu – things like knee to belly are often more tactically sound.

On the other hand, where positional dominance is warranted or a necessity, transitioning to a mount or other dominant top control would be in order. In jiujitsu, and judo if you want to go to groundwork, the nature of the sport aspect of the game demands this, as knee on belly would not be a strong position against a skilled opponent.

But we must remember the two things are different. 

This is particularly true if as an instructor you are teaching self defense or police or security professionals. Take care not to conflate competition methods with controlling or combative jiujitsu in defensive or tactical encounters.

The art is big enough for more than one approach. Apply common sense to what makes sense under varying conditions.












      • An advantage to Knee on Belly (KoB) is that it does not tie you up for control. From the perspective of jiujitsu tactics, going lower, going across to mount, or going to side control offers more control of the opponent who will have an array of tactics to defend the knee to belly. But that is a different kind of control than what may be desirable in a street encounter. None of those will be off the table in a street encounter, either.

        Instead the control can be more flexible. In the video the guy clearly doesn’t have any ground game, and is clearly not all that violent. This is a simple restraint situation, and higher levels of force or more entangling technique isn’t necessary. Nor is immediate escape. (Though I would argue in the same situation in a defensive encounter, the person in the KoB should simply disengage by standing up and then escape.

        Hands of course need to be monitored.

        If guy being pinned is squirrelly (people who are under the influence of drugs or having a mental health crisis often do this when you are trying to control them), the KoB can immediately transition to KoN/KoH (knee on neck or knee on head). In the video, the security guard would simply move his right leg onto the attackers head/neck/shoulder area while extending the arm as if he was going to do an arm bar.

        This is a smooth transition from KoB and my primary subject control measure. It works. I’ve used it a lot against some people much bigger and stronger than me. It adds a locking control to the arm and some control of the head. Most people that use it just don’t use enough pressure by using their bodies the right way.

        KoB also readily transitions to a Gift Wrap, which is my other go to, and usually what I default to when the KoB or KoH isn’t working. You can have a Gift Wrap while in KoB as well, a great control position I’ve also used.

        But that is in a situation where I am there to control the person. In each of these instances a disengagement is much easier. It is also easier to disengage from here than if I mounted. Remember, I may or may not be justified in repeated strikes from mount depending on the situation.

        If the guy bellies down, I have other options. Sure, I can rear mount. I usually don’t in actual encounters. I side control or hip ride if he turtles up.

        A factor that I take into account is how much I want my joints scraping across pavement, or my skin abraded. While a minor issue for the most part, it is annoying enough when I have had it that I don’t want to use techniques that promote that kind of thing. Part of the reason is if the person is bloody, or has MRSA, or whatever else might be on board I don’t want it introduced to torn skin if it can be helped.

        Once I got a nasty infection from a very small hand abrasion that occurred when the back of my hand got scraped on parking lot black top when wrestling a felony suspect into custody. I thought nothing of it and a week later my hand was swollen and the wound seeping pus. I’d rather not have the same thing happen to my knees by mounting. Instead I like to use stuff that keeps my joints off the ground, and KOB is tailor made for that.


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