16/04/2013 – Teaching (Bridging Back Escape)

Teaching #104
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 16/04/2013

Tonight I’m going to look at what I call the bridging back escape. Saulo isn’t a fan, listing the bridge escape under ‘common misconceptions’ in the back survival section of Jiu Jitsu University, but it is nevertheless standard at most schools I’ve visited. The motion is roughly similar to the bridge and shrimp under side control or mount to recover guard, but the body arrangement is quite different. Rather than trying to bridge and shrimp to crawl away from a weight on top that has pinned you to the mat, you’re bridging to pin them and then crawl over the top of a weight behind you.

The basic method I’m familiar with was taught to me by Kev Capel (which incidentally is the same way Feitosa teaches it on Gracie Barra Fundamentals). Cross your hands under your jaw, pressing the back of each hand against your face, elbows in tight. This should both block attempts to press a forearm into your neck, while still enabling you to use your hands to intercept theirs. Interestingly, Brandon Mullins grabs their choking arm with both of his, reaching back to grab behind their elbow with one hand and their wrist with the other. He then pulls it across to create some space. Personally, I’d be worried about my neck with that method, but it’s an option to try.

Bridge up, trying to get your head to the mat, with the intention of getting your shoulders to the mat. Keep moving to the side until you’ve created a bit of pressure on their hook. Brandon Mullins talks about a continuous motion of incremental shifts to the side and twists of the hips, until you can pop their hook off. Feitosa pushes it off with his same side hand, whereas Mullins prefers to use hip pressure, just like Xande and Saulo in the escape I’ve taught before.

Whichever method you use, do a big step over their leg (Mullins does a ‘high step, bringing his knee up high towards his head, then putting the foot over) as soon as you pop it off, then move your hips over onto the floor. Grab their leg (the difficult part here is knowing when to move your hand to the leg, as you don’t want to give them access to your neck), then push off your outside leg to bring your weight onto their chest.

You need to make sure that you keep your weight on their chest the whole time, gluing their upper body to the ground. Aim to get your shoulder onto their chest if possible, but be careful of not going too far over, or they might be able to roll you. Like Xande, Mullins notes that they will mostly likely try to come on top as you escape. You still have their leg, so you can always just recover guard (though if you can get on top yourself, that’s preferable).

To get to side control, gradually walk around with your feet, maintaining that pressure on their chest. With your other hand (this will be the same hand that released their hooking foot earlier), reach over and grab their opposite leg. This is to stop them turning into you. It should now be a simple matter to twist into side control. You can also try hooking around their head: the picture above is from a slightly different scenario, as Xande is escaping the turtle, but similar principles apply.

That’s the basic version. As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog regularly, I’ve been taking regular private lessons from Dónal for the last couple of months. The purpose of that was firstly to enable me to train while still injured, secondly to continue training under Dónal (as he sadly doesn’t teach a regular evening class at GB Bristol since the birth of his son) and finally the usual reason of trying to improve (though in my case, that’s both as a student and an instructor). We covered back escapes fairly recently, building off this escape along with a couple of others I’ve taught in the past.

For Dónal’s back escape (which has more similarities to Xande’s version than Feitosa, but is slightly different to both), start off by immediately bringing your knee up on the choking arm side. In one quick motion, move your head forwards and simultaneously shove their head sideways (this is presuming they know what they are doing and have their head tight to yours for control). Look towards them, keeping your head and neck firm in order to stop them moving their head back into place. Push off your leg and bridge back, aiming to get your shoulders and spine to the mat. Angle your choking arm side knee towards the other side, to stop them dragging you back over to the choking arm side once you start escaping.

Due to your body slipping off to the side, they are probably going to try and come on top. To do that, they need to be able to turn their legs down and then away from you. Keep your legs in tight to block them: with your leg back, that forms an effective barrier to their efforts to turn. There are a couple of ways you can do that. The first one Dónal showed was hooking their top leg (if they’re trying to turn on top, they’ll be on their side) with your near leg. Alternatively, step your near leg behind the knee of their bottom leg and pinch your own knees together.

With your near arm, grab their trousers by their top leg (either by the knee or a bit lower). When you have the opportunity, switch to grip with the other hand, which means you can bring your near elbow down past their body, on the inside. At this point, make sure you’ve got your outside knee angled towards them, for base like before. Shrimp away, get your near arm back, then turn straight into the leg squash pass position.

I ended up doing it a bit differently when drilling with Dónal, as I like to get control of the shoulder and head. I diverged at the point after you switch your grip on their trousers. Instead of getting my elbow to the floor and turning, I preferred to either reach across their neck and grab the gi, or better, reach under their head, grip the far armpit then lock my shoulder into their head and shoulder.

Either way, I then shrimp away and turn to try and come on top. With your grip on the knee, stiff-arm so they can’t lock their half-guard (if they do lock their half guard, this puts you in the opposite side half guard pass position, so proceed from there). Free your leg and move into side control. Note also that deep half is another common finish to this escape, if you like that position.
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Teaching Notes: I could probably tweak my understanding of blocking their legs on the second one, though the main thing is hooking the top leg. During drilling, there were odd numbers, so I went with Mike. What I usually do when that happens is let me partner drill for two minutes, then walk around to see if anyone has questions for the next two. When everybody switches, I let me partner have another two minutes, then walk around again.

The disadvantage of that is it doesn’t always give me enough time to see everyone do the technique at least once within the four minutes I allocate for each person to drill. Today that meant the drilling ran over a little, because I wanted to make sure I saw everyone. As a result, there were a few minutes less for sparring. I think that may be unavoidable though, unless I have people drill in a three (which works, but I prefer that everybody gets the full four minutes for drilling and three for progressive resistance each).

This is the first lesson that I’ve really been able to do the “here’s the basic version, here’s the more advanced one” thing, which I like, particularly as the student mix in my classes is officially ‘all levels’ (though I gear everything towards beginners, as I prefer to keep techniques as simple as possible). I’ll be trying to do that more in future if I can.

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13/12/2012 – Teaching (Bridging Back & Body Triangle Escapes)

Teaching #082
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 13/12/2012

Last Sunday was the 4th Gracie Barra Bristol No Time Limit Submission Only Competition. I was mainly reffing for the third iteration, but this time Geeza had a new job for me: admin. I suspect that was due to the GrappleThon, to which the organisation of the sub only felt quite similar (especially chivvying people along), but with lots of paper in front of me rather than beautiful clean laptops. Next time, I may seriously consider bringing my laptop and having the brackets laid out in spreadsheets: that would be a lot easier to track. But meh, we’ll see. Either way, great day, lots of good fights and reconnecting with friends from around the country (like Paula, Christian, Alison, Alex and others), along with making new friends, like Tanya. The full results are up on Facebook, here.

Operation Tattered Belt has been continuing over on Megan’s and Jiu Jiu’s blogs, where they’ve moved to knee on belly. That also reminds me, Julia put up an article by me about how I currently teach, here, which is apropos to this post, given I’m also writing about teaching. 🙂

I’m still teaching escaping the back at the moment. I exhausted the majority of back escapes from Saulo’s book last week, so today I’m shifting to another basic technique, the bridging back escape. Saulo isn’t a fan, listing the bridge escape under ‘common misconceptions’ in the back survival section of Jiu Jitsu University, but it is nevertheless standard at most schools I’ve visited. The motion is roughly similar to the bridge and shrimp under side control or mount to recover guard, but the body arrangement is quite different. Rather than trying to bridge and shrimp to crawl away from a weight on top that has pinned you to the mat, you’re bridging to pin them and then crawl over the top of a weight behind you.

The method I’m familiar with was taught to me by Kev Capel (which incidentally is the same way Feitosa teaches it on Gracie Barra Fundamentals). Cross your hands under your jaw, pressing the back of each hand against your face, elbows in tight. This should both block attempts to press a forearm into your neck, while still enabling you to use your hands to intercept theirs. Interestingly, Brandon Mullins grabs their choking arm with both of his, reaching back to grab behind their elbow with one hand and their wrist with the other. He then pulls it across to create some space. Personally, I’d be worried about my neck with that method, but it’s an option to try.

Bridge up, trying to get your head to the mat, with the intention of getting your shoulders to the mat. Keep moving to the side until you’ve created a bit of pressure on their hook. Brandon Mullins talks about a continuous motion of incremental shifts to the side and twists of the hips, until you can pop their hook off. Feitosa pushes it off with his same side hand, whereas Mullins prefers to use hip pressure, just like Xande and Saulo in the escape I taught last week.

Whichever method you use, do a big step over their leg (Mullins does a ‘high step, bringing his knee up high towards his head, then putting the foot over) as soon as you pop it off, then move your hips over onto the floor. Grab their leg (the difficult part here is knowing when to move your hand to the leg, as you don’t want to give them access to your neck), then drive with your legs to get your weight onto their chest.

You need to make sure that you keep your weight on their chest the whole time, gluing their upper body to the ground. Aim to get your head to their opposite shoulder. This part is much the same as last week’s escape. Again like Xande, Mullins notes that they will mostly likely try to come on top. You still have their leg, so you can always just recover guard (though if you can get on top yourself, that’s preferable).

To get on top, gradually walk around with your feet, maintaining that pressure on their chest. With your other hand (this will be the same hand that released their hooking foot earlier), reach over and grab their opposite leg. This is to stop them turning into you. It should now be a simple matter to twist into side control. You can also try hooking around their head: the picture above is from a slightly different scenario, as Xande is escaping the turtle, but similar principles apply.

I finished off with a simple escape from the body triangle, which I first learned from Nick Brooks. Once they lock the body triangle on you, your goal is to roll to the side of the dangling leg. Normally they will also be hooking their foot behind your knee (as this helps their control, because they can then lift and turn you).

If you can trap that leg on the floor, an easy footlock is now possible. Bring your nearest leg over the top of their dangling foot. Triangle your legs to prevent them moving their legs, then bridge, so that your hip shoves into the point at which their foot is locked behind their knee. That should cause sufficient pressure on their ankle and foot to make them tap. You can also try Brooks’ version, where you instead use the heel of your foot to block their dangling leg in place, then bridge.

Two less effective options which may still yield results are to hook around their leg as they turn you to the other side. From here, you can again try and bridge into their locked foot and knee, but they have a much greater range of motion, so it will be tough to generate enough pressure. Similar, if their foot is dangling between your legs, you can try crossing your legs over that and bridging.

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Teaching Notes: I’ve been tending to say get your head to the mat, then try and get your shoulders to the mat. However, if you’re trying to maximise your weight into their chest, I’m not sure if it is in fact better to keep your shoulders on them, rather than shifting them off then driving them back on. I guess it depends on what escape you’re using, or if you’re trying to combine escapes.

I reviewed the technique at the end again, but I would like to start reviewing the previous lessons technique in the warm-up at the start too. There weren’t enough people there from last week to make that viable, but hopefully I’ll be able to institute it at some point.


06/12/2012 – Teaching (Operation Tattered Belt: Basic Back Escapes)

Teaching #081
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 06/12/2012

I’m now back from Texas, but unfortunately my groin injury is still causing me problems, especially in closed guard and on the back. This fortnight is all about the back at Gracie Barra Bristol, so to give my leg a rest (holding back control with both hooks is painful for me at the moment) I decided to go with escapes. Operation Tattered Belt over on Julia and Megan’s blogs is currently focused on knee on belly, so I’ll have to leave that until later. In regards to back escapes, Operation Tattered Belt is drawing largely on Saulo’s book. The ones I teach are already very similar to how he teaches them in Jiu Jitsu University, so I don’t really need to change anything.

In the back position, your opponent is frequently going to begin by trying to attack your neck. Protecting your neck is therefore a priority. In order to choke you, they need to block off both sides of your neck. That will normally use either your gi (e.g., sliding choke), their gi (e.g., ezequiel choke), your arms (e.g., arm triangle) or their arms (e.g., rear naked choke). Therefore you have to be aware of all four of them: note their grips, if they’re trying to pull their gi across, if they’re attempting to thread an arm through yours, and most obviously, if they are attempting to drive their arm under your chin.

As with any escape, you need to stay tight. Keep your elbows in, using your hands to cover your neck. There are numerous schools of thought on just how to do that: clamping your hands to both sides of your neck (which I learned as the ‘Shirley Temple’ defence), crossing your hands over your neck, grabbing both your collars, and Saulo’s method of just grabbing one collar, keeping the other hand free to block. As his book is the main source for Operation Tattered Belt, that’s the method I highlighted.

Saulo’s back escape starts by putting a thumb inside your opposite collar, using your other hand to block their hands. You then do what Saulo calls a ‘big scoop’, shifting your upper body down and your hips forwards. Next, kick out one of your legs to clear their hook (you may also need to nudge it with your elbow), then drop your other elbow down past their other leg and turn. You need to be careful here that they can’t re-establish their second hook: block it with your elbow and knee if they try.

If you’re a bit late and they’ve already got an arm across your neck, fall towards the open side, as if you were reclining on a couch (if you fall the other way, you’re helping them get the choke. You also want to turn your head towards their elbow to relieve pressure. Both Saulo and his brother Xande suggest that when you fall to the side, you want to be lying on their knee (Saulo suggests just below the knee), as that will stop them shifting to mount or re-establishing their back control. From there, Xande adds the detail of turning your hips to clear their hook.

Step your leg over, using that as a base to shrimp out. Grab their other trouser leg, to prevent them from moving through to mount as you try to escape. Ryan Hall suggests reaching back and wrapping up their head, which is a different kind of anchor point. Whichever one you choose, it is important to immobilise their torso by getting your weight onto it as soon as possible, so they can’t either re-establish back control or try to swing over to mount.

I probably should have mentioned the option Xande demonstrates in the picture on the left, which is recovering guard, but forgot about that and emphasised getting to side control. Either way, Keep shrimping in order to clear their leg, aiming to either re-establish guard, or continue to shift your hips back into their armpit until you can switch to side control. Make sure that you are still being careful of your neck, as that is always a danger from back mount. Saulo mentions that you could use your free arm to stop them sneaking their other arm around, though generally when escaping the back, he emphasises that it is your hands that do the defensive work rather than your arms.

Saulo strangely doesn’t deal with the most common grip from the back, the seatbelt. Instead, he focuses on escaping when they either haven’t got a grip yet or if they have double underhooks (or at least he doesn’t in his book: in his first DVD set, he assumes the other guy has grabbed a collar, but the escape is otherwise much the same as on the page). I assume that is because he is imagining that with his survival position, you aren’t going to give them the chance to establish the seatbelt, but it would still have been useful to see his perspective on that position included in the book.

That meant that my focus for the first progressive resistance part of the lesson was seeing if students were able to use that ‘survival’ position to prevent their partner establishing the seatbelt grip. Generally people manage to at least get the arm past the armpit, which Saulo doesn’t talk about. Again, I would assume he is treating the survival position as capable of pre-emptively stopping that grip, presumably by keeping the elbow tightly clamped to your side.

I’ve also been asking for feedback via Facebook for the last two sessions (commenting on here is fine too, if any of the people I’ve taught are reading this). The main suggestions so far have been correcting mistakes more often, which is simply a matter of how much time I’ve got available with each person, and switching partners around to experience different body types and reactions. I’m restricted slightly on the latter point by what size people are in each class as well as their rolling style, so at the moment it is difficult to do unless class is fairly large. Still, something I want to try and institute, as a student suggested it. 🙂

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Teaching Notes: On the spur of the moment I decided to include something Carlos Machado had spoken about during our interview at RCJ Machado Dallas, which was reviewing the techniques at the end of class. I also took a leaf out of John Will’s book and had everybody face the same way, then ran through the techniques step by step. I think that’s something I’d like to institute for every class from now on. Ideally I’d be able to somehow put it into the warm-up too, but I’m not sure how well that would work.

A number of people were having some trouble stopping their partner recovering mount. I think the way to stop that would be getting your weight onto the torso, but that can be difficult if your partner is bigger than, better than you or both. I’m trying to come up with a simple way of explaining the motion: maybe getting your head to their opposite shoulder, as the body follows the head? I’ll need to experiment with it when sparring myself, though at the moment I’m hindered by this annoying groin injury.

I was very pleased that in class today, the women slightly outnumbered the men. For that reason alone, my favourite class I’ve taught so far! I would love to one day teach and train at a BJJ club with that kind of gender balance: that would pretty much be my ideal. 😀


23/08/2012 – Teaching (Basic Back Escapes)

Teaching #069
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 23/08/2012

Before I start, I just wanted to congratulate two old training partners of mine, Yas Wilson and Sahid Khamlichi. Yas has been tearing up the female competition scene for the last couple of years, establishing herself as among the best women in the UK. She even fought at the ADCC last year. There’s no question she’s at the brown belt level. It’s also really cool to see more higher ranked women in this country – we’re up to two black belt women in the UK so far, IIRC, a group Yas will no doubt be joining in a year or two. 🙂

Sahid got his purple belt the same day I did. However, we are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum: he had been smashing people at every competition he entered and then went on to win yet more medals at his new belt shortly after receiving it, whereas as I felt (and still feel) like a mediocre blue belt. So, I’m not at all surprised to see that a little over a year after getting his purple, Sahid is now a Roger Gracie brown belt. Very well deserved! 😀

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In the back position, your opponent is frequently going to begin by trying to attack your neck. Protecting your neck is therefore a priority. In order to choke you, they need to block off both sides of your neck. That will normally use either your gi (e.g., sliding choke), their gi (e.g., ezequiel choke), your arms (e.g., arm triangle) or their arms (e.g., rear naked choke). Therefore you have to be aware of all four of them: note their grips, if they’re trying to pull their gi across, if they’re attempting to thread an arm through yours, and most obviously, if they are attempting to drive their arm under your chin.

As with any escape, you need to stay tight. Keep your elbows in, using your hands to cover your neck. There are numerous schools of thought on just how to do that: clamping your hands to both sides of your neck (which I learned as the ‘Shirley Temple’ defence), crossing your hands over your neck, grabbing both your collars, and Saulo’s method of just grabbing one collar, keeping the other hand free to block.

Saulo’s back escape starts by putting a thumb inside your opposite collar, using your other hand to block their hands. You then do what Saulo calls a ‘big scoop’, shifting your upper body down and your hips forwards. Next, kick out one of your legs to clear their hook (you may also need to nudge it with your elbow), then drop your other elbow down past their other leg and turn. You need to be careful here that they can’t re-establish their second hook: block it with your elbow and knee if they try.

If you’re a bit late and they’ve already got an arm across your neck, fall towards the open side, as if you were reclining on a couch (if you fall the other way, you’re helping them get the choke. You also want to turn your head towards their elbow to relieve pressure. Both Saulo and his brother Xande suggest that when you fall to the side, you want to be lying on their knee (Saulo suggests just below the knee), as that will stop them shifting to mount or re-establishing their back control. From there, Xande adds the detail of turning your hips to clear their hook.

Step your leg over, using that as a base to shrimp out. Grab their other trouser leg, to prevent them from moving through to mount as you try to escape. Keep shrimping in order to clear their leg, aiming to either re-establish guard, or continue to shift your hips back into their armpit until you can switch to side control. Make sure that you are still being careful of your neck, as that is always a danger from back mount. Saulo mentions that you could use your free arm to stop them sneaking their other arm around, though generally when escaping the back, he emphasises that it is your hands that do the defensive work rather than your arms.


23/02/2012 – Teaching (Escaping the Back)

Teaching #043
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 23/02/2012

In the back position, they are frequently going to begin by trying to attack your neck. Protecting your neck is therefore a priority. In order to choke you, they need to block off both sides of your neck. That will normally use either your gi (e.g., sliding choke), their gi (e.g., ezequiel choke), your arms (e.g., arm triangle) or their arms (e.g., rear naked choke). Therefore you have to be aware of all four of them: note their grips, if they’re trying to pull their gi across, if they’re attempting to thread an arm through yours, and most obviously, if they are attempting to drive their arm under your chin.

As with any escape, you need to stay tight. Keep your elbows in, using your hands to cover your neck. There are numerous schools of thought on just how to do that: clamping your hands to both sides of your neck (which I learned as the ‘Shirley Temple’ defence), crossing your hands over your neck, grabbing both your collars, and Saulo’s method of just grabbing one collar, keeping the other hand free to block.

Saulo’s back escape starts by putting a thumb inside your opposite collar, using your other hand to block their hands. You then do what Saulo calls a ‘big scoop’, shifting your upper body down and your hips forwards. Next, kick out one of your legs to clear their hook (you may also need to nudge it with your elbow), then drop your other elbow down past their other leg and turn. You need to be careful here that they can’t re-establish their second hook: block it with your elbow and knee if they try.

If you’re a bit late and they’ve already got an arm across your neck, fall towards the open side, as if you were reclining on a couch (if you fall the other way, you’re helping them get the choke. You also want to turn your head towards their elbow to relieve pressure. Both Saulo and his brother Xande suggest that when you fall to the side, you want to be lying on their knee (Saulo suggests just below the knee), as that will stop them shifting to mount or re-establishing their back control. From there, Xande adds the detail of turning your hips to clear their hook.

Step your leg over, using that as a base to shrimp out. Grab their other trouser leg, to prevent them from moving through to mount as you try to escape. Keep shrimping in order to clear their leg, aiming to either re-establish guard, or continue to shift your hips back into their armpit until you can switch to side control. Make sure that you are still being careful of your neck, as that is always a danger from back mount. Saulo mentions that you could use your free arm to stop them sneaking their other arm around, though generally when escaping the back, he emphasises that it is your hands that do the defensive work rather than your arms.

We had a visitor tonight, which was cool. Tatami-sponsored athlete Vikki Todd is going to be in the area for about two months, which is great news. Should prove to be an excellent training partner for GB Bristol’s resident tough female blue belt, Kirsty. 🙂


29/12/2011 – Teaching (Escaping the Back)

Teaching #034
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 29/12/2011

I just finished my first day at a new job, which will inevitably cut down the hours I can spend preparing for lessons. Fortunately I’m also coming towards the end of my second cycle of planned lessons, after which I intend to restart at the beginning. I’ll make a number of modifications to the lessons I taught in the first run-through of those two cycles, but it will be much easier than having to plan an entirely new thirty-six lessons. By the time I start into my third cycle, I should hopefully have lots more time. 🙂

Tonight’s lesson was relatively straightforward, as I was adding in some escapes to the body triangle I showed last week. I went through the escape briefly already last week, so discussed it in a little more detail this time round, adding in a slight variation from Nick Brooks. Once they lock the body triangle on you, your goal is to roll to the side of the dangling leg. Normally they will also be hooking their foot behind your knee (as this helps their control, because they can then lift and turn you).

If you can trap that leg on the floor, a simple footlock is now possible. Bring your nearest leg over the top of their dangling foot. Triangle your legs to prevent them moving their legs, then bridge, so that your hip shoves into the point at which their foot is locked behind their knee. That should cause sufficient pressure on their ankle and foot to make them tap. You can also try Brooks’ version, where you instead use the heel of your foot to block their dangling leg in place, then bridge.

Two less effective options which may still yield results are to hook around their leg as they turn you to the other side. From here, you can again try and bridge into their locked foot and knee, but they have a much greater range of motion, so it will be tough to generate enough pressure. Similar, if their foot is dangling between your legs, you can try crossing your legs over that and bridging.

Finally, I went through a typical method for escaping the back, after you’ve managed to clear off one of their hooks. This is the one I saw a few days ago at RGA Bucks, which Sahid described as ‘bobbing and weaving’. Pull the arm they have by your shoulder over your head, then fall in the direction of that arm. You’re looking to trap it between your head and your arm: to further trap it, you can also try grabbing their tricep. Still on that side, pop your hips over as usual (either use your hand, if your neck is safe, or push their hook off with your opposite heel), but as you move around to side control, keep facing their head. That should set you up nicely for a d’arce choke.

Last week, there were only three people in class, which meant I could take part too. I found that the specific sparring drills from the back were helpful in terms of making me think more carefully about how I tried to escape: hopefully if it did that for me, the same was true of the students. So, I decided to include it again, with the same rule that the person on the back was purely looking to maintain the back position, not submit their opponent (although this time there were enough people that I didn’t need to take part until later, when I paired people up).

There is the danger there that you become complacent about protecting your neck (so I made a point of mentioning that throughout: it should hopefully have become clear during a later round of specific sparring, where I brought submissions back in), but I think it also helps you really concentrate on how to remove those hooks. It also encourages you to pay careful attention to their weight distribution and use of pressure.


08/09/2011 – Teaching (Escaping Back Mount)

Teaching #018
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 08/09/2011

Last time I showed a couple of options for getting to the back, ready to then teach three weeks of back mount. For this first week, I decided to cover escapes, as that’s where I’m most comfortable. I’m going to pause at this point for a terminological babble (see my glossary for more of that kind of thing), as ‘back mount’ is less definite than I thought it was. I discovered this when telling Geeza what I was teaching tonight: he makes a distinction between what he calls ‘back grab’ and ‘back mount’, which is something I haven’t heard before. Either way, the former is what I’m going to be covering, where they are sat behind you with their hooks in.

‘Back mount’ may also be used as a term for when they’ve flattened you out on your front. You might also hear ‘rear mount’. Given I’m pedantic and academic, I wanted to make sure I’m using the right term. Having a look around for sources, I see that Saulo just calls it ‘the back’ in Jiu Jitsu University. In the Gracie Barra Fundamentals DVD set, Marcio Feitosa also refers simply to ‘the back’, at least when going from the same position I’m teaching for the next three weeks. Similarly, John Danaher talks about ‘the opponent’s back’ and ‘your back’ in his section on positions in BJJ: Theory & Technique.

Having said that, Geeza’s term does appear in the IBJJF rules, where you can find the line “front mount, back mount and back grab.” There is also a definition on there:

E-) THE BACK GRAB: Is when the athlete grabs his adversary’s back, taking hold of his neck and wrapping his legs around his opponent’s waist, with his heels leaning on the inner side of his opponent’s thighs, not allowing him to leave the position. 4 POINTS.

Unfortunately there isn’t a definition for ‘back mount’. That may mean that the terms are interchangeable, or that they just didn’t think it required a specific definition for some reason. On good ol Wikipedia (not exactly reliable, but hey), it lends support to the interchangeable theory: “When utilizing the back mount, often known in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as the back grab.” In the marketing spiel for this very spieled up advert, it says “Getting the back mount (aka. “back grab”) position”. Then there’s the US Grappling rules, which seem to use ‘back mount’ in the same broad sense as I do:

Back Mount with Hooks in = 4 points
Back Mount knees on ground, opponent flat on stomach = 4 points (Additional 4 points are scored by putting the hooks in from this position)
Body triangle from the back = 4 points

None of which is very conclusive, but it’s the kind of thing I enjoy researching. 😉

Whether you want to call it the back, back mount or back grab, in that position they are frequently going to begin by trying to attack your neck. Protecting your neck is therefore a priority. In order to choke you, they need to block off both sides of your neck. That will normally use either your gi (e.g., sliding choke), their gi (e.g., ezequiel choke), your arms (e.g., arm triangle) or their arms (e.g., rear naked choke). Therefore you have to be aware of all four of them: note their grips, if they’re trying to pull their gi across, if they’re attempting to thread an arm through yours, and most obviously, if they are attempting to drive their arm under your chin.

As with any escape, you need to stay tight. Keep your elbows in, using your hands to cover your neck. There are numerous schools of thought on just how to do that: clamping your hands to both sides of your neck (which I learned as the ‘Shirley Temple’ defence), crossing your hands over your neck, grabbing both your collars, and Saulo’s method of just grabbing one collar, keeping the other hand free to block.

Saulo’s back escape starts by putting a thumb inside your opposite collar, using your other hand to block their hands. You then do what Saulo calls a ‘big scoop’, shifting your upper body down and your hips forwards. Next, kick out one of your legs to clear their hook (you may also need to nudge it with your elbow), then drop your other elbow down past their other leg and turn. You need to be careful here that they can’t re-establish their second hook: block it with your elbow and knee if they try.

If you’re a bit late and they’ve already got an arm across your neck, fall towards the open side, as if you were reclining on a couch (if you fall the other way, you’re helping them get the choke. You also want to turn your head towards their elbow to relieve pressure. Both Saulo and his brother Xande suggest that when you fall to the side, you want to be lying on their knee, as that will stop them moving around. From there, Xande adds the detail of turning your hips to clear their hook.

Step your leg over, using that as a base to shrimp out. Grab their other trouser leg, to prevent them from moving through to mount as you try to escape. Keep shrimping in order to clear their leg, aiming to re-establish guard. Make sure that you are still being careful of your neck, as that is always a danger from back mount. Kev has a useful memory aid he uses when teaching this escape, which is “head, shoulders, hips.” In other words, get your head to the mat, then your shoulders, then clear their hips.

Another way to escape the back is by bridging, as taught to me by Kev (which incidentally is the same way Feitosa teaches it on Gracie Barra Fundamentals). Cross your hands under your jaw, pressing the back of each hand against your face, elbows in tight. This should both block attempts to press a forearm into your neck, while still enabling you to use your hands to intercept theirs.

Bridge up, then keep moving to the side until you’ve created a bit of pressure on their hook. Push it off with your same side hand and immediately move your hips over onto the floor (the difficult part here is knowing when to move your hand to the leg, as you don’t want to give them access to your neck). You need to make sure that you keep your weight on their chest the whole time, gluing their upper body to the ground.

Gradually walk around with your feet, maintaining that pressure on their chest. With your other hand (this will be the same hand that released their hooking foot earlier), reach over and grab their opposite leg. This is to stop them turning into you. It should now be a simple matter to twist into side control. You can also try hooking around their head: the picture below is from a slightly different scenario, as Xande is escaping the turtle, but similar principles apply.