For the past few nights, Jeff has been asking us to perform some basic escaping. On Monday night, he wanted us to partner up and demonstrate our side escapes and last night, he wanted us to show him how we escape mount. A few people are up for blue belt and he’s doing his usual routine. I always love this time of year because it gives me a chance to kind of put the guys through the wringer.
I have some thoughts on Monday evening’s escapes, but I’ll cover them in another post. Right now, I’d like to talk about what went on last night and how we can correct some of what I observed.
Just for some background, I’d like to fill you in on the players we have at my school so you know where I’m coming from with what I write below. We have a good variety of people, from small and light, to medium build to heavy and very strong. We have both female and male students. I rarely work with the females when we’re drilling and I usually work with the mid to heavy weight guys when it comes to both drilling and sparring. That’s where I find the most challenge and that’s where I know I’ll have to stay on top of my technique. It works out well.
There is a bit of a problem though – since we have some students who can basically hold their own without Jiu-Jitsu (and this probably includes me), there’s a tendency to be somewhat lax when it comes to using straight up technique. Many people are able to find ways of doing well during sparring by simply developing some good mat sense, and they rely on that for what can last up to years (if not forever if someone doesn’t stop them). From what I’ve observed, the bigger, stronger guys usually suffer from the worst from this, dare I say, “syndrome.” They’ve got the strength to muscle themselves out of tight jams, if need be.
You’ll find evidence of what I’m talking about by simply visiting a few academies. Watch the students and watch who does what. Oftentimes, you’ll see the stronger students rely on their own strength and the smaller ones forced into relying on technique. To break the bigger guys of this habit, it’s oftentimes required to have them drill and spar with someone their own size, which isn’t always possible.
Let’s get back to what I found while drilling some mount escapes last night. Simply put, I found a few students relying more on strength, movement and surprise than the basic mount escape technique Jeff was looking for. Now, this isn’t to say that they didn’t escape my mount, but it is to say that while they escaped, they didn’t do it in a way that I would necessarily describe as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And escaping mount is important, not only because it’s one of the “basics,” it’s also a position we find ourselves in quite frequently. If we attach a percentage to how often a player can find themselves stuck in someone’s mount, and we say that percentage is 30, then I’d say it’s prudent to become very, very proficient at escaping the position. I’d also venture to say that it’s a waste of time training oneself into a habit of “eventually” maneuvering out of someone’s mount by using mat sense and luck.
So what is the mount? What makes it so effective in Jiu-Jitsu and why is it so important to get out of it?
Well, the mount is one of the most dominant positions you can find in BJJ. The front mount, the back mount and the side mount are all very strong positions to submit your opponent from, which creates a real sense of urgency and critical thinking when someone finds themselves in the bottom position.
While there are various scenarios one can end up in, today’s post is about the most basic, most common, most white belt mount there is – the flat backed, freaked out guy on bottom with the top guy sitting on his belly. This is the one you’ll find every white belt from New York to California stuck in about ten times a night. But while it’s common, it’s a real challenge to get out of.
In Saulo Ribeiro‘s book, Jiu-Jitsu University, he does a nice job of tackling the issues people come across when they find themselves in the defending half of mount. He explains how you might end up in it, the importance of timing the escape and the eventualities that may occur from remaining in or failing in an attempted escape. I recommend you read the book if you’re having difficulties with your escapes.
When an opponent manages to capture me in side control and then moves up to achieve mount, the first thing I like to do is to quickly tuck my elbows to my sides. By doing this, I immediately and fairly effectively block their attempt to travel their body up my chest into high mount. It’s in my interest to keep them in low mount so I can effect a more simple escape.
Once I get my elbows tucked in, I simultaneously lay my left leg flat and quickly turn to my left side. And almost immediately after that, I place my right forearm across my opponent’s belly as a brace backup up by my left hand. I find this bracing as, if not more, important than leg position and turning to my side. It’s imperative to keep your opponent as far down on your body and as off balance as possible.
Last night, as the guys were demonstrating their escapes, I was playing with my bracing. I wanted to use the opportunity to see how effective it was to simply slow my escape down and focus strictly on keeping my opponent off kilter. I even asked one of the guys to do this to me as I tried to climb up for a better position.
After playing around for a while, I found that bracing is extremely important. When I was doing it properly to my opponent, it was nearly impossible for him to achieve the dominant position he was looking for, and vice-versa. Now, I’m hesitant to say anything’s “impossible” in Jiu-Jitsu – I’m simply trying to convey the importance of the brace.
I was talking to one of the guys last night, trying to explain the results of what I found, when he told me that he has a great deal of difficulty with the timing of his escape setup because I’m “there” before he gets a chance to do anything. I told him that this is what’s going to happen if he doesn’t practice, practice, practice slowly at first and then faster later on. The timing of these things is just as important as the structure of the technique.
There are two finishes to the escape I’m covering in this post. One of them is called the “elbow knee” escape and the other is sort of a “bridge and redirect” escape, not to be confused with the bridge and roll escape. I’ll post videos of both of these finishes below.
Another conversation I has last night had to do with doing homework during the Jiu-Jitsu class off-time. Some of us do this and some of us, well, some of us don’t do anything unless it’s on the mat. I can’t stress enough how important it is to constantly live a Jiu-Jitsu centric life, if you have the desire to get better. It’s easy to obtain a blue belt in this game, but as soon as you start picturing yourself wearing any other color, there are going to be demands placed on you. Whether they are requests for you to teach, invitations for you to roll with a higher belt or the threat of your next stripe or belt test, all of these things will pound away at your confidence. The only way to overcome the perceived obstacles is for you to overcompensate. You need to read, write and watch videos – all pertaining to Jiu-Jitsu.
If you have a video recorder, ask another student to spar with you while you record it. If you have a blog, start writing. If you have a bathroom, there’s no better place to read Jiu-Jitsu books. I promise you, if you start immersing yourself in this sport, it won’t be such a challenge to end up where you strive to be. You’ll find people recommending that you be there.
JiuJitsu Magazine #7 – Mastering The Mount: Escape To Guard With Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro
Knee to Elbow Escape: Mount With Submissions101