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Dismantling the Saddle with Lachlan Giles
Inside sangaku, the saddle, 411, there are several names for the position, but whatever you choose to call it, this dangerous entanglement of the legs is often times known as a game over setting in a BJJ match.
The saddle is very heavily based in control of the legs, and it does one hell of a job at doing so.
The saddle, and its different variations is being used at the highest levels to end BJJ contests, sometimes rather quickly. With the leg locks’ continued push into the mainstream of competition BJJ, elite players such as Craig Jones, and Gordon Ryan have employed the position as a bout ender on a regular basis.
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In the early stages of the position, the attacking party, if well versed, can end the exchange with haste, acquiring one of the most destructive submissions in all of BJJ, the inside heel hook. This submission applies an incredible amount of pressure to knee, and can cause significant damage to the joint, when applied with force.
There are lots of early red flags that we encounter when dealing with the position, and I feel that many of the counters and escapes, start with very preemptive ideas. As your opponent establishes themselves deeper in the position, unraveling it becomes increasingly more difficult.
So, how do we plan for the saddle? How do we position our bodies in a way that doesn’t promote the acquisition of the heel hook, and ultimately provides us with the ability to escape? Lachlan Giles has some ideas for you on the subject. Have a look at this short video with Giles, it may help you to understand how to best deal with the position, and give you some ideas on how to escape it.
Giles begins inside the saddle, with a couple of key points. He talks first about the difficulty of removing a bent leg from the position, and advises us to try and straighten it as much as possible. He also suggests that rotate of leg at the hip and point out toes away from our partner. These two ideas alone will make the acquisition of the heel more difficult. If the saddle is very tight, it can be difficult to rotate the leg. To help facilitate this movement, Giles can shift his hips to the right a bit to gain more mobility, assisting him in the turning out of the hip.
As Giles straightens his leg and rotates his hip to defend the position, it may seem as if he’s pushing his leg deeper into the position. As Giles explains, this may seem counterintuitive, but it actually makes his heel a little less accessible to his partner.
At this point, Giles has created a scenario where his partner must initiate a roll to continue attacking the heel. As he begins t do so, Giles moves with his partner through the roll and finds a spot on the back of his partner’s thigh to plant his foot. He then uses a push and a pull to safely remove his knee line from the saddle. Something to keep in mind. Giles also uses his hand if necessary, on his partners shin to help remove the bottom foot before he begins to escape. This can be useful if his partner has hooked his foot underneath his far thigh.
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Giles now moves on to demonstrate another variation of the position. If his partner is able to secure both legs in what he refers to as “double trouble”, Giles tells us to be careful in thinking that the opposing party wants anything to do with that leg, and to not fear the submissions from hear. If your partner has acquired this leg, its usually only in hopes of eventually executing the inside heel hook.
By staying on his hands and sticking to the original plan, Giles can stay safe here and wait for his partner to switch off to the inside heel hook. At some point the attacking player will begin to try and pass the captured leg across their body to gain access to the other heel. At this moment Giles can hand fight a bit to free his foot, pull his knee back towards himself, and now begin to revert back to the other method of escaping.
It seems that body positioning is key here. Notice how Giles stays on his hands throughout the exchange. This gives him the ability to be light in his hips, and affords him the luxury of being mobile when defending. Often when we first experience someone attacking our legs, we tend to rush into a hand fight, which allows for zero ability to move or position our bodies correctly. Keep this in mind!