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Don't Just Escape, Turn The Tables! With Tom Scala

Don't Just Escape, Turn The Tables! With Tom Scala


Escaping a tough position is always one of the hardest things to do in Jiu Jitsu in my opinion.  No matter how brutal the position it can be extremely frustrating trying and trying time and time again to escape a position only to find that you are still stuck there even after exerting all of that energy. 

You could argue that escaping a bad spot in Jiu Jitsu is just as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing.  Like anything, putting in a lot of effort and really giving it your all and not seeing any results or improvement on all the energy you just used can be mentally defeating.  I’ll never forget something a good friend of mine and training partner said to me when I was having a lot of trouble escaping side control.  

He told me to stop wasting my energy and to stop doing things just to do them.  He then gave me examples of times I would bridge hard with an explosive bridge, but he was too high on my body to feel any impact, or I would hit the bridge and then come straight back to the same spot without adding in the hip escape and therefore just wasting my energy to lift my training partner up with my hips for no reason. 

You can’t teach heart, and that is absolutely true, in my opinion, however, there is more to sports, and in this case, Jiu Jitsu, than just having heart.  Sure, it is imperative that you have a desire to win, a desire to be better and the heart to push through the tough rounds and keep on going. These are all absolutely important traits.  But in addition to heart, you need to also have direction, some sort of a plan or roadmap telling you how to most effectively use your efforts to yield the best results, or at the very least, how to not waste the efforts completely.  

In order to have the best road map you need to study techniques and ideally have a solution to every situation your opponent might throw your way.  Since side control has always been my least favortie position to try to escape, and something I continually struggle with, I like to look at as many different escape options as I can and try to see what I can add to my game.  

Let’s take a look at this very simple, yet highly effective side control escape going to the back with Tom Scala.  This escape has the added benefit of not simply replacing guard, but landing you in a dominate position on the opponent’s back, and in a points based tournament, giving you the additional points, typically 4, for the back take.  


Since we are escaping side control, you likely can imagine where we are starting… You guessed it, side control.  Here’s the slight difference. We are going to start in side control however assuming the opponent is not able to get the cross face yet because we are doing a great job of blocking it using two on one with our hands on the opponent’s bicep.  As a result of this they are also not able to get the under hook yet because they can not close the distance therefore they are simply blocking our hips with this arm being planted on the mat. 

As a result of not being able to get the cross face the opponent will likely look to secure side control by “switching their ride” or whatever term you want to use that means their arms are on opposite sides of us than they would be in a traditional side control setup. In addition, it is common for the opponent to get heavy on their hip as Bernardo is in the picture shown below.  The goal here is to make it as difficult as possible for us to move, and that’s ok. If the opponent does not get heavy on their hip like this, we may have an elbow escape option which is that you see Tom going for in this picture below as well. We are going to assume the opponent will get heavy on their hip and make life difficult for us.  

Master Side Control TODAY! 


From this position Tom brings his elbow tight to his body and squares his shoulder to his opponent’s back.  He then uses his left hand to secure a grip under the opponent’s belt with his palm facing his own face and running his forearm along the opponent’s back to be used as a lever to push as needed.  This connection provides added control of the opponent. While doing this you will see that Tom also sneaks his right elbow into his opponent’s hip using the blade of his forearm as a frame. 

The next step in this escape to back take is for Tom to get on his side facing his opponent’s hips and then scissor his legs making his left leg his top leg.  Tom then starts to build up some posture by first coming up to his right elbow, and then up to his right hand. In doing this he creates enough space to slip his bottom (right) knee out from under his opponent, bringing it out at the opponent’s hips, where his frame just was. 

From here Tom has two choices.  Either way he first wants to look to achieve his bottom hook which is only a few inches away from happening at this point.  Once he secures the bottom hook Tom then can choose to sit up and grab the opponent’s top leg to take them into the truck position, or he can set his seatbelt grip and slide his top hook in to get his points in the tournament and get to work from this traditional back control position. 

I like this escape to back take because it’s simple, there aren’t a lot of fancy complicated moves that are hard to remember, or execute on, and the reality is, this is something you should be able to drill a few times and then start working it in to your live training.  

If you are truly looking to take your side control game to the next level, you need to check out “Side Control Mastery by Stephen Whittier”.  This is a 7 DVD video instructional that covers every aspect of your side control game and is your all inclusive how to guide for living in side control from the top, or the bottom.  

This instructional is guaranteed to shave weeks or even months off of the learning curve, advancing your Jiu Jitsu game exponentially faster than you expected, or than those around you.  Ultimately in addition to all of this, you will also learn how to feel like a “lead blanket” creating tons of pressure from side control and making your opponent’s wish they were able to escape.  

The Pillars Side Control Mastery by Stephen Whittier

Take your side control game to the next level now with Stephen Whittier who is a third degree black belt with over 40 years of Jiu Jitsu experience and widely respected as one of the top concept-based instructors and coaches in Jiu Jitsu.  Some compare his level of detail to that of John Danaher if that gives you any indication as to how incredible his video instructionals are.  



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