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Escape Side Control With These Tips From Buchecha
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Escape Side Control With These Tips From Buchecha

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From Bad to Worse

Anyone who’s been on the mat, from white belt to black, has experienced the crushing pressure of side control from an experienced player. From this position, a seasoned grappler can access several submissions as well as holding a very tight control on the bottom person. Learning to escape side control can be a frustrating experience for anyone, especially those who are outsized by the competition. 


Many escapes from side control are initiated by the person on the bottom, but some of them require patience and timing. Because the position can be controlled so well from the top, some escapes are easier to find during transitions between two positions. One opportunity for escaping side control comes when your opponent decides to make the transition to north-south control. As they move their arms to begin rotating, a chance for an escape appears.


For some detailed instruction on escaping this position from World Champion Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida in the video below:


 

Setting It Up

As Buchecha demonstrates, the first part of this escape is avoiding a submission from side control. Many times, the opponent begins the transition to north-south by bringing his or her arm over your head and will be actively aware of opportunities to wrap your neck in a headlock. If he or she is able to lock this in, then the tap is sure to follow shortly. In order to even think about escaping, it’s crucial to keep your head pinned to the mat in order to prevent them from locking in a submission.

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After addressing the potential for a choke, the bottom player should be concerned with relocating his or her arms in order to set up the escape. In most side control situations, the bottom person should fight to establish two hand placements: the north hand across the opponent’s neck and the south arm in the opponent’s hip. This helps to prevent the opponent from settling their weight as they please and initiating their own submission setups.


In this situation, however, the top player has initiated a transition by bringing their arm over the bottom player’s head. As a result, our hand placement needs to be adjusted. Now, both of the bottom person’s hands should move to the opposite side. The north arm should underhook the top player's neck while the south arm moves to monitor his or her far hip. From here, you’re ready to initiate your escape from side control.

Breaking It Down

From this slightly modified side control position, it’s possible to match your opponent’s movement as they rotate towards the north-south position, slowing their transition. When you feel that it’s time to make your move, Almeida gives a few steps to finish your escape.


The first movement is to drop your south hand from blocking their far hip to overhooking their south arm. As he mentions in the video above, Buchecha considered this overhook to be sort of an arm drag. Indeed, he names this escape the “arm drag escape from side control”, which should give an indication of just how important it is to switch this grip from a blocking wedge on the opponent’s hip to an overhook on their arm. Without this adjustment, the rest of the move has no meaning.


At the same time you’re initiating the overhook for an arm drag, your north arm, currently underhooked around your opponent’s neck, has a job to do as well. Much like a club sweep from butterfly, you’ll want to use your arm to force the opponent’s head to move by hitting them with your bicep. The angle should be backwards towards their own feet, and not just towards your own head. This is easy to achieve if you think about it like a bicep punch and allow yourself to jam it into your opponent’s neck with some force.


Before you’re ready to explode out and escape, there is one more movement involved in setting things up. To power out of this position, you’ll need to bridge. This requires bringing your heels to your bottom to push upwards. Buchecha is quick to point out that getting enough momentum for this move can be difficult, so he recommends a solution. He suggests building some momentum by bringing both of your feet up into the air before bringing them down forcefully to bridge. Some of the momentum from this leg movement will transfer into your bridge, making it much more effective.


After you’ve made these adjustments for the setup, you’ll be ready to apply some force and escape the position. As you bridge hard, you’ll bicep punch the neck, drag the arm, elevate your hips, and rotate clockwise as you spin out of side control and likely into a turtle position. Check out the steps below for a quick review and summary of the steps needed to nail this escape.

Key Steps To Escape During Transition

  • The north arm underhooks head and bicep punches the neck to force the opponent backwards 
  • The south arm overhooks on the opponent’s arm and drags forcefully to assist the rotation of the escape
  • Bring your feet in the air before stomping them down to bridge
  • Push or pull on all three of the above controls as you rotate clockwise to escape

Who Is Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida?

Marcus Almeida, known on the international Jiu Jitsu scene as “Buchecha”, is one of the most decorated grapplers of all time. A native Brazilian black belt, Marcus Almeida burst on to the worldwide competition scene in 2011, taking gold in multiple divisions in both the Pan American Championships and No-Gi World Championships. 


Since then, he has focused almost exclusively on Gi-based competition, racking up countless championships in both his weight class and in the absolute division. His overall professional grappling record stands at an impressive 128-13-1, justifying his reputation as one of the greatest Jiu Jitsu players in the world.


If you want to learn more from Marcus Almeida, check out his instructionals The Buchecha Escape Series and The Buchecha Side Control Game on BJJFanatics.com. In them, you’ll learn many more valuable escapes from the side control position, as well as how to control and submit your opponent more effectively from side control when you’re the one on top.

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