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The UPA Escape: Revisiting a Classic
You may have learned the UPA escape or the trap and roll at your very first academy intro lesson. When the subject of BJJ comes up in a setting of non-practicing folks, it’s one of the first techniques that comes to mind. Why? There may not be a more empowering example of the effectiveness of BJJ than this classic mount escape. I remembered the light bulbs going off in my head when I had my first run in with the technique. Maybe it was obvious to you, but to me, learning the escape was a beautiful moment that demonstrated the legitimacy and real-world application of BJJ. The UPA is grand ambassador for BJJ as well, in the fact that absolutely anyone can learn, understand, and apply the technique. It’s accessible, applicable, and could most definitely save your life in a self-defense situation.
In the current BJJ climate where the content and variety of techniques is becoming so vast, the basics sometimes take a backseat. Many feel that a few repetitions of a simple concept are enough to get the job done. It’s true, many themes of basic BJJ can be learned with ease, but to truly know them takes time, and the constant reevaluation of your proficiency.
The UPA does show up from time to time in competition, but I remember one occasion where it made a particularly interesting appearance. Ryron Gracie and Andre Galvao met at Metamoris 1 in October of 2012. For the most part, the bout was pretty one-sided, with Galvao doing most of the attacking, and pushing the pace. But as you would expect, Ryron Gracie’s defense and methods of surviving the onslaught from Galvao we’re on point. Galvao would pass, reverse, dominate top positions, but ultimately could not get the finish.
At about 6:33 in this video, Andre mounts, and Ryron executes a perfect, very well-timed trap and roll. Have a look!
I remember being really excited to see the technique show up in such a high-level competition setting. It brought a little attention back to the classic escape, and maybe caused BJJ players around the world to get back to the mat that Monday and give the UPA a little bit of attention. Ryron demonstrated a true survival mindset in that match with Galvao. Maybe it’s not always what the fans want to see. Surely, a little more back and forth is preferred when we watch combative sports, but there’s something quite commendable about the way Ryron composed himself during the match.
You may think of the UPA more in terms of self-defense, but do you attempt it when your training live? I know, everyone knows the escape, it’s too common, it’s easy to defend. These things may be true but pay attention to the adjustments your partner has to make when you are attempting the escape. You may be surprised at what the set-up might lead to. Or maybe, you’re timing is the key to success with the UPA. Ryron Gracie perfectly timed the technique is his match against Galvao. There was no time for Galvao to adjust, and if the technique lent itself to a BJJ scenario of that caliber, surely it can remain a solid option in your game.
The UPA has many faces. It’s details and secrets to success will vary from instructor to instructor but there are constants that remain. The trapping of an arm and a leg on the same side of our opponent’s body, and a solid bridging motion are the main components. Practitioners sprinkle in a variety of details to make the move high percentage, and maybe you’ve found your own secrets to making the escape work for you, but the ground floor mechanics of the technique can’t be ignored.
Here’s a quick video of Kurt Osiander demonstrating the UPA escape. He explains some very important aspects of defensive posture, and mechanics, along with some signature Kurt Osiander language and humor. In this instance he connects the UPA to the elbow escape, a classic combination that should be an important part of your BJJ escape arsenal.
The UPA has deep roots in BJJ. It’s mechanics, effectiveness, and user-friendly properties have an important place in BJJ curriculum. Give the technique some love from time to time and keep it alive in your game.
For more from Kurt Osiander, check out Fundamentals of a Jiu Jitsu Renegade from BJJ Fanatics! You can get it here!