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Your BJJ Escapes 411
Does your BJJ academy or school spend a lot of time on practicing escapes? If you're school is like most, the bulk of instructional time is spent focusing on learning techniques and positions. For most of our jiu jitsu development, we are busy adding new techniques like the arm bar and the triangle choke from closed guard, or perhaps the latest mount attacks. We crave offensive techniques to add to our arsenal. It's far less exciting (on paper) to practice escapes, but at the end of the day, escapes are the techniques that keep us safe from all of the weapons our opponents and training partners have been studying.
Our escape game or lack thereof typically gets most exposed during live training. You've been working your moves all week in class and when you show up to your school's Open Mat, you're ready right? Wrong. You've learned how to do an arm bar, perform a choke, or other technique, but what do you do when you find yourself at the receiving end of one of these submissions? Most likely tap.
If you're tired of finding yourself stuck in submissions and dominant positions without having any clue of what to do next, let's take a look at some easy to implement tips that will have your training partners calling you Houdini before you know it because of your escape prowess.
Tighten Up Your Basics
There is a very good chance that one of the first moves you ever get exposed to at your first BJJ class is the classic hip escape movement or "shrimp". Over the course of your BJJ education, you will probably end up shrimping up and down the mats for miles during warm up exercises or drilling.
Similarly, the classic bridging of our hips and reaching over our shoulders is another staple of the BJJ class warm ups around the world. Back and forth over each shoulder, we reach, but do we really understand why we use this exercise?
Understanding the fundamentals and concepts that form the building blocks or the "why" behind any technique or movement, goes a long way to making the technique more successful. When you fully realize that the majority of escapes involve creating space or distance from our opponent to allow us to make the necessary adjustments that ensure the escape will happen and our next step is offensive.
In both the shrimp and the bridge, the goal is to harness the explosive power of our hips in a way that allows us move our opponents efficiently or move ourselves away from our opponents. The Upa and the Elbow escape are two classic mount escapes in which the bridge (upa) and the shrimp (elbow escape) are integral to their success.
So don't treat these movements as simple warm up movements. The shrimp and the bridge are two movements that should be practiced and refined throughout your career. Like any technique, we can always work to improve and make it more efficient.
One of the first things we do when we find ourselves in a bad situation is begin to panic. Take a moment to try to think back to how you felt the first time a training partner mounted you, or put you in a tight side control. No matter how hard you push or thrash around, the pressure and despair continue to grow. When we are faced with this moment, our fight or flight mechanism begins to kick in and we hold our breath and try to do anything we can to get the hell out of that situation.
Holding your breath might at first give us a sense of being stronger and focused, but in reality, we are essentially working very hard to submit ourselves. Why help the opponent achieve their goals?
Whenever possible, you must remind yourself to breathe to give your brain much needed oxygen to help you make good decisions and execute the techniques. Focusing on your breathing will also help keep you calm in bad spots and allow you to effectively work your escapes without thrashing around in a panic.
Rethink Escape Mentality
Escapes are techniques too. They should not be treated like 2nd class citizens in your BJJ training. It's important to approach the notion of escapes, like you would approach the notion of adding leg locks to your game. Escapes should be thought of as being just as essential or a part of a person's game as any other technique.
Drill the Escapes
One of the best and most efficient ways to add escapes to your arsenal is to learn the escape or counter to a technique immediately after you have learned and spent some time practicing the technique itself. Once you've learned the fundamentals of executing a triangle and have spent some time practicing and landing the technique in live training, it's time to begin looking at how one might escape that same triangle.
The beauty of studying the escape immediately after learning the technique is that it gives your mind an opportunity to deconstruct the original technique and see it through the eyes of the opponent. By putting our minds in the other role of the person trying to escape the triangle, we are actually also strengthening our triangle knowledge because we learn to understand what the goals are for each of the people. When I know what my opponent has to do to get out of my triangle, I can work to make sure they do not achieve those goals.
Once you have identified a particular escape you would like to work, it's important to create training and drilling scenarios to put the techniques into practice. In live training, we may find ourselves stuck in a certain troublesome position a few times. This is simply not enough practice to get good at these techniques.
The best way to practice these situations is to create games where partners will drill from bad positions. If you find yourself needing to work bottom mount escapes, you and your partner will start with them mounted on you. Take that initial breath and begin working to get out of the mount position. Your partner's job is to prevent you from escaping. Start easy, build confidence until you have your partner doing everything they can to keep you in mount. When you escape, immediately go back to the same position. Your goal is to work to escape mount as many times as you possibly can, until it becomes easier and more like second nature.
This concentrated escape drilling will go a long way to making you a true escape artist. We simply cannot expect to become experts at getting out of bad spots if we only practice a few reps in class and find ourselves stuck in live training occasionally. Practice and drilling sessions must highly focused and repetitive to get the maximum benefit.
Escapes might not be the most sexy things to learn in class, but they are truly life savers in class and beyond. Nothing frustrates an opponent more than having someone that cannot be held in dominant positions or constantly slips out of their best submission attempts.
Escapes should be something you are searching for and studying to add to your BJJ arsenal. One of the absolute best resources out there besides the instruction from your coaches is BJJ instructionals. It's never been easy to study the escape systems of top level BJJ athletes like Bernardo Faria and his Escapes from Everywhere system. Check it out at BJJ Fanatics. There you will find instructionals that focus on escapes from not only Bernardo, but also Tom DeBlass and Dean Lister as well.