Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 02/02/2012
I was intending to continue my series on spider guard, with some attacks to follow on my lesson about maintaining spider guard last week. However, Geeza wanted February to stick with the back position, so I had to rethink my lesson after I got back from work, ready for class forty minutes later. So, rather less time than the week I normally spend planning, although on the other hand, I was intending to restart my first cycle in a few weeks anyway. I guess I'll have to save the spider guard attacks for later, bringing my series of lessons on the back a couple of months forward. If you read it last time, then you'll recognise what I'm about to post, as I'll be showing the same techniques from my first lesson on maintaining the back, but in a slightly different order and split across a couple of sessions.
The back is a great position to be in. There are lots of submissions, your opponent can't easily see what you're doing, and you'll also get four points in competition (once you've got your hooks in). Restarting this cycle, I'm beginning again with the most basic stuff: I'll see how it pans out, but I'm hoping that for the more advanced students, that will be a chance to revisit the fundamentals and consider how (or indeed if) they incorporate them into their game. For beginning students, it should be more obviously useful, as some of them won't have seen the basics from every position yet.
The first thing to note is a basic safety point, which is don't cross your feet. If you cross your feet, then all your partner has to do is cross their feet over yours and bridge, footlocking you. Instead, you want to be hooking your insteps inside their legs.
Second, you want to get a good grip with your arms. The harness grip (as always, various other names, like over-under) is a solid option for both gi and nogi. Begin by getting an arm under their same side armpit, so they can't slide down (as otherwise they can go for the escape I taught last time). If they have a gi, you can help secure the position by grabbing their opposite collar. The other arm comes over their shoulder.
If you can't grab a collar, then link your hands together, using that to lock yourself in place. You could also grab under both arms grabbing a collar, which is a excellent way to hold them in place. However, that means both your arms are occupied: for attacks, you have more options if you keep one arm free, to go over the shoulder.
Your arm by the shoulder is the one you'll be looking to shift into their neck and/or grabbing a collar, where you can start working for a choke. Stephan Kesting advises that rather than linking hands, you can grab your own arm, which in turn means you are blocking the best grip your opponent wants to get. As ever, play around and see what you prefer.
Third, keep your chest pressed against their upper back. To escape, they need to create space, so don't let them have any: stay glued to their upper back. You also don't want them to put you flat on your back, like in the bridge escape we saw last week, as then they can start moving their hips. If you drop back, make sure you've moved to the side. However, your ideal position is getting them face down.
Fourth, follow them with your hips, similar as when you're in their guard. If you keep moving your hips to square back up whenever they try and shift away, that again stops them creating space.
Finally, you want to keep your head locked to theirs, providing additional control. It also helps you to see what they're doing. Otherwise, their head would be blocking your line of sight. Place your head next to theirs on the armpit hand side, as that way you're controlling both sides of their skull.
From here, you might find they manage to knock off one of your hooks, or perhaps you're struggling to establish that second hook. If that happens, in order to take the back fully, use the grip you have with your arms to put them on your side, towards your remaining hook. Come up a little on your elbow and pull your remaining hook up slightly. Bring that foot across their body to hook their other leg. You're looking to retain enough control that you can then reinsert your second hook, particularly if their reaction is to kick out that leg.
That does take a bit of flexibility, so it may not fit into everybody's game. Another simple option to keep in mind is when they've managed to clear one of your hooks, or it's slipping and you want to replace it. You might find that you can simply put the cleared hook foot on the floor (still keeping your knee tight) and push, to roll them back to the other side and re-establish that hook. Be careful though, as they are obviously going to react if you release a hook: you'll need good timing and close control.