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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a purple belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

06 December 2012

06/12/2012 - Teaching (Operation Tattered Belt: Basic Back Escapes)

Teaching #081
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 06/12/2012

I'm now back from Texas, but unfortunately my groin injury is still causing me problems, especially in closed guard and on the back. This fortnight is all about the back at Gracie Barra Bristol, so to give my leg a rest (holding back control with both hooks is painful for me at the moment) I decided to go with escapes. Operation Tattered Belt over on Julia and Megan's blogs is currently focused on knee on belly, so I'll have to leave that until later. In regards to back escapes, Operation Tattered Belt is drawing largely on Saulo's book. The ones I teach are already very similar to how he teaches them in Jiu Jitsu University, so I don't really need to change anything.

In the back position, your opponent is frequently going to begin by trying to attack your neck. Protecting your neck is therefore a priority. In order to choke you, they need to block off both sides of your neck. That will normally use either your gi (e.g., sliding choke), their gi (e.g., ezequiel choke), your arms (e.g., arm triangle) or their arms (e.g., rear naked choke). Therefore you have to be aware of all four of them: note their grips, if they're trying to pull their gi across, if they're attempting to thread an arm through yours, and most obviously, if they are attempting to drive their arm under your chin.

As with any escape, you need to stay tight. Keep your elbows in, using your hands to cover your neck. There are numerous schools of thought on just how to do that: clamping your hands to both sides of your neck (which I learned as the 'Shirley Temple' defence), crossing your hands over your neck, grabbing both your collars, and Saulo's method of just grabbing one collar, keeping the other hand free to block. As his book is the main source for Operation Tattered Belt, that's the method I highlighted.

Saulo's back escape starts by putting a thumb inside your opposite collar, using your other hand to block their hands. You then do what Saulo calls a 'big scoop', shifting your upper body down and your hips forwards. Next, kick out one of your legs to clear their hook (you may also need to nudge it with your elbow), then drop your other elbow down past their other leg and turn. You need to be careful here that they can't re-establish their second hook: block it with your elbow and knee if they try.

If you're a bit late and they've already got an arm across your neck, fall towards the open side, as if you were reclining on a couch (if you fall the other way, you're helping them get the choke. You also want to turn your head towards their elbow to relieve pressure. Both Saulo and his brother Xande suggest that when you fall to the side, you want to be lying on their knee (Saulo suggests just below the knee), as that will stop them shifting to mount or re-establishing their back control. From there, Xande adds the detail of turning your hips to clear their hook.

Step your leg over, using that as a base to shrimp out. Grab their other trouser leg, to prevent them from moving through to mount as you try to escape. Ryan Hall suggests reaching back and wrapping up their head, which is a different kind of anchor point. Whichever one you choose, it is important to immobilise their torso by getting your weight onto it as soon as possible, so they can't either re-establish back control or try to swing over to mount.

I probably should have mentioned the option Xande demonstrates in the picture on the left, which is recovering guard, but forgot about that and emphasised getting to side control. Either way, Keep shrimping in order to clear their leg, aiming to either re-establish guard, or continue to shift your hips back into their armpit until you can switch to side control. Make sure that you are still being careful of your neck, as that is always a danger from back mount. Saulo mentions that you could use your free arm to stop them sneaking their other arm around, though generally when escaping the back, he emphasises that it is your hands that do the defensive work rather than your arms.

Saulo strangely doesn't deal with the most common grip from the back, the seatbelt. Instead, he focuses on escaping when they either haven't got a grip yet or if they have double underhooks (or at least he doesn't in his book: in his first DVD set, he assumes the other guy has grabbed a collar, but the escape is otherwise much the same as on the page). I assume that is because he is imagining that with his survival position, you aren't going to give them the chance to establish the seatbelt, but it would still have been useful to see his perspective on that position included in the book.

That meant that my focus for the first progressive resistance part of the lesson was seeing if students were able to use that 'survival' position to prevent their partner establishing the seatbelt grip. Generally people manage to at least get the arm past the armpit, which Saulo doesn't talk about. Again, I would assume he is treating the survival position as capable of pre-emptively stopping that grip, presumably by keeping the elbow tightly clamped to your side.

I've also been asking for feedback via Facebook for the last two sessions (commenting on here is fine too, if any of the people I've taught are reading this). The main suggestions so far have been correcting mistakes more often, which is simply a matter of how much time I've got available with each person, and switching partners around to experience different body types and reactions. I'm restricted slightly on the latter point by what size people are in each class as well as their rolling style, so at the moment it is difficult to do unless class is fairly large. Still, something I want to try and institute, as a student suggested it. :)

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Teaching Notes: On the spur of the moment I decided to include something Carlos Machado had spoken about during our interview at RCJ Machado Dallas, which was reviewing the techniques at the end of class. I also took a leaf out of John Will's book and had everybody face the same way, then ran through the techniques step by step. I think that's something I'd like to institute for every class from now on. Ideally I'd be able to somehow put it into the warm-up too, but I'm not sure how well that would work.


A number of people were having some trouble stopping their partner recovering mount. I think the way to stop that would be getting your weight onto the torso, but that can be difficult if your partner is bigger than, better than you or both. I'm trying to come up with a simple way of explaining the motion: maybe getting your head to their opposite shoulder, as the body follows the head? I'll need to experiment with it when sparring myself, though at the moment I'm hindered by this annoying groin injury.

I was very pleased that in class today, the women slightly outnumbered the men. For that reason alone, my favourite class I've taught so far! I would love to one day teach and train at a BJJ club with that kind of gender balance: that would pretty much be my ideal. :D

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