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

25 January 2013

25/01/2013 - Teaching (Side Control: Running Escape) Advanced

Teaching #090
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 25/01/2013

Following the beginner class, it was straight into the advanced session. I'm not quite so comfortable teaching the advanced class, as I don't feel I know enough to teach higher level students (at Gracie Barra Bristol, that only means up to purple belt, so I at least wasn't teaching anybody a higher rank than me, but then I only feel about blue belt level, so in a sense I was). Hence why I plumped for a position I use a lot in sparring, the running escape. Although as it turned out, it was mostly white belts anyway, so much the same as my typical Thursday class demographic. ;)

Last time I taught this class, I felt like I threw in too much detail. Shifting the plan around I started off by focusing on the survival posture for the running escape. Rather than gripping under your head and far arm as in orthodox side control, for tonight's scenario your opponent is using near side grips (i.e., an arm under your head and by the same side hip). That means that it is very difficult to bridge towards them and shrimp, because they've trapped that side. However, you can still bridge away from them, as that side is completely open.

A simplified version of the running escape starts in much the same way as an orthodox escape: bridge to make some initial space. Your aim is to create a gap so that you can turn on your side, getting your hand past their near shoulder. Use that hand as a block, then step out with your bottom leg. Be careful you don't elbow your partner in the face as you do that, especially if you're pushing off their shoulder with your hand.

The defensive position you're looking to reach is turned away from them, with one leg over the other, foot based out. Your top elbow is clamped to that stepping leg (your forearm should be glued to your upper leg), while your other hand goes behind your head for defence. This can be a handy place to catch your breath, although it can also be tempting to stall.

You need to keep several things in mind while in your defensive posture. First, don't let them sneak an arm around your waist. If they get an arm in, you aren't going to be able to turn away and free yourself. Should they get an arm inside, you'll have to either wriggle your elbow and knee back underneath, or shift to a different escape. It's possible you may be able to roll them, as when somebody reaches too deeply in turtle, but most likely they will start making space to insert their leg.

That leads into the second point: be careful they don't take your back. This is the most common attack people have done to me when I've tried it. If they can lift you up enough to slide their bottom leg through (if they have an arm around your waist, this becomes much more likely), you're in trouble. If it does happen, stay tight and don't let them get that second hook in. Your elbow is already by your hip and knee to block the first hook, which means you can use the hand of that same arm to help protect your other hip from their second hook. You might also be able to move into turtle and roll them, but that needs good timing and control of their arm.

Third, watch for chokes. Saulo confidently states that they are never going to be able to choke you if you duck your head, bringing it next to your arm to block their entry. However, you can't just lie there and assume you're immune to being choked: you still need to take care they aren't able to set anything up. Should they get hold of a collar, you can try yanking that same collar outwards to remove their grip, but it may be too late if they've already got a solid grasp and started cinching the collar tight against your neck.

Moving on to the actual escape technique, I went with two options. Saulo's version in Jiu Jitsu University (p69) begins by making a little space and turning to the survival posture, then links directly to his knee on belly escape. I normally just teach that knee on belly escape as a drill for my open guard maintenance lesson (e.g., back in October), as the swinging motion is a useful skill to learn. However, in his book, Saulo uses that motion to recover his guard from under side control, rather than the swivel he uses in his DVD.

The risky part is as you're swinging through with your legs in the air: if your partner is prepared and you aren't able to perform that motion smoothly and efficiently, they may be able to set up a double-underhook pass. It is therefore important to clamp your legs down as Saulo does in the last picture, rather than leaving them dangling and vulnerable. Jiu Jitsu University is more recent than Saulo's DVD set, so I'm not certain if this version of the escape is a progression that has been stripped of superfluous elements, or a simplified version which is intended as an introductory option to the full technique presented in the second DVD set.

The second and perhaps more difficult option is from Saulo's DVD. Push off the floor with your back foot, using that to move your body forward, your hips raised. Base on your head and shoulder, then turn your top knee inwards. Continue the rotation until you can recover open or half guard. This is probably the simplest option, but I find it is difficult to secure that position, as I have to scramble for a grip before they pass.

Whichever option you go for, be careful to time your escape, staying sensitive to their weight distribution. If they are driving into you with lots of pressure, it will be hard to make space and turn. A good moment to attempt the escape is when they are looking to attack or transition to another position. Often, there will be a brief moment before they start when they take their weight off you. That is the time to spring the escape.

Finally, as you start to recover guard, you need to make sure you secure the position. If you aren't careful, they can just keep moving round and put you back in side control. That's where I tend to get caught. If you're having trouble, you could instead try going to turtle, or perhaps use the principles of guard recovery: block their shoulder and bicep, get your legs in the way, hook their leg into half guard, etc.

It is possible that the person you are training with won't often use near side grips from side control. Speaking personally, I tend to go for the orthodox grip under the head and the far arm. That doesn't mean you can't use the running escape, it simply means you have to put yourself into position, forcing them to use near grips. All you need to do is make enough space that you can turn away and curl into a ball.


Teaching Notes: I think this structure worked fairly well. The main thing I need to really make this lesson effective is more details on that second escape. The easiest way to do that is try it repeatedly in sparring, so I can work out exactly where people go wrong (using myself as a guinea pig).

I'll make sure to emphasise getting a strong tripod structure when you put your bum in the air for the first one, making sure your legs aren't too close together and you aren't exerting excessive pressure on your neck. It might also be useful to bring in Marcelo's version, where he grabs their arm. This will therefore work even if they do get their arm through that barrier of your knee and elbow, but I'm not too comfortable with it yet.

I might also want to talk more about what can happen if they try to force a back take, specifically blocking their attempts to establish a hook by keeping your elbow and knee tight. That would be especially handy if for some reason I was following a focus on side control with a focus on escaping the back (although with the present Gracie Barra Bristol class structure, I don't think that's possible, and back escapes may not be a good follow-up to side control anyway. Though having said that, I'd find it useful, probably because I use the running escape way too much and as consequence get my back taken off of it sometimes ;D).

Another thing to think about next time is incorporating material I learned from Jeff Rockwell, when he taught a class on the running escape while I was in Texas last year.

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