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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

07 February 2013

07/02/2013 - Teaching (Mount Escapes)

Teaching #093
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 07/02/2013

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!Tonight, it was time to again cover the two simplest methods of escaping the mount. Like last time, there were a few drills I wanted to include, beginning with shrimping in pairs (one person standing by the others armpits, bottom person shrimps back to guard).

The first basic escape is the trap and roll. A typical starting point would be when they try to establish their first grip on your collar for a choke. That provides you with a chance to trap their arm. The usual grip would be to grab their wrist with your opposite hand, then their elbow with your other hand. That means you can use your elbow when bridging. You can also grab their wrist with your same side hand: this puts the elbow of that arm in a better position to block their knee.

There are various other possibilities, but the essential thing is to stop their ability to post their hand for base. If you want to force the position, you can bump to knock them forward, meaning they will normally catch themselves by putting a hand on the mat. You can then bring your linked arms over that extended arm, bending their elbow and trapping the arm.

You also need to trap their leg on that same side. Otherwise, they will be able to use that for base as you attempt to roll them. In order to prevent that, step your same side foot over their lower leg, hooking it in tightly. This means they are now like a chair with two of its legs missing. A common problem is that you're having trouble trapping their foot, because it is too high up. If that happens, try to use your elbow (or even your hand, if you need more reach, but that could leave your neck vulnerable) to shove their knee backwards, until their lower leg is in range.

To finish, you're going to bridge towards that trapped side. As with the side control escape, get your heels close to your bum first for maximum leverage. Bridge up and over your shoulder, turning into their guard. Make sure that you're bridging over your shoulder and turning to your knees, not simply rolling over to your side. If you don't raise your hips properly, you may merely give up your back.

Also remember to either posture up or slide back into a tight defensive position once you are in their guard, as otherwise you might find you put yourself right into a submission. Try to time your bridge carefully, as otherwise you'll just tire yourself out and make yourself easier to control. Don't just bridge crazily without any thought to where the person on top is applying pressure (e.g., are they high above your hips, with knees into your armpits? Are they low on your body, grapevining your legs? Or have you maneuvered them right on top of your hips, for maxmium bridging potential?)

You can still trap and and roll if they bring an arm under your head: simply reach back as if you were combing your hair to trap their arm, then progress as before. Again there are variations here. On Gracie Combatives, Rener recommends bringing your free arm into their armpit and rolling. Others prefer to press their hand into the hip.

Finally, you might find you need to remove their legs from being threaded in between yours (known as 'grapevining'). To clear them, tuck one of your feet back toward your bum, then with your other foot, push off their hook on the tucked-in leg. Another method, which Rener uses, is to just circle your leg around, though that depends on how well they're using their grapevine. This is the same method Geeza showed on Tuesday. Alternatively you can preempt that completely by having both legs flat, meaning they can't establish grapevines in the first place. Personally I don't use that method as I like to have at least one knee up, but there are instructors who teach it.

The trap and roll escape does work, but on its own may not be enough against an experienced opponent. The second main option is the elbow escape, which relies more on shrimping than bridging. As a rule of thumb, if you're underneath, you don't want to be flat on your back, as that makes it easier for the person on top to establish control of your shoulders, head and hips. So, start your elbow escape by turning to your side and working an elbow inside their knee. Keep defending your neck throughout, so that your elbows form a frame. Create some space by bridging. You can then use your frame to help you shrimp into the space you just created, pushing against their leg.

The idea is to make enough space to pull your leg through: don't just bridge and plop back down. That leg will need to be flat, the other raised, or it will be hard to pull it free. After you're on your side, you can simply bump slightly, then simultaneously shove their knee with your elbow while sliding your flat leg underneath.

Aim to pop your knee through initially. If you can pull the whole leg out in one, great, but don't be greedy. Getting that knee through past their hips will mean you can then brace it against their thigh. That mechanical advantage should aid you when shrimping a second time, in order to to free your other leg.

Once one of your legs is fully out, you can then use it to wrap around one of theirs: this is what Geeza calls 'good half guard'. Stopping at half guard may be a possibility here, but generally I'd recommend you keep working towards full guard. To do that, continue shrimping and framing until both legs are free. Another option is to put the leg around their back.

You can also use a frame against their hips, one arm across, the other bracing against that wrist, elbow in tight. That's also handy for stopping them moving up higher in mount. However, be extra careful with your neck if you do that: as your arms are down by their hips, that could leave you vulnerable to chokes.

As with any technique, try to combine your escapes rather than obsessing over just one. Also, don't give them your head: that's what the person on top wants for control. Connected to that, make sure you always defend your neck and keep your elbows tight. I'm a small guy, so this is what I tend to do most classes: stay really tight, elbows in, knees curled up, not leaving anything loose for them to attack, or space for them to wedge their hands through.

Teaching Notes: Next time I'm going to split this up further. Although they are both basic techniques, I ended up spending too much time teaching, particularly as I divided the trap and roll into the standard and headlock variations (to use Rener's terminology). When I come to teach this again, I will teach the trap and roll as one lesson, adding in details on hip placement in the headlock section, then in a future lesson teach the elbow escape and the heel drag.

It's a shame Dharni is going to be leaving soon, as she's a good person to have in class as she often does unusual things in drilling. That's very handy as a teacher, as that provides me with more material to teach. Today this was in regards to the headlock variation from mount. If the person on top continues to cling on to the head, you'll want to extricate your head. The method that made sense to me was putting your opposite arm into their collar then bringing your head out to the 'open' side, similar to how you'd free your head from a tight guard.

Every time I teach the elbow escape I'm always surprised by how unfamiliar it feels. I never use it in sparring. That's a bad thing, as it indicates I'm almost 100% reliant on the heel drag. I also felt a bit rushed tonight, because I was keen to get on to the sparring before we ran out of time. I'll lavish some attention on the elbow escape next time, which should fit nicely into the heel drag.

I can then also talk about removing hooks from the grapevine in that future lesson, which is something I didn't deal with today due to time restrictions. It's an important part of escaping mount, although personally I use Kev's method of crossing your feet under their bum rather than standard grapevines.

It was cool to get some specific sparring time in, although I need to be careful of my leg, which doesn't enjoy people elbow escaping under mount. It was hopefully useful for students to have somebody a bit more experienced hold mount on them: I'm always concerned when I join in class that I'm taking time away from a student that could instead be learning how to hold mount.


  1. I'm also dependent on the heel drag. I wonder if that just has to do with being smaller?

  2. That's certainly possible. Could also just be that it is fairly simple and you can do it straight from a tight, curled up defensive position.

    Either way, once this annoying injury is sorted I'd like to make a more concerted effort to play around with other mount escapes.