Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 16/04/2013
Tonight I'm going to look at what I call the bridging back escape. Saulo isn't a fan, listing the bridge escape under 'common misconceptions' in the back survival section of Jiu Jitsu University, but it is nevertheless standard at most schools I've visited. The motion is roughly similar to the bridge and shrimp under side control or mount to recover guard, but the body arrangement is quite different. Rather than trying to bridge and shrimp to crawl away from a weight on top that has pinned you to the mat, you're bridging to pin them and then crawl over the top of a weight behind you.
The basic method I'm familiar with was taught to me by Kev Capel (which incidentally is the same way Feitosa teaches it on Gracie Barra Fundamentals). Cross your hands under your jaw, pressing the back of each hand against your face, elbows in tight. This should both block attempts to press a forearm into your neck, while still enabling you to use your hands to intercept theirs. Interestingly, Brandon Mullins grabs their choking arm with both of his, reaching back to grab behind their elbow with one hand and their wrist with the other. He then pulls it across to create some space. Personally, I'd be worried about my neck with that method, but it's an option to try.
Bridge up, trying to get your head to the mat, with the intention of getting your shoulders to the mat. Keep moving to the side until you've created a bit of pressure on their hook. Brandon Mullins talks about a continuous motion of incremental shifts to the side and twists of the hips, until you can pop their hook off. Feitosa pushes it off with his same side hand, whereas Mullins prefers to use hip pressure, just like Xande and Saulo in the escape I've taught before.
Whichever method you use, do a big step over their leg (Mullins does a 'high step, bringing his knee up high towards his head, then putting the foot over) as soon as you pop it off, then move your hips over onto the floor. Grab their leg (the difficult part here is knowing when to move your hand to the leg, as you don't want to give them access to your neck), then push off your outside leg to bring your weight onto their chest.
You need to make sure that you keep your weight on their chest the whole time, gluing their upper body to the ground. Aim to get your shoulder onto their chest if possible, but be careful of not going too far over, or they might be able to roll you. Like Xande, Mullins notes that they will mostly likely try to come on top as you escape. You still have their leg, so you can always just recover guard (though if you can get on top yourself, that's preferable).
To get to side control, gradually walk around with your feet, maintaining that pressure on their chest. With your other hand (this will be the same hand that released their hooking foot earlier), reach over and grab their opposite leg. This is to stop them turning into you. It should now be a simple matter to twist into side control. You can also try hooking around their head: the picture above is from a slightly different scenario, as Xande is escaping the turtle, but similar principles apply.
That's the basic version. As you'll know if you've been reading this blog regularly, I've been taking regular private lessons from Dónal for the last couple of months. The purpose of that was firstly to enable me to train while still injured, secondly to continue training under Dónal (as he sadly doesn't teach a regular evening class at GB Bristol since the birth of his son) and finally the usual reason of trying to improve (though in my case, that's both as a student and an instructor). We covered back escapes fairly recently, building off this escape along with a couple of others I've taught in the past.
For Dónal's back escape (which has more similarities to Xande's version than Feitosa, but is slightly different to both), start off by immediately bringing your knee up on the choking arm side. In one quick motion, move your head forwards and simultaneously shove their head sideways (this is presuming they know what they are doing and have their head tight to yours for control). Look towards them, keeping your head and neck firm in order to stop them moving their head back into place. Push off your leg and bridge back, aiming to get your shoulders and spine to the mat. Angle your choking arm side knee towards the other side, to stop them dragging you back over to the choking arm side once you start escaping.
Due to your body slipping off to the side, they are probably going to try and come on top. To do that, they need to be able to turn their legs down and then away from you. Keep your legs in tight to block them: with your leg back, that forms an effective barrier to their efforts to turn. There are a couple of ways you can do that. The first one Dónal showed was hooking their top leg (if they're trying to turn on top, they'll be on their side) with your near leg. Alternatively, step your near leg behind the knee of their bottom leg and pinch your own knees together.
With your near arm, grab their trousers by their top leg (either by the knee or a bit lower). When you have the opportunity, switch to grip with the other hand, which means you can bring your near elbow down past their body, on the inside. At this point, make sure you've got your outside knee angled towards them, for base like before. Shrimp away, get your near arm back, then turn straight into the leg squash pass position.
I ended up doing it a bit differently when drilling with Dónal, as I like to get control of the shoulder and head. I diverged at the point after you switch your grip on their trousers. Instead of getting my elbow to the floor and turning, I preferred to either reach across their neck and grab the gi, or better, reach under their head, grip the far armpit then lock my shoulder into their head and shoulder.
Either way, I then shrimp away and turn to try and come on top. With your grip on the knee, stiff-arm so they can't lock their half-guard (if they do lock their half guard, this puts you in the opposite side half guard pass position, so proceed from there). Free your leg and move into side control. Note also that deep half is another common finish to this escape, if you like that position.
Teaching Notes: I could probably tweak my understanding of blocking their legs on the second one, though the main thing is hooking the top leg. During drilling, there were odd numbers, so I went with Mike. What I usually do when that happens is let me partner drill for two minutes, then walk around to see if anyone has questions for the next two. When everybody switches, I let me partner have another two minutes, then walk around again.
The disadvantage of that is it doesn't always give me enough time to see everyone do the technique at least once within the four minutes I allocate for each person to drill. Today that meant the drilling ran over a little, because I wanted to make sure I saw everyone. As a result, there were a few minutes less for sparring. I think that may be unavoidable though, unless I have people drill in a three (which works, but I prefer that everybody gets the full four minutes for drilling and three for progressive resistance each).
This is the first lesson that I've really been able to do the "here's the basic version, here's the more advanced one" thing, which I like, particularly as the student mix in my classes is officially 'all levels' (though I gear everything towards beginners, as I prefer to keep techniques as simple as possible). I'll be trying to do that more in future if I can.