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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

09 July 2013

09/07/2013 - Teaching (Side Control Stiff Arm Escape)

Teaching #113
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 09/07/2013

Last time I taught this, I split my instruction between the Braulio and Marcelo versions of the stiff arm escape, also drawing on Brian McLaughlin's helpful video. This time, I decided to go with something Mike suggested previously, which is starting off with the stiff arm as a pass prevention technique, particularly as we also drilled that quite a bit on Sunday.

It's similar to what Jeff Rockwell taught when I trained with him in Texas last year. When Rockwell taught this method of preventing them completing the double underhooks pass, there were some slight variations, but it's basically the same technique. Rockwell noted that you should try to avoid them getting their hands locked, as that will make it tougher to defend the pass. The natural impulse is for them to reach their hand across to grab your collar and start stacking (when drilling, it is helpful if your partner indicates which hand by opening it wide and moving it slowly towards the collar). Once you see that hand moving, grab their wrist and elbow.

Marcelo's version, which we drilled on the Sunday, was slightly simpler. As they try to pass, clamp your hand just above the elbow of their leading arm. Pinch tightly at that point, keeping your arm straight (you can grab the sleeve if you prefer, but that gives them a little more wiggle room). Swing your legs up and down to help sit up, then base on your elbow, moving to base on your hand as soon as possible (like the stiff arm pressing just above their elbow, the basing arm extended behind you is also all about skeletal structure, much more reliable than just muscle power). Use your grip as a brace, meaning you can now shove yourself backwards. All you're looking to do is recover your guard, preventing them from readjusting because their upper body is blocked by your stiff arm. You could also try combining it with a sweep, as Mike did on Sunday, but teaching I thought just that option would be enough. My hope was that it would make the next stage a bit easier.

For the main escape, I offered two variations, simplified from what I taught last time. Continuing with Marcelo Garcia's elbow push (technically it's the triceps, but he calls it 'elbow push' on MGinAction), he works from under a standard side control then brings their arm across. To do so, make some space by pressing into their neck and bridging if necessary, then sneaking your other hand under their arm and onto your head. Use that to bump their arm over, immediately transitioning to the pinch and shove. Still holding their arm, swing your legs straight up, then as they come down, use that momentum to sit up. Base out on your elbow, then move to basing on your hand. Continuing to push on their triceps, shrimp backwards into the space you've created, until you can recover guard.

I also went through the armpit push version I first saw several years ago, which was on an old Braulio instructional, with McLaughlin's video providing further details. You're under a standard side control, then they bring their arm over to the far side. Drive them towards their legs by pressing in that direction with the arm you have by their neck. This creates some room for you to get the other hand into their armpit. Straighten out your pushing arm, then try to immediately sit up in order to get onto your elbow then your hand. Keep pushing and sitting forward, until you can roll them over your hip. This shouldn't take much strength once you have them off-balance. Once that stiff arm is in place, the shrimping back to guard option is always there too, and probably more high percentage.

Teaching Notes: Like before, a large part of the reason I want to teach the stiff arm escape is because I'm keen to get better at it myself. It seems like a great option for combining with the running escape, so I intend to keep on drilling the stiff arm until it starts to come together. That's been hindered by my right arm complaining, but now that we have extra drilling time on Sundays, I'm hoping I can get it lots of reps on the various techniques I've been working over the past couple of years.

I didn't go into quite so much detail for this class as I did last time, trying instead to focus on the basic principle of stiff arming into them to recover guard. I think everybody got the idea: a number of people were gripping a bit low on the arm, as well as not keeping their arm straight all the way through, but that's something that can be ironed out with more drilling.

In progressive resistance people were occasionally getting stuck underneath, so it might be worth including something about that when teaching. Mike was able to deal with it, as this is covered in depth on MGinAction, but some of the others were struggling a little. Marcelo's solution is to switch to gripping over their back. If they insist on grabbing your legs, you can do a sort of seated hip throw. Then again, I don't want to overload with instruction: I'll see how it goes next time.

I'm also getting in more sparring these days, which I'm trying to make certain happens when I teach. It's a bit selfish, but as Tuesday is apparently the only day I can guarantee I'll be able to train, I need to make the most of it. It's also cool that Tony is back in regular training, as he's one of my favourite sparring partners. His style is quite different from mine (as is Mike's), making for a fun challenge when we roll.

It was also cool to see Liam: having another purple belt in the class is super-helpful, because that means there is somebody else there able to give advice and help out beginners. That's particularly true with Liam, as he's got lots of experience and has been training a good bit longer than I have. :)

Also, I must remember to check out this thread, so I'll leave it here for future reference.


  1. The seated hip throw works best when your opponent loads their weight onto your hips when you are halfway through the escape. Another option marcelo uses when they grab your legs but don't commit weight very heavily is to get your bottom leg out (so left leg if your left arm is behind you) and then switch to sitting on your other hip, scooping up your opponents arm into the back crucifix. Marcelo also emphasises not letting your opponent get their hands linked if they try to hug your legs, ie. keeping your legs spread apart. I was going to write more but have to go into a meeting. Bloody work always getting in the way!

  2. Cheers Mike: I guess the solution is to make jiu jitsu your work? One of these days... ;P

    Are you going to be able to make the Sundays regularly? I think I could happily keep working on this and the running escape for months if not years. I'll probably start trying to match it up with whatever the fortnightly position is, along with what I'm intending to teach. Shame the sub only comp will mean no study hall this weekend, but it will be good to catch up with people I haven't seen in a while. :)

  3. I'll go to the sunday class as often as I can. Circumstances obviously mean I'm out of town or busy more often than I want to be at the moment. I'm not likely to make it this sunday, which is especially unfortunate as I have a real burning desire to drill some things after performing so disappointingly in the competition. Can I interest you in some extra drilling before class tomorrow (tuesday)?

  4. No probs: I should have some time to drill before class tomorrow, especially as it's a class that won't need much preparation (I'll be covering the basics of maintaining side control again, which is material I feel fairly comfortable with).

    I think you've got my number (Facebook me if not), but I could manage 18:30, or even 18:00? Depends how early you want to be there tomorrow. :)

    I wouldn't worry about the comp: as long as you learned something, it's all good. Though that's easy for me to say as I only ever did it once and don't have any immediate plans to do it again. ;p