Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 06/08/2013
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. 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. This is something that initially felt vulnerable, but I've since started using it myself.
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. I'm wary of putting an arm away from my neck, though on the other hand, if you've already got your back to the mat, there is much less danger of being choked (unless they have managed to snake an arm right around your neck and grabbed the opposite collar).
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 again you don't want to give them access to your neck), then push off your outside leg to bring your weight onto their chest. Personally I prefer to grab their far armpit and drive my shoulder into their head for control, or if I can't manage that, reach over and trap their head between the back of my elbow and side/armpit.
If you go for the bodyweight option, 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. If you're cross-facing, that's more straightforward as you should be able to drive them flat on their back, then shift right into side control.
That's the basic version. 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. Angle it inwards, to prevent them from rolling you back the other way. 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. If you aren't able to get your head past theirs, still push off your leg. Put your head on the mat and then grind it underneath their head. This isn't pleasant for either of you, but it is generally effective: preferably you can get your head past theirs in the gentler method above.
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 is hooking their top leg (if they're trying to turn on top, they'll be on their side) with your near leg. Get your foot towards your bum to lock their leg in place. 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, once again for base. Shrimp away, get your near arm back, then turn straight into the leg squash pass position.
As in the simpler version, I prefer to get control of the shoulder and head. Instead of getting my elbow to the floor and turning like Dónal, I like 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, push off your free leg 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 (pushing on their leg if you need to) and move into side control. Note also that deep half is another common finish to this escape, if you like that position, which I'll be covering on Friday.
Teaching Notes: I'm still not sure about the basic version of this escape, as it seems less effective than Dónal's version, but I'll see what feedback I get from students. The bridging motion is potentially useful, but my main intention is to use it as a way of familiarising students with some of the principles they can then use in the second technique. I'm not convinced it is helping with that at the moment.
I also feel like I'm being a bit vague about how to get on top after slipping to the side. I'm confident with the version I use, gripping the armpit, but rather less so on Dónal's turn to pass. I'll have to ask him about it at a study hall some time: I can see the principle, but I'm sure there is more to the motion when he does it. Controlling with the back of the elbow might be something I can explore, for those times when you can't manage to get your arm behind their head.
I'm covering on Friday for Geeza, which means I can teach the deep half stuff that follows on from what I taught today. Frequently they are going to shift to mount when you escape with that method, so Dónal's transition to deep half is a good counter. It could be that it makes more sense for me to teach that in the one lesson and get rid of the basic version I'm initially teaching at the moment, but again I'll ask what students prefer.
There were only four in class today, which is a considerable drop from the last few weeks, perhaps due to the school holidays. Either way, that meant I didn't jump in for the sparring. I thought I might as well save it for a bigger class, particularly as with Dónal's private on Wednesday, nogi on Thursday, the teaching slot on Friday and study hall on Sunday, I'm intending to train five times this week anyway.