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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

30 August 2014

30/08/2014 - Open Mat | The Back | Turtle Basics

Class #588
Artemis BJJ (Impact Gym), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 30/08/2014

In September, we're returning to the back, revisiting a position for the first time since we kicked off Artemis BJJ back in January. It won't be a retread of April, however, as the focus will be a specific variant of back control known as the turtle, where you're on your knees and elbows. This is something that crops up quite often as people try to avoid being passed, along with various other situations. It isn't a position I find myself in all that much, perhaps because I tend to go with tight, pressure passes that result either in a pass or getting stuck in half guard most of the time. Either way, it means it's a position I'm looking forward to exploring in more depth.

So, as usual with open mats, I wanted to have a play with some techniques I plan to teach next week. The reason I was especially keen to look into turtle was due to a couple of instructionals I've been sent to review that are based around turtle: firstly, Aesopian's Mastering the Crucifix that I reviewed recently, then secondly a turtle seminar from Nathan 'Levo' Leverton. A number of the techniques from Levo's video are ones I've seen before at his LSG back seminar, so it's good to get a different take on it as well as a refresher.

I'm going to cover some of the basics for maintaining the turtle, from the top person's perspective. For that, I'm using the side ride and the back control position Levo learned from Demian Maia. For the side ride, you have your nearest knee next to theirs, your other leg out for base (but bent, as if it's straight, that hinders your ability to react to their movement). Your same side hand is grabbing their arm, while your other hand is reaching inside their far hip. Don't go too deep, just to the level of your wrist, also being careful to keep your elbow out of range. Your head stays low.

A point of difference between how Levo showed it on that video and how I've seen Xande do the same thing is that Xande keeps his knee off the floor and leans into them. You can also see that in Aesopian's section about the side ride. I decided to go with knee off the ground, to add a bit more weight and mobility, but I'm still experimenting to see what works best both for me and for students.

You can also move around behind them, where you put both hands inside their thighs, your knees pressing into their hips, staying on your toes and keeping your weight low. From there, you can switch to the side ride on either side. If they manage to start turning, always run behind them to their back. If you run towards their stomach as they turn, that puts you in their guard.

Along with some of that maintenance, I had a quick play with the clock choke variation I learned from Kev, who got it in turn from Felipe Souza. I find it simpler than the usual clock choke, as you simply grab their collar, block the near side of their head with your free elbow, then walk round for the submission. I tend to find the standard clock choke tricky to get and more awkward to finish, but that's probably just because I always use the elbow-block version instead.

Finally, I also had a play with some crucifix stuff, which fits nicely with the side ride. In specific sparring, I was able to switch into the crucifix a few times, walking back and going into the collar choke. However, I also lost it a few times, their arm slipping free because my legs were too loose. I didn't get lifted up, as my training partner was my size, which meant different gaps in my technique were exposed compared to Congleton.

Underneath, my turtle escapes could do with some work. I was waiting for them to try and get their hook, then grabbing the arm and driving through. That kinda works, but it's sloppy and I think uses way too much strength. I felt sore in my lower abs/groin afterwards, which indicates to me I was relying on force rather than leverage. On the plus side, the random kimura grip thing to escape back control worked, having watched some guy use it while browsing the net earlier: getting something off a Sherdog thread to function has got to be a first for me. ;)

Best thing that happened all day was my training partner hit the clock choke variation I showed him a few minutes earlier! Unfortunately I wasn't watching at the time, but still cool to know it was effective for him straight away. :D

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