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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

18 May 2022

18/05/2022 - Teaching | Side control | Running escape

Teaching #Evening
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 18/05/2022

Short Version:
  • Bump and get the back of your hand to their shoulder
  • Push off the shoulder, step your leg over, knee up [Saulo style], curling your body into a ball
  • Keep turning your body downwards, so that your nipple is on the mat
  • Tuck your elbow tightly by your hip, put your head in your armpit to block chokes [Saulo style]
  • Or, turn your head to the mat and tuck your other arm underneath you, elbow poking slightly behind [Priit style]
  • 'Expand' outwards, pushing off your foot
  • Turn in a tight circle, into open guard

Full Version: I started off by talking about the running escape as a survival posture. I first pointed out the importance of blocking their arm from reaching through past your hip. Ideally you want to block that by jamming your forearm to your thigh, so that you elbow is by your hip (slightly above, so two fingers width past the hip). This will need to be mobile, as they will be trying to wriggle past.

Putting your arm under your knee can work too, depending on your flexibility, but be careful of reaching too far under your leg. It may leave you vulnerable to them collapsing your leg on top of your arm, trapping both limbs (unless you're flexible enough to get your heel right to your hip, which should be a strong enough structure to prevent that). If they do manage to get their arm in, dig it back out using your elbow and knee. I should note that it is possible to escape while their arm is through (Marcelo teaches it that way, IIRC), but personally I find it much tougher when they have that arm through.

The second survival tip is being very careful of their attempts to take your back. Especially if they have an arm through and can reach your opposite hip, they will try to lift you up and slide their leg underneath. That will then help them to put in their hooks and take the back. If they do start to take your back, block their second hook with your elbow and knee (in the same way you were blocking their arm), hopefully setting you up to either get back to the running escape, or perhaps starting a pass off the back escape. Priit's version helps with preventing their hook, as your arm is already underneath you, acting as a shield against that hook. Blocking the first hook with your hand is another possibility, but that could potentially leave your neck vulnerable.

Which leads into the third point: protect your neck. You are relatively safe in the running escape, but if they can reach a hand past your neck and grab a collar, that's dangerous. If you feel their hand beginning to sneak past your shoulder, immediately dive your head into your lower armpit. It is a strange position, but that motion should close off their route to your neck. This isn't somewhere you want to stay very long: just enough to prevent that choke set-up. If they get further and manage to grab a collar, you can use what Priit calls the stick move: quickly extending belly down to then turn towards them, taking the tension out of their grip. This takes a fair bit of drilling to get right.

Priit's version adds in various tweaks in comparison to Saulo's original take on the running escape. Rather than head in armpit, Priit turns his face to the mat. Your chest is angled down too, touching the nipple to the mat. Your bottom elbow is right underneath you, with the elbow poking out two fingers width. This will make it tougher for them to pull you backwards, and like I said earlier, you can block their attempts to put in a hook to take your back. In Priit's system, that then connects to the turtle and panda positions.

Chris Paines (a Priit Mihkelson black belt) had an interesting approach to choke prevention here. If they manage to get their arm around to grab the collar to start setting up their bow and arrow, make sure that you keep your armpit to knee area secure. As long as they can't get a grip in that area, they will struggle to finish the choke. As soon as they attempt to put on any kind of choking tension, due to their lack of other grips, you can simply spin to face them (the aforementioned 'stick move'). That removes the choking thread. If instead you move your arms to defend your neck, they now have a clear path to choke.

Moving on to the actual escape, Saulo's version in Jiu Jitsu University (p69), which begins by making a little space and turning to the survival posture, links directly to his knee on belly escape. I normally just teach that knee on belly escape as a drill for my open guard maintenance lesson, as the swinging motion is a useful skill to learn. However, in his book, Saulo uses that motion to recover his guard from under side control, rather than the swivel he uses in Jiu Jitsu Revolution 2 (he does a much quicker version in his first set, Jiu Jitsu Revolution 1).

The risky part is as you're swinging through with your legs in the air: if your partner is prepared and you aren't able to perform that motion smoothly and efficiently, they may be able to set up a double-underhook pass. It is therefore important to clamp your legs down as Saulo does in the last picture, rather than leaving them dangling and vulnerable. If they do get that double underhook, make your legs heavy, wriggle back on your shoulders, then hook your insteps inside their thighs.

Saulo has a little tweak to this guard recovery option, which I noticed on his sadly now defunct instructional site, BJJ Library (review here, here). It may be he did this previously, but it was highlighted on the running escape video. In the past, I have used a wide base, securing my weight on my shoulder and two feet. The way Saulo did it in the video was with a much narrower base, pushing off with his feet straight from the running escape position rather than stepping out to widen the legs. He also makes more of a push with his hips into them, staying close, rather than a swing. If you can manage to push them with your hips, that leaves less space for them to move right into the double-underhooks pass.

To further enhance your push, you can try the tips I got from Donal's private lesson a while back: using the elbow to make some space before you go for the hip swing. After you have shoved your elbow into their chest, continue to extend it to push them further. Initially, especially if you are very defensive like me, that feels as if you're leaving your arm vulnerable. However, because you are immediately following up the elbow shove and arm extension with a hip bump and leg swing, they shouldn't have a chance to capitalise on your arm being out there.

On that point, be careful to time your escape, staying sensitive to their weight distribution. If they are driving into you with lots of pressure, it will be hard. A good moment to attempt the escape is when they are looking to attack or transition to another position. Often, there will be a brief moment before they start when they take their weight off you. That is the time to spring the escape.

It is possible that the person you are training with won't often use near side grips from side control. Speaking personally, I tend to go for the orthodox grip under the head and the far arm. That doesn't mean you can't use the running escape, it simply means you have to put yourself into position, forcing them to use near grips. All you need to do is make enough space that you can turn away and curl into a ball.


Teaching Notes: I have a lot to pack into this now. Going through the basics takes a good while (elbow placement, nipple to the mat, leg position etc), so the question is whether to also add to that getting into running escape from 'standard' side control, dealing with things like a leg coming over the top, plus other troubleshooting. That could be worth a separate lesson? The babybridge is a whole other thing. So yeah, probably best to keep them separate, so as not to overwhelm people.

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