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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a brown belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

14 October 2019

14/10/2019 - Teaching | Back | Switch to mount & head balance retake

Teaching #907
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 14/10/2019

To maintain hooks, you want to make sure you're driving your heels in firmly into their legs. If you're lazy with those hooks, then your training partner will be able to simply swivel round into your guard. If you instead engage your hooks by digging the heels in, when they try to turn you will move with them.

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In the context of retaking the back, the time to use the Andre Galvao technical mount back take is is before they get their shoulders to the mat. They've managed to clear one of your hooks and started bringing their hips over. Before they can get their shoulders to the mat, press your chest into their shoulder and roll them onto their side, in the direction they were escaping. You'll probably need to balance on your shoulder and head to get into the right position.

As they have cleared one of your legs, you should be able to then slide that knee behind their head (you might need to post on an arm, but see if you can do it without releasing your seatbelt grip). Sit back and roll them over your knee, then re-establish your second hook (note that in sparring, this will almost certainly be blocked). You can keep doing that from side to side as a drill.

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To go from technical mount to the back, the motion is the same, but you are in a more stable starting position. Simply drop back from technical mount, rolling them over the knee you have near your head. The foot you had by their hip becomes your first hook, so you just need to bring the second hook over. That can be easier said than done, which is why we'll be discussing some methods on getting that second hook into play as part of a future lesson.

When they are blocking your second hook, cross your free foot over your hooking foot. At first that might seem counter-intuitive, because crossing your feet on the back normally puts you at risk of a foot lock. However, if you only have one hook and cross your feet, they can't properly apply pressure against your ankle. Making sure you are aligned with the bottom of their spin, you can then thrust your hips forwards into them and pull back with your seat belt grip.

The result should be that your partner is bent around and stretched out, so that they can no longer connect their knee and elbow to block your foot. That's your chance to quickly insert your second hook, before they can recover their defensive position. When doing the hip extension, don't forget to keep control of their lower leg with your first hook. Otherwise they can just pop over and escape.

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The most intuitive option when you lose your hooks is to switch to mount. This option is mainly for when you are starting to lose the back and they manage to get their shoulders to the mat. At this point, you don't really have the back position any more, but there is an easy switch to mount. For that to remain viable, you need to drift your far heel over to their far hip, locking that in place. Use that as an anchor to pull yourself over into mount. You may also need to pull your elbow free, as that can potentially get stuck under their head (depending on your positioning before you started to lose the back).

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Sometimes, your partner may try bridging their weight back onto you to pin you to the mats. To deal with bridging, if you want to return them to an upright seated position, a risky but potentially useful option is to kick them back out with your legs. Flick your shins around to behind their knees and kick them forwards. The main issue here is if they're able to anticipate what you're doing, as they can then time their escape to pop over both your hooks.



If you lose both hooks, as long as you maintain your seat belt you're still in control. Staying low, walking your feet around, until you are belly down, your legs pointing out directly opposite to their legs so that your bodies are in line. Walk your knees towards them, which should push them into an upright sitting position. From there, bring your hook over, or you could step on their thigh if necessary. You can then retake the back.

If they manage to dislodge your first attempt, you can just keep doing that walk around. However, you need to have the seatbelt: this demonstrates why having that seatbelt grip is more important than having the hooks. It is much harder to re-establish your seat belt if they dislodge your arms.

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Teaching Notes: On the rolling them back over, you don't just balance on your head and shoulder. Your weight is also pressed into their back, you're using them as base. That's worth emphasising next time. I combined this with the switch to mount, the most straightforward. Having those two together might be enough, as one is when they have their back to the ground, the other is when you've managed to keep yourself tight to them.

Could also be worth emphasising tightness of hooks? Or some other thing, I don't want to overburden the lesson. Something that fits, so I guess still talking about tightness, stopping them from turning? Practice this before next time, think about what can go wrong that connects with them turning their back towards the ground.

Also, text above puts everything together, whereas I've been teaching bits of that in separate lessons. Maybe the option to try for next time is when they get back to the mat, Galvao retake and the walk around behind if you completely lose hooks? That might make sense. Possibly worth throwing in single hook and hip thrust as that can apply to Galvao retake, maybe instead of walk behind? Still needs further thought on what's the best combo. :)

18 September 2019

18/09/2019 - Teaching | Mount | Heel drag escape

Teaching #906
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 18/09/2019



Short Version:
  • Get one leg flat on the floor, other knee raised
  • Turn slightly on your side, just lifting your shoulder
  • Step your raised-knee leg over both your flat leg and their leg
  • Using your elbow to help pry their leg up, drag their foot over your leg with your heel, also bringing your flat leg knee up
  • Turn your hips out to the flat leg side: you can then go to half guard, or shrimp to full guard

Full Version: My personal favourite mount escape is the heel drag, by far the highest percentage way for me to get out from under mount. It's also quite simple, another reason I like it so much. You're in mount, your elbows in a good place for defence, down by their knees. For this escape to work, you need to have one of your legs out flat, just like before. Again, you also need to get on your side: a slight bridging motion will help.



The big danger at this point is that the person on top will switch to technical mount. I recommend just lifting your shoulder slightly, rather than turning all the way on your side: that prevents exposing your back too much. Make sure that your neck is safe if you mess up and they do manage to start turning to technical mount. You also don't want to let them settle into technical mount: immediately prepare your frames to start escaping before they secure the position. You may even be able to disrupt them as they try to shift, using that window of opportunity as they're adjusting their base to enter into your escape.

If they don't get to technical mount (or you're able to work back to the previous position where you'll slightly on your side), wedge an elbow inside their knee. You can either make a frame against their hips, or if you're concerned about your neck, adjust so that you can still pry your elbow under their knee while protecting your collar with your hands (I prefer the latter). As well as chokes, you also need to be wary of their cross-face. If they can control your head, they can flatten you back out, which will make the escape less effective. Use a combination of your elbow and shrimping to shove their knee backwards, on your flat leg side.



Bring your other foot over both your flat leg and the leg they have next to it. That means you can use the heel of that foot to drag their leg over your flat leg. As soon as you get it over, lock half guard and shrimp towards their trapped leg. In half guard, you want to get onto your side as quickly as possible: if you stay flat on your back, you've already done their work for them, as they will want to flatten you out in order to pass half guard. If you're comfortable in half guard, you could stay there and work your attacks.

Alternatively, keep shrimping in the other direction, in order to free your other leg, just like you would with an elbow escape. It's also worth noting that some people, like Roy Dean, recommend just pinching your knees rather than fully triangling your legs around theirs, so that's worth trying too. To help recover full guard, you can also bring your arm across to their opposite shoulder, impeding their movement while aiding yours. Emily Kwok has a handy tip too: if their foot is too flat, making it hard to get your heel in for a drag, slide your flat leg outside to roll their heel up. That will create the space you need in order to insert your heel between their foot and the mat.



A very similar escape, which I don't use much, is the foot lift. Dean shows these two escapes in sequence on his excellent Blue Belt Requirements. The foot lift is for when they have some space underneath their in-step. People won't often do that, in my experience, but if they do, this time just step over your flat leg. Use your foot to hook underneath their instep and lift it over, then as before lock up half guard (your legs are already in position), or shrimp to recover full guard.

Make sure that you pay particular attention to shoving on their knee with this variation, as it is easier for them to slip free (though if that happens, you can always switch to the heel drag). With both escapes, it is important to get the knee of their trapped leg back behind your legs. If they still have their knee past your legs, it makes it much easier for them to move straight into a half guard pass, by driving their knee to the mat and sliding through.


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Teaching Notes: Still not sure if that half guard to full guard part is too complex for beginners. Simple way to think about it is elbow under leg, push between. Something to keep practicing, particularly with beginners.

16 September 2019

16/09/2019 - Teaching | Mount | Trap & roll

Teaching #905
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 16/09/2019

Short Version:
  • Bump to knock their weight forwards
  • Secure their arm to your chest
  • Push their trapped-arm side knee back with your elbow
  • Step your same-side foot over that leg, slide it towards your other bum cheek
  • Bridge up and into them to roll, then immediately posture up

Full Version: For the trap and roll escape (commonly called the 'upa', which presumably means something in Portuguese), a typical starting point would be when they try to establish their first grip on your collar (or your neck, if you aren't wearing a gi) for a choke. That provides you with a chance to trap their arm. The usual grip would be to grab their wrist with your opposite hand, then just above their elbow with your other hand. This is the preferred grip on Gracie Combatives. The reasoning is that this grip prevents your opponent from drawing back their arm for a punch.

There are various other possibilities, such as the option I first learned, which was gripping their wrist with your same side hand, then grabbing the crook of their elbow with your opposite hand. That has the advantage of helping you wedge your elbow and arm into their chest, which provides additional leverage when rolling them over. Having said that, you can still use your elbow with the Gracie Combatives grip, it's just slightly less effective as your arm starts further away from their torso.

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Whatever grip you choose, you then need to trap their leg on that same side. Otherwise, they will be able to use their leg for base as you attempt to roll them. In order to prevent that, step your same side foot over their lower leg, hooking it in tightly to your bum. This means they are now like a chair with two of its legs missing. If you aren't too flexible and therefore can't easily bring your leg back, push it back with your other leg. For some extra control, slide your controlling foot horizontally across towards your bum, which should eat up some more space. If you aren't flexible, you could try pushing it in place with your other foot (a tip I learned from my student Jim the first time I taught this to him, as he's had part of his hamstring removed).

Even if they can't post with their leg, they might be able to use their knee, so you want to have their leg as tightly locked to your body as possible. Also, be careful that you don't end up hooking both their feet, or leave your other leg in range of their hook. It is possible for the person on top to defend this escape by securing a hook with their free leg, under your non-trapping leg. Therefore, try to keep the leg they might be able to control out of range.

A common problem is that you're having trouble trapping their foot, because it is too high up. If that happens, try using your elbow (or even your hand, if you need more reach, but that could leave your neck vulnerable) to shove their knee backwards, until their lower leg is in range. This is an advantage of the Gracie Combatives grip, as putting a hand behind their triceps puts your elbow in a good position for shoving back their knee.

Yet another option, if their arm is not in range, is to bridge enough to bump them forward, nudging them in the bum with your knee if you want more leverage. That should mean they are forced to post out their hands for balance, a difficult instinct to ignore. That puts their arm within reach. You can then wrap both of your arms around one of theirs, gable gripping your hands (palm to palm). Suck that arm into your chest, clamping it at the elbow.

To finish, you're going to bridge towards that trapped side. As with basic side control escapes, get your heels close to your bum first for maximum leverage. Bridge up and over your shoulder, turning to your knees: this puts you inside their guard. Make sure that you're bridging over your shoulder and not simply rolling over to your side. If you don't raise your hips properly, you may merely give up your back.

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If you find you need more leverage, most commonly if they are posting with their free hand to stop your roll, you could attempt to dislodge that by pushing their arm off the ground. Alternatively, Rickson Gracie has a great detail, which he demonstrated in a video a while ago. Simply angle your head away from the shoulder you're rolling over: this increases your range of motion.



When you've successfully rolled them over, that puts you in the guard position. Remember to posture up immediately as you reach that position: if you are leaning forwards, they can control your posture, putting you at risk of a submission.
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Teaching Notes: Forgot to do the bridging drills, that's important. Getting that angled bridge, could also emphasise it during the side control escape drills, noting how it's got broader applicability? Also, nice details by Matt Thornton: angling trapping leg out, shoulder towards hip.