Sunday, February 12, 2012

Basics Of BJJ Escapes

Far too often, the first thing people want to learn in any martial arts is offense. Offensive moves. Someone who wanted to learn self defense from me once asked me, isn't it better to learn how to punch and kick first? Rather than learning how to block? I guess it depends on if you want to go out there and be that guy who starts the fights, or be that guy who learns to defend themselves.

If your goal is self defense, then you have to learn defense first because it implies you aren't always going to be the initiator. In the art of BJJ, the equivalent is to learn escapes before you learn submissions. In Saolo Ribeiro's book on BJJ, he said your goal as a white belt is to just learn to escape and survive.

On your first day you will be a lot of solo drills that will seem like gibberish and you think to yourself, it must be BJJ warm ups. Not realizing they will be the foundation and universal movements that will be applied to all your other techniques.

One of the first ways you will get submitted as a beginner in this art is by getting choked out from the back. It's probably why BJJ seems so magical at the beginning and so addictive. Okay you slap hands and your opponent is in front of you, then magically next thing you know he's behind you. How the hell did he end up there? And then you are tapping. If you have no idea how they got behind you, chances are you also have no idea how to get them off of your back.

The first step in escaping is actually choosing the side you would like to escape on.

My friends at were cool enough to donate some videos on this subject. Professor Monteiro does a good job explaining here how choosing the correct side will make the rest of your escape that much easier. Noticing how he is also using that hip escape that they keep pounding into your head as a beginner to tie this escape all together.

The other dangerous position you will end up in is the crucifix.

So he has your back, somehow you have managed to escape his legs but now you are caught in a position you have never even imagined before in your worst nightmares. And you are slowing getting choked out and your arms are all trapped. Its the claustrophobic position that makes a lot of beginners quit the art all together.

Here you see how you can use a backwards roll to escape. Along with the hip escape, the forward and backward roll is the other moves you will be forced to do over and over. And with good reason, its to escape in moves like these. You can see how in this position your are tied up in a knot, well you are using the position to unwind yourself out of the knot.

If you have somehow managed to escape all these positions on your first day and ended up on top, you may be feeling pretty good. I know I did my first day. I had no idea he was letting me on top to put me in his best position to armbar me, Royce Gracie style. The idea of being dangerous off your back is key to BJJ but unusual to the beginner. It's psychological. They allow the white belt to get on top to toy with him and give him a false sense of confidence, just to take his arm because he will not realize the danger he is in.

See how he "padlocks" his arms basically to make it hard to pry his arm out and be submitted? Then he grabs the back of your thigh to limit your ability to extend your hips. Isolating your arm and using your hips is the key to any armbar from the guard. With all those things nullified and in that order, it is now easy to free yourself because you are now basically in a very narrow open guard. When it's that narrow, the range of his threat that he can impose is limited. Now you don't have to worry about opening up the guard and just on the pass itself.

If you like these videos, check out the guys at If you like this post, then keep checking back here and keep reading.

About the Author:

Sam Y. is a Personal Trainer, Coach, Performane Enhancement Specialist, Corrective Enhancement Specialist, Yoga and Pilates instructor, and holds multiple certifications. He is also an avid Martial Artist, training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing, Boxing, and MMA. He is also the author of the popular fitness blog All Out Effort as well as the popular martial arts blog Inner BJJ. You can find him in the Los Angeles area personal training his clients, or at home annoying his wife, or on Facebook at his personal fitness page.

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