This article was written by South African Black Belt, Chris Bright, who runs the PE Submission Fighting Academy.
Very few situations in jiu-jitsu are as frustrating as rolling with an opponent that you simply can’t maintain a position against. I’m sure you have all experienced the frustration that comes from working on a guard pass or a mount transition for several minutes, only to have your opponent effortlessly wriggle away before you can consolidate the position.
One of the most overlooked and fundamentally important cornerstones of Jiu-Jitsu is the system of escapes. Having confidence in your escapes will allow you to have the freedom to attack, safe in the knowledge that if things go wrong you will be able to survive and regain position.
The key movements that we learn as beginners, such as bridging, shrimping, rolling and sprawling are vital tools to have in your armory and being able to move well is necessary to be able to create ‘escape holes’.
Working on your no-gi game can be particularly helpful early on in your jiu jitsu development as it facilitates an understanding of the intricacies of weight distribution and space-creation required for good escapes.
Conditioning, and in particular developing a strong core, is also crucial. Many of the movements that are required to escape successfully require a strong core and, if you get tired quickly on bottom your conditioning needs to be addressed urgently. The fitter and stronger that you are the easier everything else will become.
Try to analyze your game to isolate moves that get you into trouble, is there a specific sweep you try that gets your guard passed? Or is there an escape from side control you attempt that results in you giving up your back, which in turn leads to you being submitted?
The quickest way to fix to these types of problem is to simply avoid these situations. This is a short-term solution though, and by developing awareness of these positional ‘dangers’ you will be able to adjust these moves and hopefully make them work to your advantage later on. Your mindset should be ‘There is no position that I cannot learn to escape from, so I don’t mind being put in any position’.
The Escape Formula
We are all familiar with the ‘position before submission’ mantra. This is a recognisable and set ‘process’ that you have to go through in order to successfully apply your submission. Escapes are no different and my process for approaching any less favourable position is as follows:
- Create space
Many times you will be caught in unfamiliar positions but by using this process you will be able to find a way out. The most important thing is to not randomly thrash around but instead to have a set strategy that can be applied in whatever position you have arrived in. There is no point trying to move without having first framed and created space to move in to.
Of course, you will also require technical skills in order to initiate the creation of space and to implement the movement. It will also require good conditioning for you to be able to pull it off your escapes repeatedly, but the application of this strategy will minimize the wasting of energy and reduce your frustration enormously.
Don’t be afraid to spend time in bad positions when rolling and use these as opportunities to practice this process and get used to finding the space that you need.
When you are trapped underneath your opponent try to make yourself as small as possible and keep your limbs safely drawn in. I can think of very few situations where it would be advantageous to be stretched out into your longest shape on the bottom.
If you make a conscious effort to become as compact underneath your opponent as possible, they will find it more difficult to attack and improve their position. It is also far easier to prevent your opponent from connecting with your hips if your knees are bent and drawn in and your elbows are tight into your hip region.
Energy Efficient Movement
Try to perform each movement as smoothly and effortlessly as possible. The more explosive and dynamic each movement is the more physically taxing it will be and the fewer times you will be able to perform it. Conserve your energy for when you need it the most.
When making your frame and escaping, try to imagine your opponent is an immovable object. Create your frame to prevent them from following your escape direction and avoid bad habits like ‘bench-pressing’ your arms into them.
If there is space available you should be constantly moving. The more subtle the movement and angles you offer your opponent, the more likely he is to make a mistake or give you space to escape.
Relax and Breathe!
Finally, try to remain as relaxed as possible, opportunities for escaping are much more likely to present themselves when you are in a relaxed state. Aggressively pushing or pulling your opponent will only serve to reveal your intention and expose you to potential submissions. You are also less likely to get injured, will be able to roll for longer periods and will be a better training partner if you are relaxed.
Breathing is one of the keys to relaxation and learning to control your breathing in bad positions will help you to remain relaxed and keep your movements smooth. It is not uncommon to see beginners holding their breath on the bottom and this is extremely counterproductive. In a very short period of time, the muscles will become deprived of oxygen and even the simplest of movement will become impossible.