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While flashy submissions and cool transitions are part of what makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so fun to learn, it’s important to also take the time to study and practice escapes. A BJJ practitioner without a solid escape game is like a knight with a sword and no shield—able to attack, but not defend! And while escapes may seem boring when compared with fancy techniques like the berimbolo, flying triangle, and Imanari roll, they can actually be quite fun, particularly when you get good at them! Below are a few easy and effective escapes from common BJJ positions and submissions.
Escaping the Mount
The mount can be an extremely frustrating position for the bottom player. While in the mount, the top player has multiple advantages, including the benefit of gravity. Therefore, it’s imperative to have a solid set of escapes handy for those times when you find yourself mounted by an opponent. One of the most popular mount escapes, the Upa (seen in the above video as escape #4 and also known as the “bridge and roll” and the “trap and roll”), is also one of the most effective. Generally taught as part of most schools’ white belt curriculum, the Upa escape utilizes the Upa, or bridge, movement to sweep a mounted opponent from the top to bottom position. Here’s how it’s done:
The Upa Escape
- When mounted, immediately begin scooting backwards until your opponent’s weight is centered over your hips. If the top player’s weight is on your chest, this escape will not work.
- Once your opponent’s weight is centered on your hips, trap his arm on the side that you intend to sweep him towards. Trapping his arm will prevent him from basing when you initiate the sweep. If your opponent’s arms are low on your torso, thereby making them difficult to trap, bridge upward with your hips, forcing your opponent to bring his hands to the mat. When your opponent’s hands hit the mat, trap the arm on the side of his body that you wish to sweep him towards.
- As you trap your opponent’s arm, use your foot to trap his leg on the side you wish to sweep him towards. This prevents your opponent from using his leg to base when you initiate your sweep.
- With your opponent’s arm and leg trapped, bridge your hips upward.
- At the peak of your bridge, roll towards your opponent’s trapped leg and arm.
- Upon completion of the sweep, place your hands in your opponent’s armpits and establish a solid, upright posture.
Bonus tip: In order to prevent your opponent from transitioning from side control to full mount, bend your knees and place your foot on the knee furthest from your opponent. This creates an effective barrier to the full mount.
Escaping the Triangle Choke
Nobody enjoys getting caught in a triangle choke. It can be a claustrophobic feeling to have your opponent’s legs tighten around your neck as you struggle to break free. While there are quite a few effective triangle choke escapes, one of the easiest to learn and begin implementing immediately is the elbow down escape. This escape works well for the following reasons: a) it makes it difficult for your opponent to exert full pressure on your neck; and b) it prevents your opponent from positioning his body perpendicular to yours, thereby weakening his ability to tighten the choke. This escape is performed as follows:
The Elbow Down Escape
- When your opponent locks the triangle choke around your neck and arm, place the elbow of your trapped arm firmly against his leg, thereby preventing him from pulling your arm across his body. Also, make sure to protect this arm, as it is a potential target for arm bars and wrist locks.
- Walk forward with your chest, effectively moving through the center of your opponent’s triangle, as you pull back with your elbow against his leg. These movements place pressure on your opponent’s ankles, forcing him to open the triangle.
- With his ankles now separated, walk your body in the opposite direction, passing your opponent’s guard and establishing side control.
Bonus tip: As soon as your opponent shoots for the triangle, press his hips into the mat with your hands and explode upward, preventing him from locking his legs around your arm and neck.
Escaping the Armbar from Mount
Armbars often come on so quickly that it’s difficult to determine what just happened—much less escape! With practice, however, you’ll soon come to recognize many common armbar setups, and you should be equipped with a solid arsenal of escapes for situations in which an opponent manages to successfully trap your arm. The hitchhiker escape, by preventing your opponent from exerting pressure on your elbow joint, is one such technique. Here’s how you do it:
The Hitchhiker Escape
- When your opponent falls back for the armbar attempt, immediately grab the foot or ankle closest to your face with your free arm.
- As you grab your opponent’s foot or ankle, point the thumb of your trapped arm towards his hip. By pointing your thumb towards his hip, you block your opponent’s access to your elbow joint, which is the point of contact needed to effectively execute the armbar.
- While still gripping your opponent’s foot or ankle, circle your body in the direction of your trapped arm.
- With your opponent’s leg trapped beneath your midsection and your arm safely out of harm’s way, you are now in a position to pass the guard and begin mounting an attack.
Bonus tip: Never attempt to “bench press” an opponent off of you while mounted. By extending your arms upward, you make yourself vulnerable to armbar attempts.
Are you regularly practicing your escapes? If not, you’re missing out on a big part of BJJ. Incorporate the above techniques into your BJJ repertoire, and you’ll soon be a “Houdini” on the mats!