February 16, 2015 Alex Embry

Where We Begin Escapes

This week is focusing on escaping from bottom side mount.  A skill that’s important due to the ever increasing popularity of the side mount position.  Being on top of a match might be one of the strategic goals of BJJ, but it’s only half the art.  The other half is working from those pesky negative positions as well.  We have to embrace and love these positions just as much as we do the top game.

So as we look at escapes this week, we want to spend a bit of time each night looking not at just HOW we escape bottom side, but WHEN we should start our escape.  All too often when watching rolls we see individuals have their guard passed only to immediately allow their partner establish a good, solid, HEAVY side mount and only THEN begin a technical escape.  Think of it this way.  Would you rather start your escape once an opponent has achieved the perfect side mount position (a position designed to hold you in place) or when he’s in the middle of passing while his weight is up and pressure less focused?  It’s an easy answer when you look at the question in that light.  Clearly sooner is better.

Prof. Roy Harris, of the original “dirty dozen” explains the principle like this.  You have an attack action, from start to impact that your opponent will be conducting.  If you divide that into thirds (and a beginning level, even this gets deeper) you get a beginning phase, an intermediate phase of execution, and finally the end of the action where you’re receiving energy from your partner.   So if we use a punch (as the concept easily applies in JKD) as an example you’re looking at the chamber, the flight, and finally the impact of the fist.

Most arts deal with the final third of the attack.  This is where we get so much blocking, covering, and ducking from.  This is not bad, but it’s a beginning.  This is where an attack is the most dangerous.  If we develop the skills to deal with the same attack during it’s flight, we make ourselves safer and increase the likelihood of our success.   Now, at a high level of skill, let’s think about how much of an advantage we gain by dealing with that attack at the outset, before any energy builds up.  This is where true skill develops.

PTK students will recognize this concept in Paul’s goal of cutting attacks while they are still in chamber rather than meeting them in the combat space.   Again, we are keeping ourselves safe while neutralizing the attack. Sound familiar?

So how does this apply to BJJ and specifically to what we’re doing this week?

Look at the application of top side pressure as an attack (which it is- position is always the key) and let’s break it down.  At the end of the action (the final third) we see a position firmly established with lots of pressure to contend with.   If we break the side mount effort down to outset and execution phases as well we can start to apply this VERY useful principle.

While you’re partner has just cleared side mount and is moving to put weight on you we can see the intermediate phase of execution.  Here, he is dangerous.  He’s close to locking you into position, but there’s more space between you and him and more transitional motion than you’ll have in a second.  Here is an opportunity to counter that will keep you from being flattened and avoiding his maximum pressure.

Now, back up even a step further, what about his positioning AS he’s passing?  Is he fully immersed in applying a proper side mount?  Of course not.  He’s still occupied with a successful pass effort.  If you begin to prevent his side mount at this point, you’ve drastically defeated his effort.  Maybe even retained guard.  This is a far better option that bridging for inches once your partner has sunk his weight.

It’s important to note here that we’re NOT talking about instituting a scramble at this point.  The scramble almost always goes to the stronger, faster, more athletic grappler.  What we are taking about, and will be working on all week, is good technical motion that is driven by sensitivity of movement and an understanding of mechanics.

I’m looking forward to this week and can’t wait to see you on the mats.