In the Ground

There are some nights that BJJ is just frustrating.

At class on Monday I went in deciding that I was going to play my bottom game, focusing on my escapes. In my last post I talked of letting people blow past my guard in order to develop into an escape artist.

It’s not at all fun.

I’m one of the smallest guys at my academy. We tend to attract big guys for some reason. The not-quite-as-big guys we have tend to not like little guys running around too much. They’re like the paranoid mother at the play ground with her kids. They can do whatever they want as long as they’re not moving… at all. There are 3 or 4 guys that just pass guard and hold on for dear life.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you some of my discoveries in my pursuit of establishing the roots of my BJJ life.

1- Escaping and survival are much easier when you’ve got someone’s back.

Duh, right? Whenever I fight a large guy (which is a relative term, and relatively everyone is large compared to me) I become determined to take their back. I figure it’s the best way to stay out from underneath them. However, it completely goes against my game plan of escaping the bottom so I need to avoid that temptation.

2- The basic escapes (bridge-hip out- knee in to guard, and bridge-hip out- to knees) seem to work the best. Another one I was trying was a kind of sit-up escape when they have both arm over the far side of the body. I got caught in two head-and-arm triangles from there.

3- Survival is the key to escapes. When I forced escapes against more skilled opponents I got caught. However, when I got into solid survival posture, and forced them to make a move, escapes presented themselves.

4- If you’ve had a bad day at work, and are in a bad mood heading into training, don’t spend the night working escapes. It makes you want to kill things.

5- If a guy just wants to lay on top you kind of just have to let him, unless you’re stronger. Lesson here is, start the escape before he establishes control, or bring a pillow.

I personally don’t understand what anyone could hope to learn from holding down a little guy in side control for 5 minutes. I mean, I’m not paying for a cuddle. That’s when we have to start bringing out ‘munter’ moves like the forearm to the throat, and the thumb dig into the chest, and pretending like you’re going to throw up kind of stuff.

6- Believe in the technique. If you’ve bridged and don’t hip escape its just wasted effort. If you hip escape and don’t attempt to get the knee in it’s just wasted effort. If you attempt to get the knee in and don’t follow it through into guard it’s wasted effort.

It’s the same with any move really. I love the hook sweep from butterfly guard. If I fight to get the hooks in, fight for the grips, fight for the position, and don’t follow through with the move… yeah, you guessed it, wasted effort.

Believe in the move!

Wayne Gretzky once said that “100% of the shots you don’t take won’t go in”. That’s true in BJJ as well. 100% of the moves you don’t fully attempt won’t work. Escapes are no different. Just go with the technique until it’s actually stopped by your opponent.

7- Finally,  a plan is better than a… no plan (?).

I’m starting to see that I need a plan for each hand position. That plan could be another escape, or a way to get back to the one you want. If I lose the underhook I need a plan. If I get blocked I need a plan. If they switch base I need a plan. If I don’t have a plan I’m always going to be behind in the game.

So, next class I’ll be back underneath.

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