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Escaping the back take from turtle - a BJJ Tutorial

Updated on April 9, 2016
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Andrew Smith is a 3rd degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs the BJJ Tutorial Encyclopedia here.

Turtle troubles

The longer you train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the more you come to realize that your best opportunities to advance your position lie in transitions. This goes doubly so for escapes. The best time to escape, by far, is when your opponent is transitioning from one dominant position to another. A great example of this is going from the turtle to the back with hooks. In this instance, we're taking a look at the transition from turtle when your opponent already has the harness or over/under position (or at least the underhook side or a lapel grip). For a comprehensive review of options to escape turtle and recover guard before this happens, revisit this tutorial on turtle/guard recovery.

No hooks: the "Granby" roll for BJJ

This position starts when you are turtled and your opponent does not yet have hooks in, but they do have the far lapel grip, or an underhook on your arm, or a "karate chop" grip into your hip. From here, your opponent's aim is to tilt you toward them, using a hook on the back of your knee to aid in the tilt, and then throw hooks. During this transition, the main idea is to allow yourself to rotate rather than fighting the position. However, the monkey wrench you're going to throw in is to rotate just a bit further than your partner wanted you to, namely by walking across your shoulders. From here, just elevate your hips into the air (while basing on both shoulders) until you can hop over your partner's legs. While you might not end up in side control every time, if you time this right, you should be able to effectively nullify the back take and create a neutral position.

Full speed

This second scenario is virtually identical to the first, but your partner has managed to throw their first (near side) hook in. If they've thrown the far side hook in, you can generally escape to deep half easily. The first thing to do here is to attempt to peel their hook off using their forearm. If this works, it's essentially the same scenario as before. Again, if you wait for the hook to be 100% in before you start your escape, times are going to be very tough. Additionally, when you're over the top of your partner's guard here, try switching your hips in mid-air. This will facilitate the guard pass on the way down (technically, your partner doesn't have a guard established, so you likely wouldn't get points if this was a point-scoring scenario, but if it helps you to remember how to complete the position by thinking of this as "passing the guard", more power to you!).

With a hook

This next scenario is different in that the hook is completely sunk in, and peeling it off won't work. Fortunately, the "rolling on your shoulders" idea still works here. While based up on your shoulders, just throw your hips over your partner's far leg by using a "mule kick" motion, making sure that you have cleared the far side hook completely. I recommend proceeding all the way to the "gargoyle" position described in this tutorial. From here, you can either finish a leglock, transition to a Kimura grip and "the trade" position, or take the back with a ninja roll, or switch to a knee cut guard pass. All of these are possible from the backstep position you and your partner have created.

Another look

Here's another quick look at the technique. One thing worth pointing out here is that your initial reaction is multi-purpose; that is, it's viable for either with or without the initial hook thrown in. Here, you can use the same rolling and hip lift motion in order to accomplish either objective. In this video, my partner has a hook in. As I shoot my hips up, instead of passing, it just means I'm going to shoot over for the backstep position. Try drilling both options with your partner and note the similarities in what you do in order to escape.

Which is hard to escape?

See results

Final thoughts

Remember: the key to any good escape lies in the transition, and in the opportunities you and/or your partner create in those transitional moments. Have fun trying out these possibilities, and, as always, let me know if this stuff works for you!

About the author
Andrew Smith teaches gi and no-gi seminars across the country. Check out hisschedule of upcoming seminars and bio here. If you're interested in booking Andrew for a seminar, email him here.

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