John Will8 Apr 2006
Partner up: One stands behind the other and grabs his belt with both hands. Person at front has feet narrow, person behind has feet wide. The front person runs forward with the person behind providing resistance. Do twice the width of the gym, swap partners, then do the same except the person in front turns around and runs backward.
One person in the other's guard. Top person stays relaxed, his hands on the bottom person's chest. Bottom person holds the top persons sleeves at the elbow from underneath. Do swinging armbars from one side to the other, trying to get completely perpendicular to the top guy. Then swing off the armbar to a basic sweep position. Mix it up between basic sweeps and armbars.
Escapes from the turtle
The first and main part of the dealt with getting out from under the turtle position, with him sprawled atop you. What escape you perform depends on where his first hand goes.
If an arm goes around your torso, under your arm between your armpit and your hip, do the switchout escape. If his R arm goes under your L arm, move your R elbow and R knee to your left, come up on your left foot, then catch his R arm with the "wing" of your L arm, trying to grab above his elbow between your tricep and torso, in the armpit, and switch your R leg out as far as you can, If your head is at 12:00, try to go to 7:30 rather than to 9:00. Stick your head up behind his armpit. He should fall flat on his face, you end up lying face up with your neck on his back.
This fits in with the analogy of the his position to a four legged table; if you cut off one leg, it falls diagonally in the direction of the missing leg. This is the way you want to go. Do not push back into him, rather try and disappear out from under.
Once you are out come up on your feet, hips off the floor so your head and shoulder are pinning him, then turn back toward his feet and take the back. Don't turn toward his head because he will just go to his knees and you will end up in head to head at best, when you could have got the back.
If he puts his hand between your shoulder and neck to underhook your left arm with his right, grab his right tricep with your left hand and do the armwrap escape - very similar to the switchout. Pull down HARD on his arm as you switch out. Like pulling a toilet chain is Johns analogy. This time keep turning in the same direction and end up on top of him, reversing the initial position.
If his R forearm goes across your neck, as if to grab your collar or go for a guillotine choke, tilt and turn your head toward your R shoulder so your chin goes into his elbow, and your L ear to his chest where the top of your head was. It seems more natural to turn the other way, but that will get you choked out whereas this way it is almost impossible for him to get the choke. At the same time bring your R knee underneath you and in front of him, as if pulling guard. As your head is freed, hook his R elbow with your L elbow - the action is very similar to a left hook. You can jerk him forward and off to your right here. It is almost impossible for him to pass your guard from here while you have his arm
controlled this way, with both his arms on one side of your body. He may try anyway - if he does you can just keep his arm hooked and keep moving in a circle away from him.
But what your really should do is let him rush past, or drive him past with your hook and move to get side/back control on his right side, your hands joined around him in a harness position.
If he is a bit smarter and, rather than pushing forward to try and pass, he pulls back in an attempt to square up and get some better hand controls, as he pulls his R elbow back, let him pull you up by your L arm, and then arm drag his R arm with your R arm and switch again to side/back control.
Drill this by having your partner on top of your turtle, and putting either arm in in any of those three positions: around the torso, underhook, or around the neck. You respond with the appropriate technique. You could extend this by adding the double leg takedown, inside single, outside single, and Iranian (though I'm not sure exactly what the triggers should be). Keep it light.
The crucial part of this is reacting quickly and appropriately to his action with the appropriate technique. Thus, rather than performing the entire technique 20 times,it may be better use of training time to drill the initial part 30 times and the entire technique 10 times. Obviously applicable to other positions and techniques.
Once we have developed a number of effective responses to being under him in the turtle, we can be more confident of escaping side control to the knees. So it is time to introduce a new side control escape to knees.
The Pillow escape
Prelude: Even accomplished black belts complain to John that their biggest problem is: ESCAPING FROM SIDE CONTROL. If the guy manages to capture your head and drive his shoulder into you, plus kill your near arm and hip, EVERYONE finds it hard. The difference is that the experienced grappler sees the bad stuff coming far earlier and this reacts to it and prevents it from happening before it ever gets going.
John has a swamp analogy. The white belt ends up in a swamp up to his neck before he realises something is wrong. Then he has to work like crazy to get back out again.
The blue belt gets up to his waist and then realises he needs to get out. The purple belt to his knees. The black belt hears his footsteps start to sound sloshy and decides to take another path. Helio Gracie just decides he doesn't like the look of what's ahead and goes elsewhere.
If you take the black belt and drop him into the swamp neck deep out of a boat, he'll find it just as hard to get out as the white belt did. But left to his own devices, he won't ever go there.
So the main things to watch out for if someone is passing your guard:
Don't let them get the far side underhook, Keep that elbow welded to your torso
Don't let them grab your head
So - the pillow escape:
You are playing guard and realise he is about to pass, say, around to your right:
Control his L elbow on the inside with the webbing between your thumb and fingers of your R hand, keeping it away from you. You are of course on your right side facing him.
If he keeps coming around and your arm goes above (relative to your torso) your shoulder, just lay your ear on your R bicep. You can now let go of his arm. He will not be able to grab your head. Keep your L arm pinned to your body so he can't underhook it. Thread your R leg underneath the L leg so it (the R) is furthest behind you. Hip escape until you are directly facing him (keep him in the headlights), and come to your knees. It will be difficult for him to stop you. The pillow position of the R arm makes it easier to go to your knees than does trying to roll over your elbow against resistance.
Once you get to here, you can then escape from here with the appropriate technique from the list above depending on what he does next, or you can attack his legs.
While this is a simple movement, it is regarded as a moderately advanced technique as it assumes that you already know enough to stop him getting the far side underhook.
If you wish to play a guard game, DON'T move forward into the turtle and then try to pull guard by pushing into him. Move back to the turtle, fold one leg under you and fade back into the guard. He will find it much harder to chase you than he will to stop you pushing into him.
John suggested that, while it is natural to try something once, and if it fails to drop it, that in BJJ it pays to try it at least 10 or 20 times before consigning it to the scrapheap. If it works once or twice out of that 10 or 20, you may be more motivated to work on it and include it in your repertoire. Perseverance furthers.
John also reiterated that drilling and sparring full power is not the best idea. If you go full tilt all the time you will plateau and your game will not broaden, as you will always fall back on your most familiar and comfortable techniques from a need to survive. You need to work 50%, so you see more opportunities, and so that you do not get injured as much. This came up in the context of my asking him how best to drill sprawls and takedown defence: he said "just do it" was the way to go, but to be pretty light with it in practice. He makes his guys do a lot of light rolling.