Monday, March 05, 2018

John Will Seminar 4 March 2018 - Turtle Defence

The seminar was held at Rick Spain's gym in Redfern.

There are many ways we may end up in the turtle position:

  • Failed shoot
  • Rolling to turtle to avoid our guard being passed
  • Being snapped down
  • etc.

Headlights Drill

We are trying to keep our opponent "in the headlights", i.e. in front of us, as he tries to move to side/back control.

We start head to head, and he sprawls on our back. we are on our elbows and knees.

As he moves around to our L, we drop onto our R hip, and "reach for our gun" with our L hand, so our L hand is on our hip. His R leg should thus be unable to ever get past our L arm, and we would be in a position to catch it for takedowns, should we so desire. We turn back to our knees finishing in the starting position, but 90 degrees from where we started. So of we were facing the front wall of the gym initially, we are now facing the wall to its left. Repeat the drill on both sides.

You should find as you fall to your R hip that your R forearm naturally moves at the elbow to point around toward your L. This is necessary to keep strong structure.

Reguard Drill

We are on our hands and knees again, he is sprawled on our back. Drive in and slightly to the left, posting on our L foot, so our head starts to comes out behind his L armpit. Look up at the ceiling hard so he cannot catch us in a headlock or guillotine choke. Very similar to a duckunder from standing. Slide our R knee and foot through as if doing a baseball slide. Get some hand grips and pull him into our closed or hooking guard.

If he insists on wrapping his R arm around your neck, keep looking up and pinch his R arm between your L ear and his shoulder. You now have a path to his back. You may get this even without him trying to choke you.

Combination Drill

Perform the headlights drill three times and then the reguard drill the fourth time. Repeat. Always good to revisit these basic drills no matter how far into your Jiu Jitsu career you are.


(Dongoa/Dongoha/Gongoa/Gongohan/...? I have heard this term and discussed it myself for well over a decade but have never before seen it written and have no idea how to spell it, let alone its etymology. A quick search of Google shed no light on it at all. Back in the late 1990s this was called the Pendulum. What the hell, I've got it to work very effectively).

Referred to by some as a Half Granby Roll.

Gongohan as Guard Retention

Your partner throws your L leg hard over to your R, then tries to smash down on you.

Go with the throw of the leg, ending up  in a fetal position on your L shoulder, and hip , facing slightly down. Your knees are drawn up to your chest, and the toes and balls of your feet are engaged.

Now extend your legs and drive your butt up into him, pushing him up and away. Your R leg swings around in a big circle, so it clears the head and ends up on the R side of your partner, as you pull him into your guard. Often you may end up in a position which gives you a triangle or armbar opportunity from here.

Gongohan as Turtle Escape

Head to head. You are turtled on your elbows and knees. He is sprawled atop you.

As he comes around to your R, get your R shin across his L hip and your R knee on the floor between both of his knees. Reach for your L foot with your R hand as you roll to your R across your shoulders and back, swinging you L leg in a big circle to clear your partner's head as above. Finish with him in your guard.

Options from Side/Back Control

Despite you best intentions and your attempts to employ the above countermeasures, you partner evades them and gets you in side/back control.

Arm Roll

Your partner is on your L side. He makes the mistake of reaching inside your R armpit with his R hand (without taking the preemptive measures discussed below).

Pull your R elbow to your side, trapping his wrist, and drop/jump onto your R side, trying to dive underneath him. Do this fast without flattening out. Roll to your L, pulling him over the top of you, finishing with him face up, you switchbased towards his feet, trapping his hips between your L elbow and you R hip. Try to grab his legs as you roll over, and put your face on his L leg to avoid an accidental or deliberate knee to the face. Resist the temptation to go straight to face down side control. Consolidate this switchbased position before moving on.

Most moves in Jiu Jitsu do not require speed or explosiveness. But this move is one of those that does. So drop quickly.

Do not reach up with your R elbow in an attempt to snag his wrist. He can grab your tricep from underneath with his R hand and pull his elbow to the other side of your back and his fist to his chin, in a position similar to Rodin's "The Thinker." From here he can move backwards and pull you onto your L side with easy access to a kimura control on your R arm from here. Not a good place to be, and much worse than where you were.

The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin

A more experienced opponent will not be tempted to put his hand in there so easily. Sometimes, it may be possible to entice him to grab you that way, by moving sideways away from him. He may chase you and grab there to stop you getting away. Then you have an opportunity for the Arm Roll.

"They all come to grab something" - Dave Meyer

Backdoor Kimura

For an experienced opponent, grabbing under the armpit is more of a calculated risk. In the gi, he can risk putting his hand in very quickly to grab the collar and pull it back out to a position where he can easily disengage and let go if you try the Arm Wrap.

Alternatively, he can reach in, but bring his elbow back to the near side of your back and keep his center of gravity low and to the near side. When you try the arm wrap, he will sprawl, with a good chance of not getting rolled and staying on top.

He is on your L side in side/back control. He reaches in. Try the arm wrap escape, but this time post your L fist on the floor, elbow bent at 90 degrees and forearm vertical, out in front of your face when you drop to your R side, so the elbow ends up somewhere near his R hip when he sprawls on you. The arm roll did not work. Just keep the L fist in position, walk your feet backward  and get your head out under your L arm and past his R hip. Resist the temptation to go face up, stay on your side and if anything slightly face down. You should come out from under on his R side with his R arm trapped in a figure four position. Put your weight on his shoulder and apply the kimura / hammer lock. No big deal if you lose the arm, just turn toward his feet and go for his back.

The arm roll will still work if you do the post on the L fist and he does not set up successfully for the sprawl. So you might as well get used to doing it all the time.

Also, if you want to plan ahead for the backdoor kimura, it would make sense to move your body on more of an angle towards your partner's feet as you trap his arm and drop to your side, meaning you will have less distance to move underneath him to pop out on the far side.

Essentially, be ready for him sprawling on your arm roll by posting on your fist every time. But the arm roll still might work, and you will have lost nothing. If the arm roll fails, go to the backdoor kimura.

Walkaround Escape

This escape requires him to have his far knee on the mat, generally regarded as a mistake. He would normally be up on the far foot, driving into us.

At a more advanced level, there are ways we may be able to force that.

He has side/back control on our L. His L knee is on the mat. Reach across the front of his legs with our L hand and grab the outside pit of his L knee. Post on our head, and on our R palm, fingers facing out to the R, tripoding up on our toes, butt in the air. Drive with the R palm and walk around behind his back to his L, rolling him over his shins and pushing him onto his back, ending up switchbased toward his feet on his R side.

You may need to move the R hand on the mat to keep maximum driving force into him as both of you move.

If his L knee is not on the mat but he is up on his L foot, crawl our elbows and forearms to our L until we are in a position to grab his L knee with or L hand and force it to the mat. The proceed as before with the Walkaround Escape.

We may also entice him to put his knee on the floor by "running away to our R in the hope that in his efforts to chase up he may put his knee on the floor momentarily, or put us in a better position to force it there.

Fist Post vs. Palm Post

Posting on the fist (with the wrist straight) allows for extra height, and also allows the post to rotate easily. It does not offer much on the way of applying force other than straight up.

Posting on the palm allows us to apply directional force, by pushing away from the direction in which the fingers point. It is not as high as the fist post and allows no rotation.

For the Backdoor Kimura we want as much height as we can between the floor and our elbow, for maximum space to escape. We also need to be able to let that post rotate. The fist post is the ideal choice.

For the Walkaround escape our concern is the application of directional force to knock the guy over. The palm post is what we need.

Double Leg Takedown

He is kneeling before us, or on our backs head to head, but with his knees on the ground and not sprawling. We may have used the Headlight Drill to stop him getting side/back.

Shuffle in our knees toward him and get a grip behind both his knees with our hands. Our head goes to the L of his R hip. Keep moving in and to the left and come up on our L foot, our L foot roughly on a line with his feet. Using our head , L leg, and grips, drive him around to our R and back behind us as we turn to our R around our R knee, essentially trying to put him down back where we were. He should end up on his back or L side. Our R ear stays on his R hip and we are facing his feet, sideways on the the ground, hips in the air and feet engaged. We put our L hand on the point of his knee and walk up on the balls of our feet toward him, so our hips are high in the air.

Don't try to get side control here! Don't do anything more ... yet. Wait for him to try to move his L knee beneath you to recover guard.

"Sometimes you have to wait your turn." - John Will

When you feel him move. push on his R knee, and using in and your R shoulder as support, jump over his legs, landing with your R hip or ribs on top of both his legs, pinning them to the floor. He is facing away from you out to his L. You will find it easy to move behind him and get side control, perhaps even with a kimura trap.

Single Leg Takedown - Inside

N.B. In general, double leg takedowns are always done with the head to the outside, single legs takedowns with the head to the inside (on the knees, your head will be between his legs). Trying a single leg takedown with your head to the outside gives your opponent an easy path into an extremely dominant position called the crucifix. Ask an instructor to show you this sometime, it's a good lesson to learn.

One form of the crucifix position. You will not enjoy being here.

For ease of learning, we want our partner on his L knee and R foot, with his hips off his heels, giving you easy access to the inside of his L leg. 

From you knees, move in towards his L knee and wrap your arms around the back of his L knee in a Gable grip, no thumbs. The outside (R hand) is palm down - when you reach around a corner with your hand, you always have it palm down - palm up cranks your elbow. L hand palm up. Drive your head in between his legs, your R ear on the inside of his thigh. Come forward a little more, post on your L foot. Grab his L heel with your L hand, and using your head, L leg and grips, drive him around to your R, trying to put him back where we were, rolling him over his L shin onto his L side. 

Take your head out between from between  his legs and put it on his R hip. You should now be in a position nearly identical to that you were in during the double leg take down, sideways with your hips off the ground. Walk in on your toes, butt in the air, hand on his knees, wait your turn, jump over and go to side control on his back same as for the double leg takedown.

The similarity in the double leg and single leg takedown sequence of movements is intentional. This avoids the need to train the two techniques as separate movement sequences, so that while we are training the one we are also training much of the other. John called this a "compounding effect" Fewer decision points for us as well.

John stated that his observations indicate that single leg takedowns are far more prevalent in fights than double legs. 

Single Leg Takedown - Outside

(This does not mean we initiate the single leg with the head on the outside!)

We shoot for the single leg as above. One of his defences is to keep turning to his L, moving his heel away from our L hand so we cannot grab it and take him down as we would like. However, this movement moves his foot close to our R elbow, setting up a different takedown. 

We go for his heel, he moves to his L taking his heel away. We fall to our R hip and get our R elbow to the mat on the far side of his R shin, trapping his shin between our elbows. Come back to our knees anid move to our R behind him, one knee on either side of his lower leg. Cup his knee with both hands, pull it toward us and drive our shoulder into the back of his thigh to put him face down on the mat. From here the back looks like a good option.

Don't worry about losing structure to snag the leg with the elbow. Dive for it.

This is often called a go-behind takedown.

It shouldn't be a big logical leap to see that we can fake the first single leg takedown to set up the second, and vice versa. If he runs away from one, that sets up the other.


You go for the single leg - inside takedown on his L leg as before. He sprawls. You cannot complete the takedown. Plan B.

Keep a grip on the outside of his L leg if you can. Your L elbow is in the centre on the mat beneath you, forearm facing forward, ready to take the weight. come up on your toes and drive forward, in a tripod position, butt in the air. Come up as high as you can. lifting him as he keeps the pressure on.

Now drop your knees forward, diving in between your hands under him back to a turtle position, your head coming out the back between his legs. Grab a hold of his L leg with your R hand now if you haven't already got it.

Push up on your L hand and lift your upper body from the hips. Do NOT lift your butt off your heels! It should feel like you are tipping him off your back behind you rather than lifting his weight. Lift your hips, you may be unable to lift a heavy opponent and may damage you lower back.

You should be on your knees, spine vertical, head up between his legs, your butt on heels, him suspended hips on your shoulders. Grab his L heel with your L hand and pull it across your body to your L side, dumping him onto his L side and back. Head goes on his R hip, tripod up, wait your turn and jump over just like for the double leg.

It would be wise to practice you single leg takedowns on this side with the L elbow moving toward the centre, so that if the guy sprawls, you are already in prime position to hit the Iranian.

You can drill this as a two person drill. A shoots a single leg, B sprawls on him. A switches to the Iranian. Rather than grab his heel and dump him in side control, A allows B to slide off his back into a forward roll. B comes to his knees, A turns to face him. B now shoots a single, leg, A sprawls, etc. Repeat.

Single Leg Tweak that (maybe) makes the Iranian Redundant

Shoot in for the single leg - inside on his L leg as before. A you secure the Gable grip, pull in and tripod up on your toes, driving into the top of his thigh with your R shoulder, driving him back onto his butt and shins. Try to "hit him in the face with your butt". With his weight pushed so far back on his heels, he should be completely unable to sprawl. Continue the single leg takedown as before.

Other Points

An instructor can use a common error made by a less experienced student in class, or something a student does extremely well, as a useful example to illustrate a technical point or principle. Of course, we must be careful to treat the student with respect and avoid embarrassing them.

"Attention to Detail" - John Will's answer to podcast interviewer who asked, "If you were asked for your most important piece of advice in your last five seconds of life, what would it be?"

"Pay Attention" - Jordan Peterson
"Attention to Detail" - John Will

Counter to Clock Choke (question from Matt Klein) - if he is on your L and setting up the clock choke from side/back control with his L hand in your collar, fall onto your R hip and roll on your R side turning to face him, undoing the choke, as you slide your R shin in front of his R knee, which controls the distance. Move your head away from him as you fade back and pull him into your guard.

Reverse Hooking Sweep (question from ... me) - if I have his R arm in a cross-sleeve control and am grabbing his belt with my L hand with hooks in, one of the problems I and others have encountered is that when you move your L hook from his R leg to his L leg as the sweep requires, there is an opportunity for the opponent to sprawl on your L leg and perform a smash pass. John suggested using the Pirate Grip instead (instead of our L arm going around the opponent's back, we instead thread it under the opponent's R arm and grab his R collar). This will give us an opportunity to keep some structure which will allow us to keep his upper body under control and make sprawling more difficult.

Pirate Grip? I'm glad you asked!

John also briefly showed a snippet of technique where he said something like "I wouldn't grab the head from that position - unless I did it like this to set up a crucifix" and another way to use an opponent's reaction to set up a back take. Too much too fast for me to absorb it all. Pay Attention ... Attention to detail. Might do some Youtube research on that one and/or play around myself.
“I will be happy if I can improve your game by ten percent" - John Will

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1 comment:

SenseiMattKlein said...

As always, fantastic notes Andrew. You rarely miss a thing. Much appreciated!