Learn Positional Escapes

Xande Ribeiro mounted on his opponent at the 2013 IBJJF World championships.

Positional escapes don’t come easily but once some success is consistently achieved, the answers feel simple and the difficulty and confusion are replaced by a calmness, followed by a well-practiced plan and strategy for escape. I am passionate about Jiu-Jitsu and deeper knowledge is virtually an obsession. As already mentioned under the ‘fighting from underneath’ page, I have spent a lot of time defending and escaping – sometimes having no choice but to be there, other times choosing to be there in order to practice my game. We also start much of our practice when sparring from a kneeling position – and being 5’7 and 75 kilos, faced with someone who wants the top position, it’s now easier to concede the top position and sweep when the moment is right. I would also prefer not to use strength and athleticism and so rather than pushing and shoving at the beginning of a sparring session, would prefer to take the bottom position to get straight on with practicing that aspect of my game.

When you first start practicing Jiu-Jitsu, everything is a struggle and nothing is easy – but you have to experience this to fully appreciate the beauty of technique when you finally acquire it. If we were all given techniques we could apply with no effort to learn them, there would be no wonderment.

The two big positions that we are frequently challenged with are being held in Side Control and being Mounted. Of course there are other positions that we need answers for too, and we have those answers – but becoming highly adept at escaping Side Control and removing someone who has managed to achieve full Mount on you, brings a lot of confidence.

As with submissions and their defence, positional escapes need to be practiced and honed. Rule one in my mind: stay calm, think and remain focused. Identify the difficulty and plan an appropriate escape keeping in mind that you must be switched on and aware of the need to stop your opponent from advancing still up the hierarchy of positions – the further the opponent gets, the worse your situation becomes and the opponent must be prevented from improving their position and further dominating you. Wait for the right moment, an ease up in the opponent’s pressure, a lapse in their concentration or a preoccupation with something else, a little space – a moment immediately after they expend energy when they are recovering, regaining position, when their attack and pressure is momentarily weak – and at that moment, after being patient, you escape.

Beginners often explode as soon as they are dominated and once they have exploded and spent their effort when they are at their strongest, further efforts to escape can only be physically weaker. There is no point in using all of your energy at a moment when your opponent is at their strongest – let the opponent feel safe and comfortable and allow them to sense no danger. If you try to escape at a moment when your opponent is prepared for a struggle and their weight is firmly over you – you will probably lose your fight to escape.

As beginners, we think that we need to escape from every position. There are answers to escaping all positions but they aren’t always achievable. I learnt something invaluable from Roger Gracie’s father, Mauricio Gomes when I first started training. Mauricio is a genuine legend in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I was having difficulty escaping from Side Control and asked for his advice. What he told me I will never forget – he said, ‘sometimes you just can’t escape – so you just need to wait’. I have found out over the last seven years that often the best time to escape is when your opponent is ‘transitioning’ between positions because this is when little spaces appear. Mauricio allowed me to accept that sometimes you just can’t escape and his advice has served me well.