The Great Escapes …

Escapes and defence build confidence. 
Anyone who has been rolling/fighting long enough, knows this to be a truth.

If we hone our abilities to extricate ourselves from difficult situations, paradoxically, this allows us to be more ‘attack-oriented’ than we otherwise would be. The greater our ability to escape from bad positions, the more likely we are to attempt submissions, because there is less downside should we fail. The trapeze artist with a large net under him doesn’t worry about trying the ‘triple’ - he knows he’s safe if he fails. Take the net away, and never expect to see anyone attempt anything but the most conservative tricks. In the world of the trapeze artist - the net provides the confidence - in BJJ, our ability to escape and defend provides the confidence.

Working escapes is the ‘less sexy’ side of BJJ. Attacks, sweeps and the latest ‘shiny winning moves’ have a definite appeal - but the development of ‘other side of the coin’ - escapes and defence  - pays, in many ways, bigger dividends. Here are a few core ideas, relating to escapes and defence:

  • Small gains: Don’t expect to be able to solve a problem, that has evolved over a series of small mistakes, in one big move. If it took us 10 steps to find ourselves neck-deep in a swamp, expect it to take 11 steps to get out. A series of incremental improvements in our situation is easier to execute than one all-out effort; plus, it is obviously more energy efficient. Annoy our way out!
  • Once we are confident that we are ‘getting out’, slow down a little and look for opportunities (grips/positioning, etc) that might be useful in the seconds to follow. Don’t always be satisfied with just ‘getting out’ - there are often great opportunities to be taken advantage of, on the way out.
  • Start chaining/linking our escapes with follow-up attacks. In the early stages (and often in later years) of our BJJ training, we are happy to just ‘get out’ - later on though, as we become more comfortable with a particular escape, we want to try to move seamlessly into a follow up technique.
  • Understand that we can always practise our escapes/defense from various points along the defence continuum: i.e.: we can work our defence very early, before the opponent really gets a bite on us; we can practise once he has consolidated his position/technique; or, we can practise ‘last chance’ escapes/defense - all are relevant, all important (but keep in mind, of course, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
  • Make the opponent move; always be on the lookout for ways to make he or she have to move/adjust their position. my coppices used to ask us to ‘poke the balloon’ - find the part of it that is weaker and thinner than the other parts, an ‘pop’ it. Don’t just keep hammering away (fruitlessly) in one direction if it is not working.

A common ‘old school’ practise was what we call ‘in the hole’ training. Put ourselves in the bad position with a partner, work our defense/escape. Repeat with a ‘fresh’ partner - then again with the original partner, for a predetermine time/round. This old drill requires groups of three people - but is very good for developing our BJJ immune system. 

One of the huge pay-offs for engaging in challenging activities is that we become more robust. The development of a strong immune system comes through exposure to challenge; so rather than always avoiding difficulty - we should spend some of our time, actively seeking it out.

Best wishes - JBW


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