BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to escape the side control position and not fearing the learning curve

Something happened yesterday that reminded me of a BJJ session on side control escape I once had as an early blue belt. We were talking about how incorporating a new technique or concept correctly into one's A-game in jiujitsu takes about 6 months of progressive drilling and sparring.
The fundamentals of side control escapes are:

  1. Recover forearm posture
  2. Get on one side
  3. Strong back foot
  4. Shrimp to create space
  5. Pull guard / Underhook to the knees / Back-and-forth

My partner for the side control drills that day was a strong blue belt with a solid judo background. The only problem was: he didn't want to go side control and just played from scarf hold which, naturally, has different escapes.

After a few goes, I told him that his scarf hold was very solid indeed but we should probably focus on the Side Control drill like everyone else. He gladly obliged.

I was applying all the techniques taught and escaping very regularly. Soon he was getting pretty frustrated and at one point said laughingly: "Liam you're showing me up."

No I'm not, I thought to myself. I'm showing that the techniques work.

When I got on top he couldn't escape. Not even once, even though I was going no more than 20%. Not because My side control is inescapable! But rather because of two things:

  1. He wasn't using any of the techniques taught that day. As soon as we started he threw all that out of the window. He didn't even attempt to recover arm posture or get on his side. At one point he even grabbed the back of my gi and tried to bench press me off!
  2. I wasn't pulling scarf hold. I was doing side control, as per lesson. I'm not saying that one position is superior to the other, but since he didn't try Side Control from the top, fearing he would lose it (which is what will always happen with new positions) so he wasn't familiar with it's unique weight distribution, limb placements...etc.

The next part of the drill called for maintaining top position (i.e. it didn't specify Side Control v Scarf). Naturally, my buddy went straight for Scarf Hold. I simply framed against his chin, shrimped sideways to make space for my leg to come over his face and BAM, I was out. Just Like That! That pissed him off something rotten.

-"But Liam, you are not doing the stuff we covered!"

-"That's right. Neither are you!"

The sessions are a great time to learn. Take the opportunity to try out new things and accept that they have a learning curve. That means you will get guard-passed, swept, mounted, submitted and everything in-between every time you try a new position and that's fine. After all, we only learn from our mistakes. If you want to learn faster, make more mistakes!

Here area a few of the best side control escape videos I can recommend for you:

First off, Roy Dean guides down one path of escapes:

Next, Kurt Osiander talks about the importance of being early in your escapes:

In this next video, Ryron Gracie talks about the timing, relaxation and survival underneath the side control position:

Finally, Stephan Kesting and Brandon Mullins show a funky Granby Roll alternative to the usual "turn and face the opponent" options:

I hope you like them and find them useful.



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