BJJ / Grappling tips: How to take the back when the opponent turtles

The best position in grappling by the best grappler

For me, the most important position in jiujitsu, nogi submission grappling, mixed martial arts and even self defense* is the back position. It is the ultimate hierarchical position where you can cause damage (as little or as much as you want) and the opponent can't necessarily harm you. By extension, I feel that transitions that put you on someone's back are the most important transitions. I am always looking to get the back position: From the standing phase, closed guard, open guard, half guard, mount, side and, relevant to today's post, when the opponent turtles up.

The turtle is an artificial transition position in grappling when no strikes are allowed. Albeit, some grapplers seek the turtle position because they have spent the time and energy to develop their attacking arsenal from it, but mostly, it should be viewed as a transitional position that saves your guard from getting passed by adding a vertical dimension to where and how your legs and hips can move.

Don't seek to turtle

One of the best compliments someone can give you in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that you move smoothly on the mat. I'm nowhere near that yet, but I have noticed that the more details I learn about moves in BJJ the more I can polish these grappling moves and make them smoother. No where is this more apparent in grappling than in transitions, including back takes from any position.

In the first video clip below, Marcelo Garcia introduces his direct no-nonsense approach to taking the back from the turtle position. His control focuses on a secure seat-belt grip which locks the upper-body then he inserts the bottom hook first:

In the second clip, you see Garry Tonon showing a similar transition at first, but he adds another dimension by choosing to roll over the opponent's far shoulder and bringing them on top. The details Garry shows on using your weight to control the far posture is quite an eye-opener

Finally, I share a favourite of mine. Mr Felipe Costa once released a great app on taking the opponent's app and in that app, he showed a lot of lower-body based control, manipulating the opponent's nearside foot, knee and, by extension, hip. This really resonated with me as this control and manipulation is something I've always liked to do from half guard anyway. It structurally weakens the opponent's posture and makes the back take and even sweeping easier.

*One-on-one altercation.



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