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Why You Can't Escape Side Control

(Originally published July 14, 2021)

So you learned an escape from side control.  You learned how to shrimp and recover guard.  You've practiced this technique to the point that you can execute it flawlessly with a compliant training partner.  Your technique is a thing of beauty.  

But then you try it during live rolling.  And it doesn't frigging work.

You frame the neck and the hip just like you were taught.  You can feel the space that you've just created.  All that's left to do is escape your hips to make just a little more room to insert your knee at the hip line.

But then he switches his hips, pulls up on your elbow, and sits through to a broken scarf hold where his hips completely negate your shrimping escape.  

Or... he brings his cross-face arm over to the other side of your neck, switches his other arm to the other side of your hips and again, completely negates your shrimping escape.  

You come to find that different arm and leg configurations on the part of your opponent effectively changes the problem.  

Your escape fails because different problems (aka different side control configurations) require different solutions.

So you go back to YouTube, or instructional, or (and here's a crazy idea) your instructor looking for answers.  You break Side Control down into all of it's different configurations and learn at least one escape for each configuration.

You practice this handful of escapes until you can execute each of them flawlessly, without hesitation, the instance you fall into their corresponding configuration of side control.

You come to your next class more excited than you've ever been.  You make it through the warmups and the technical instruction, eagerly awaiting the rolling portion which is now upon you.

You pair up with your first rolling partner, slap hands, bump fists, and sit to guard.  You allow your opponent to pass.  You feign a feeble attempt at guard retention so as to not make it too obvious.

Now at last, you are ready to put your plan into action.  He grabs an underhook and cross face.  You go for your shrimp escape but just like before, he transitions to scarf hold.  You try your scarf hold escape, but he transitions to the reverse cross face.  And in this manner, he counters each of your escapes by transitioning from one form of side control to another.

Your escape attempts fail because a good opponent continually changes the problem before you have a chance to work a solution.

This effectively keeps him one step ahead of you.

So what the heck do you do?

The good news is you're almost there.  You're so money, and you don't even know it.

All you have to do is find a way to get ahead of the problem.  You know he's going to switch configurations.  He only has so many options.  You can predict which configuration he's going to based on which way he turns.  

Now all you need to do is start the escape for the configuration he's going for, as he is transitioning to that new configuration.  

That way you can start working the solution before he can finish giving you the problem.   

This is the only way I'm able to escape side control against guys who are really good. 

You have to make the current side control configuration just a little uncomfortable for the guy on top.  Just enough to make him want to switch configurations.  You know which configuration he's going for depending on which way he turns.  You start the escape for that configuration as he is transitioning to it.  That way you're halfway through the escape before he even gets there.  

I know this isn't the quick fix to all your side control problems that you were hoping for.  It takes some time, practice and studying on your part to get there.  

You have to know your escapes.  You've got to have them down cold so that you'll be able to execute them without hesitation once the pressure's on.  

Then you can start predicting where your opponent is going.  And that's when the magic starts to happen.  Your escapes start working.  It's like there's nothing they can do.  If they try to hold their current configuration, you escape.  If they try to switch to another configuration, you escape.  Your training partners start to think you can read their minds... 



you can... 

kind of.

And that is one of the most rewarding feelings in all of Jiu Jitsu.  Feeling that you're damn near un-pin-able mind reader.  Now you can go for all those fancy moves your instructor showed you without fear because you're confident in your.

Put the time and effort into this and I guarantee you'll be glad you did.

Hope that helps.


- Big Mike


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