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Three Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Mistakes I Make: Elbow Escape From Bottom Half-Guard

February 24, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 198

Half-guard is one of the most common positions during a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match; it's definitely the most common BJJ position found during an MMA fight. It happens often when someone fails to fully finish a guard pass, or out of scrambles after a takedown. When you are in bottom half-guard, you have one or both of your legs controlling one of your opponent's legs. For the purposes of this article, you are on your back (hence, the "bottom" in "bottom half-guard"), your opponent's left leg is between your legs, and you have your left leg wrapped around your opponent's left leg. Your right leg is either scissored or figure-four'ed over your left, for extra control.

From this position, you want to get back to a full guard, to expand your options for both self-defense and submission attempts. One way to do this is with an elbow escape. You will shrimp your hips out a bit to your right as you block and push your opponent's right leg with your left elbow, so he cannot move with you. These two motions create space for you to bring your left leg through your opponent's legs. Place your left shin on your opponent's right thigh and push yourself around, straightening your body and making more space for you to wrap both legs around into full guard.

When I fail in the elbow escape from bottom half-guard, it is probably because of one of these three mistakes:

1) I fail to get an underhook from bottom half-guard

My BJJ instructor says all the time, "The person to get the underhooks wins the match." It's true from many positions: top or bottom side mount, butterfly guard, top half-guard. Any time I want leverage to control my opponent's torso, I want my arm hooked under and around their armpit. When trying this elbow escape, I definitely need this leverage.

So before I try the elbow escape, I want to work my right arm under my opponent's left arm and wrap my hand up toward their shoulders. If they have a gi, I'll try to grab the back of their collar, or cloth around their shoulder. With no gi, I'm looking to cup their shoulder. Since I'll be starting the elbow escape immediately after getting the underhook, I don't need a perfect grip to keep forever. But I need that underhook, or else when I start to shrimp away, my opponent will follow me with his torso, closing the space I need for the escape.

2) I don't make the right amount of space

When I shrimp away to create space, I don't want to go too far, or else I'll lose the amount of control I need of my opponent. With too much space, my underhook will be ineffective, for starters (more on this in the third mistake). I want to go just far enough to allow for my left leg to come through. For some people, this is almost nothing. My Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master instructor is 6' tall, 155 pounds, with a 28" waist. He's lean, and incredibly flexible. He only needs to move his hips a couple of inches to make the space. This means that he has plenty of margin for error; he can shrimp much more than he needs to before he's too far away for control.

I'm not thin, lean, or flexible. I need more space, so I shrimp farther. This means I have a smaller margin for error. And that leads to mistakes.

3) I lose control of the trapped leg

Let's say I have the underhook before I start, and I shrimp away perfectly. If I lose control of my opponent's left leg, the one I have trapped, he's going to step out and pass my half-guard into top side mount. This is not what I want...all of my effort will be completely wasted.

My left leg - the one coming through the created space - is the one controlling his leg. I need to bring my right leg across and step over his left leg, hooking and controlling it so I can safely let go with my left. I can take my time with this motion. If I have strong control with my right arm underhook and my left elbow block, my opponent isn't going anywhere. I don't have to rush and make a mistake. I have to make sure my right leg has a good hook...then I can bring my left leg through and up to complete the escape.

Mastering the bottom half-guard position is a critical aspect of the sport. It will earn you vital points in a sport BJJ tournament match, and save you from getting your head punched in during an MMA fight. Practice those elbow escapes every day...and don't make the same mistakes I do.

Paul Herzog and his son Christopher have been taking judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instruction at Petushin Martial Arts since the new Rosemount, Minnesota facility opened in 2010. In addition to receiving some of the best grappling instruction in the Midwest, Paul has lost over 35 pounds, and Chris has gained strength and self-confidence. If either of those sounds appealing, please contact the academy at 612-991-9116 or go to to arrange your first visit!

Source: EzineArticles
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