One of the first questions I receive from students who have not been training for a long time or who do not yet understand Jiu Jitsu is: “how do I escape from this position?” To them, my answer is: “there is no escape.” My response is usually not well received. The student asks: “what do you mean there is no escape?” I simply say: “just don’t get in that position.” I do not teach escapes to my newer students and here is why.

If, for example, that student gets caught in the arm lock from the mount, he/she will be looking for an escape because they have never done the arm lock themselves nor ever been caught in the arm lock. Those students do not understand the power of the arm lock but rather focus their on to get out of an uncomfortable position.

Until that student reps the arm bar a thousand times, he/she will never learn how to escape. I could show the student how to escape in the beginning but that escape will not work. The reason being is that if the student does not understand the application of the arm bar, the he/she will never understand how to escape. Therefore, I refuse to initially teach escapes.

Instead, I can show you how to protect yourself and where to be careful.  To escape, I believe that the best way to learn is to be on the offense. By understand how to attack from the mount and learning all the variables then the student can reverse engineer for the defense.

Look, the better I become at escaping from the mount, the less I will fight for someone else to get the mount on me. If I am good at escaping from the mount, it will not be a big deal to me. That is, until I roll with someone who is good on the mount. So, to fix and avoid the problem from the root, we should be trying our best to not let our opponent pass our guard and mount.

By practicing specific drills that give the student the opportunity to stay in a given position from the mount, side body, and back in order to learn how to protect themselves, to control their breathing, and think through the position. This allows the student to collect more data, learn from the experience and gain a better understanding of how to apply during the roll. We first must gain the applicable feeling of going through the motions before we can receive the instructional information.

The biggest difference between those students who stay in the position longer (ex: back control) versus those who rush to get the submission (ex: choke) is that when I begin teaching chokes, the students who have stayed longer in those uncomfortable positions already understand back control. They have collected the most data on how to control their opponent – they already have the pieces to put together when we progress to learn the technique.  When we go to drill the choke, those students are more advanced and better equipped which results in them tapping most of the other students in class.

When we are faced with hardship, often our natural reaction is to try to fix the problem by escaping from what is uncomfortable. My objective on the mat is to encourage my students to remain in the challenging position and learn rather than rush out through an escape or attack. Our discomfort is one of the best tools to grow. Rather than focusing on a problem and how to most quickly or easily escape from it, we are forced to find a solution. And, in the process we are strengthened, made more competent and gain more skills.

– Professor Tony Passos

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