Black Belt Brent Littell Discusses The Importance Of Teaching And Learning Escapes In Jiu-Jitsu

Image Source: Brent Littell/ Instagram

Searching my favorite YouTube channels for escapes from tough positions, I noticed a shortage of videos devoted to escapes. If you want submissions, your BJJ cup overfloweth. But escapes are not treated with the same level of respect or systemization.

Gracie Barra and 10th Planet black belt Brent Littell has a different approach to escapes.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Why do escapes seem to get so little attention (as far as instructional material goes) than submissions or sweeps?

Brent Littell: First and foremost, when do escapes ever gain points for people? I think that people want to look at ways to win, not ways to avoid losing. It’s that type of mindset that lends itself towards having sweep and submission instructionals. What people often fail to realize is that without escapes they will never be in the position to execute their sweeps and submissions. So they are not just as important, but I think more important than learning offense.

JJT: Do you feel there is a flaw in how escapes are taught in many jiu-jitsu academies? What is missing from that common approach?

Littell: I absolutely think there is a flaw. That flaw is that they are not given much time at all. When people attend a class, they don’t feel like they’ve learned anything unless they’ve learned how to score points. Teachers have had to adjust their classes accordingly. It’s well known by instructors that we know how to make students better, but the students don’t let us. They are looking more to be entertained than to improve. I want to rectify that situation.

Another fault with the way that we teach escapes is that we often do not teach them through frames. We don’t teach people how to feel strong in bad positions and then to create movement through that strength/frame. It is very important that we first learned how to be safe and then learn how to escape.

JJT: How can the average BJJ student learn escapes to make their ability to escape bad positions more effective?

Littell: It is a mindset when we go into training that is going to help us most. If you consistently avoid bad positions, if you do not let people pass your guard, if you do not let people mount you, then you will never get through practice in these positions. You have to go into training and allow yourself to be vulnerable so that in the end you will never be vulnerable

JJT: What was the best advice that you were ever given by an instructor that helped your escapes?

Littell: I received a couple tidbits of advice that really helped me. The first one is to not panic. Just because you’re mounted under someone heavier than you, you need to keep your emotional center.
The second is that no good escape can start without a good frame. The third is that an escape doesn’t happen in the first attempt if you’re going with someone good. You have to keep throwing different escapes at them until one works. And the final one is one I mentioned above, you need to practice these positions by allowing yourself to be put in danger. Your ego is your enemy when it comes to learning escapes.


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