Dealing With Back Control

A buddy of mind with whom I wrestled in high school recently started BJJ and he has asked me some pretty awesome questions. A recent favorite was this:

“I have a partner who likes to get behind me, wrap his legs around me and then pull my gi to get the submission. I am grabbing my gi to prevent him from executing the choke but what do you recommend for getting his legs off me?”

What my friend is experiencing is something that I’ve seen a lot of white and blue belts do: people grab the gi to address the impending choke. This is an overarching theme that many coaches that I’ve seen don’t really address.

When addressing a submission find its weakest point and eliminate it. The lapel is long and floppy, if you grab one area on it, your opponent or training partner can just transition to another. Grab their hand instead. Specifically try to wrap your hand around their four fingers. Go 2 on 1 on the hand that is attacking, as there normally is one hand attacking and the other hand is there to control.

Once you’ve addressed the hand that is trying to choke you, it’s a matter of using hip movement to make back retention difficult. There are different methods out there to address back retention.

For starters, you can turn into the other person’s guard. The only thing generally stopping you from doing this is their grips but if one hand has been negated all you really have to do is turn away from the other. There are plenty of methods though.

Really, the idea of determining the weakest crucial aspect of a person’s attack is vital to sound defense. If you can find a specific point that if negated ruins the move, you can ruin the move. In order for a choke to work the choker needs to have their choking hand free. If you can occupy that hand, you can negate the choke.

Now, addressing the legs is a matter of going somewhere the legs aren’t strong. I like to try to climb so that my head is on the mat next to the other person’s head. Basically I bridge so that my shoulders are pressed against their chest and then start to push myself up. My coach, Pablo Castro, has taught some variations on this, Henry Akins also has some good details for this.

One thing I like to do to encourage the other person to relinquish the back is to step on their feet. In doing this I limit their mobility. Stepping on the mat is easier, but if you can get some of your weight on the other person’s feet, you partially immobilize them.

These are just a couple of basic ideas to help anyone who is struggling dealing with back control. This is a highly nuanced position and escaping it when someone knows what they’re doing is not easy. However, if you focus on the right ways to defend your chances greatly improve. Has anyone reading this had any success with the methods I’ve mentioned? And if you haven’t, have you found success with other methods?


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