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Artechoke in a Can: Maintaining the Back

This class marks the beginning of a new module: Arm Drags and Back Takes. For me, this topic is something of an obsession. When I discovered the arm drag, specifically Marcelo’s take on the technique, it opened my jiu-jitsu to a whole new kind of game. Before, I relied heavily on rubber guard, depending on high guard and variations of high guard to win matches. When my knees gave out, putting a lot of guard techniques out of my reach (like triangles, for example), the arm drag provided a new way of playing guard and approaching jiu-jitsu as a whole.

Once I gained confidence with the arm drag, I made it my mission to constantly look for the back, which is why almost every module I teach touches upon taking the back in some fashion. For me, and this may not be true for all grapplers, my end-goal is the rear naked choke. No matter where I am, I want to get to the back and set that choke, so in that way, my jiu-jitsu is something of a funnel, with all roads eventually leading to the same position (unless a finish presents itself along the way).

One of the major hurdles that students face when it comes to taking the back is not specific to individual techniques. Rather, it’s a matter of confidence. In an average roll, you might never take the back, and if you do, you’ll probably only spend a minute or less in the position. At the same time, it’s very easy to rack up hours of practice playing guard or playing top. The result: many grapplers take the back, quickly lose it, which can create a mental block, a creeping frustration that clouds their mind when they should be focusing on maintaining and finishing from the back.

To head that problem off, the first lesson of this module focuses on techniques for maintaining the back position while your opponent attempts to escape.

In the first video, I demonstrate how to un-turtle an opponent when you have a single hook. If you are fighting to take the back, this position comes up a lot, and it can be very difficult to finish your opponent from here because of his ability to use the mat to limit space. By rolling him on to his side, you give yourself the advantage of having the mat as a tool for maintaining the position, you limit his mobility, and your free hook as the mobility to become a problem solving tool (maintaining position, trapping arms, breaking grips, etc)—all while minimizing the risk of getting rolled back into guard.

The second video addresses a common scenario: your opponent blocking your second hook once you have rolled him to his side by connecting his knee to his elbow. This is a bit of a non-issue as you’ll eventually learn that the second hook is not as necessary for control as you might think, but being able to slow your opponent down or to get your four points with the second hook can still be important. The solution is not very complex, but many people overlook it.

In this final video, we address the common challenge of what to do when your opponent bridges and flattens your back to the mat, forcing you to support his weight while making it difficult for you to choke. Again the solution is relatively simple: use a butterfly hook to reset his hips. But you have to have confidence in the previous two techniques for this transition to be effective for you because this requires you to have the stones to give up a hook (preferably on the underhook side). On a side note, you can use this same technique to reset your opponent’s hips if he is shrimping out.

To end the class, we did a trigger drill to start developing muscle memory that’s connected to specific stimuli. This simulates a live roll but gives students the ability to take their time and ease into applying a technique in real time. The more advanced students incorporated a seat belt recovery technique that was touched on in the Kimura Module.

Next week, we begin to explore the arm drag as a concept, which will set up the rest of the classes in the module.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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