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Artechoke in a Can: The Wrestler’s Switch

Taking the back is an obsession for me, and in past classes I’ve gone over how to take the back from an armbar attempt and how to take the back from a kimura. Rather than rehash those techniques, I wanted to challenge my students explore the concept of taking the back a bit more deeply, so we covered a technique that many jiu-jiteiros don’t learn: the switch.

The switch is a common technique in wrestling that you see more often in MMA than you do in jiu-jitsu. It’s a surprisingly versatile technique that can be used to simultaneously defeat an underhook and improve your position. Before we dove into the switch itself, we looked at an approach to taking the back from mount which is essentially a no-hand arm drag. I like to teach this technique because it starts to acclimate you to using your chest and torso to defeat your opponent’s limbs, a coordination that is useful when you start to use the switch.

From the no handed arm drag, we revisited a switch that I taught in the kimura module. This particular entry is unusual by wrestling standards, but it’s a position and a movement that tends to more comfortable for people that do jiu-jitsu but have never wrestled. From here, the switch feels very close to a super simple back take but the end-result is an arm drag-esque-ish-sort-of position.

This last application of the switch is one that I use frequently. If I am working to pass half guard and I feel an underhook start to overpower me, whether I am working to pass from a more traditional top position or after I’ve high-stepped over my opponent lay on one of his underhooks. I do not look to set it up because the cost of failing is ending up on bottom, but it has bailed me out of a few troublesome situations.

When you first start to learn this, it may feel awkward because your legs can end up trapped between theirs. If your switch arm is set properly (and remember to dig with your elbow), you are relatively safe, just keep working to get your hips free and your legs will follow.

And that wraps up our back take module. By request, we are diving into half guard for the next few classes.

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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Artechoke in a Can: Troubleshooting the Arm Drag

Matt Kirtley of Aesopian.com makes a special appearance in this edition of Artechoke in a Can!

As I continue to have my students drill finishing the rear naked choke from the back, paying particular attention to winning the hand fight that leads to the finish, we are resuming our exploration of paths to the back. Before we leave the arm drag behind, I wanted to cover some re-counters for common defenses to the arm drag from the butt scoot position, which is where most jiu-jiteiros will probably find themselves using the arm drag.

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we have to assume that our opponent will defend, so it would be a disservice for me to teach the arm drag without reviewing tactics for troubleshooting road blocks. Some of these back-up plans still lead to a successful back take, while others have you changing course and pursuing a different position. Which path you can take is dictated by your hip position.

If you have gotten to your side and started making the transition to back control, chances are good that you can use your opponent’s attempt to flatten you out to shrimp him into a back take (demonstrated in the first video). If your hips are flat, however, you should transition to one of the later techniques.

When you find yourself flattened out beneath an attempted arm drag, hip escaping to the point that the back take is a viable option will be very difficult. Your opponent is likely to escape his arm and put you on the bottom of half guard before you ever create enough space to improve your position. With his weight and pressure bearing into you, you simply can’t move fast enough.

But all is not lost. The leg between his legs, the one that would become your first back hook if the arm drag was successful, can turn into a butterfly hook with little effort. Matt Kirtley calls this a stupid little sweep that is surprisingly effect. After I show my application of the move, Kirtley adds some powerful details and shares some insight into how he learned to use this particular sweep.

Lastly, we look at what to do if your opponent shuts down your arm drag very early into its application. In this technique, your opponent hops his foot forward to brace himself instead of pulling you back into the squatting arm drag position. This set up can feel weird to drill, but it happens very frequently during live rolls, and I have had significant success with countering with this sweep.

I learned this sweep from Marcelo Garcia’s book on the x-guard, and it’s been very high-percentage for me. Two details are key: sweep straight backward, not side to side, and hug your opponent’s leg tightly to your chest until his weight is starting to travel over your head. You may also find it helpful to post and push off of your non-hooking foot for additional momentum.

Next week, we will begin exploring taking the back with the switch. The switch will achieve the same advance in position as the arm drag, just in a different way.

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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Artechoke in a Can: Finishing the Rear Naked Choke

Thus far, we have discussed at great length taking the back, and though we’ve spent some time covering some often ignored back take opportunities, we have yet to really scratch the surface. For the most part, we have focused primarily on the arm drag as a means to making the transition to a back mount position. We will return to covering back take opportunities next week, but I wanted to cover finishing from the back before then so that my students can get repetitions on getting the finish as we make that progression (rather than ending the back take module with finishes, leaving no real opportunity for in-class practice).

Finishing from the back is your ultimate goal when you dedicate your game to back takes, but it can be very frustrating. Yes, you can use the back to set up arm locks or to set up arm triangles, but the most reliable attack from the back position is the rear naked choke. Yet, it can be the hardest to get because your opponent knows exactly what you want when you set your hooks. Today, we explore some basic techniques for setting and finish the rear naked choke in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In reality, sets up for the rear naked choke are rarely fancy or elaborate. They often hinge on timing, patience, and grip fighting. Let me emphasize the patience part. You should not burn your arms out hunting for the finish. Take your time, rely on your back maintence techniques, and be methodical and calculated. If you gas your biceps out squeezing for a choke that isn’t there, you will miss the real opportunity to end the fight when it arises.

In this first video, we explore the basics of entering and finishing the rear naked choke, focusing on some key details that you might be missing, like using your chin to make your choking arm stronger as you make the transition to locking the choke and using your free hand to punch through the hand fight. The rear naked choke is a game of millimeters, so these details are important.

In the next technique, we look at some details for breaking basic grips and increasing our chances of catching the neck rather than the chin when we snap our arm up for the choke. The trick here is our wrist positioning. Rather than go thumbs up, making our wrist flat agaisnt our opponent’s chest, try pointing your thumb into your opponent’s chest to make your wrist perpendicular, so the flat side is showing to their chin. This makes ratcheting your wrist in much easier. Note the way I use the hand peel to get this process started as well.

For the last technique, we continue the grip troubleshooting discussion with an application of the free hook concept. Way back when we first looked at maintaining the back, I empasized that the top hook was not mandatory for control, that it could be removed and used as a tool for helping you maintain and finish from the back. This is an example of what I meant. I can use that top hook to isolate one of my opponent’s arms, taking it out of the game so that I have one less hand to fight as I attack the neck. Pay careful attention to how I make the transfer from controlling his wrist to gripping my own ankle. It’s a simple movement, but a lot of people miss it.

Next week, we will look at strategies for troubleshooting a failed arm drag. From there, we will launch into other opportunities to take the back, like from switches, kimuras, armbars, and from mount. Are you sick of taking the back yet? You shouldn’t be. It’s awesome.

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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Artechoke in a Can: Misc. Back Take Opportunities

As we continue learning about taking the back, I feel it would be a disservice to not address some opportunities for taking the back that are not the usual do this then this then that to take the back. What I mean is, these are very simple ways to take the back that arise in transitory situations—the grey area between position A and B. Though the entry to the back in these situations is not complicated, the chance to capitalize is fleeting, which is why it’s important to learn them and drill them. A lot.

The window is small, so your reaction time must be quick.

In the first technique, we set a hook as our opponent turns away from us to escape side control. The act of bellying down into a turtle position exposes the hip to a hook for a fleeting moment. To sneak the hook in, all you have to do is execute a quick sit-out-like motion. The challenge is that if you try too soon, your opponent’s back will block you. If you try too late, your opponent’s knee will block you. You have to attack right when the hip starts coming off of the mat.

For the next technique, we look at transitioning from mount to technical mount when our opponent shrimps. Again, this is not a complicated movement, but timing is essential. You have to have the awareness and the reaction time to float your hips at precisely the right moment, allowing you to drop into technical mount. You can stack the deck a bit with the cross face, as you will see, but perfecting your finesse is still essential.

This final back take is more of a conceptual example than the previous two. Anytime our opponent is attacking a single leg, you can potential take the back, provided that you force your opponent’s head out of position. This particular example explores countering a seated single leg, but in any scenario where your opponent is committed to a single leg like position, you can potentially take the back by beating the head.

When you practice this particular variation, pay close attention to the movement of my hips. Notice how I sink them low as I start my rotation. If you keep your hips high and try to secure the back, your opponent will be in a good position to flush out the bottom.

Next week, we explore finishing from the back, which won’t be our final class in the module. We’ll continue to dive down the rabbit hole of arm drags and back takes, but we’re choosing to explore submissions now because I plan to force my students to drill finishing extensively as we continue to look at new ways to take the back.

Can you tell that I like drilling?

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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Artechoke in a Can: Arm Drags and Single Legs

We began exploring the potential of the arm drag last week. As much as we want to take the back with the arm drag, and that should always be your primary goal, the arm drag will sometimes fail. That’s the nature of grappling. In the arm drag’s failure, however, is opportunity.

The most common reaction to an arm drag attempt is simple: your opponent yanks his arm free of your grips. When this happens, the arm drag is lost, but your opponent has temporarily cleared a path for you to attack. When his hands are directly in front of him, it can be hard to close the distance. When he yanks back to escape the arm drag, he clears a path by taking his own hand out of the way. In the first technique, where both myself and my opponent are standing, we use this fleeting opening to transition into a single leg.

For the next technique, we looked at what to do if our opponent is stopping our rotation to the back when we attack with the arm drag from the butt scoot while our opponent is standing. When you are trying to come up out of the butt scoot in this situation, your opponent can sometimes use his standing position to pressure back into you, to keep you from coming all the way up to your feet and then to his back. When this happens, you use a movement similar to one we looked at last week: you throw your weight backward (keeping your shoulder attached to his shoulder) to pull him to the mat and stretch him out. From there, you can take his back just like you did when both of you were on the ground. It’s worth noting that this same backward drop can be used from a standing arm drag entry. If you feel like he is stopping you from rounding the corner to his back but your arm drag control is secure, drop your butt to the mat and bring him with you.

To round out the class, we return to the single leg, except this time I am in the butt scoot and my opponent is standing. This is a reliable technique, and the more you work it, the more you start to think of the butt scoot as the first half of your shot (the level change). From the butt scoot, you shoot forward and up, attacking your opponent’s legs and hips with a takedown. For me, that takedown is usually a single leg. Since we’re thinking of the butt scoot as a staging area for a shot, we can use many of the same shot set-ups that we use from standing, like threatening an arm drag to clear a path for a single leg takedown. This, to me, is what makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu really fun.

Next week, we will start to sharpen our back take instincts, by looking at common scenarios where an opponent might expose his back. These are awesome opportunities to establish a dominant position, but they also tend to come and go very quickly. So we will work on honing our reaction time and training ourselves to anticipate these openings so that we can capitalize effectively.

If you are following along with these lessons and train at another gym, you should know that we review all the techniques that we’ve covered in a module prior to learning new material, and we’ve been doing isolation sparring from the back position. Those repetitions are a big part of the learning process. If you are trying to incorporate this material into your jiu-jitsu and you aren’t drilling the regularly, you should start.

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.