Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
Escaping side control is easily one of the most requested techniques from white and blue belts. The position itself is a phenomenal place of control, and as escapes have evolved over the years, side control itself has more than kept pace with evolving ever more clever ways to keep your partner down. As such, it's a good idea to take a look around at the escape landscape, getting several different ideas to get you started with new methods of escape. Let's get that started right now.
Method 1: Turning In to Guard
Recovering guard by turning in is certainly the number one method for escaping side control, and although some gyms or individuals will no doubt specialize in other techniques, the "get back to guard by direct means" approach tends to dominate across the board. Here, we're considering an alternative posture where your left arm (outside arm) is around their head instead of under the chin (the classic starting posture).
Method 2: Wedging a Shin In
This unorthodox approach can yield some surprising dividends. Start by wedging your outside knee in between your partner's arm and your upper body, thus creating a tremendous opportunity for space. Conceptually, this is the same as the "turning in" escape, except that instead of framing off their hips, you're framing off of their biceps with your shin and knee. If you keep the sleeve, there's also a very unorthodox "ankle americana" you can hit.
Method 3: Sitting Up
This escape is based largely on timing, but because of your position and connectedness, you should be able to rely on tactile feedback to make your move at the right time. Start by wedging your inside arm between you and your partner, just like you want to do for nearly every side control escape. As your partner switches their hips to scrape your arm free, use their weight shift to sit up during that moment. To augment their reaction, grab the back of your legs, creating fantastic momentum as you sit up.
Method 4: Turning Away
Turning in is the expected option, so turning away can frequently throw even a seasoned jiu-jitsu practitioner off their game. The trick here is to create enough of a frame under your partner's neck (or between their shoulders and your hips, as you're making the turn) so that you can continue to drop your hips to the ground with a "flamethrower" motion.
Method 5: Bridge and Roll
No side control dossier would be complete without a good bridge and roll escape. Start with the armpit posture prescribed in the video, along with the ever-present inside arm frame. Your partner's tightness in side control is actually their liability here, as you can simply use the fact that they can't post to execute a perfect reversal, landing in side control yourself nearly every time.
Method 6: Shooting Under
Starting with both arms underneath is yet another way to escape side control, and it can be really sneaky. Instead of the inside arm framing here, you actually want to use it to facilitate you slipping out underneath your partner, ultimately spinning back in to face them as you frame on their head, preventing them from turning in toward you.
Method 7: Runaway (to Brabo Choke)
Yet another initial posture involves framing under your partner's chin with your outside arm and using the same underhook/escape strategy with the other arm as used in the last technique. This time, because you've kept the frame under the chin, you can transition into a nice brabo choke, effectively running around from the bottom of side control for the finish. Even if you miss the choke, this escape route can open some new doors for you.
As has hopefully become clear, there are quite a few different ways you can be successful in escaping side control, and this tenet is generally true across most ranges of jiu-jitsu training. Apply these same principles whenever possible, particularly when you're struggling with a particular technique. Find your own route, and then share the new techniques here! As always, please let me know if these techniques are working for you.
© 2018 Andrew Smith