Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
It's important to note that when caught in a bow and arrow choke, it would be a massive understatement to say that you're late and that you're going to have a real uphill battle ahead of you.
Nevertheless, there are still a few options that might end up saving you from the submission, even at this late stage of the game. Here is one particularly useful technique for when your partner is very good at controlling you.
Start With the Basics
The effectiveness of this escape stems from having a thorough knowledge of the crunch and turn back escape, a much more fundamental (and much earlier stage) escape. The general concept is to sit forward, not allowing your partner to establish any sort of upper body (think: harness) control while keeping your elbows in super tight to your ribs and protecting your neck. If your partner gets a hand in the collar anyway, you can turn in toward the choke (as described in the previous tutorial) and put your back flat on the mat to escape.
Unfortunately, your opponent also has another option besides upper body control when you're wearing gi pants (and I certainly hope that you are whenever you're training in the gi!). This involves them simply grabbing your gi pants as you move to escape (while keeping the hand in your collar), and choking the ever-loving life out of you with a bow and arrow choke. This is when this escape comes in really handy.
Again, it's really important to recognize that, should you be able to kick your leg free of their pants grip, you can execute a crunch and turn back escape, as they've essentially given up all upper body control (other than the collar), which means turning in is easy. As soon as your opponent has grabbed your gi pants leg, your best bet is to keep it really simple and just kick your leg free. Some of the time, this will actually work and get your leg free (ideally before your partner has established a solid grip on your pants). If you're able to kick free, just put your back on the mat a la crunch and turn, and you're all set. As always, it's important to have your arms glued to your ribs so that you don't give up harness control (or wrist control, which functions in more or less the same manner).
However, most of the time, your partner is likely to have the jump on you when setting up the bow and arrow, and they're likely to have a very strong grip on your pants leg, so kicking won't work (still worth trying if you get there early enough!). When this happens, it's time to move to the next phase of operations. The only option left is to head the other direction, a very non-intuitive way to do things, as you're ingrained at a fairly early stage to look into the choke. As you dip your head down into the crook of your partner's elbow, the idea is to find enough space so that your head can dip below your partner's choking arm. From there, it's really just a matter of getting your back on the mat (as usual).
Key Detail: Shoulder Lift
An added detail that can make the last transition (when your head is dipping down below the choking arm) much, much easier, without opening you up for other risks, is to use your far shoulder to lift up their elbow. This can take a little bit of practice, but the general concept is to act like you have a pinched nerve (think: holding onto a cell phone while having a conversation with your hands full). As your shoulder rises up to your ear, your partner's elbow will certainly follow suit.
Keep in mind that this escape is certainly not a first line of defense. In fact, it's a last line against a very, very strong choking position. Nevertheless, you do have the option to go for it when the going gets really rough, and it just might save your neck!
Really Learning the Moves
Practicing this technique certainly requires having training partners you trust (and don't mind tapping you!). The more relaxed and willing to put yourself in bad spots you are, the better you'll get at this escape (and many others like it).
Right as your partner is going in for the submission, your last-ditch escape is actually pretty solid, and it's not random, or something you've guessed might work; it's something you've drilled. This concept applies to virtually all BJJ techniques.
© 2015 Andrew Smith