Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
BJJ S-Mount Escape
Being caught underneath the mount position is bad enough, but S-mount (a variation of "technical mount") can be many times worse! Not only do more opportunities for submissions open up, but there is also the constant threat of the back take with one wrong move from the person on the bottom. There's also an added element of pressure to the sternum and solar plexus depending on how the person on top is holding mount. Like most things in jiu-jitsu though, there is potential for an opportunity during the transition. In this case, we're going to look at three ways to escape straight into leg attacks, but you could just as easily use the movements for a more fundamental guard recovery.
Hip Out, Insert Knee
When your opponent makes the switch to S-mount, there is an invariable, inevitable weight shift from one side of their body to the other. Ultimately, their weight is going to shift away from the posted leg (in the video example, it's the right foot that's posting, and we'll use the familiar left-right terminology for clarity's sake). Starting with a very good defensive posture from the mount, beginning with your left elbow inside of their right knee, and your right elbow flush with your ribs, while keeping your right forearm as a frame underneath their hip, you are ready to begin a traditional stepover mount escape.
A good opponent is likely to counter this by switching to technical mount (or S-mount, if they're more advanced). As your partner switches, the weight shifts from their right knee to their left knee, and then they make their body perpendicular to yours. As they move (ideally not after they've already settled their weight in, although the move does still work then), hip out to your left. This will stretch out your partner's right leg, opening up some space at the knee. Now do a knee-elbow escape (just bring your knee to your elbow here). It's really, really important that your right arm remains underneath your partner's hip the whole time while you're performing the escape. Once your knee is through, you have plenty of space to set up a straight footlock here. The finish is straightforward and basic: pinch your knees together while stepping on the hip, figure four the grip, pinch your elbows in tight to your sides, and slowly lift your hips up.
Option B: Straight to the Heel Hook
Another great option from this same escape is to go straight into the heel hook. Beginning with that same great defensive posture (elbows in tight, frame under their hip), as you switch your hips, your partner moves to S-mount, and you hip out to the side, creating that space for your knee to drive through.
Once your knee is in to make space, instead of stepping on the hip as with the straight ankle lock example, you can also go straight for the heel hook. Start by weaving your foot in front of their trapped leg (it is very, very advisable to grab your own foot whenever possible so that you minimize possible counters from your opponent). Your goal is the over/under position, a virtual checkmate for heel hooks. If you're unable to get all the way to over/under in one clean motion, a great option is to hit the leg triangle temporarily (until you can bring your partner to their left first). Once your partner has been brought down to the ground, you can torque their knee to the right, then switch to the over/under. A third option is to simply use a "kani basami" motion to take your opponent down, then switch to over/under.
Dealing With the Switch During a Goathook Escape
If you've practiced the Goathook escape at all, you've probably noticed that it's possible for your partner to counter with an armbar if you make a small mistake with hand positioning. However, it's important to note that your opponent has to switch to S-mount first in order to hit a tight armlock (or, at the very least, to technical mount). Therein lies your opportunity, as your opponent actually makes things easier for you when they do this.
As you push up on your partner's armpits, you can fully expect a more advanced person to take the bait and switch to S-mount. As always, it's during the transition that your best opportunity for escape lies. As your partner switches their hips, simply drop your right arm inward (toward their hip) and bring your right knee through. Just follow the steps from the last technique to finish. Keep in mind that the Goathook escape isn't designed to be the first option, as once your partner has gotten their knees up underneath your elbow, times are pretty bleak for you, to say the least, and it's like a "Hail Mary" pass in the last second of a tied game. Having said that, I use this escape with near 100% accuracy and impunity.
A brief word on learning how to do any escapes: you have to allow your partner the luxury of attaining a very good position, and you have to be willing to accept the consequences of being stuck there if you can't escape. This means not minding tapping out every now and then, and not minding being stuck underneath mount for five minutes while you wait for the right reaction (which might never come). If you gradually work up the ladder, trying these escapes on higher and higher-skilled opponents, your game will dramatically improve overall. Inherent in that process is frustration at first, but this can be overcome with time, and with never losing sight of the big picture: not winning a round at the gym, but becoming a better overall grappler. A much more orthodox escape sequence involves escaping the mount by catching the foot, so if you aren't already familiar with this concept, it is worth the study.
© 2015 Andrew Smith