Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
The Dreaded Mount!
Back in 2010, I was present at a historic world jiu-jitsu championships (mundial) in California, where Roger Gracie won both his weight and the absolute division at adult black belt, becoming the first-ever 3x absolute winner. But that wasn't what stuck out in the minds of most fans who were there that weekend—it was the fact that Roger finished every single opponent with a choke from the mount. Finishing ten or eleven world-class BJJ black belts in competition is no mean feat. As if mount wasn't already considered an incredibly dominant position, after that incident, mount was instantly elevated in sport jiu-jitsu players' minds to the paragon of positions, right alongside rear mount.
Escaping mount can be intimidating and daunting in today's sport BJJ world, but there is one technique that I've found to be absolutely necessary against the best, and one that opens up other escapes: stepping over to catch the foot. Likely one of the first mount escapes you learn, the "stepover escape" takes a long time to master, but becomes an incredibly valuable part of a great defensive game.
The Basic Stepover Version
When you first learn to escape the mount, you are likely to see a basic shrimp escape as one of your go-to moves from the bottom. While this can work against an unsuspecting opponent, a sophisticated partner won't allow you to lift their leg up to "snake" your leg through. Here, we start with a very good defensive frame, not allowing your opponent to advance their hips any higher.
The general idea is to block their right leg in place with your left leg by straightening it out and placing it between their legs, then sliding your left leg flush against their right foot. This will allow you to do a "crossing your leg over" maneuver (imagine reclining in a chair and crossing your right leg over your left), thus stepping over their foot, and using your right heel to scoop their foot into your leg triangle (in between your legs). While keeping the triangle, you can use your legs to leverage their right knee up in the air. From here, if you just want to recover guard, frame against their knee and hip out, catching their leg in your half guard, and then recover closed guard as normal.
Basic Stepover to Deep Half
Once again, it's imperative to start with very good defensive frames, especially focusing on keeping your right elbow underneath your partner's hips—this also helps deal with the switch to S-mount. Start the same maneuver as above, using your left thigh to block your partner's right foot, then stepping over with your right foot, using your right heel to scrape your partner's foot in between your legs.
You can once again use the leverage of the trapped foot to lift your partner's knee, but this time, enter into deep half by diving your right arm underneath their leg, then your left arm, and by using your right knee as a brace or bump to ensure that your partner ends up in deep half. If you'd like to see more entries to deep half (including escaping from the back), we've got you covered. Note: it's extremely important not to allow your partner to crossface you, flattening you out.
Dealing With a Very Tight Mount
Sometimes your partner is going to do a fantastic job of pinching their legs in when you try to do the stepover escape, making it very, very hard to catch their foot. One very practical trick is to simply turn your hips all the way over, thus giving you much, much better ability to scoop their foot up.
In addition, you can reach down with your left arm (the one that's sort of stuck under your body, and, more importantly, protected). Once you've snagged their foot, you can proceed as before. It's really important that you don't post on your left elbow, though, or else they'll get a "seat belt" or harness position and really get your back. The value in this technique is the deceptive subtlety of turning away from your partner while not really turning away.
A Trick to Get the Hook
Finally, sometimes it's necessary to use a hook (like a "shin on shin" position, or a butterfly hook at their ankle) in order to trap your partner's foot. If your partner isn't very experienced dealing with this, or if you're very good at setting it up, you can just step over and then use the hook to catch their foot. However, the more experienced your partner is, the more they're going to be likely to pinch their knees together, making it all but impossible to capture their foot using this method. The solution: use your left thigh once again to push their leg out, widening their knees slightly. This allows you enough room to step all the way over and fully utilize your hook, and then you can capture their knee as before.
Note: you can also proceed directly to the lockdown from here and play half guard.
Putting It All Together
Like most escapes, you can't just use one of these in isolation; you'll need to combine these escapes with an already solid repertoire in order to escape a truly great mount position. Practice the basic movements until they are second nature, and then practice them some more, then work on the variations. It takes a long time to master movements, and the truly elite only differentiate themselves from mere athletes or competitors by getting tens of thousands of repetitions long after others quit drilling and practicing.
Most important of all: learn to accept being in the mount so that you can rationally learn to escape bad positions, and learn not to "freak out" in rough spots. Sacrificing a slice of your ego in the short term will greatly benefit your jiu-jitsu in the long term.
© 2015 Andrew Smith