Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
Methods for Taking the Back From Turtle
The turtle is a common defensive position in all grappling arts. Although it fell out of favor for a few years in sport BJJ, it has made something of a resurgence in recent years as people have developed ways to avoid being submitted or giving up their back while preventing the guard pass. Here are some basic (and not-so-basic) methods of taking the back anyway from this vulnerable position.
1. Basic "Spiral Ride"
- Start on your partner's left side, with them turtled before you.
- Create some space on the side nearest you by wedging your left knee in between your partner's elbow and hip area.
- On the other side of their body, reach over with your right arm and thread your right hand into a "spiral ride," or a "karate chop hand" position, wherein you can ultimately lift your partner's hips while you move to take the back.
- Use your left arm to encircle their head, taking away one "leg of the table" by not allowing them to post.
- Off-balance them forward and to your left, and insert your first hook as they tilt to the side.
- Hip out if you need to, then insert your second hook.
2. Lapel Grab
A more direct route to getting the back here is to simply insert your first hook before beginning the off-balancing portion of the move. This won't always be available, but it's a great way to expedite the back taken whenever it presents itself.
Before inserting your left hook, be sure to reach over and control their lapel (if it's no-gi, you can use the spiral ride option here as well). The off-balance portion and the tilt are essentially the same, but you only have to worry about getting one additional hook in.
3. Double Unders Entry and Choke
A very common entry into turtle is when you're trying a double under guard pass. As your partner moves to turtle, make sure you stay ahead of them and circle behind, finishing as before. You can use the same lapel grip (or spiral ride) as before, and the same 45 degree off-balance to set up the tilt. If you can't get your second hook in because your partner is defending, you can always attack their neck. This will often get them to open up and allow you to finish taking their back.
4. Olay Back Take
Sometimes, your partner is used to the fundamental back take motion, and has gotten very, very good at defending it. Perhaps they are even experts at how to defend the back take from turtle (ahem). In this case, it might be useful to do something fancy: the "olay" back take.
- Keeping your weight on your partner's back, posture up so that you can swivel your right leg all the way around your partner's head (please don't kick your partner in the head), finishing with your hook in on the far side.
- Now just execute a basic tilt while ensuring you have the harness.
5. Rolling Bow and Arrow
Still another way to get to the turtle is from a sprawl.
- Once you have established a dominant top turtle position, it's once again time to do something fancy. This time, use your right hand (currently controlling their far lapel) to feed to your left hand, just under their chin, right at their collarbone.
- Next up, step all the way over to insert your far hook, and then hug your partner's left leg with your right arm.
- Instead of a tilt, execute a full forward roll, ending up in a tight bow and arrow choke finish position.
6. Rolling the Other Way
This last option works best when your partner either tries to grab your wrist to do a barrel roll, or else you simply can't hit the tilt described earlier.
- Instead, roll all the way over their body, establishing a strong harness grip along the way.
- If you grip their wrist instead of clasping your hands together, you'll take one of those "table legs" away.
- From there, you will end up on the "wrong side" with no hooks, but you'll still have the harness.
- Insert your right hook first, then crawl up on top of your partner.
- Once there, sit down once again in order to get the second hook in.
As the turtle position comes back in vogue somewhat, it's a great time to explore both the offense and defense of the position. There's a great deal you can do offensively from the top of turtle, and—contrary to popular belief—there's actually a fair bit you can do from the bottom as well. Try these techniques (and others) out in a playful, exploratory manner, and, as always, let us know how these techniques are working for you!