The "Crunch and Turn" Basic Back Escape: A BJJ Tutorial
As simple as possible, but no simpler
Escapes in general in BJJ should generally be as simple as possible, but no simpler. It is your opponent who determines, ultimately, how complicated they become by throwing you a metaphorical curve ball when you're simply trying to perform the most basic movement possible. The goal of this tutorial featuring the "crunch and turn" back escape is to represent this philosophy faithfully: we're going to start with an essential movement, explained by example in drill format, so that you can practice the core movement dozens of times in five minutes and really get the concept down. From there, our opponent will throw us a couple of curve balls, and we'll deal with these new obstacles (and opportunities) accordingly.
This escape starts with excellent defensive posture when your opponent has your back (don't worry - we'll cover less ideal situations in future tutorials). You're sitting up with your elbows in extremely tight to your ribs, ensuring that your opponent can't get a "seat belt" or "harness" on you, and your hands are up to protect your neck. From here, crunch forward (have your partner release any grips they might have for the drilling/practice portion), and then turn 90 degrees, so that you can put your back on the mat. Always remember: if you can put your back on the mat, your opponent isn't on your back. Now, sit back to the center, and repeat the motion, making sure to keep your elbows in as tight as you can to your body, never allowing your partner to get that all-important upper body control. Crunch, turn, repeat. Try to do this for five minutes nonstop. Your abs might be sore by the end, but your body will figure out the core motion and you'll be ready to try out some of the variations. Note that the Bow and Arrow Choke Escape is essentially a modification of this ultra-simple movement.
One complication (and opportunity)
In spite of your crunching defensive posture, your partner may still be able to get a hand in your collar to go for a choke. Making sure not to allow them to set up a bow and arrow or sliding lapel choke, execute a crunch and turn movement to get your back on the mat, making sure to turn into the choke (facing the shoulder of the arm that's trying to choke you). From here, you should have your opponent's foot trapped in between your legs. Assuming your partner tries to stay on top, if you continue hipping out to the side here, you can establish a deep half guard by carefully diving your inside arm underneath their leg (I highly recommend hiding your other arm as well, as shown in my previous deep half tutorial). If your partner elects not to follow to the top due to laziness or stubbornness, all the better for you - just come up on top with a double under pass position.
Don't let this become you!
An application of this escape into an offensive position
Another likely event an opportunistic opponent will take is transitioning from back to mount as you work your escape. This time, as you hit your crunch and turn movement, your partner immediately sense that they're losing the back, so they make the transition to mount right away. Again, this creates a great opportunity for you. After pinning their near leg (see my hip movement in the video whereby I end up sitting on their foot), just wait for your partner to try to step over with their far leg to mount. Just grab their foot (you have to anticipate this a bit, but hey, what else are they going to do at that point?), and slide your left knee in between their legs. Now step on their hip with your other leg, finishing in a one-legged X-guard (or footlock) position. This escape is very similar to the switch to S-mount escape series, too, so you might find it useful to review those movements.
Toughest place to escape
The "crunch and turn" core movement is just that - a core movement. It's similar to a "shrimp movement", "boot scoot", or any of a dozen other basic BJJ movements that you're going to use in any form of grappling, and it's worth understanding and getting down right away. I came from a wrestling background, so it took me longer than many people to get used to the concept of putting both of my shoulders on the mat (you lose in wrestling if you do this). Getting this movement down helped me tremendously when I finally realized it was okay to do it, and I only wish I had been able to understand it earlier on. Now it's one of my favorite movements in BJJ, and I use it every day when rolling.