Enhancing levels of confidence by learning how to escape undesirable positions
Location: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo: by Jode Kivol Photography
When I look back at my own comfort level in Jiu-jitsu, I see it increased proportionally to my learning of the different positions and associated escapes. The more experienced I became, the more I was able to see how vital learning various positions were and finding a way to connect them together. I found it wasn’t until I learned how to escape that I really built up a level of confidence. Confidence that I felt was built on knowing I didn’t have to worry about not hitting the submission but understanding I could escape a bad situation if placed there.
Learning the mechanics and techniques of escaping allowed me to deconstruct what my opponent needs to do to pin or submit me. Practicing these skills on different partners allowed me to gain the confidence to decrease the nerves you would face in competition. I look back at how the benefits of learning in this manner would directly correlate to a stronger foundation.
Confidence in your game is dependent on a variety of factors. These factors include understanding of the technique, understanding of the situation and how well you adapt if you miss performing a technique. Understanding how to escape positions allows you to choose the amount of exertion when performing techniques.
Upon first starting your Jiu-Jitsu journey, you see newer recruits trying to muscle each and every technique. They perform stiff, rigid movements and often hesitate on “pulling the trigger” for fear of failure. Having a confident game allows you to make more calculated attacks and transitions and allows you to explode in and out of positions at the right moment. I found that I was more confident in a position if I knew that If I were swept, I could make my way out and re-engage, switching from defense to offense. Looking back at my years of training, this was not always the case. I found in the past, I had a much higher stress level when put into less desirable positions.
I found that by understanding how to escape, you gain a valuable skill of understanding how to deconstruct your opponent’s attacks. You gain the comprehension of the mechanics of what your opponent needs to do in order to hold you down or submit you. By reverse-engineering attacks and positional transitions, you can progress your game to include a deadlier attack scheme… defense to immediate offense.
An example of deconstruction is with the bow and arrow choke. If your opponent has a hand deep in the collar, you know they will be looking for a secondhand placement. By understanding the steps to achieve the choke, you can base your next moves around not allowing the hand to connect to a grip. I often find it rewarding to go through the scenery live in your head as it’s being applied and ask yourself what needs to happen next to complete the sequence. I have been able to avoid getting finished just by stopping the progression of events necessary to secure the finish.
With over 2 decades of competition experience under my belt, I feel it gets easier, but the nerves never truly go away. There are always larger and larger competitions to compete at that have the best in the world attending. I found that being confident in your positions and being able to transition from non-advantageous positions to favorable positions was a key in getting the competition nerves reduced.
Countless times you see adults and kids alike performing nervously instead of seeing the playful nature in the gym. Having the ability to escape your opponent’s favorable positions during a competition will tire your opponent out by not allowing them to hold you down. This will enhance frustration and amplify the chaos internally as the match nerves take over.
You can enhance your ability to be ready for competition by working the escaping concepts with several partners, which will produce many different reactions. Training the skill in this way will help you become prepared for the variety of responses you will feel from unknown opponents in the competition scene.
When looking at developing newer athletes, I strongly emphasize looking at escaping concepts more regularly. Athletes become frozen in the “what if” scenario, “What if they reverse my armbar from mount?”, “What happens if I shoot in for a takedown and they stuff me?” These concerns will be taken care of during the crucial developmental stage by showing options out of undesired positions.
As confidence in fundamentals becomes stronger, less hesitancy is witnessed, and the fear of not achieving positions is nullified. I feel that building the system around these concepts will help to grow concrete foundations and allow for a more natural unveiling of one’s game. Many masterpiece performances have been a result of allowing the brain to run on autopilot and not thinking about the result. We can help to unlock this potential by giving and making confidence in escaping an instinctual act.
Confidence in your Jiu-Jitsu game is proportionally related to your ability to transition between your positions and be able to not allow your opponent to employ their offense. Confidence in escaping allows for a Jiu-Jitsu player to play the game that they want to play without hesitation. When you are constantly worrying about what your opponent will do, it impedes your own progression. Understanding escaping mechanics allows you to deconstruct your opponent’s positions and advances and employ your own. Becoming fluent in the concept of escaping provides for you to become more competent, confident and helps reduce competition nerves. Starting this process early in a Jiu-Jitsu player’s development will help to strengthen fundamentals and allow the movements to become instinctual. Developing strong instinctual movements and responses makes for a deadly Jiu-Jitsu player.