Join Date: May 2006
Location: New York City, New York
Attacking the Turtle
I've spent a lot of time working on adjusting my top game from the turtle that I see in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to working on the belly down position that I've been seeing from a lot of judo guys. The tend to belly down more completely, not staying on the knees and looking to sit out into guard. Given my approach to the BJJ turtle, which I'll explain in a second, the problems I have with the more complete belly down presents some problems.
I was working the turtle tonight going over some basic techniques from the top and the bottom with Jeremy Adkins tonight, and this is a position I'm really familiar with, and since Jeremy was just teaching the basics, I was pretty familiar with it. Though, as always, he game me some details to keep me occupied.
As I was working with the BJJ guys, I remembered the way I attack the turtle, which has a lot of freestyle wrestling influence. As is typical with the BJJ turtle attack, I drive my hips against the lombard of my opponent. Unlike the typical attack, I try to be much trickier with my hands. I don't commit to gripping the lapel and attacking the back position, not because it's not priority #1 (it has to be, from the turtle) but because that's the attack people anticipate and, against competitive opponents, they usually have a tool in the bag to deal with it.
Instead, I work either underhooking the lapels (with a transition to be more behind the opponent, as opposed to on the side, so they can't roll me) or I start attacking the ankles and (especially in gi) the back of the knee and the thigh.
Attacking these areas allows me to anticipate the rolling attempts to get back to guard which are typical of the turtle position. When an opponent rolls, if I have control of an ankle, i can make sure to stretch that leg out to make for a much easier pass. If I'm holding the back of the knee, it becomes very easy to kill the legs and establish side control.
Now, the problem is that the judo defense for the turtle isn't really a defense for the turtle, at least not from what I've seen in competition and training. It's really just an attempt to stall me out, especially once they work out that I'm very technical and tricky in my newaza.
They don't stay up on the knees and look to roll back to a guard position. Often they try and roll for a pin, if they stay up there, which (apart from being a terrible idea, as it gives me a ton of opportunities to attack the armbar and the clock choke) doesn't happen very often because at the point where they're turtling, they're not going to bother to attempt something tricky. Instead, they extend the legs out, which makes them very tough to attack, keeping their focus on protecting the arms and the neck.
Frankly, I started off getting incredibly frustrated with this position, because I felt like I didn't have any strong attacks from that position. I found myself grinding my opponents face alot, and I found myself driving my knees into my opponents backs and ribs. Not a terrible idea, generally, but still not really effective.
After a while, I decided that when the went for this defense, the best idea was to go back to the conventional attack, which is to hook the lapel under the arm, or to control the arm if possible, and look for the choke, or to roll the opponent onto their back. In terms of judo scoring, the latter is the best option. Anyway, I've been working on a few ways of getting my opponent to his back from that belly down position. I have stuff I'm working on, including an adapted version of the Karelin lift that is pretty effective against training partners my size, bit I'll probably wait until fall to get back into that, as nobody at Rocha BJJ is that intimidated by my attack from the turtle, or at least nobody thinks they're going to get out of it by bellying down.
Anyway, I killed in drilling that position tonight. I was (as is not terribly unusual) the smallest guy in the class by 20+ pounds, but I was also the second most experienced, and managed to get everyone's back multiple times, and come up in side control plenty on the top, and get back to full guard, half guard and even slip past the deep half guard (a la Jeff Glover) to take the back on some of my opponents.
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