Join Date: May 2006
Location: New York City, New York
Grappling for MMA: The Turtle (Attacking)
It's been a long time since I did one of these columns, but I was talking to a friend who was saying that I should write about more positional stuff. Attacking from the turtle is something I've been working on constantly both in a judo and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu context for the last six months or so, and I figure it's good to write down the stuff I've been working on as a resource.
The structure of this post is a little different than the previous entries in this series, but part of it is that I think this format is a little better.
Basic Principles for Attacking the Turtle
Firstly, it's very common for people to over-commit their position in the turtle. They will attack the rear naked choke aggressively, or try and jump their hooks in, and they will end up losing control of the position when their sternum is over their opponent's head. You can't establish good control with underhooks from that position. So make sure that, when your opponent is in the turtle position, you keep your hips behind their hips, and don't let them go past the middle of the back.
Secondly, people feel that goal of the turtle has to be to transition to the back. That's not necessarily true. If you recognize that there are other positions that you can transition to from the turtle, you're far more likely to have success hitting those options than you are just attacking the back, since everyone is defending the hooks.
Finally, be aware that your opponent is going to be looking for your legs, because they know that the hooks are coming. What the means is that you have to maintain control independent of hooks and the hips, because as you look for the hooks, you're going to have to move your hips to other locations on their body, or even relieve the pressure from the hip entirely, and if you don't have good control (preferably with the overhook-underhook grip) it's very easy to lose the position.
The first technique that I want to mention is different than the first technique that they'll teach in pretty much any grappling class. The standard for attacking the turtle is the basic attack where one establishes the over-under, sits back, slides a leg under to establish one hook and then pulls the opponent on top to sink in the other hook.
That's a standard attack, but the one that I've found is best is to think about the ways that are most common for people to defend from the turtle. Most of the time, your opponent is going to either extend their inside leg and try to slip back to guard, or do a basic forward roll and try and swing over and back to guard. These are the two standard escapes.
You can block both of these by focussing on that first principle. Make sure you stay low, use your hands to block the hips as well as keeping your hips against them and low on the back. As your opponent starts to move, which they will if the weight is lower because they'll feel less pressure, control the legs.
First, from the standard defense, when the opponent extends the inside leg, grab it with your inside arm. In gi grappling, it makes sense to grab the gi around the thigh, then step over the back of the leg with your inside leg as they start to turn. Notice that you are going to be very low on the back in this technique, because your hip is basically going to be against the back of your opponents thigh.
This position, though, as your opponent turns, will put you in a very high, open half-guard. If you slip your leg that would be inside the half-guard quickly or if you establish the underhook, you can establish a solid side-control position.
If your opponent tries to roll by swinging around the outside leg, which seems like the escape I see the most in competition, you can block it simply by grabbing the belt. If your opponent is in the middle of their gramby when you get the grip, you can grab their arm across the body with your ouside arm and bring it through as if it were a failed hip throw attempt. Drive the arm that is acting as the block for the hip through to push them over and pull the sleeve and you can come up in a solid side control position.
These two really are the fundamentals of a good turtle position. Most attacking positions let you set the pace for a grappling match of an MMA fight, but the turtle really doesn't give that freedom. The guy on the bottom is the guy that has to make the first move and decide where that fight is going to play out. Fighting from the top of turtle is counter-intuitive that way.
Hopefully this is helpful for people. I realize there's not very much MMA knowledge in here, but that's not really the context of the turtle I've been dealing with. Maybe there will have to be a part two to clarify the practical elements of this stuff in MMA.
Let me know if there are thoughts, questions, corrections or requests.
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