Recently I was discussing MMA fighter Ben Henderson’s ability to slip out of submissions. And that turned into a general discussion about countering, escaping, and slipping out of submission attacks.
Something a lot of people don’t realize about countering or defending submissions is there are at least three distinct timings to submission escapes…
1, You can shut down a submission early, or preemptively. Let’s say that you’re using your guard and your opponent starts going for an ankle lock. He encircles your ankle with his arm, and you can see what’s coming, but he hasn’t You rotate your leg (the right way, of course) and your foot pops out before you’re ever in any real danger.
This is an early escape, BEFORE he applies the lock. If you have a choice then shutting down a submission early, before it ever really gets started, is definitely the best way to go!
2, You can escape as your opponent is applying the submission. Back to the ankle lock: let’s say that he’s locked it on and is falling backwards. If you can ‘hitch a ride’ and get to the top as he falls back and then squish him like a bug, then you’ve just countered it DURING the attack.
Escaping submissions as they’re being applied is the most under-utilized timing, but it can be very useful. It’s just so much easier to do it now rather than during the next stage (i.e. when it’s fully locked on).
3, Finally you can do a late, or AFTER THE FACT escape. These aren’t as easy or as high percentage as escaping before or during, but you still need to know them.
Back to the ankle lock for sec; let’s say that he falls all the way back into a good position, gets on his side, starts arching, etc. At this point you might be trying to uncross his legs and escape your hips out sideways, or (if it’s legal) apply a heel hook to one of his legs, etc. Last minute, hail mary type of stuff
So there you go; I’ve just tripled what you need to know! You might’ve thought you only needed one good counter to the triangle choke, the spinning armbar or the inside-out, upside-down, cross-collar Jehoshaphat choke. But now you know that you actually need to learn THREE defenses, early, middle and late.
Sorry about that!!