The bridge is one of the most important movements in all of BJJ.
It is one of the three critical pin escape movements and can be used to escape almost every bad position.
For example, the classic (and highly effective) ‘Upa’ mount escape would not exist without bridging your hips high up to ceiling before turning your body and getting out of the mount.
And my favourite way of escaping kesa gatame – which is an advanced variation of the headlock used extensively in Judo – also relies on the bridge to roll your opponent.
You also use the bridge to set up shrimping escapes, to bump an opponent off of you long enough to turn to your knees, to set up scrambles, etc. etc.
So anything we can do to make the bridge more powerful, efficient, and effective is a good thing.
Generally the higher you lift your hips the more space you’re going to create and the more powerful your bridge will be.
Wrestlers sometimes get their hips really high by bridging up onto the top of their head.
But I’m not a big fan of doing this in a jiu-jitsu context…
First of all, unlike wrestlers we don’t really care if our shoulders are pinned on the mat – it ends the match for them but not for us.
Secondly, supporting your own weight and that of a struggling, flailing opponent on the delicate bones of the neck is a good way to injure yourself.
So if we can’t go up onto our heads how can we increase the height of our bridge?
One hugely beneficial adjustment that I learned by watching Marcelo Garcia is going up onto the balls of your feet and not your heels!
Check out how much higher my hips are in the bottom half of the photo below – this increase in elevation is accomplished entirely by coming up onto the balls of my feet.
Obviously popping up onto the balls of my feet brings my hips a LOT higher.
If you were doing the Upa escape from mount then think of how much further you’d be lifting your opponent off the ground and how much less base he’d have. Hoist him up this high and you’ll almost certainly escape.
Just like a normal bridge do NOT telegraph the balls-of-feet bridge by holding your breath right before you explode upwards, or exhaust yourself by staying in a static elevated bridge for a long period of time.
The bridge is a tool you use to briefly make space or temporarily move your opponent off of you. Use it decisively and explosively!
Here’s a 52 second video I put onto Youtube about bridging onto the balls of your feet. It was hurriedly filmed right before a training session, but you may find it valuable nonetheless.
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