Getting crushed on the bottom of the cross-side mount is one of the most terrible feelings in jiu-jitsu.
In the worst case situation his weight is heavy upon your chest making it hard to breathe. Your limbs are completely out of position making it impossible for you to frame or push him away. And his arm is anchored under your head allowing him to drive his shoulder into your jaw with a crossface from hell.
In the video below Rob Biernacki (author of The BJJ Formula and The Modern Leglock Formula) shows you a systematic approach to escaping a heavy cross-side mount. Check it out!
First, let’s cover what you DON’T want…
If opponent has the crossface then he can turn your jaw into a lever and force you to look away. At this point your posture (aka spinal position), your structure (your arm and leg position) and your base (ability to generate force in a meaningful direction are all compromised.
(Click here for a deeper discussion of base, posture and structure, the 3 most important concepts in jiu-jitsu.)
If your base, posture and structure each count for one point then right now your score is ‘0’ and your opponent’s score is ‘3’. That means that your opponent holds all the cards and can submit you very easily. Not a good place to be!
If you were on the bottom of cross-side in the perfect world then your hips would be angled towards your opponent (i.e. good base), your head would be free and your spine straight (i.e. good posture), and you would be framing your opponent away using your elbows, forearms, and the bones of your upper arm (i.e. good structure).
Not only are you in a good position to escape, but also the health of your neck isn’t being compromised by all that opponent-inflicted wear and tear.
So let’s get out of the worst case scenario and move towards the best case scenario and/or a full escape.
There is no one magic escape technique that’ll work here without first fixing your alignment so that you can actually generate force again effectively.
Step 1 is to cup his cross-facing shoulder with your near hand…
Just pulling with your hand isn’t going to be enough to relieve that crossface in most cases, so you want to back that up with a second tool.
Pull back with your hand but simultaneously raise your near shoulder up, trying to come under his upper arm with a wedge that further disrupts his crossface pressure.
Bridge your hips slightly to lift his bottom elbow off the mat and then move hips out to the side. This allows you to reposition your feet so you can effectively bridge into him and also allow you to bring your far arm under his chin to create an effective frame.
At this point you now have enough room to swim the other (near) hand in. You’re going to be gripping his upper arm with both hands, keeping distance with the bones of upper arm, and start bringing your near knee in towards his hip.
Only now that your frames are in place and your posture is no longer destroyed by the crossface is it time to actually begin the escape itself.
You can use the basic elbow-knee escape (as demonstrated by Rob in the video close to the top of this post), a Granby-style escape, or any other technique you like.
The point is that if you’re out of position then no escape will work reliably against a good opponent. But if your base, posture and structure are good then you have far more techniques available to you, and those techniques will work a much greater percentage of the time.
More Concepts and Techniques by Rob Biernacki
I’ve worked with Rob quite a bit in the last few years and have found his conceptual teaching style very easy to absorb and put into practise on the mats.
And from the popularity of his instructionals it’s safe to say that many other grapplers agree with me too!
Two of his most popular instructionals are The BJJ Formula in which he explores the underly ing conceptual basis of BJJ, and The Modern Leglock Formula in which we go over the innovations, techniques and strategies that have recently revolutionised leglocking in grappling competition.
Here are some excerpts from those instructionals…
First, one of the most important guard retention movements in jiu-jitsu from the Bottom Game section of The BJJ Formula…
And here a trailer showing you some of the content of The Modern Leglock Formula…