Marcelo Garcia is maybe the very best person in the world at attacking the turtle position.
But before I tell you how I know this first hand, I should point out that as you get better you’ll run into the turtle position more often.
This is because when you’re pinned by an advanced player it’s pretty damn hard to put them back into your guard. And the other main escape option is to go to your knees in order to escape a bad position. So knowing what to do from the turtle, and how to attack it effectively, are key skills grappling.
The past few months I’ve been working on attacking this position with mixed success. Some things worked, some things didn’t, and I had a few questions.
Marcelo is probably the best person in the world at taking the back and finishing people from there. He’s done it over and over at the highest level of competition for years now, both with and without the gi. That’s why he’s a four time world BJJ champion and three time ADCC champion. (To fight at this level, for that long, both with and without the gi is pretty amazing!)
Marcelo is known for having an incredible rear mount. He proved it the very first time he caught our attention and captured our imagination by tearing a swatch through the competition at the Abu Dhabi Combat Championships in 2003
But in recent years he’s also developed his variation of rear mount known as the ‘crucifix.’ In the crucifix you remove one of your opponent’s arms from the equation, allowing you to use two hands to neutralize his one remaining arm and then attack his defenseless neck
Marcelo seems able to magically slap the crucifix on just about anybody and finish them from there. It’s an awesome combination with the more traditional rear mount position.
On my recent trip to NYC, deciphering Marcelo’s turtle attack strategy was a top priority item.
The best way to understand something is to experience it first hand. I wanted to see how exactly he took the back. I wanted to feel how he countered my escape attempts. I wanted to know how he locked in his infamous variation of the ‘crucifix’ position.
So I started our sparring session in turtle position and returned to it every time he got me with a submission. Now maybe starting in the turtle position against a guy who arguably has the best back attacks in the world might not have been the great idea if the goal had been to survive and launch my own offense. But the goal was to learn!
I’ve been told I have a pretty tight turtle game and that it’s hard to catch me in something from there, but not for Marcelo. Somebody call Greenpeace, because he slaughtered my turtle again and again.
I experimented with different initial hand positions. Tap tap.
I tried some of the moves I’ve been frustrated by when trying to get the crucifix, but Marcelo had the answers. Tap tap.
I tried denying him his initial knee and foot position and rolling him over. I thought I was out, but he countered with a beautiful backroll counter. Tap tap.
I tried linking my hands together and turning towards his legs, the same way my training partners have sometimes been escaping. All to no avail – he countered easily. Tap tap.
So now I have my answers! All I need to do now is repetitively drill them and then use them in sparring. Training partners: watch out!!
If you haven’t already used up your free trials at mginaction, then you’ll be able to see some of the video clips from Marcelo’s academy:
1: Here’s the guillotine technique he taught in class before we sparred. And yes, he caught me with that exact move in sparring a couple of times.
2: Then here’s me sparring Marcelo Garcia! Watch how he takes my turtle apart and nails me with choke after choke.
3: And this third clip is cool. Marcelo taught everybody the exact moves he used to counter my best crucifix escape attempts. Although shown as a guard pass counter these are the same moves he used at the 0:21 and 4:06 mark of our sparring session. Another cool thing is that he taught this technique in the context of training with the gi, but used it without the gi in our sparring match. Obviously this stuff translates well between different platforms!
(If you end up at a sign-up page instead of a video when you click these links it’s probably because you’ve already used up your free visits to the MGinaction.com site. Sorry!)
So if you’re visiting NYC I highly suggest dropping in at Marcelo’s school. It’s currently at number 25 West 36th street, on the sixth floor.
But if you can’t train there, then the cool thing about the school is that the camera is running whenever Marcelo is teaching, sparring, or helping students with a technique. Then they edit, label and tag all that video and upload it to his website so that you can easily move from one related technique to another.
MGinaction has close to 5,000 techniques and sparring clips on it, with more being added daily. There are techniques for both gi and no gi. You can learn strategies, tactics and principles. You can go back and forth between seeing a technique taught and Marcelo using it in sparring.
It’s a pretty amazing site, but DON’T take my word for it! If you sign up as my reader then you automatically get a 7 day free trial period. If you don’t like it, or if the techniques don’t work for you, or if you don’t think it’s worth the $$ then just get in touch with them and they’ll refund your entire fee.
No pressure, but it really is one of the best values for a grappling instructional site.
Finally, my most sincere thanks to Marcelo and his crew for making me feel very welcome at the academy!