Using Jiu Jitsu To Escape Being Pinned
All martial arts classes will teach students how to defend themselves should they get into an altercation. Not all martial arts are the same. There are numerous styles and within these styles there are different approaches that cater specifically to people who want to just learn the basics of self-defense or to people who want to become the next MMA superstar.
Within the world of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, there are also classes that have been created to teach women techniques to defend against a sudden assault. This program, Women Empowered, is specifically designed to teach women how to free themselves from different kinds of holds or how to incapacitate an attacker who may be significantly larger than them by using moves based on jiu-jitsu fundamentals, anatomy, and leverage rather than strength or mass.
The Women Empowered program includes numerous lessons, but this post will focus on just one as demonstrated by Eve Torres and her husband Renner Gracie in the below video.
The Wrist Pin
In the scenario depicted in the video, Rener has both of Eve’s wrists pinned to the ground and is sitting on top of her in mount. Anyone who has an older sibling probably knows the move and how effective it can be, especially if the person on top is significantly larger or stronger than the person on the bottom.
As Eve notes, the move is an expression of power. While the aggressor is not choking or striking the person on the bottom, it sends a clear message that they are in control. It may be infuriating to be in this compromised position when you’re young and wrestling with a sibling, but it takes on a very different meaning when the person on top is not playing around.
As Eve and Renner show, the most common reaction for the person on the bottom is to try to use arm strength to break free. As Rener notes, this is a mistake. “I have a lot of leverage holding these hands to the ground,” he says. “There’s no way you’re going to fight these back up towards me because gravity is on my side.”
Hips High, Throw Low
If you are on the bottom, the more effective move is to bridge your hips and to throw the person forward (hips high). The muscles in your hips are some of the strongest muscles in your body. Just think of swinging a baseball bat or a golf club. The arms may serve as guides, but the explosive power that drives the ball comes from the hips.
Bridging your hips doesn’t just throw the person on top off balance or catch them by surprise. As Eve and Renner show, the person on top is not exerting pressure straight down on the wrists. Instead, their shoulders are situated at an angle of less than 90 degrees. When that angle stays between about 60 and 90 degrees, the person on top can use their body weight to keep your wrists pinned.
When you bridge, you push the person on top towards your head and the leverage they had suddenly vanishes. Once the angle of their shoulders goes far enough past 90 degrees, they begin to lose balance and have the choice of either falling headfirst into the ground or letting go of the bottom person’s wrists and stabilizing themselves.
As the person on top is bracing themselves, this gives you the opportunity to throw low. This means the arms quickly come down towards their hips in a motion that’s similar to when one makes a snow angel.
(As Rener notes, there is a third component to the move if you’re on the bottom, which is that you should turn your face to the side. Especially in a real-world situation where the assailant will be caught off guard, they may fall chest-first directly onto your face.)
Gain Control and Escape
Once your arms are free and the top person has braced themselves by putting their hands on the ground, the next step is to hug their torso. This may seem counterintuitive, but one of the central lessons of jiu-jitsu is that distance management is key to winning fights. It’s also key to self-defense.
What does distance management mean? It means keeping your attacker more than two arm-lengths away (all the way out) or so close that you restrict their freedom of motion (all the way in). All the way in oftentimes means being so close that your assailant can’t generate enough momentum in a strike to do a lot of damage. In this case, hugging the torso is performing double duty: Not only is the person on top unable to generate momentum; they also have to keep their hands firmly planted on the ground if they want to retain their balance. When they try to lift themselves up, your body weight pulls them right back down. Consequently, they are forced to abandon offense.
Once you’re hugging the torso, you can then move up their torso (climb the tree) and wrap their arm, which eliminates their ability to balance themselves. You then roll them over. Once they are on their back, you can push away and make your escape.
Practice in Person
Simply knowing these moves is certainly beneficial, but a big part of learning self-defense comes from developing muscle memory and drilling in real time with a partner. In other words, while videos and online lessons can be helpful, coming to class and gaining practical experience is crucial. To see if there’s a nearby Certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Training Center near you, check out the link here.