Class 2014-04-23: Omoplata Escapes

escapesAlthough the omoplata might not come up as much as triangles and armbars (even though it should), you still need to have a good set of answers to this attack. 

Helicopter Escape

This escape depends on a fast reaction and generating momentum.

When you feel the shoulder pressure start and you can’t posture up or get your arm back, it is imperative to try to escape before your opponent has the opportunity to control your legs or hips.

Your goal is to use the momentum of your opponent slamming your shoulder forward and down to start a lateral spin.  Their motion actually jump starts the spin.  Ideally, you’d like to push into their hip and use their hip as the pivot point for your chest, but often you don’t have enough time to enhance your escape this way.  Typically, you will mostly be concerned with just getting both of your legs over your opponents body without them stopping your motion.

I prefer a very low leg swing over the body, extending my legs out as far as possible, and nearly grazing my opponents head.  This maximizes the inertia of your legs if your opponent attempts to catch your leg to either stop your escape or to setup a re-omoplata.  You may occasionally bump your sparring partners head while getting the helicopter motion ironed out, so try to practice this a bit before going full speed.

If you are unable to get the hang of a strong leg helicopter swing over your opponent, another option you have is to post your free hand, then step your near side leg over your opponents body.  Continue pushing across to get your opponent on their side, then step your trailing leg over.  This requires more strength and balance, but it is a reasonable substitute to the more acrobatic helicopter escape.

With practice, you’ll easily get to side control (of course after extracting your arm).  Plus, this is a fun escape that often surprises people who are more used to the next escape.

Head Tuck Escape

If your first escape doesn’t work and your opponent is already controlling your legs or waist, you’ll need to switch to a mid/late-stage escape that disables the shoulder pressure and even gives you an opportunity to put your opponent back in your guard.

This is a very common escape for the omoplata, but there are some details that are often overlooked, especially against a lower level opponent when you can get away with a more sloppy escape.

First, this is not just a roll out of the omoplata, despite that being the common interpretation.  When you treat this as a roll, you are diving into the exact direction your opponent wants you to go.  All too often you’ll find that you end up completely flattened out before you can finish the roll.

It is far better to reduce the amount of motion you need for your escape and tuck your head as close as possible to the outside of your outside knee.  Your goal is to get the back of your head and your shoulder flat on the mat, as if you are trying to look at the ceiling.  Once you get to this position, you are safe from the omoplata.  Make a very conscious effort to rotate your body in place — there should be almost no forward motion before you have your head and shoulder on the mat.

From here, you’ll have to feel the situation to determine the best finish to your escape.  One option is to use your inside leg as a hook on your opponents body, then roll out to put your opponent back in your guard (similar to a granby roll to reclaim guard).  You can also roll completely through, but you may expose yourself to foot locks against a more skilled opponent.


Each of these omoplata escapes involve rotating out of danger to prevent the shoulder lock.  In the first scenario, you are using the momentum of the attack to helicopter your legs over your opponent’s body.  In the second scenario, your opponent is preventing this option, so instead of a lateral rotation, you perform an efficient inline rotation.  The first escape involves a lot of energy and momentum, while the second is pure technique and very little effort.

Although I normally lean towards the option that requires less effort, the helicopter escape has a better chance of leaving you in a good position.  It is a good instinctual first response, and works particularly well for no-gi and MMA contexts where it is harder to catch the legs to prevent the escape.  If the escape does get shut down, you may still have the head tuck escape available to you if you retain your base after failing the helicopter escape

Try to use the helicopter escape as your primary escape.  It has a better chance of leaving you in a good position, and

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