Time for DefCon 5 by Micah Caputo
Submission defense is an often under utilized skill in BJJ. As a smaller practitioner of BJJ, my submission defense is constantly being tested by bigger opponents and training partners. As a result of being choked, pushed, pulled, squeezed, jerked and muscled around, I have come up with five Defense Readiness Condition (DefCon) levels that every BJJ practitioner uses.
I focused on this aspect of fighting more after watching Cody McKenzie guillotine choke nearly everyone on “The Ultimate Fighter” show. I could not help but think, “How is it possible to defend his guillotine?” He even choked out his opponents when they used the correct technical defense. He seemed inhuman. How do you defend when you do everything right and still get put to sleep? The answer to the problem presented by McKenzie’s guillotine is that there are different levels of defense and certain levels are not going to be good enough to stop it. The five DefCon levels of submission defense provide an outline to pick the appropriate response for the situation.
DefCon level 1:
Tap, Tap, Tap. This is the one level of defense that everybody has used at least once. I am stuck in a submission, with no way out and the tap is my last resort defense. I have to either tap, snap, or take a nap.
DefCon level 2:
Freak out. This is what I have seen many new people do when they get caught. They try to muscle their way out of the submission. This makes me think of Rampage Jackson slamming his way out of submissions. No technique, pure hulk. If I was in the finals of the world championships, I may give this one a shot. Preferably though, it should be combined with DefCon level three for a little more technique with some muscle behind it. If I was flexible, I might also try and use flexibility to get out of this situation. The kimura is making my thumb touch the back of my own head, but any second I will just flop out of it. Whether you are strong or flexible DefCon two is dangerous. I could injure my partner or myself.
DefCon level 3:
Technique. I got caught in a submission and now I will execute a technical escape. I will pull the knee down in the triangle, put my elbow to the mat in the armbar, or pass the guard on the guillotine choke. Either way I am using technique to escape AFTER I already got caught.
DefCon level 4:
Reaction. My opponent tries to get an armbar, I jerk my arm away before he can lock it up. He tries to get a push triangle. I double under-hook his legs. He reaches for a collar choke. I push his hand away. Level four defense involves doing everything I can to avoid being put into the submission. I see it coming and I will not let it get close.
DefCon level 5:
Position. My opponent cannot choke me if I am on his back. He cannot triangle me if he is in my guard.
This level of defense was recently clarified for me during a tournament. I was competing against an opponent with a deadly triangle. After seeing him triangle choke one of my toughest teammates (tougher than me anyway), I knew that I would have to stay the hell away from his triangle. I planned to avoid his guard. When I was in his guard I maintained excellent posture and attacked the pass so aggressively that he did not even have the chance to think about his triangle. I dominated the match for the first six minutes. Eventually he took my back and choked me, but I learned a valuable lesson about submission defense. The best defense never lets your opponent even get close to the submission.
This was demonstrated best in Cody McKenzie’s fights against Nam Phan and Yves Edwards. Both fighters purposely avoided being put anywhere close to his guillotine choke. Knowing that their level three defense may not be technical enough to counter McKenzie’s inhuman guillotine, they resorted to using level four and most importantly level five defense– Stay the hell away from the guillotine. They used position to their advantage and won their fights by forcing McKenzie to play their game.