How To Prevent Turtling (Martial Arts Guide)

The turtle defensive position is considered one of the most important moves in ground fighting. It can be an essential saving grace in the event that your guard or takedown fails, and you need to resist a lightning-fast counterattack from your opponent.

How To Prevent Turtling?

For the uninitiated, however, it can be quite a tricky move to get out of if you’re the defending party or to prevent if you’re the offending party, as it’s quite a static position.

For inexperienced fighters, it’s not uncommon for this move to effectively bring the contest to a standstill. But this need not be the case.

In this article, I’ll be discussing how an offensive party can prevent an opponent from turtling, and how the defensive party can get out from beneath their opponent.

Benefits Of The Turtle Position

  • The turtle position can be assumed quickly — It’s incredibly easy to generate momentum back and around towards the ground, meaning you can escape some pretty sticky situations by thinking quickly and retreating into the turtle.

If your guard has been circumnavigated, you set up your stance before the opponent gets any crucial strokes in.

  • It’s great if you don’t have time to stand — If you’re on the ground with your opponent bearing down on you, you may not have time to get back on your feet, but rotating into the turtle position will save you from most of the coming punishment, especially if you can escape the pose and mount a counteroffensive.
  • It’s easier to escape than other defensive ground positions — Although, as mentioned earlier, turtling is a very immobile move, it’s much easier to escape than, say, when you’re on the wrong end of a side control scenario.
  • It’s a good engine for counterattacks — To the untrained eye, turtling seems like a forfeiting of sorts, as it appears to be purely, even recklessly, defensive, but therein lies one of the turtle’s key strengths.

It lures the opponent into full offensive, giving smart fighters an opportunity to counterattack and in some instances completely change the direction of the fight in a single or a couple of moves.

Drawbacks Of The Turtle Position

  • Turtling blinds you — When you turtle, you turn your back to your opponent, which means you’re not able to see how they’re attacking.
  • The turtle is very static — The turtle is a physical lockdown of sorts, during which you have very little mobility, and a shrewd opponent in top turtle will know exactly how to reduce your mobility to an even further degree.

How To Prevent Turtling?

It’s nigh on impossible to completely prevent turtling from happening. It’s one of the most common ground fighting positions, and you’ll likely see it happen a number of times during a single fight.

Really, the only way to stop it from happening as an offensive party is to strike quickly or nail your takedown, and the only way to prevent it from happening as a defensive party is to ensure your guard is not passed.

How To Prevent Turtling As The Defensive Combatant?

If you find yourself in the turtle position, your primary goal is to get back on your feet or turn the tables on your opponent. Here are a few methods for doing so.

General Defense

  • Protect the neck and head.
  • Fight against seat belt lock, which is when your opponent reaches around your body and locks their hands.
  • Parry the leg hook, which is when your opponent hooks their leg around your knee and towards your groin.

The Stand-Up Escape

  • Cover the arm over your shoulder with your farthest arm to protect against chokes.
  • Extend the arm nearest your opponent and press against the floor to posture up.
  • Extend your outside leg as far from your opponent’s grapple as possible.
  • Push your hips forward, thereby moving their weight behind as opposed to on top of you.
  • Stand, use your shoulder and arms to break the seat belt lock, then step back or mount a counterattack.

The Slide-Out Escape

  • Break or parry the seat belt lock, and hold the far wrist of your opponent.
  • Extend the leg closest to your opponent to begin your rise.
  • Quickly bring your rear close to the floor and tuck your head under the chest of your opponent, keeping hold of their wrist to guide the motion, then rise up.

The Knee-Grab Escape

If your opponent brings their knee too close to your arms during side turtle, you can execute a knee-grab escape.

  • Grab the shin on the outside of your opponent’s knee with your closest arm, and scoop it in towards their other leg, thinning their base.
  • While scooping the knee, posture up by getting up off your knees.
  • Gain control of the fight by rushing sideways and pushing your opponent onto their back with you in a side control position.

The Flip-Over Escape

  • To escape a side turtle, you can also grab hold of the seat belt lock with your outside hand.
  • Bring your elbow out like a chicken wing, and secure it on the floor.
  • Force your hips down and out away from the side turtle.
  • Rise your other arm whilst spinning your body, thereby rolling your opponent over and placing you in side control.

The Roll-Out Escape

  • Break the seat belt lock or catch your opponent’s hand with your outer hand before the lock is secured.
  • Tuck your inside arm beneath your chest, and, tucking in your head and neck, roll your hips into your opponent.
  • Mid-role, transfer the hand that was holding the lock to the chest or neck of your opponent, and turn your head so that you’re looking up at them.
  • Bring your legs up in front of your opponent’s face and either attack or break away.

Final Thoughts

There you have it — when combatants start turtling, it may seem like the fight is all but over, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

As there are so many ways to escape from the turtle position, anything can happen, it all depends on how skilled the defensive and offensive parties are.

Christopher Anderson
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