The Turtle Position in Mixed Martial Arts

Getting Caught in Bottom Turtle

your standard turtle position is demonstrated here

The turtle position, or what i like to simply call the fetal position, is not the ideal position to be in, especially in MMA. In a strictly grappling arena this is really not the best position to be in but not nearly as dangerous because of the absence of striking. However there are a host of techniques to either sweep or even submit the opponent from this position.

You Better Scramble

Bottom line you usually do not want to be caught in turtle position. You are really just a sitting duck if you curl up and sit there. Even though you feel secure in your own little world a good opponent will be able to slowly pick you apart and defeat you. The key to escaping the turtle position is getting out of it as quickly as possible. This is especially helpful because if you have to turtle quickly, you can sometimes catch the opponent scrambling expecting you to stay in turtle and take advantage of that.

This is especially true if the opponent is trying to take your back in the turtle position for a rear naked choke. This is because if the opponent locks his leg hooks in even if you think your protected for a shot while, your chances of victory plummet.


You need to escape from this position but the question is how. There are a host of different escapes for the turtle position because of all the possible orientations of the opponent on top of you.

For a more north-south turtle position, there are escapes such as the hook and roll where the opponent has his arms around your body and you use this to plaster him to you as you hold his arm and roll over putting your opponent on his back and isolating his arm. There is also a simple wrestler’s sit out which literally switches your position with your opponent’s.

When your opponent is more behind you or to the side there are also sweeps that you can perform. A hook and roll is still feasible because your opponent will need to stabilize himself by wrapping his arms around your body and the same basic technique is applied (1:50 in video below). Also you can take the fight to your opponent by stepping back when in turtle position, grabbing your opponent’s legs, and taking him down (3:00 in the video below)

This is a video with a whole bunch of escapes from the turtle position along with a submission I will talk about next.

Turtle Submissions

Just looking at the turtle position you would probably imagine that there are not many submissions that you can perform from the bottom. However this combined with the fact that the opponent is probably in offensive mode not defensive it could turn out to be a perfect chance for a submission.

One of my favorite, and surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it, submissions from the turtle position is the knee bar (4:20 in the video ). It involves from finesse and looks really crazy to do but it can be very effective. Although is the opponent sees it coming it can be pretty easy to defend against. This is why if you decide to perform this, or any submission from turtle, you should remember to do it as quickly as possible once the opportunity arises.

For a much more indepth look at the turtle position check out THIS SITE full of video of Eduardo Telles explaining the turtle guard

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