Travis Stevens: “If You Can See The Back You Can Take The Back!”
Travis Stevens is a Judo Olympic medalist and BJJ black belt. He claims that taking back is possible, even if you only “see” the opponent’s back.
Can you imagine a worse thing in an MMA fight than a BJJ expert behind you? When choking expert secures a dominant position from behind, your competition is probably over.
Stephan Kesting asked Stevens where and why he developed the back position. Travis Stevens replied that he had heard a slogan “If You Can See The Back You Can Take The Back!” from John Danaher, a famous BJJ coach.
But Travis later realized that he couldn’t take the back if he just saw it, because it meant he was closer to the opponent’s back than he should be. Travis Stevens shared the secret–he always reacts first because this means his partner will always be a step beyond.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Knee Cut Pass
If the fighter on the top is on a knee cut pass (for example, the right leg of the fighter in the dominant position is trapped between the legs of the partner on the bottom), it means the leg is literally blocked because there will be no or very little chances of passing guard. Also, the opponent is on his back, so you can forget about grabbing it.
But Travis Stevens switches sides, which leaves the right latissimus dorsi muscle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latissimus_dorsi_muscle ) open. Here is the magical thing–Travis sees the back, and he can take it now. But there is one more thing to do–clearing the knee line.
Travis’ right leg is trapped, so he rolls forward to open the opponent up. He ends up on his right flank, with right under the partner’s neck. His left leg is wrapped around the partner’s left hip.
Stevens can now choke the opponent out of his back by pushing his right forearm under the chin and pulling his right arm towards himself with his left hand to increase the strength of the grip.
Note: When you roll, it doesn’t have to mean you’ll end up behind your partner, especially if he releases your leg. But if it is firmly trapped, you have the advantage!
This position is very tricky for the fighter on the top, as he can eat an up-kick in an MMA fight. In BJJ match, high hips are excellent to defend transitions. But Travis Stevens has a very easy solution for this difficult situation too!
Stevens grabs his opponent around the middle part of his thighs and pulls him up. When the partner’s legs are moved backward, the back is open and visible!
Travis “jumps” under his partner, laying on his right flank keeping both hands around the waist. Then he moves the left leg to the right and places the lower part of his calf muscle on an opponent’s left thigh.
Note: You can also “lay” on the other flank, depending on whether you are right- or left-handed. But the key is to go under the partner’s legs.
Travis then pushes his left leg towards the ground, and now he ends up behind the partner on the canvas! After the back is taken, he wraps both legs around the lower part of the opponent’s stomach and secures a rear-naked choke for a win.
Knee Cut–Technical Side Change
It is easy to change side when you look at the partner all the time. But you can do it even by turning your back. It is riskier, but the element of surprise is on your side, and it means you’ll have more chances to finish the submission.
Travis puts both arms on the mat on his left and rotates to the right around his back and ends up sitting next to his opponent. Despite his right leg is still trapped, Travis Stevens now has the great chance to attack the back.
Note: Never attack the back directly from the roll this is the worst mistake!!! If you miss it, you will fall straight under your partner’s arms, and you’ll be forced to tap out after a rear-naked choke!!!
Remember, follow the rule, you must see the back to attack it. Everything else leads to disaster unless you meet a fighter with solid or no ground skills!
So after the reversal, you must force your opponent to end up on his left flank if you rotate to your right. You will see the partner’s back by grabbing his right thigh with your right hand and pulling it towards yourself. Congrats, now it is time to teach him a lesson!
Note: If your head is close to the opponent’s back, this is a yes for attacking his back. But if your head is too much away, forget about the attack, because you’ll get countered!
Keeping your head on the partner’s upper flank in the level of his ribs, roll through and quickly wrap your left leg around his waist. At the same time, you must put your right leg on your left shin, and press the opponent towards you. Put your hands under the neck to secure a rear-naked choke.
The ultimate message of the whole tutorial is the principle of getting into the position where you can see the back. Please forget about “I am going to try and hope to see the back” because it is a world-class way to lose the match.
Travis also said he went for the back in the competition as soon as he could see it. He also states it is a proven technique, which looks good and almost every time secures a win. Also, if you blindly follow this principle, you will have fewer chances of making an error and leave yourself exposed to a dangerous BJJ black belt choking specialist.