As someone who started wrestling in middle school and whose dad and brother have both been wrestling coaches, I came into jiu jitsu with plenty of time already spent on the mats. One of the hallmarks of wrestling is that you learn early on to fight off of your back and get to your stomach no matter what. As such, wrestlers are good at getting to the turtle position, maintaining the position, and even using it for sweeps/offense. However, when I first started jiu jitsu, I realized early on that to turtle is to give up one's back and to open oneself up to being choked (especially in the gi). So, I was told repeatedly by coaches not to turtle. But it was a hard lesson to learn given that it's a reaction that comes so naturally! As soon as someone passes my guard, my temptation is to bail to turtle before they get side control. This is a series of events that played out many times in the early days of my jiu jitsu journey. And try as I might to heed the advice of my instructors, turtling has been a very hard habit to break.
Then, several years ago, I caught wind of this crazy Brazilian who preferred the turtle position--namely, the iconoclastic Eduardo Telles (inventor of the inaptly named "Turtle Guard"). Watching competition video of Telles reoriented my entire way of thinking about the position. Here was someone turtling up against some of the very best jiu jitsukas in the world. Moreover, he was using the position to reverse and attack his opponents. I simply had to learn his principles and techniques so that I could finally embrace my instincts after years of suppressing them without much success! So, soon after I bought his Turtle Guard DVDs and mined them for techniques I could incorporate into my game. In short order I was using the position to reverse my opponents. First, they would almost pass my guard. Then, I would promptly turtle up and get myself in the position to reverse. Finally, I would execute the reversal--which usually put me in top side control. It was a revelation (and an irritation to my training partners). I had finally learned how to turn a strength of mine from my days of wrestling--namely, getting to and maintaining the turtle position--into a strength of mine in jiu jitsu.
So, to highlight this tidal change in my own approach to sport jiu jitsu--and to honor a true BJJ anti-hero--I thought I would post some of Telles' videos so other wrestlers getting into jiu jitsu could learn the lesson earlier in their own respective jiu jitsu journeys than I did. It turns out, it's OK to turtle after all (so long as people are not allowed to punch you in the face--but that is a topic for another post)! So, embrace your inner tartaruga--and learn to use your defensive shell accordingly!
Videos are below the fold!