In vim one can escape normal mode by pressing
Meta then pretty much any key, e.g.
Met-j to escape insert mode and move down a line. Holding alt before typing would send an
<Esc> key before the command.
I found it was the fastest was of escaping normal mode and has become muscle memory. I have been researching how to do this with evil mode, but haven't figured it out as there is lots of documentation about how to make evil mode quit various emacs states.