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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a purple belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2015 Can Sönmez

01 July 2015

01/07/2015 - Teaching | Women's Class | Maintaining Low Mount

Teaching #347
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 01/07/2015

There are two basic types of mount to choose from, which I call low and high. Once you've achieved mount, I find that low mount provides the most control. First off, you want to immobilise their hips, as their main method of making space is to bridge up forcefully.

Bring your feet right back, threading them around their legs to establish two hooks: this is known as a grapevine. Alternatively, you can also cross your feet underneath (or just near, depending on your flexibility and leg length) their bum, which has the advantage of making it much harder for them to push your hooks off. Your knees are ideally off the ground, to generate maximum pressure. How far off the ground they are depends on your dimensions: the key is getting loads of hip pressure. Another option, which I learned from Rob Stevens at Gracie Barra Birmingham, is to put the soles of your feet together and then bring your knees right off the floor.

Whichever option you're going for, thrust those hips into them, using your hands for base, where again you have a couple of options. Either have both arms out, or put one under the head (remember, you can always remove it for base if you're really getting thrown hard to that side) while the other goes out wide for base. Try to grip the gi material by their opposite shoulder, or even better, by the opposite armpit. Keep your head on the basing arm side, loading up your weight there. If they're bridging hard, you can switch from side to side, lifting their head slightly and bringing your other arm under, meaning your remaining arm bases out to the other side.

To do the trap and roll/upa escape, they will need to get control of your arm. So, don't let them grab it and crush your arm to their side. Instead, swim your arm through, like Ryron and Rener demonstrate in the third slice of the third lesson in Gracie Combatives. Be sure to do it one at a time, or you may get both arms squashed to your sides.

Teaching Notes: Lesson went well tonight, highlighting again that the grapevine approach seems to be better for people with longer legs (I don't tend to use it much). Ruth was doing a particularly decent job of grapevining, so I also showed how to remove them. We fit in a bit of comp prep too, as everyone there tonight has been training at least a few months now. Best of all was watching Kirsty successfully implement her comp gameplan. Looking forward to seeing what happens on Sunday! :D

Gi Review - Gimono 'Grappling' Gi

Short Review: The Gimono 'Grappling' gi is aimed at grapplers from a wide variety of martial arts, rather than intended for specific competition criteria. It would therefore not pass muster in either a typical BJJ or judo tournament: nevertheless, it's a very comfortable training gi. The cut is essentially the same as a judogi, but with 3/4 length sleeves. The trousers are also shorter than standard judo trousers, but it is possible to mix and match sizes to your preference. I'm wearing a size 3 jacket and size 4 trousers: for reference, I'm 5'7 and 66kg/145lbs.

It's made from the same 330gsm material as the Gimono 'BJJ' gi I reviewed in 2012, dubbed 'Fortitude' (36% merino wool and 64% polyester). This means those same advantages of being very light, hydroscopic, fast-drying and comfortable apply to the Gimono Grappling gi. The jacket is heavily reinforced by comparison to the BJJ gi. Best of all, it's available in a magnificent shade of red.

It has the same disadvantages as the other gi too, in that the collar is quite thin and the price tag could be off-putting. However, if the Fortitude material is as durable as the website claims, then that cost is arguably justified. Available to buy in blue, red, white or black here for NZD $295, which at the time of writing equates to £127 ($201) before tax and customs.

Full Review: Ever since I received the Gimono BJJ gi to review three years ago, it has been my main travel and hot weather kimono. The unusual combination of merino wool and polyester is wonderfully comfortable, dries fast and doesn't crease easily. This material, dubbed 'Fortitude' by Gimono (much more on that in the Gimono 'BJJ' gi review, probably my most detailed gi review to date) is available in numerous different gi cuts. Three of them are for grappling: the BJJ cut, a judo cut and the 'grappling' cut I'm reviewing today.

I had an idea of what a judo cut might look like, as that normally means a longer skirt on the jacket and wider sleeves. I was intrigued by the grappling cut, especially what specific differences it might have to the judo and BJJ cuts: I had no idea what those might be. One immediate variance is that the grappling gi was available in red, providing me with an easy decision when Gimono owner Lavinia Calvert offered the opportunity for another review. She was also able to provide a detailed answer in terms of the cut and who the gi was aimed at:

The only difference between our grappling gi and the judo gi is sleeve length. The grappling gi sleeve is 3/4 length. As you know, competition BJJ and judo both have regulation sleeve lengths. We introduced the grappling gi to offer an alternative for those who aren’t so concerned about competition or rules, but who are into training any of the grappling based arts. It’s been quite a popular style. We’ve found some people who train in ninjutsu and aikido prefer the shorter sleeve, so like all our gi, it has found its place in the market without us needing to be prescriptive about it.

The Gimono website hasn't changed much in three years: I would have expected a more representative picture of the BJJ gi cut by this point. The current pictures don't do that gi justice. However, the other cuts have a more extensive selection. Tellingly, that includes a picture of somebody wearing the Grappling gi jacket with just shorts, indicating a practitioner of SAMBO might be interested in wearing this gi.

Although they may not have made changes to their website [Update July 2015: A new website is in the works], that doesn't mean Gimono itself hasn't been active. They've been involved in various sponsorship projects, in BJJ and other martial arts. Most recently, they joined the sponsor team for this year's GrappleThon event at Artemis BJJ, supplying one of their gis as a prize for the person who raised the most money for Equality Now (which this year was the indomitable Rachel Green). Gimono had the following to say about their other work in the martial arts community:

While we don’t currently have any formal sponsorships in place, we have supported a number of individual instructors and teams ‘in kind’ with free Gimono gi’s. We sponsored the NZ qualifiers for the Abu Dhabi Pro JJ championships that were organised by Douglas Santos; recently, a team of NZ instructors and black belts have been to the USA to attend the world championships of Jeff Speakman's 5.0 Kenpo Karate. All wore Gimono karate gi; we gifted t-shirts and a couple of free uniforms to show our support. We’ve provided similar support to a few other school owners/instructors teaching aikido, ninjutsu, Japanese jiu jitsu, and various forms of karate.

Our philosophy is to support those who are open minded and not necessarily tied to traditional ways of thinking. Word of mouth has had a phenomenally positive impact on the adoption of Gimono in various martial arts communities, and we have embraced the opportunity to supply gi’s for reviews and/or sampling. We respect the heritage and tradition of the martial arts, but we’re also pushing conventional boundaries so we don’t expect to our product to be accepted by everyone.

My favourite aspect of the gi is the brilliant red colour. Unlike in 2012, I am now keen on wearing a gi that is as colourful as possible. I can confirm that it is possible (though not recommended by the company) to dye the Fortitude material, but due to the higher concentration of polyester on the outer layer, the exterior will end up a lighter shade. I could see that contrast clearly after putting my white Gimono BJJ gi into the washing machine with two packs of Dylon 'French Lavender'. The outside is now a subtle shade of purple (hard to see in a photo, but for reference the bannister in the picture is white), while the inside took the dye far better. I would suggest darker shades of dye would be advisable if you're hoping for a vibrant colour.

The Grappling gi has shorter sleeves and trousers than the judogi cut from which it was adapted. Calvert recommended that rather than the size 3 I went for last time with the BJJ cut, I combine a size 3 grappling cut jacket with a size 4 pair of trousers. You can buy jacket and trousers separately, a big plus point if your body type does not match orthodox 'off the shelf' gi options. I found that my Gimono grappling gi was a decent fit, if baggier than the BJJ cut. The drawstring was rather long, but that's easily resolved by chopping it to the length you want, then singeing the end to prevent fraying.

I did not notice any significant shrinkage, in keeping with the Gimono website's promise that it won't "shrink, stink, tear or fade". The trousers are 88cm long, while the jacket is 82cm from shoulder to hem. It has a wingspan of 147cm. It's worth noting here that the Fortitude material (330gsm, in case you're wondering) is a little stretchy, as my sparring partner commented on Sunday after I rolled with him in the Gimono Grappling gi. That adds further to the comfort. Like the BJJ cut, this gi doesn't weigh much, coming in at 1.4kg. It is packaged in the same Gimono bag as before, roughly the dimensions of a shoe box: that tells you how tightly this gi will roll together, perfect for travel.

The Gimono Grappling jacket has a prominent stitching pattern of diagonal lines on either side, forming a chevron at the front. That's because the grappling cut has a heavily reinforced jacket. All that stitching is there in order to secure the thick strips of material flowing up the front of the jacket, over the shoulders, then down the back. Speaking as somebody who has sewn a patch onto the left chest area, I know it's good and thick: it took a lot of shoving to get the needle through.

You can see this thickness clearly when the gi is held up to the sunshine, which also indicates the gi's breathability (an attribute not perceptibly affected by the extra material). In my photo where I've hung it in front of a window, the gi is inside out, which is why the inner black strip is showing. I would assume that the grappling cut's additional fabric (and this presumably goes for the judo cut too) results in increased durability over the BJJ cut. Although it means this area of the grappling gi is thicker than the BJJ cut, it still overall feels thinner than a typical cotton gi. It's been really hot for the UK recently (around 28 degrees), but the Gimono Grappling gi has kept me cool during training.

Other than that, the gi has many similarities to the Gimono BJJ gi I'm used to, with the various advantages that brings. It also has the disadvantages, of which the most notable is probably the collar. I had some first hand experience of this while praticing the Saulo choke with Chris a while ago. His second grip had me tapping before the choke was fully on, due to abrasion (though admittedly I hadn't shaved that morning, making it worse. I'm Turkish, so in my case it's normally more like a 12 noon shadow than five o'clock ;D). If you know you're going to be drilling a lot of gi chokes, you might not want to wear this particular gi. Then again, I guess it gives you extra motivation when defending chokes! ;)

That thin collar has been mentioned a few times in the past and Gimono are working to address the criticism. Personally I haven't found it to be a major issue, in three years of wearing the BJJ cut and three months of testing the grappling cut. That's borne out by a point Lavinia Calvert made in her email, stating that "In 5+ years of trading, we have only had two people return their Gimono gi after purchase. One just couldn’t get their head around how different it was (his girlfriend bought it for him); the other didn’t like the thinness of the lapel/collar, an issue we have worked hard to address as you know."

Often I find seam tape inside the cuffs of a gi and inside the jacket can be unpleasantly rough, to the extent that it cuts into your skin (I've had seam tape rub my hand raw in the past). The Gimono Grappling gi is a refreshing change. The sleeve and ankle cuffs have by far the smoothest seam tape I've ever tried: I'm assuming that tape is also made of Fortitude, but it feels like silk. Interestingly, although the interior of the jacket has the same 'Fight for your rights' black tape, the cuff tape is distinct from the BJJ cut. On the 2012 gi, it was also smooth, but felt more like cotton than silk. Either way, it's cool to see a gi company that knows how to do seam tape properly. My wrists certainly appreciate it! ;)

Available to buy in blue, red, white or black here for NZD $295, which at the time of writing equates to £127 ($201) before shipping and any import taxes your country of residence whacks on top. The exchange rate between the UK/USA and New Zealand has improved quite a bit in three years, as the price is now comparable to a high end cotton gi and no more expensive than a hemp gi. Of course, if you don't live in Australasia, customs and tax may be hefty. Incidentally, my Gimono BJJ gi is still as good as new after three years, so that bodes well for the durability claims (though admittedly until recently I mainly reserved it for travel).

29 June 2015

29/06/2015 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Handstand Sweep

Teaching #346
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 29/06/2015

A good follow up to the double ankle grab sweep is another option that works off wrapping an ankle. This one is normally known as the 'handstand sweep', though invariably there are lots of other names for it. As your partner stands in your closed guard, keep your guard closed, wrapping an arm around their same side ankle. You're looking to get the crook of your elbow behind their ankle: for further control, you could try reaching through to grab your own collar. For power, range and balance, put your free hand on the floor, as if you were doing a handstand (hence the name).

To complete the sweep, you need to bring their knee out sideways. Their foot has to be immobilised for that, or they'll be able to adjust and maintain their balance. To turn their knee out, bring your hips sideways, pushing into the inside of their knee (don't go above the knee, you need to stay either next to it or underneath). Once you've pushed it far enough so their leg swivels, that should knock them to the floor. Your guard stays closed throughout, opening at the last moment to adjust into mount.

However, that still leaves them a hand with which they can post out and recover. To prevent that, you can cross-grip their sleeve. This is what Xande calls the 'muscle sweep', because their ankle is by your 'muscle' (i.e., bicep). The set up is the same as before, but this time, you don't use your free hand to push off the floor. Instead, you grab their opposite sleeve, thereby both preventing them from posting out, and also providing you with an easy way of pulling yourself up into mount.

The difficulty is the decreased leverage at your disposal. Now that you can't use that hand to push up, you instead have to really push into their knee. Make sure your grip around their leg is tight, pulling their foot right up to your shoulder. You will also use your grip on their sleeve, pulling their arm to help you. This is tougher to pull off than the handstand, but it makes the transition to the top much easier.


Teaching Notes: Next time, I'll emphasise getting your shoulder to their heel. It's also worth highlighting hip position relative to their knee, as that needs to be next to their knee, not above. If the opponent is taller, then you'll have to open your guard, but keep your legs tight. Then again, perhaps this isn't the best sweep if your opponent is taller? Something for me to think about.

In sparring, I continued for going for the deep collar grip and then getting the underhook, to create a sort of 'collar clamp' alternative to the shoulder clamp. Jason Scully mentioned something I want to try next time on the Grapplers Guide, which is reaching across with the underhooking arm to grab their far collar. I hadn't considered doing that to lock in the position, but then it works for the overhook guard. Like the overhook guard, it also sets up a choke.

I think the big difference today was remembering to walk my legs up their back, as Chris advise. They are managing to stand sometimes now, but I'm turn finding myself going for armbars. It would be good to teach that standing armbar during open guard month (maybe it would apply to closed guard month too). I don't go for submissions from open guard much, just the loop choke and I'm not very good at it yet.

In especially cool news, tonight was the best turnout ever for an Artemis BJJ, with 18 people on the mats. Even better, four of them were women, so that's almost a quarter of the class! I'm really pleased not only how the club is growing, but that the female membership is continue to move towards that 50/50 gender split goal. Right now, women make up nearly a third of the total membership. :D

28 June 2015

28/06/2015 - Open Mat | Collar Clamp

Class #651
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 28/06/2015

Last chance to get in some proper comp prep today, so I tried to cover off any question the students competing had before the big day on the 5th. I also jumped in as a 'competitor' in the comp prep drill. That basically just meant I went a little harder than I normally do, to give them some feeling of that intensity that happens in a comp, while still accounting for the size and skill difference when it was somebody smaller.

I also had a chance to run through some of the shoulder clamp stuff I've been playing with, getting in plenty of drilling with Chris. First thing that came up was walking my legs up the back, not just angling off. Once those legs are up, that potentially makes it easier: then they can't back away and pop their head out so easily, plus it stops them posturing up.

Secondly, I should use that initial method I tried right back at the start of the month, grabbing the deep collar grip, adding an underhook, then moving into a shoulder clamp if I need to. If with the arms is a shoulder clamp, I guess that means I could call it a collar clamp?? Anyway, that underhook means I can attack for the pressing armbar, belly down armbar and omoplata anyway.

Bit of sparring in with a visiting purple too, which is always cool. I wasn't getting my open guard position too well, but then I didn't sit up as much as I should have. At some point I got on top and attempted to solidify side control, but in an effort to swivel to the back I messed up and eventually got caught in a triangle. I kept my elbows in tight and based out wide, keeping my feet out of reach.

He went to switch to the armbar, but I managed to hide my hand behind the leg. I had both hands in the whole time so could defend, but it was very much a 'hold on and wait' kind of defence rather than something more dynamic. Though I guess that's ok if you can stay safe, especially as it also doesn't use much energy.