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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 ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

29 January 2016

29/01/2016 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Handstand Sweep

Teaching #457
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 29/01/2016

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: I always show both the option of pushing off the floor and grabbing the sleeve, though the second one is much tougher to get. That was borne out again today, with people having trouble completing the sweep without the hand to push off. I also think that next time I'll make a point of keeping that grip low on the leg, to really bend their leg around your hip as you push. It seems that if the grip is too high above their foot, they can resist the sweep more easily, judging by the progressive resistance I watched today.

27 January 2016

27/01/2016 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Double Ankle Grab Sweep

Teaching #456
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 27/01/2016

The situation for this is that they have stood up in your closed guard. As they stand up, if you've got a grip on their collar or head, maintain it in order to keep their posture bent forwards. At the moment you let go of that grip (if you have one) and they try to reach an upright position, grab behind their ankles (around the outside: if you grab around the inside, there's an injury risk).

Open your guard (when they stand, they are looking to open it and pass. It's better if when you open your guard, it's on your terms rather than theirs), bringing your knees together under their chest. You can also put your feet on their hips, depending on their height and how much leverage you need. Either way, drive those feet or knees into them. That should knock them over if they aren't prepared for the sweep. One advantage of the knees is you can keep squeezing your legs into their sides, which can help you use their momentum as they fall back (but be careful you don't get your feet under them too much, or you might hurt yourself as you hit the floor).

After they've hit the mat, before they can react, come up on your hand and same side knee. Bring your hips forward on that same side. It's much easier if you move in a diagonal direction, rather than trying to go straight forward. Slide your knee on that side to the mat, keeping your hips low, also grabbing behind their head (or collar). From there, you could go to mount, s-mount, side control etc. It is an awkward position, so takes a bit of getting used to. I used a hip thrust drill during the warm-up to help: you can do a technical stand-up from here too if you find that easier, keeping hold of their leg and passing around to the side.

Teaching Notes: I tried adding in a drill to help pushing through to mount, emphasising how you drive your hips forward at an angle. I have tended to tell people to keep a hand on the foot to help stop them sitting up before you can drive forward. However, I wonder if it is more helpful to instead put the hand out further forwards, to help that drive. I will try switching to that to see if it helps: once I've got some kind of drill sorted for this, could perhaps help with coming up from the tripod, sickle and handstand too, although then again those end up in slightly different leg and arm positions.

Something else I should note is the importance of including some breakfall drills when teaching something like this, as you're getting knocked over. To the extent I should probably put it in the main chunk of the write-up, as a reminder to me too.

27/01/2016 - Teaching | Women's Class | Kneeling Break & Single Underhook Pass

Teaching #455
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 27/01/2016

There are three main ways of opening the guard. The most reliable is standing up, bringing gravity to bear on them, though this has the disadvantage of leaving you more vulnerable to sweeps. The most risky is baiting a submission to get them to open, as that obviously puts you in danger of getting caught if you're not careful. Finally, you can open the guard from the knees, which has the advantage of using less energy and leaving you with good base, but it does keep you in the 'submission zone'.

That last one is what I wanted to cover today. The basic method of opening from the knees starts by setting up your grips, grabbing both collars with one hand, by their chest, your other hand by their hip. Dónal has a handy tip about twisting up those two collars, rolling them over each other so that there is no slack when you grip, though that may sometimes be tough to secure.

Also try to jam your palm or fist into their sternum to lock it in place. Regarding your hand on the hip, measure your gripping position by bringing your elbow back to their knee. Once your elbow gets to their knee, grab whatever trouser material is then under your hand, pressing your weight through that hand into the mat to try and pin their hips.

A photo posted by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

From there, you want to get your knees into a right angle. Up until now I've always put the knee under the bum cheek first, then slid the other knee out to the side. However, Jason Scully recommends sliding the knee out first, also turning to face that knee (he finds that gives him improved balance. That has the additional advantage of driving your hip into their feet, which is a little easier to use as a 'prod' compared to your lower back. Try both versions.

Either way, you're now making a right angle with your two knees. With the orthodox version, still keeping your back curved, slowly wriggle backwards, shifting your sideways knee back and continuing to wriggle until you can pop open their ankles. As soon as you do, immediately shove their leg to the mat with your elbow and/or hand, then begin your pass. Note that putting the knee underneath the bum first is also common: Jason Scully recommends sliding the knee out first, then knee under the bum, due to superior balance.

Saulo's version is different again, as per that earlier picture. Rather than keeping his sliding knee on the floor, he bases on that leg and stretches it out. He can then use a sort of dip rather than relying on scooting back, more in keeping with Scully's version. As ever in jiu jitsu, there are numerous variations: you can reach your destination following a multitude of paths.

The first guard pass most people learn is the single underhook, sometimes known as a smash pass (although confusingly, there is also a completely different pass you might see called the 'smash pass'. The joys of BJJ's non-standardised terminology). After you've opened their guard (this can also work off a failed armbar or triangle attempt on their part), you need to get one of your arms under their leg. Your other elbow – and this is absolutely key – must not slip in front of their other knee. If it does, then you're at risk of being triangled: they simply need to pull the arm forwards to move into a triangle set up, as your first arm is already out of the picture.

You don't want to leave that first arm under their leg, as unless you're much bigger, their leg is always going to be able to outpower your arm. Therefore you need to get their leg up onto your shoulder, either bumping it up with your arm, or dropping down to put your shoulder in place behind their knee. At that point, drive forward so that you're shoving their knee into their face. When you've got them stacked, reach your stacking side arm around their leg and grab their collar. I tend to go four fingers in, but a thumb in grip sets you up for a simple (if somewhat crappy, so it's mainly for distraction) forearm choke. You can also try grabbing their opposite shoulder.

Establish a wide base with your feet, pushing off your toes. As is generally the case with jiu jitsu, stay off your knees. Otherwise, you're transferring the pressure into the floor rather than into your partner. Keep on driving forward, turning the shoulder you have behind the leg downwards. Combined with your forwards pressure, that should slide their leg out of the way.

Although it's tempting, try to avoid lifting your head to get past their legs, as that could provide them with space. Instead, you want to rely on your weight and pressure, finishing with that slight shift of your shoulder. To further enhance your stack, you can grab the back of their trousers, or alternatively put your other knee there as a wedge.

Teaching Notes: It was nice that the mixed class synced up with the women's class cycle, as I therefore got to teach this twice. People were having similar problems as usual with getting the hips high, base wide and driving with the shoulder. There must be some kind of drill I can develop to help teach that. Maybe go straight to the end bit, to really practice that drive? Having said that, perhaps I'm focusing too much on getting the pass in that particular way. Moving the head around does work, even if I might find it a little less efficient.

26 January 2016

26/01/2016 - Open Mat

Class #693
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 26/01/2016

Today we thought a bit about chokes off passes. Gripping on the lower collar is risky, as that can leave the back open and also make it easy for them to sweep you. I think it can still work, but I've been dissuaded since that private lesson with Kev a while ago, where he pointed out the vulnerabilities in going for that gi tail choke from top half guard. I guess if you could make yourself really heavy on the side you're gripping? But meh, simpler to just go for a more stable choke, instead of trying to shore up one that puts you in an unstable position. I therefore suggested that a breadcutter off of an underhook pass might work better. With that, you already have the grip as you pass, without compromising base.

We went through knee cut counters again too, though seemed to have mostly forgotten the Saulo one in the ensuing few days. I still find the stiff arm option from Jeff Rockwell easier, but I should give that reverse de la Riva thing more of a go. Not really my game, but it's been popular for a while so worth knowing. :)