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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 ©2004-2014 Can Sönmez

17 December 2014

17/12/2014 - Teaching | Xmas Women's Class | Half Guard (Bottom)

Teaching #250
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 17/12/2014

It's my 250th class as an instructor, and even more exciting, IT'S CHRISTMAS! I almost have the requisite Noddy sideburns to pull that off, if not the impressive Brummie shout. ;p

So, special xmas class today, with mince pies, xmas hats and loads of cheesy christmas music! HOORAY! I love xmas. :D
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In half guard, your first concern is to stop them flattening you out and starting their pass. They are generally going to want to establish an underhook on their trapped leg side, using the other arm to control under your head. In many ways, it is a similar position to standard side control. That will enable them to crush you to the mat, then exert lots of shoulder pressure to kill your mobility. Many of the same attacks from side control can also be viable from here, like an americana.

Naturally, you don't want them to reach that dominant position. Your goal is to get up on your side, with your own underhook around their back, on your trapped leg side. That is one of the main fights you'll have in half guard, so it is essential that you get used to working for that underhook.

If you can get the underhook, that accomplishes two things. First, it prevents them crushing their chest into yours, which would help them flatten you out. Second, it means you can press into their armpit to help disrupt their base, as well as help you get up onto your side. You can use your knee knocking into their bum at the same time to help with this too, as that should bump them forward.

For your leg positioning, the standard half guard is to have the inside leg wrapped around with your foot on the outside. Your other leg triangles over your ankle. This provides you with what SBG refer to as a 'kickstand': that outside leg is useful for bridging and general leverage. It's harder for them to flatten you out if you can resist with that kickstand structure.

After you've controlled a leg, got the underhook and onto your side, you want to block their arms. Almost a decade ago, Indrek Reiland put together an awesome video (made even more awesome by being free) about the fundamentals of half guard. The main principle I use from Reiland is what he calls the 'paw'.

By that, he means hooking your hand around their bicep, just above the elbow. You aren't gripping with your thumb: this is just a block, to prevent them getting a cross-face. Reiland emphasises that preventing that cross-face is the main principle. Therefore, if you can feel they are about to remove your paw by swimming their arm around, bring your underhooking hand through to replace your first paw with a second: this is what Reiland calls the 'double-paw' (as he says in the video, it's an approach he learned from SBG black belt John Frankl).

Similarly, if they manage to underhook your underhook, bring that arm over for a double-paw (this is also applicable from the start, if you're framing against their neck), then work to recover your underhook. Keep in mind with the double-paw that you need to make sure you don't leave space under your elbow. Otherwise, as Reiland demonstrates, they can they go for a brabo choke. Get the elbow of your top double-pawing arm to their nearest armpit, as that makes it easier to circle your arm around to their back.

From there, you have two primary options. First, try to take the back, by whacking your underhook into their armpit and simultaneously scooting down their body. Pull your paw arm back, so that you can base on that elbow, then base on the hand. That should give you the balance to reach around to their lat with what was your underhooking arm, as well as swinging your leg over their back too. Establishing a hook by digging the heel of that leg you just swung over inside their knee. Finally, get a seatbelt grip (one arm under their armpit, the other over their shoulder, locking your hands together) and roll towards your non-hooking foot.

If their base is too solid to go for the back, you can recover full guard instead. You still want the underhook: if you need to make space, keep bumping until you can at least get your elbow by their armpit. You can then use that to pry up some space, circling your arm around for the underhook. Switch your leg positioning so that your 'kickstand' steps over their leg, hooking underneath their lower leg with your instep. Keep your legs tight, or they will pull their leg free.

Curl towards their same side knee on your paw-arm side, until you can push it out with your elbow. Get the knee of your inside leg up past that knee, which will enable you to shove their knee back and free your leg. From there, swing both legs around their back and lock your ankles for closed guard. I like to also shift from a paw to an underhook around their arm, trapping it to my chest, but that isn't essential.
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Teaching Notes: I love teaching at xmas! Lots of silly xmas music and mince pies, plus Tracey's amazing shortbread. In terms of class structure, I thought it went well: last week I think there wasn't enough diversity, so adding in some more techniques helped keep the energy going (if that's the right word, I feel kinda stupid using words like 'energy' ;p). As ever, the main things to emphasise with bottom half guard are getting on your side, underhooking and establishing a paw. If people have that down, then half guard becomes way easier from then on.

I also made sure to emphasise the context, showing how you can often grab half guard as they try to go from side control to mount. That helped, as it meant people weren't wondering why they'd end up grabbing one leg. Also, it was super handy to have an experienced grappler there, who was of course familiar with half guard: thanks for popping down, Laura! :D

Classes are running as normal until Monday, but from next Wednesday until the 2nd January, the opening times at our two venues will be abnormal due to the holidays. I won't be there on Xmas Eve (I always spend that day with my family), but if people want to train I can arrange open mat.

I'm only away between Xmas Eve and Boxing Day, so can teach as normal after that (albeit at unusual times). Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym will only be open from 9am-12pm for most days over the xmas period, so it would need to be a morning class. Let me know, either on here, Facebook or via info@artemisbjj.com and I can get it all arranged.

So far (in terms of women's classes over xmas), I've had enough interest to run a session on Wednesday 31st December from 10-11am, so that will be the last women's class for 2014. Next year, it will still be Wednesdays from 18:30-19:30, but there's going to be a drop-in fee of £5. Alternatively, if you sign up for the £25 a month standing order, that gets you once a week training. So, that would include both classes on the Wednesday. Ooo! :)

16 December 2014

16/12/2014 - Artemis BJJ | Open Mat | Seated Guard & Submission Counter to Double Underhook Pass

Class #615
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 16/12/2014

Continuing with the Ryan Hall material from yesterday, Chris and I did a bunch of positional sparring from seated guard. The important thing is to switch sides rather than getting too static, going for stuff instead of just maintaining. I was pushing for the ankle pick sweep, which worked a few times, though it also morphed into a sloppy single leg at several points too. I'm also still trying to pull in for that loop choke, but without much luck. I need to work on securing that more firmly, as well as shoving their head into position.

In the midst of working on Chris's defence to the double-underhook pass, he showed me an interesting submission he'd seen somewhere (I think he said a de la Riva guy taught it to him?) They are going for the double underhook pass, you block them in the standard way by shoulder walking back and hooking your feet under their thighs. That means their arms are now wrapped by your legs. Grab their sleeve and pull it up, then press down with your leg. That results in a weird pressure on your upper arm. It feels a bit like a kimura, but the pressure isn't quite on the shoulder. Seems to work though.

15 December 2014

15/12/2014 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Reverse Scissor Sweep

Teaching #249
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 15/12/2014

That was followed by the reverse scissor sweep, which I taught a class on a few years back. When you try to hit the scissor sweep, you may find that they shift their weight to block it, or try to grab your knee. Either way, that means you can then change to a reverse scissor sweep instead. Your shin is either across their stomach for the scissor sweep, or as Kev recommends, going higher and angling the knee up into their chest. You've also got a grip on the collar as well as their same side sleeve. Rather than pulling them onto you and chopping out their leg, switch your sleeve grip to their opposite sleeve, then yank it across their body. The elbow of your gripping arm can be used for base.

Next, release your collar grip arm and reach around to their opposite armpit, bringing them in tight. As when you're trying to take the back, you need to press your chest into the back of the arm you pulled across their body, so they can't pull it back out. On the same side as the arm you've trapped, put your back on the mat, which should enable you to fling them over in that direction with your braced leg (this should feel effortless: if you're straining, then adjust, as without good leverage you could hurt yourself) and move into side control. You should also end up in a great position to cross-face.

John Will uses a slight variation, on his Mastering Sweeps DVD (which I bought from him at his excellent seminar a few years ago). Rather than gripping the collar and sleeve, he advises gripping and then pushing your palms inwards, rather than leaving any slack. This makes it a bit easier to switch their arm to your other hand, as you already have a grip, rather than having to use your collar grabbing arm. Will comes up on one arm, then as he falls back to lift them, he switches the posting hand to instead reach through their arm. This is so he can end up reaching past their armpit into the collar.
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Teaching & Sparring Notes: Emphasise coming up on the side, chest into shoulder, attaching yourself and becoming one unit. A number of people were leaving a gap as they fell back, which means you end up using lots of force and straining: this sweep should be all about leverage, so fairly effortless. Also, when they fall back, they should flare out the leg: I'll emphasise that next time too.

Sparring was interesting. With Chris, I stepped over his head to avoid armbar, hooking it like I would for the step-over triangle. Unfortunately I can't lock that up at the moment due to my groin injury, but it did lead directly into a nice strong north-south. I couldn't secure a decent attack of it though. Later with a white belt, I had the north-south kimura, but forgot to keep in mind where his fingers were: to follow my own advice from when I taught this relatively recently, I need to pull against the fingers where they're weak, not just straight up where they're strong.

On Wednesday 17th December, it's the first of my three planned XMAS CLASSES! Yay! Looking forward to it, so if you're coming to the women's class at 18:30, wear a santa hat and whatever other xmas gear you can fit around grappling. There will be cheesy xmas music and mince pies too. Second xmas class is the open mat on Saturday 20th December (10:00-12:00), then finally the mixed class on Monday 22nd December from 19:30-20:30. :D

15/12/2014 - Artemis BJJ | Open Mat | Arm Shields from Ryan Hall's 'The Defensive Guard'

Class #614
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 15/12/2014

Taking advantage of the Black Friday sale, I picked up Ryan Hall's new DVD set (one of several on World Martial Arts recently), The Defensive Guard. Judging by the trailer and description, it looked like it would fit in perfectly with my efforts since last November to improve my guard, in this case my open guard retention and ability to block passes.

Due to my old groin injury flaring up, that limits me, but fortunately Hall covers plenty of options that don't require putting a lot of strain through my groin. Specifically, he has a number of sections on the second DVD (I haven't watched the third one yet) where he details how to use your arms as a secondary line of defence. It makes more sense when combined with the leg stuff he covers earlier, but I wanted to focus on the arms. That way, I can still improve my guard despite not being able to use my legs properly at the moment.

I always rip DVDs to mobile compatible mp4, then stick it on my phone. I could therefore show Chris exactly what I wanted to work on, having also chopped up the files I wanted (out of four hours and two DVDs, I cut it down to twenty minutes. It's a good set, but Hall's DVDs could most definitely be edited to a much shorter length ;D). I started off by practicing the shrimp the Ryan Hall way, which appears to basically be getting more on your side, connecting your elbow to your knee to form a shield and keeping space between your feet (he uses the analogy of boxing footwork, where you would never put your feet right next to eachother). That was followed by the technical standup, where Hall emphasises that your head should stay up all the way through.

Chris and I then gradually worked through a bunch of the video clips I'd pulled from the DVD. First there is the stiff arm concept from open guard (or more specifically, seated guard, like what Kev recommended to me in what's become an increasingly important private lesson), locking out not only your arm, but also aligning it with your supporting arm to create the strongest possible structure. Chris was finding that you could just knock their arm upwards to dislodge that grip, but I guess at that point, they are committing their arms to break the grip, so you can dive in for the tripod/sickle sweep combo etc.

If they slip past, Ryan Hall has an 'elbow block', where you are jamming your elbow into their clavicle. That's not to dig it in, but just to create another sort of stiff arm, this time with your upper arm. The same principle then applies, trying to align your skeletal structure. It's also open to expand your chest and push your bum out.

If they get past that, then you can grab the belt, or more broadly (as this applies outside of gi or when their belt is loose), put on a whizzer. Other than that, same again, aligning your skeletal structure to create a shield.

Chris found that both of those work best when they are passing low, like it's shown on the DVD, rather than if they are still stood up. In that case, you would presumably go to your primary layer of defence (feet and legs) rather than secondary (arms). As I can't use my legs properly at the mo due to injury, I'm focusing on the secondary layer of defence. :)

Ryan Hall also shows a cool cross-grip type thing where you grab their sleeve, then drive your knuckles into the top of their wrist. It's the same idea Dónal has shown me in a few private lessons (e.g., on the windscreen wiper sweep and knee cut pass). That makes for a really powerful grip that is tough to break, though you need to be careful drilling it. After a while, it tends to make a red mark on your partner's wrist! ;)

More Ryan Hall fun tomorrow. I'll also continue working my way through it: I haven't started the third DVD yet, where he ties all the fundamental stuff together into some techniques.