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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a brown belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2021 Can Sönmez

22 October 2021

Rashguard Review: XMartial Pokemon Evo

Short Review:
A colourful, well-fitting rashguard with a broad range of sizes, though I found that it does tend to ride up more than others I've worn. You can currently buy the rashguard for $45 from the main XMartial website. 

Full Review: As I've mentioned before, it is rare that I do reviews these days, both because I tend to be busy with Artemis BJJ, along with the mild bipolar thing I have going on. However, when I got an email from XMartial and saw their Pokemon design, I couldn't resist a rashguard that colourful. I asked if it was officially licensed (surprisingly often not the case, in my experience), to which XMartial replied they had written approval from The Pokemon Company, who are the copyright holders for all things pokemon. 

I was a little old for pokemon when it first came out, but I remember playing some of the original games: as I can recognise most of the characters, it looks like XMartial have mostly stuck with the classic selection, rather than the numerous updates. 

XMartial was founded in the US by Joe Gosselin, a brown belt with a decade of BJJ experience. The company dates back to 2016, with a number of sponsored athletes on its books. The best known to the BJJ community is probably Roxanne Modafferi, who has been around both BJJ and MMA for many years and well known for both her impressive skills and cheerful disposition. There are also guys like Breck Still, who often pops up on r/BJJ and elsewhere with instructional vids from his Leviathan Academy. 

The rashguard is made in China, the main alternative to Pakistan (the same is true for gi production). A majority of rashguards tend to be a combination of polyester with either spandex or lycra. In the case of the Pokemon Evo, it's 90% polyester and 10% spandex, which is a fairly standard mix. By comparison, the BJJ Globetrotter rashguards I have are 85% polyester and 15% spandex, while Gamma Fightwear went for 80% polyester and 20% lycra. I found that the Pokemon Evo was a good fit on me (for reference, I'm 170cm/5'7" and around 68kg), though the sizing is unusual. With other rashguard companies, I wear a Medium. 

For XMartial, when I sent over my measurements, they suggested an XS. It's comfortable, in terms of the chest and armpits (two of the potential problem areas for rashguards). The thickness is in keeping with most other rashguards I've worn, to which my BJJ Globetrotters rashguards are the main exception. They are notably heftier, which makes them a great choice for Winter training. 

The only disadvantage I could find with the Pokemon Evo is that it does ride up if you raise your arms, or at least the XS size does so on my body. That's mainly due to length. I prefer a rashguard with plenty of length, to prevent the riding up issue, especially as I'll often wear rashguards for kettlebell workouts and the like. 

Hence why I'm a fan of Gamma Fightwear (sadly no longer operational) and Valor (where I go for my club rashguards), as both of them have fairly long Medium. The other useful addition to prevent riding up is anti-slip waistband. That's present on both the BJJ Globetrotters and Gamma Fightwear rashguards, where the waistband is elasticated and also has small ridges to try and keep it in place. 

The XMartial waistband is elasticated, but it's smooth, so I found it less effective at preventing riding up. The XS is also shorter than the Medium I was contrasting it against, unsurprisingly (it would be interesting to compare the XMartial version of a Medium), which again means it is more prone to riding up. The sleeve cuffs are tight, which I prefer, as that means they stay in place, without being so tight that it's difficult to take on and off (like the one I have from Raven Fightwear). 

XMartial offer their Pokemon design in various formats, with options for longsleeve, shortsleeve, men's fit, women's fit and a kid's size. The size range is extensive, with the XMartial men's size chart running from 55kg and 160cm all the way up to 110kg and 200cm, meaning all but the most atypical body types should be catered for. You can currently buy the rashguard for $45 from the main XMartial website.

02 August 2021

02/08/2021 - Teaching | Half guard | Basic maintaining & back take

Teaching #963
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 02/08/2021

Short Version:
  • Wrap one leg behind theirs, putting your shin behind the knee of your outside leg
  • Use that 'kickstand' to get on your side, blocking their crossface with either a 'paw' or facepalm
  • Drive your elbow to their armpit, rotating your arm around their back
  • Fire that arm into their armpit and kick to scoot down, shucking their arm
  • Come up on your elbow and knee, bring your leg over, then secure the back with a seatbelt grip

Full Version: 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.

To take the back, fire your underhooking arm up into their armpit. You're trying to knock them forwards, while simultaneously scooting your body down towards their legs. At that point, pull your 'paw' arm back, so that you can base on that elbow, swiftly pushing up onto the hand. That should give you the balance to reach around to their lat with what was your underhooking arm. For further control, swing your leg over their back too. Establish a hook by digging your heel 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 for standard back control.

To help with the back take, it is a good idea to tweak out their leg before you swivel up. Your outside leg steps over and drags their leg out. This disrupts their base, making it much easier to go to their back. It can also lead to the easier to control back position where you have brought them down to the mat, rather than leaping onto their turtle (which feels inherently less stable).
Teaching Notes: I copied the text and notes from last time, when I added a back take. This time I just stuck with basics, but adding the back take makes sense because it is easy. There is some nuance to it though. E.g., you could use the dog fight switch I taught a while back (so you're on their leg), then drag their leg back, in order to make it easy to go the mat and bring them into a more standard back positions? That leg tweak from Saulo seems very useful, I'll start sticking with that version from now on, I think. Though I'll have to refresh my brain on what that tweak was, hopefully I included it in the vids. ;)

28 July 2021

28/07/2021 - Teaching | Closed guard | 2-on-1 grip break to back take

Teaching #962
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 28/07/2021

When they have the standard grips from closed guard, with one hand grabbing your collars by your chest and the other back by the hip, the two-on-one grip break is a good one to try. Gather their sleeve in your fist (i.e., a pistol grip), then your other hand goes underneath their arm, grabbing your own wrist. The positioning here matters: you want to get the sleeve grip with your arm on the inside.

With that configuration, you can either punch straight up to break their grip, or angle your hips away slightly. Make sure that you maintain your grip on their sleeve, straightening your arm. You want to push their arm across their body, while simultaneously pulling in with your knees. The intention is to collapse them on top of their arm. Due to the grip configuration, your outside hand can reach around to their far armpit. Hook your fingers in for a solid hold, then twist your elbow in firmly. Combined with your stiff-arming sleeve grip, that should rotate their torso and make it hard for them to turn back towards you.

If their head is on your chest, that's the time to go for the swivel kick sweep. If you've dropped them by your armpit, the back take is a better option. You can then shrimp slightly away from them, keeping your bottom foot in tight to act as your first hook. Make sure your chest stays glued to their back, while your hips move away to create a space to drop them into. If shrimping isn't enough, use the heel of your top foot to dig into their hip, spinning them into back control. Also be sure to leave enough space by the hips for them to drop into, while also staying tight with your chest to their back.

If for reason you can't complete the back take that way, you can also try coming up and swivelling around onto their back. Another alternative, from Andre Anderson's old SWEEP DVD, is to base out on both your hands. Walk those hands back, which will put you straight into technical mount. You already have the hook due to the previous position, which becomes the leg blocking their hip in technical mount.


Teaching Notes: As ever, emphasise moving hips back as you're shifting away with your legs to get the back. You need to drop into that space, so have to create it with your lower body, while still keeping your chest tight to back. You don't want to drop them onto your leg. Could spend more time on tech mount switch, also swivelling to the back.