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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 ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

26 March 2018

26/03/2018 - Teaching | Back | Bridging Escape

Teaching #767
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 26/03/2018

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The first rule of the back position is protect your neck. There are lots of ways of doing that, but my preference is the Saulo Ribeiro method. One hand is in your opposite collar, the other hand floats, ready to block their incoming grips. Don't reach too far with that arm or you'll leave space: keep it near your chest. Your elbows are inside their knees, ready to pop off their hooks if the opportunity presents itself.

Next, bring your knee up on their choking arm side (so, the arm that is reaching over your shoulder and trying to wrap your neck, rather than the arm coming under your armpit). Angle your knee inwards, to prevent them from rolling you back the other way: they will find it easy to choke you if they can roll you in the direction of their choking arm. In one quick motion, move your head forwards and simultaneously shove their head sideways (this is presuming they know what they are doing and have their head tight to yours for control). Look towards them, keeping your head and neck firm in order to stop them moving their head back into place.

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You can then continue, pushing off your leg, aiming to get your shoulders and spine to the mat. If you aren't able to get your head past theirs, still push off your leg. Put your head on the mat and then grind it underneath their head. This isn't pleasant for either of you, but it is generally effective: preferably you can get your head past theirs in the gentler method above. If they have moved you to the 'wrong' side, still get your head to the mat, but use that to bridge, then walk your feet back across.

When on the 'right' side (facing away from their choking arm), if you can, clamp your arm that is nearest the mat to your side, aiming to trap their arm. To really immobilise them, see if you can use that same arm to grab their opposite sleeve/wrist, meaning you're using one arm to control both of theirs. With your near arm, grab their trousers by their top leg (either by the knee or a bit lower). When you have the opportunity, switch to grip with the other hand.

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To deal with their hooking foot, twist your hips towards it to pop it off. If that doesn't work, reach your other foot over and push it off. There is also the option of pushing it off with your hand, but take care you don't expose your neck. Once the hook is off, immediately bring your same side foot over, heel tight to their shin. That should prevent them re-establishing their hook.

With your near arm, grab their trousers by their top leg (either by the knee or a bit lower). When you have the opportunity, switch to grip with the other hand. At this point, with the arm I have nearest their head, I like to either reach across their neck and grab the gi, or better, reach under their head, grip the far armpit then lock my shoulder into their head and shoulder.

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Either way, push off your free leg and turn to try and come on top. With your grip on the knee, stiff-arm so they can't lock their half-guard (if they do lock their half guard, this puts you in the opposite side half guard pass position, so proceed from there). Free your leg (pushing on their leg if you need to) and move into side control.

Teaching Notes: Forgot about the don't cross your feet thing, I must mention that next time, along with a simple body triangle escape (as they're related). Split up stuff more too, was over 10 minutes of instruction, way too much. But useful to get the video, which is the main reason I spent that long teaching: it will be helpful in future. :D

Leaning forward seems quite useful, if super simple. That fits in with the Priit method. I included the Saulo scoop escape in there, which I haven't taught in a while as I didn't think it was high percentage. The reason for that is that it's rare for your opponent to have no grips on your upper body. However, soon after teaching this lesson, I found myself using the scoop quite a lot, as a follow up to turtle. If you immediately drop, turn and go for the scoop, off of a loose turtle it can work pretty well. Again, I've been combining that with Priit's material on the turtle, fun to play with so far.

People were getting confused by the twist of the hip to get the foot off. I either get the crossface, which is easiest to explain, or put my back onto them for control. Thinking about it, the clearest way to described that is probably face up side control. You're using the same kind of pressure from the same area of your body, except that your chest is pointing up rather than than down at the mat.

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23 March 2018

23/03/2018 - Teaching | Back | Armbar

Teaching #766
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 23/03/2018

Along with chokes, armbars are another good option from the back. You have the usual seatbelt grip, with one arm under their armpit, the other over their shoulder. Grasp their opposite wrist with your shoulder arm, then grab your own wrist with your armpit arm, locking on a figure four. Reach your foot on the armpit side over to the opposite hip, hooking around with your instep. Use that to swivel: you can also add in a swing with your other leg to help the rotation, much like with the bow and arrow choke.

You can also push off the floor if you prefer. As you turn, bring your shoulder arm over their head (this is often a fight, as they know they're in trouble once that is clear), then keeping their arm tight and your bum close to their shoulder, bring your leg over their head. Maintain a firm grip on the figure four throughout. It will also help you prevent them turning inwards, a common escape to the armbar.

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Finally, adjust your position if necessary (e.g., scooting your hips in closer to their shoulder in order to prevent giving them any space), squeeze your knees then gradually drop back. Don't let go of the figure four until the last moment, moving up to the wrist. Raise your hips and pull down on the arm to finish. Make sure their thumb is pointing up (if it isn't, you can still finish the armbar, it's just a bit more awkward as you have to angle based on their elbow).

To add further control, you can put your leg higher on their head, making it more difficult for them to raise their head up. If they do manage to turn in towards you, you're in a good position to move straight into a triangle from guard. Quite often they will also link their hands together: there are many methods for breaking the grip, but one I like is simply kicking their grip apart (making sure you aren't giving up too much control in the process).

Another option for putting them in position for the armbar is to put both your feet on their hips and push them down. That way, there is much less distance for your leg to cover when you're trying to bring it over their head.

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Teaching Notes: That push set up from Yuki Nakai on BJJ Library is interesting, so I will keep it, but I want to keep working on foot placement and the finer details of pressure. The big thing to add is getting torsion on the arm early. That's a big help, lifting the elbow and generating tension all the way through to isolate their limb. It also gives you a pivot point, emphasise it next time.

19 March 2018

19/03/2018 - Teaching | Back | RNC

Teaching #765
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 19/03/2018

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The RNC is a fundamental technique to BJJ. Everybody with more than a few lessons under their belt knows that you're going to be looking for it, so they will immediately be trying to create barriers with their arms and hands. I focused on the basic application before getting into the set-up, as that warrants a whole lesson of its own.

So, to apply a rear naked choke (the reason for that name is that you aren't using the gi to complete the choke, hence 'naked'), position the elbow of your choking arm under their chin. You don't want to leave any space, as the idea is to press into both sides of their neck. This will close off their carotid arteries and prevent the flow of blood to the brain. That is an efficient and safe way of subduing an opponent.

Reaching past their shoulder, you are then going to grip the bicep of your free arm. This is to lock the choke in place. It will normally be difficult to grab your bicep straight off, as your opponent knows that's dangerous for them. You can instead secure your initial arm by gripping the back of their shoulder. Stephan Kesting has a useful video on RNC details, where he talks about holding the ridge of bone at the bottom of the shoulder blade, using what he calls a 'tiger palm'. From there, switch to gripping palm to palm over their shoulder, dropping the elbow of your back-arm down along their shoulder blade. That will further help to lock it in position: as Demian Maia demonstrates, you can even finish the choke from there. If not, you can then do what Kesting calls the 'creep', wriggling that elbow across their back to cinch up the choke.

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When you have managed to grip your bicep, make sure both your elbows are in front of their shoulders. In other words, your armpits are resting on their shoulders. The elbow drops straight down. As Nathan 'Levo' Leverton emphasises, this now means that both your wrists are hidden, making it difficult for them to strip your grip. It also makes the choke tighter, as both of your arms are directly by their neck.

Bring the hand of that bicep arm to the back of their head: a commonly used version is to press the palm into their skull, but there are various options, coming down to personal preference. Using the back of your hand against their neck is arguably better, as that may slip in more securely than palm down. Also, palm down is easier for them to grab, if they try to peel your fingers off their skull. Either way, when you're locking in the choke, don't reach your hand forward over their shoulder. If you do, then they can armbar you using their shoulder as a fulcrum. Instead, slide it behind the head.

Bring your head next to theirs on the bicep gripping side, to further cut off any space. If for some reason after grabbing your bicep you can't get your other hand behind their head, grab your own skull, using that grip to finish from there. Staying close to their back, expand your chest and squeeze your elbows together.

A common problem is that people will also tend to tuck their chin. Some people advocate unpleasant methods to force your way through to the neck in that situation. For example, Stephan Kesting has a list here: the results of that kind of approach (though Kesting does make a point of saying he is not fond of pain-based options either) can be seen in this video of a brutal Baret Yoshida match. That is not how I want my jiu jitsu to look.

My goal is smooth, technical, leverage-based jiu jitsu, causing as little pain to the other person as possible. As Saulo says in my favourite BJJ quote:

"You have to think that your partner, the guy that you're training [with], has to be your best friend. So, you don't want to hurt him, you don't want to try to open his guard with your elbow, make him feel really pain, because jiu jitsu is not about pain. You have to find the right spot to save your energy"

I strongly feel it is best to avoid hurting your training partners, for four additional reasons:

  • You're in class to learn, not to 'win' at all costs. Save the 'win' mentality for competition.
  • If you're always hurting the people you spar, eventually nobody will want to train with you, making it rather hard to improve.
  • Presuming you're in BJJ for the long-term, you're going to be spending a lot of time with your training partners. Therefore it would make sense to build a good relationship.
  • Even if you don't care about your classmates, everybody has a different pain threshold. So, the efficacy of pain-reliant techniques will vary from person to person. The efficacy of leverage does not: that's based on physics, not how tough somebody is.
There is a less nasty option you could try for opening up their chin, from Andre Galvao. If they really shove their chin down, this may not work, but it is worth a go. Twist your hand so that your thumb is pointing down, then as you slide the arm to their neck, twist the thumb back up to lift their chin.

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If I find I have no option except something brutish (e.g., crushing their chin until they tap from pain or lift their head), my preference is to instead transition to a different attack, like a bow and arrow choke or an armbar (which I'll be covering in later lessons). In my opinion, if I get to the point where force and pain are the main routes to finishing a submission, then my set up was poorly executed.


Teaching Notes: Getting the head in place, not just pulling backwards, staying tight. Make sure you are putting your hand on your bicep, a few people weren't getting that, so I'll emphasise it more next time. The thing about expanding your chest is important too, to the extent that it is probably worth taking off your gi jacket to really highlight that.

I keep changing the recounter at the end. This time, I went with the John Will style arm sweep away, next time I should go with the butterfly hands option again, that's always fun. :D