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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

10 May 2016

10/05/2016 - Open Mat

Class #720
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 10/05/2016

Just one beginner today, but that did mean I could practice my intro class again. I went with the mount escapes option this time round (my alternative is the RNC), meaning I could also build in the basic drills too, helped by the tips Seymour shared at his opening class for Borehamwood BJJ. I stuck with my usual bridging, but adopted the same shrimp Seymour showed. I like to run through the three types of bridging, show the trap and roll, then move into shrimping and showing the elbow escape. The elbow escape is a lot more complicated though, so it might be worth showing a side control escape instead, perhaps? I'll test that out next time I have a beginner pop along to the Tuesday open mat.

Unfortunately, I managed to hurt my lower back at kettlebells, as I was trying a heavier weight on the swing. 32kg is clearly risky if you don't put it down properly: I should have just let go when I felt I didn't quite have it right. The first two swings were fine, but it was finishing off that third swing that caused problems. Hopefully that twinge in the back won't last too long though. Writing this up Wednesday afternoon, it's already much better than it was on Tuesday night. ;)

09 May 2016

09/05/2016 - Teaching | The Back | Clock Choke

Teaching #507
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 09/05/2016

Moving on to attacks, I went with the simplest one I know from turtle, the clock choke. I use an 'elbow wedge' variation I learned from my instructor Kev Capel (and he in turn learned it from Felipe Souza, who we both used to train with at RGA HQ).

From the side ride, move from grabbing their arm to reaching through for a grip on their far collar. If the grip isn't quite right on the far collar, this can end up being an air choke rather than a blood choke: avoid being too shallow on that grip. To enhance your hold, there is the option of reaching under their arm with your far arm and opening up the collar, then feeding it to your other hand. Be aware that there is a danger of them reaching back to trap your elbow if you do that.

Either way, once you have a deep grip, bring the arm that was by their far leg to the near side of their head. Use your elbow as a wedge against their skull, giving you a sort of 'backstop' to pull their collar through. Another potential reason it might turn into an air choke is the position of your wrist: if you're finding it's an air choke, try adjusting how much you bend your wrist.

Pressing that arm into their skull produces a fair bit of leverage in conjunction with your collar grip. Increase it by leaning back slightly, while walking your legs around towards their head. Make sure you maintain your weight on their shoulders, or you'll relieve the pressure: Saulo suggests keeping your ribs against their shoulder. This should eventually result in a choke.

Speaking of Saulo, his variation on BJJ Library doesn't bother with an elbow block. He simply leans heavily into the shoulder, locking off the choke by leaning his head across. His other hand is grabbing by their far hip. If he doesn't get it, he keeps walking around, turning them onto their side and circling his elbow over. The other arm goes behind to lock off the choke.

Teaching Notes: A few people were finding that they were pressing slightly into the windpipe, rather than smoothly hitting both sides of the neck for a blood choke. That could be down to adjusting the grip, but I need to look into that more, to make my own application as efficient as possible. I'll keep emphasising getting your ribs onto their shoulder (the useful way Saulo describes it), as that seems the best way to explain the weight distribution. I still can't spar properly, as my wrist isn't quite there yet, but I did get in a bit of lighter rolling today. Hopefully soon I'll be back to normal. :)

07 May 2016

07/05/2016 - First Class at Meerkatsu's Borehamwood BJJ

Class #719
Borehamwood BJJ (The Venue), Seymour Yang, London, UK - 01/05/2016

The mighty Meerkatsu has launched his own Brazilian jiu jitsu school, the straightforwardly named Borehamwood BJJ, in the eponymous part of London. Check out the website here.

Seymour has been a huge help with all the GrappleThons I've run, so I was keen to support his new venture. A few hours on the Megabus later, I was en route to Kentish Town up the Northern Line. From there, grab a Thameslink train to Elstree: your Oyster card is valid all the way.

A photo posted by @meerkatsu on

Head out the station, off to the right and onto the main high street. Keep walking until you get to Borehamwood BJJ's somewhat confusingly named base, The Venue (about 15 minutes on foot). It's a large, well appointed leisure centre, with excellent changing facilities, showers and everything else you would expect at a good sports centre.

Borehamwood BJJ is upstairs in Studio 1, past the treatment rooms. This is normally used for dance: it turns into a Brazilian jiu jitsu school by spreading jigsaw mats across the centre of the room. That provides a decent sized space for grappling. You could probably have up to ten people rolling, eight comfortably. There is plenty of room for more mats, should the classes grow larger.

I arrived just as Seymour was finishing off his kids class. The plan is to have a kids session (6 to 11 year olds) from 12:30 to 13:30, then adults straight after through until 15:00. For this free opening class, Seymour had a 30 minute split between them, which was handy as I could take the opportunity to have a chat.

Adults began at 14:00, focusing on the absolute basics. Seymour kicked off with some stretching and calisthenics, before the first of the fundamentals: technical stand up. That was followed by shrimping and bridging. You would think that after almost a decade of BJJ, I would have nothing left to learn about such basic moves. You would be wrong: even on the simplest techniques, you can always learn something, as everybody has different tweaks and ways of teaching.

A video posted by Can (Jun) (@slideyfoot) on

With the shrimp, I normally start on my back, pushing off both feet, a slight turn, then driving the hips back. I prefer Seymour's method of demonstrating, which I'm going to adopt as I think it is a better way to reach beginners. Start on your back, with one knee raised. Push off with that leg, dragging the other leg as you thrust out your hips, curving your body.

While it is possible to shrimp off both feet, Seymour's version is exactly the way you would do it to escape from under mount. I'll therefore be sticking that into the warm-up drills when I next teach shrimping mount escapes.

The second basic technique was bridging, where again Seymour used a variation I hadn't seen before. I split bridging drills into three: straight bridge (directly up and down), angled bridge (going up at an angle with your hips tilted) and turning bridge, where you rotate over your shoulder. Seymour did a modified straight bridge. After he drove up, he did a sharp twist with his shoulders, looking over his shoulder. The idea is to knock them off balance, almost like a punch.

Everybody had a chance to drill, followed by some specific sparring from mount. Class finished up by introducing the idea of guard, as Seymour and another black belt sparred for a minute. Seymour narrated at various points, an excellent idea to help the beginners understand what was going on.

As I expected given Seymour's popularity, there were plenty of higher belts in attendance, particularly friends from Seymor's own instructor's club, Mill Hill BJJ (head coach Nick Brooks himself was on hand to take pics, as he has a knee injury at the moment).

I look forward to seeing Borehamwood BJJ grow over the next few years. With Seymour's experienced and friendly guidance, I'm sure it will soon be a thriving hub for BJJ. :D