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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

20 August 2014

20/08/2014 - Teaching | Spider Guard | Maintaining

Teaching #186
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 20/08/2014

Following the women's class, it was time for an introduction to spider guard. There are three main variants, all of which require you to grab both sleeves: this guard isn't commonly used in nogi for that reason, though it is possible to adapt. You will also normally have your feet curled around their biceps. For the most common variant, put your feet on their same side biceps, pulling their sleeves towards you, then push one leg straight, while keeping the other leg bent. This is intended to break their posture, keeping them off balance.

That is true whether or not they are standing up. There are several basic spider guard sweeps, which begin by pushing one arm out to the side, that work in either situation. You also don't have to push your feet into both biceps. There are numerous spider guard variations, such as pushing into one arm while also hooking behind their same side leg, or pushing into an arm and also holding a collar, which can set you up nicely for a triangle or omoplata.

A second option is to use your knees rather than your feet. While you could use this when they stand, it is more typical to do so when they're sat in your guard, given the obvious point that you've got a much smaller tool to work with when using your knees rather than the full length of your legs. The same sweeps can work here too, except that you're shoving their arm out to the side with your knee rather than your foot.

In nogi, you could grab around the back of their arms, just behind the elbow. In gi, you can grab the sleeves. This is something that you'll see pop up in Gracie Combatives, where it is part of the punch block series. I don't really use this one, but it's an option, and there is a bunch of stuff you can do from here.

The third option, and the one I and Dónal prefer, is known as the lasso grip. Circle your leg around the outside of their arm, so that your lower leg is on the inside, then wrap your foot so that it hooks the outside of their arm. You can then either keep your foot there, or Dónal's option of going deeper, hooking it under their armpit and around their back. That gives you a bit more control over their posture.

In terms of your sleeve grip, it's important to get that fabric as far round the front of your thigh as you can, clamping your elbow tight to your side. Braulio uses the metaphor of tying up a boat at the harbour: to pull their arm free, they have to not only fight your grip strength, but your thigh and your elbow as well.

As before, you don't have to keep both feet against their arms. You can also switch grip on their non-lassoed arm from the sleeve to their collar, slide your foot to their shoulder, or indeed push on the hip. That's useful if you find that you want to create some distance, as well as keep them off-balance. Pushing into their non-lasso side knee is another option to disrupt their base.

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Teaching Notes: My friend Jodie tattooed me on Monday after her Grapplethon, so that was still healing. I've been slathering it with Bepanthen and wrapping it in cling film as per Jodie's handy instructions. That meant I was only taking part in class in a limited sense, but was able to demonstrate grips without too much difficulty.

Interestingly, during drilling the students pointed out that they found the pistol grip was perfect for the knee spider guard variation, as you can pull that 'pistol butt' of the sleeve around your knee. I'll have to keep that in mind for the next time I teach this, as it's a good point. :)

I thought about running through a basic sweep, but with my tattoo still healing up, that would have been difficult to demonstrate properly. But in cased I want to include it next time, it's very simple, as basically if you know how to do the scissor sweep from closed guard, you can do much the same thing from spider guard. The main difference is that rather than loading them up onto the shin you have across their stomach, you'll be bringing their weight forward with the foot you have on their bicep.

The typical situation is that they are on their knees. You have the orthodox spider guard, with one foot on their same side bicep and the other by their hip. Pull them forwards: just like the scissor sweep from closed guard, you want to bring your elbows right up by your head, to get them as far forward as possible.

This will take their weight off their knees, which means you can take your foot off their hip and chop through their same side knee. Help them over by kicking into their bicep, so that you're pushing diagonally towards your opposite shoulder. Roll through and settle into mount, or possibly side control if they end up too far.

There was also a cool thing I wanted to try from my instructor back when I was at RGA HQ, Jude Samuel, but again, my still-healing tattoo meant I'll leave it for next time. But to make sure I don't forget, it looks like this (I gave it a brief go at Jodie's Grapplethon, but couldn't remember it properly):

20/08/2014 - Teaching | Women's Class | Technical Mount

Teaching #185
Bristol Sports Centre (Artemis BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 20/08/2014

We went through some more details on mount at tonight's women's class. Sometimes, the person underneath your mount will turn to their front, although normally this will only happen when they're still inexperienced. With a few more classes under their belt, they will only turn as far as their side, prying out your knee with an elbow: as a result, it's called the elbow escape. Either way, the same technique applies to both: shifting to what's known as technical mount. Put your hands on either side of their head, using them as your base points. Putting your weight onto your hands, twist your body, sliding the knee nearest their back up towards their head. Your other heel clamps in tight to their hip. Sit back on the heel behind them, bringing your upper body close to their head.

BJJ Bristol Artemis Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - The BackIf they continue turning to their front (if they've only recently started BJJ, for example, or some judoka have this habit too due to judo competition rules), use the foot your have by their hip to act as your first 'hook' for another position, back mount. Insert that hook, digging your heel into their inner thigh, or if possible, wrap your instep under their inner thigh for control. Your other foot will do the same (somebody more experienced will block that, but as we'll cover in another class, there are ways around their block). Next, establish a seat belt grip, where you have one arm over their shoulder, the other underneath their arm pit. Link your hands or grab your wrist: with the combination of your seat belt and your hooks, you can now 'ride' them whichever way they turn.

If they manage to knock off one of your hooks, you can make a simple adjustment to retake the mount. It will be tough to regain your back mount from here, especially if they've moved over your leg. As soon as you feel their hip move past your knee, bring your remaining hook over their body and clamp the heel to their far hip. Make sure it is providing you with enough control that they can't simply shrug you off. Pull out your elbow for base (as it will probably still be under their head, making it hard to complete this movement), then turn and slide through into mount, using your heel for leverage.
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Teaching Notes: Although I ended up including quite a bit of technique, this is nevertheless a simplified version of the technical mount class I normally teach, as it is a step earlier in the process. By the time I teach people mount in the mixed class, it is rare anybody turns belly-down under mount because they're too aware of getting choked. However, a complete beginner who has never seen back mount won't know that: as the women's class regularly gets new people checking out the class, keeping that possibility in mind makes sense.

So, I didn't include the section I would usually include about technical mount, which is when more experienced opponents look to pry your knee away with an elbow, moving into the aforementioned elbow escape. If that happens, twist to one side and raise your knee. Pull their arm up with whatever you can grab (e.g., sleeve, wrist etc), then reinsert your knee. I've seen Rob S teach grabbing their sleeve with your opposite hand, while Mauricio likes to grab the elbow with their opposite hand and Felipe essentially shifts to technical mount for a moment.

I need to emphasise sitting back when you move into technical mount, as a few people were leaving some space. It's not intuitive, so worth pointing out. Similarly, I could talk more about the basics of maintaining the back, in terms of keeping your chest tight to their upper back, with your head next to theirs. I mentioned it during drilling, but I could bring that in during the demonstration as it doesn't take a moment.

I was considering if I should include the Galvao back retake, but decided against it. For next time, that's a method you can use to go right from technical mount to the back, whether or not they turn in one direction or the other. Simply drop back from technical mount, rolling them over the knee you have near their head. Again, the foot you had by their hip becomes your first hook, so you just need to bring the second hook over.

The same kind of motion works as a method of retaking the back if you lose one hook, so it has some versatility. In the context of retaking the back, the time to use this is before they get their shoulders to the mat. They've managed to clear one of your hooks and started bringing their hips over. Before they can get their shoulders to the mat, press your chest into their shoulder and roll them onto their side, in the direction they were escaping. You'll probably need to balance on your shoulder and head to get into the right position.

As they have cleared one of your legs, you should be able to then slide that knee behind their head (you might need to post on an arm, but see if you can do it without releasing your seatbelt grip). Sit back and roll them over your knee, then re-establish your second hook. You can keep doing that from side to side as a drill.

There were lots of good questions from the women attending, which I'll keep in mind, such as whether to insert your hook first or establish your seat belt. Marcelo Garcia feels the seat belt is the most important element of back control, but in the context of the simple back take when they turn belly down, your hook is right there so you might as well do that first., like hands or hook first, how to get second hook in (Marcelo hip thrust). I was also asked about how to get your second hook in if they were blocking: the answer is the Marcelo 'hip extension', which I teach in another lesson.

Next up was the mixed class, where I taught some basic spider guard.

18 August 2014

18/08/2014 - Congleton GrappleThon

The (long) weekend from Saturday 16th August through to Monday 18th is among the most memorable I've ever had. It started off by driving up to Buxton, fitting in a walk around the attractive Tittesworth Reservoir on the way. The refreshingly helpful sales assistant in the visitor centre shop (huge and open until 17:15) gave us perfect directions to The Roaches, another local beauty spot.

From the Tittesworth Reservoir visitor centre car park, turn right, then keep going until you get to The Three Horsehoes. Left as if you're going to Buxton, then when you see a sign shaped like a teapot, left again. Follow the round down and all the way around until you get to a house with a gate. You can park there and walk up. As you can see from the pic, it is well worth a walk.

[Note: to skip all this preamble and get straight to the jiu jitsu, click here]

We arrived at the home of our rather excellent host Nigel (via AirBnB) at about 8pm. In the first of what would be several confusing events for Nigel, I waved goodbye shortly before 11pm carrying my Brompton in my hand, because public transport between Buxton and Congleton is patchy at best and non-existent at night. I therefore decided to cycle the 16 miles of hilly terrain myself. In the dark. Fortunately my girlfriend has the common sense I lack, so insisted on driving me the first 8 miles, past the worst of the hills. The latter 8 miles was mostly downhill, making for a relatively pleasant cycle (though I was very glad my Brompton has beefy lights, as it was pitch black).

Next up was the Grapplethon, held over at the gym where Jodie Bear trains, Warrior Martial Arts in Congleton. I first met Jodie at the Bristol BJJ GrappleThon back in April: I think that's when she first said she was thinking of organising her own Grapplethon a few months down the line (might have been on Facebook). Either way, I immediately started planning how I'd make it up there, as Congleton is in the beautiful Peak District, a favourite UK destination for my girlfriend (especially as she is a huge fan of the 1995 Pride & Prejudice adaptation). We've been before, so I knew it would make for a good trip. Having a Grapplethon too would make it even better - my intention was to head off to Congleton when my girlfriend went to bed, then get back before she had breakfast.

I managed to do so, though it wasn't quite what I expected. There are normally trains from Congleton to Macclesfield and a bus from Macclesfield to Buxton, but I hadn't reckoned with the erratic nature of Sunday time tables. By the time I left the Grapplethon at 06:40 and got to Congleton Station, there was a bit of paper stuck on the wall saying it was all bus replacements. They only started at around 10am. I'd already been considering the 16 miles cycle: as the alternative was to wait several hours, I went for it.

That 16 miles of scenery is unsurprisingly much better when you're cycling in the daytime, with some spectacular views over the Peak District landscape. Of course, spectacular views often means hefty climbs to reach them. That was ok for the first six miles, but I was flagging by the time I got to the tenth mile. Fortunately, circumstances meant I didn't have the option of giving up, as my girlfriend was still in bed. I pushed on, literally at points, shoving the bike up the hills. I'm glad I did, meaning I could enjoy the total shock on the faces of three hardcore road-cyclists who I gave a cheerful 'Morning!' to as they passed me on my teeny little Brompton. After another mile or two of admittedly not very fun struggling up steep roads, there was then four miles downhill all the way back to Buxton. I went from travelling at 4mph to 30mph, eating up the distance quickly, in time for a (somewhat late) breakfast at 09:40.

I got roughly an hour nap during the Grapplethon, which is why I curled up in the car to catch up while my girlfriend looked round Haddon Hall (same place we went last time, though we didn't realise that until I bothered looking at the guidebook from the AirBnB, immediately recognising the picture as the same spot we snapped in 2011). At the end of the day, we had a fantastic meal at St Moritz in Buxton, easily among the best food I've eaten across three and bit decades of shoveling food into my mouth. The menu seems to be largely Italian: my girlfriend and I shared gnocchi genovese and farfalle gorgonzola, topped off by a calzone stuffed with chocolate and mascarpone. Yes, that it exactly as tasty as it sounds. :D


The next day probably involved the greatest amounts of pain, though the 24 miles total of cycling over the Saturday and Sunday certainly left me sore. Along with wanting to support Jodie's GrappleThon, the fact that she's a tattoo artist also inspired me to finally have a serious think about what I would like for my second tattoo. I got the first almost 15 years ago as a student and though I'd always wanted more, I could never come up with an idea I liked. I got planning after chatting to Jodie in April, then after a few messages back and forth in the months that followed, I knew what I was looking for. I was therefore excited to head to Jodie's Bear Skin Studios and make it a reality.

My previous tattoo is quite small and on the fleshy part of my arm, so the pain was negligible. This time, the tattoo was somewhere much more sensitive and a lot bigger, resulting in four hours of increasingly sharp pain. It was especially bad with the 3 pin needle, as that focuses the sting. The 7 pin and 9 pin needles spread it out a bit more, though it still hurts. I'm thrilled with the results: this tattoo manages to combine a whole boatload of meaning for me and it's also got scope for additions. I won't say what or where the tattoo was yet, as I'm hoping I can use people's curiosity to bump up donations (click here) for Jodie's Grapplethon in support of the Donna Louise Children's Hospice Trust. If I get to my £100 fundraising target, I'll stick up photos going right from the original design ideas through to the finished artwork. Any donation is fine, even if it's just 20p! :D

Class #587
The Donna Louise Children's Hospice Trust Grapplethon (Warrior Martial Arts), Open Mat, Congleton, UK - 17/08/2014

In terms of the GrappleThon itself, this was the first time I was there as just a participant rather than the organiser. I had a target of staying for around six hours, though I probably only rolled for two of those at the very most, so it wasn't all that strenuous (and that two hours would include a good bit of drilling with Jodie too).

I started off rolling with Jodie, trying to play with the crucifix and turtle. That's because first I want to update my Mastering the Crucifix review with practical thoughts on the techniques, then secondly because I've had another turtle instructional sent to me for review. I focused on trapping the arm, having saved a bunch of the gifs to my phone (that seems to be the easiest way to use the instructional on your phone if you don't have an internet connection). Digging the knee in is effective and difficult for them to block, but scooping that arm out with your other leg is a lot harder. I'm not willing to use the 'mean' techniques like stomping on their arm with their heel, so I'll need to work out something more gentle. Baiting did work a few times, but that's got a limited efficacy window with the same person. ;)

Previously, I've been using the walk back from the Dave Jacobs seminar to get them onto their back, as I like the less acrobatic application. However, I wasn't having much success with it today, so went with the roll Kirtley teaches. That got me in position a few times, where I eventually managed to catch an arm, but mostly just lay there trying to maintain the position. Quite a number of times, Jodie was able to shrug me off by sitting up: I assume that indicates my weight distribution and pressure was off. Something to play with. Also, breaking their clasped hands when you're looking for a choke (I'm sure that's covered in Kirtley's instructional somewhere, I'll have a look through).

The side ride from that other instructional was good, especially the little tip about reaching inside their same side thigh to anchor yourself. That gives you good control but doesn't expose your elbow to being rolled in the usual way. I did find myself running around chasing them to stop escapes though, managing to get into side control a few times but not always. Again, probably a weight distribution issue.

My next bit of rolling was with a strong wrestler. I tried that flipping butterfly pass where you kick your legs up, which did get me over and into side control...but he immediately reversed me. I then spent the rest of the roll in the running escape, until eventually he got me into a crushing wrestling pin and harvested an arm. I should probably have at least tried the hip swing from the running escape, and I also totally forgot about the handy stuff Kev showed me in that private a while back, like 'empty half'. It will be good to get back to side control month: we've done a lot of guard at Artemis BJJ recently (which is helpful too, of course, as my guard is weak), with four months of it now.

I did some drilling with Jodie later, showing each other various techniques we use: she has a nice simple tweak on a bullfighter pass variation, where you just underhook a leg and push the other down, then go straight into the shoulder drop. Something like that. I'll have to ask her again next time I see her. All in all, amazing weekend I'll never forget (especially as Jodie has inked an indelible reminder onto my skin ;D). YAAAY!




14 August 2014

14/08/2014 - Teaching | Open Guard | Bullfighter Pass (Variation)

Teaching #184
Artemis BJJ (Impact Gym), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 14/08/2014

I went with what I think is the most simple version of the bullfighter on Monday, but there are lots of variations. Monday's version was about moving backwards and pinning their legs to the mat. Tonight, the focus was driving forwards into them, after you've established your grips inside their knees. That should generate a reaction, as they will kick back. Direct that kick to your side as you step around. Saulo likes to open out their far leg while pulling their near leg across his body. That motion should swivel them in place for an easy pass. Even simpler, as you drive in and they react, fire their legs out to the side as you step around.

Alternatively, if they don't react, you can still pass after having driven their knees towards their chest. Thrust one leg forward, then step back, pulling the other leg with you. Drive that leg into the mat with a straight arm and your body weight, then pass around on that side.

To finish the pass there are two main options. Either you can drop your shoulder into their hip, falling forward like in Monday's version. If the position you're in doesn't lend itself to that, then simply moving into knee on belly may make more sense. Experiment with both: it will depend on the configuration of your body once you pass their legs.

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Teaching: This time I didn't add in that low stack pass version of the bullfighter pass from Passing the Guard, as I didn't notice people going really low and getting into the relevant position. In fact, it was generally the opposite, with a number of people getting a bit too high in their posture, ending up bent over and off balance. So, I'll emphasise the crouch Dónal is always at pains to point out (it's also covered well by his 'duck walk' drill, which I think I'll start including in my warm-up selection).

Something else interesting that popped up was in how people completed the pass. Generally you either drop your shoulder as you reach the level of their knees (my preference) or go to knee on belly. One person was going to reverse knee on belly, I think because they were finding it difficult to step all the way through. I don't use it much myself, but it's a great place from which to do a backstep (as per Roy Dean's Black Belt Requirements) and spin all the way through into mount. I showed them the backstep and was pleasantly surprised by how well it seemed to work for them. Cool! :)