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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 ©2004-2015 Can Sönmez

23 February 2015

23/02/2015 - Teaching | Half Guard | Knee Shield (Maintaining)

Teaching #283
Artemis BJJ (MyGym/Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 23/02/2015

BJJ Bristol Artemis Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - Half Guard
Having covered the orthodox approach to half guard, today I moved on to the knee shield, position also commonly known as z-guard. Using your knee, you can make it more difficult for your partner to move forwards against your half guard. It's also handy for creating distance, as well as nullifying the whizzer. If you use the leverage from your knee to square up your upper body by leaning back, that should help avoid the control they can generate with a whizzer.

For knee positioning, one option is to put it right on their hip, which means you can keep your feet locked. However, that also means you knee is quite low, so there is the disadvantage that they may be able to shove your knee to the mat and pass, particularly if you have the knee right across to the opposite hip (on the same side hip, there should be less danger). To enhance your control, you can try Xande's approach of coming up on your elbow while also stiff-arming into their shoulder (sort of like sitting guard). Another option comes from Jason Scully, who likes to get a tight overhook from that position.

To stop that, you could put your knee up high into their chest, like Caio Terra. As ever, there are pros and cons, as putting your knee up high may open up a gap between your feet. If you leave a gap between your feet, it is possible your partner may then be able to simply circle their lower leg around and free themselves. So, if you can't cross your feet, then clamp them together, to create a barrier to that leg-circling. Alternatively, clamp them onto your partner's leg, again to make sure there isn't a gap.

Whichever position you go for, the ability to control the distance means that one good option from the knee shield is recovering your full guard. Push with your controlling knee to square up your body, then pull out the other leg. You can often get that in transition, as your opponent tries to move around your knee. But be careful, as if they can crush down onto your leg, that can stuff your guard recovery. It's therefore important to prevent them from bringing their weight down, either using your knee (like Caio Terra), your stiff arm (like Xande) or the overhook (like Jason Scully).
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Teaching Notes: It's been a while since I've taught half guard and even longer since I went through the knee shield. I'm still working out the best structure, but tonight went relatively well. I could cut down on the amount of variations, though I think it's worth going through Xande, Scully and Terra's approach, as that can be shown without going into too intense detail. I could potentially have added in taking the back, but I'll leave that for Wednesday, I think. I might put in the scissor sweep too.

During the mini open mat afterwards, Rafal shared a useful escape he learned at SBG Dublin, in regards to the arm triangle. I don't often get put there and I rarely use that submission myself, so my options from it are pretty basic. The SBG Dublin escape involves 'corkscrewing' out of the arm triangle, turning in and then away to free yourself.

22 February 2015

21/02/2015 - Head Shave Challenge For GrappleThon | Artemis BJJ | Open Mat | Knee Shield

Class #629
Artemis BJJ (PHNX Fitness), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 21/02/2015

With two weeks to go until the GrappleThon, the team total is at a healthy £1,150. I've decided that in an effort to boost my fundraising and spice things up, I'm going to add in a little personal challenge.

If I reach my £500 target by 16:00 on the 2nd March, I will shave my head and my beloved sideburns that same day. I've never been without them all my adult life, but some things are more important than discotastic facial hair. Equality Now is one of those things: so, if you want to see me bald and sans mutton chops, then head over to my fundraising page to push up my total, here. ;)

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It was all about the knee shield for me today, a position also known as z-guard. Using your knee, you can make it more difficult for your partner to move forwards against your half guard. It's also handy for creating distance, as well as nullifying the whizzer. If you use the leverage from your knee to square up your upper body by leaning back, that should help avoid the control they can generate with a whizzer.

For knee positioning, one option is to put it right on their hip, which means you can keep your feet locked. However, that also means you knee is quite low, so there is the disadvantage that they may be able to shove your knee to the mat and pass, particularly if you have the knee right across to the opposite hip (on the same side hip, there should be less danger). To stop that, you could put your knee up high into their chest, like Caio Terra. As ever, there are pros and cons, as putting your knee up high may open up a gap between your feet.

If you leave a gap between your feet, it is possible your partner may then be able to simply circle their lower leg around and free themselves. So, if you can't cross your feet, then clamp them together, to create a barrier to that leg-circling. Alternatively, clamp them onto your partner's leg, again to make sure there isn't a gap.

Drlling with Simon, I played with both versions. Xande has some nice tweaks from BJJ Library on the standard knee-in-hip version, as he also comes up on his elbow (reminiscent of Ryan Hall's sitting guard approach, stiff arming into their collar bone too). For the back take from there, I think I prefer Caio's version where he kicks the knee out then uses the momentum to duck under the armpit. However, Xande's bodylock method (where after he gets the underhook, he scoots in and locks both his hands around their back) is also interesting, especially as it seems to naturally lead into some sweeps if you can off balance them. Then again, it's meant for nogi. Also, I think I need to look some more at the entry.

After that, I went with a combination I first learned from Nick Brooks, then later saw taught on the Caio Terra DVD. Terra refers to it as the 'half guard scissor'. Nicks version is from the knee shield with your feet locked, which I personally find more difficult to use (as I always get my knee shoved to the ground), but may work well for those with longer legs, or who are simply better at this position. It could also just be a matter of angle.

Like I said, the reason you lock your feet is so they can't raise their trapped leg and pivot, bringing their lower leg through the gap between your feet. If you're using the Terra version, you'll still need to drop your knee so that it is across their stomach, as with a scissor sweep from guard. In either position, stay aware of the cross face. You can frame under your knee to help maintain distance, making it hard for them to bring their body down to go for the cross-face. With Xande's sitting guard style version, the stiff arm helps block them closing the distance.

For Nick's sweep, grip the sleeve of the arm with which they want to cross-face you with your opposite arm (i.e., the arm that would be on top if you were blocking with both hands). Your other hand reaches under their same side leg, grabbing the bottom of their trousers (not inside the cuff though, as that is illegal). Alternatively, Terra grabs the outside of the knee. In both cases, it is to block them posting out with that leg.

Pull their sleeve across your body so they can't post out on their hand. If you're having trouble getting that arm, push them backwards a little first to lighten their arm, then pull it across to the other side. To finish, you want to do a scissor sweep motion, except that instead of chopping their knee with your leg, you're pulling it in with your arm. It also means you have both legs to lift and drive, rather than just one. Make sure you maintain the grips you have with your hands: this is key.

I've been having trouble with that knee shield scissor sweep over the last couple of weeks. Bizarrely, it seemed to work better when I switched the grips to what feels counter-intuitive: grabbing their sleeve with my bottom hand and their knee with the top hand. However, looking again at the Terra vid, he does definitely grip the way you would expect. I'll have a play at the Monday mini open mat to iron out the kinks.

Either way, don't get over-excited and try and jump right into side control. Instead, a great tip from Nick was to just roll your hips over, staying low and pressed into them the whole time, hip to hip. As you are still holding their leg, they can't re-lock their half guard. You can simply move your trapped leg backwards to stretch out their leg, then circle it free, moving into side control.

You also still have that grip on the sleeve, which sets you up immediately for an americana. You have a number of options to secure the figure four, depending on how you're holding that sleeve. One way is to control their arm with the other hand to then re-establish a better grip on the wrist with your first hand. Another is to roll your hand forward or backwards to change from the sleeve to the wrist. Or you could try pressing your head into their arm, and use that to hold it in place while you get the proper grips.

There is a handy follow-up if they shift their base to prevent the sweep, which Terra calls the back roll (I can't remember if Nick had a name for it, but 'back roll' is a rational choice). For example, you've gone for the scissor motion, but they have pushed forwards to stop you, making it hard to complete the sweep. However, in changing their weight distribution, they have opened up an alternative.

Open up their arm with the sleeve grip, so that they move perpendicular to your body, using your leg grip to help (you may find the knee grip easier for this one, but experiment). This also means you can shift your knee shield so that they are balanced on the shin.

If you get it right, they should feel fairly weightless. Pulling the sleeve grip out and pass their head should help. All you need to do now is roll backwards over your shoulder, still holding on to that sleeve grip. As before, you'll end up in side control with the americana ready to be applied.

Be careful of your head. Lift it a little off the ground and look in the direction their head is pointing. You obviously don't want to roll straight back over your head, or you're liable to hurt yourself. So, make sure it is out of the way and you instead roll over your shoulder, like when you do a basic backwards breakfall during drilling.

I also went through some passing, with my favourite, Jason Scully's staple pass: I'll be teaching that one next Thursday. Pinning the bottom leg is good, but pinning the top leg over it is even better. Sprawling is important to make this work, leaving no space. I learned a good bit doing progressive resistance with Paul, who wanted to work on his knee shield pass. Analysing how I was able to escape. Any space, I found even a tiny space was enough to wriggle something in the way. I'm wondering if there is a way to get what Dave Jacobs calls a supine twist going in there, as that would help.

Finally, I continued playing with half guard. I'm still not comfortable with the waiter sweep, but the Homer sweep still works well. I would like to teach this stuff at some point, but I'll see how things go during the next half guard month.

19 February 2015

19/02/2015 - Teaching | Half Guard | Opposite Side Pass

Teaching #282
Artemis BJJ (PHNX Fitness), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 19/02/2015

Same class as yesterday, as there were different students present compared to Wednesday. I first learned this pass from Roger Gracie a few years ago, getting some further great details from Ed Beneville and Tim Cartmell's excellent book. Beneville and Cartmell refer to the position as 'inverted half guard', but I prefer Saulo's nomenclature from Jiu Jitsu University: he uses the term 'opposite side pass'.'Inverted' is mainly associated with being upside down in BJJ, so I'll stick with Saulo.

The orthodox method to pass the half guard is to get a similar 'super-hold' (as Xande calls it) as you would in side control, then use shoulder pressure to hold them in place as you bounce your leg free and slide through. That's what I taught earlier this month. With the opposite side pass, you're also trying to control their upper body. In Saulo's version of the pass, on p307 of his book, they already have an underhook. He therefore grips over the top of that underhooking arm, securing it by gripping the gi material by the small of their back.

Posting on his free hand, he then swings his free leg over, ending up sat next to them. He suggests grabbing their knee initially, then shifting to grabbing the far hip. If you prefer, you can grab the knee and maintain that grip, to prevent a counter they can try where they open their half guard then hook under your knee. They can then lift and drive through to the top position.

My personal preference is to start the pass by reaching under their head with the arm on the same side as your trapped leg. This may feel counter-intuitive, as normally that is the arm you would use to underhook, but that's because you're swinging over to the other side. This is effectively a cross-face on the opposite side, which you lock in fully once you're over to the other side, driving your shoulder into their cheek/jaw to prevent them turning their head towards you. It's also key that after swinging to the other side, you post firmly on your outside leg, angling the knee towards their body. This should stop them bridging into you and getting a reversal.

Finally, you need to extricate your trapped leg. The simplest approach is to push on their bottom leg with your free foot, extricating yourself from half guard and taking top side control. The problem with that is it reduces your base, so they might be able to capitalise and reverse you. Not to say it isn't possible, but it requires your cross-face to be really solid. A slightly safer option is to step the basing leg in front of their leg, using it as a wedge. That means it both blocks their movement but still provides you with base. Another possibility is pulling their leg towards you in order to help create the space to free yourself.

A slight variation on this pass comes from the Beneville book: if you can get this one, it's probably the tightest option. Before you swing over, open up their lapel on the free leg side. Pass the end of their gi to the hand you have under their head and feed it through. Push their head slightly towards the trapped leg side, then shove your head in the space you’ve created. You can use your head for base, along with your free hand if required.

After you've swung over, watch out for a counter they may try, which is to lift up your leg with their far foot, flipping you over. To re-counter that, immediately switch from holding the knee to hooking behind their knee with your arm. That should stop them lifting for the sweep. Alternatively, you can also do a big step over to the other side as they try to flip you to your back.
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Teaching Notes: The extra fifteen minutes on Thursdays meant I could run through a variation on the pass, which is useful but I don't think it's essential to teach. I'm a big fan of the two passes I taught this week and use them in combination to pass half guard. However, I'm wondering if I should be looking to expand my repertoire for passing half guard. Either way, I'll be moving on to knee shield next week, with some basic maintenance, a couple of sweeps and a pass to finish off February.