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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

17 September 2014

17/09/2014 - Teaching | The Back | Crucifix Armbar

Teaching #198
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 17/09/2014

I've gone through a few chokes from the crucifix, so now I wanted to add in an armbar: that means you can attack with both submissions simultaneously. The entry is the same as before. Starting from the side ride, dig your near knee next to their hip. You're aiming to shove that as deep as you can behind their arm. Once it is in deep, flare the knee out towards you, which should make their arm available for your other heel to hook. Drag it back over your other leg and use your legs to lock that arm in place.

At this point, you've already got a bunch of attacks available to you, but we want to get them face-up. You'll probably be grabbing their wrist, their bicep, their sleeve or something else with your arm on the near side. With your other arm, reach under their far armpit and grab their shoulder. They could trap your elbow and try to roll you at this point, but that puts you where you want to be anyway. In the likely event they aren't foolish enough to do that, you have a few entries to the face-up crucifix available to you.

The one I prefer is from the Dave Jacobs seminar, where you walk backwards until you can get them face-up. The other option, which I included tonight, is to jump and roll over their shoulder, on the non-trapped arm side. This is a bit more acrobatic, so not something I use as often, but it is a viable alternative to the Jacobs method.

Once they're face-up, you don't want their weight too far on top of you, as again that can help them escape: if that happens, shrimp your hips slightly to bring them down again. However, you don't want them to slip too far down to the mat, as there's another escape they can do in that situation. So, if they're too far down, scoop under them to prevent that escape.

For the armbar, find their wrist with the back of your calf. When you get the right spot, flare your knee out, then bridge up into their arm. If they turn their hand, you'll need to follow their elbow with your hips, adjusting your position as necessary. If they manage to bend their arm, you can straighten it back out by 'walking' your feet up their arm. Making sure you still have one leg hooked over their arm (as soon as you don't, they'll free their arm and move to side control), bring the other foot behind and slide it up their arm. You can keep doing that until the arm is straight: this takes a bit of dexterity, but when you get used to the motion, it considerably improves your control.

Keep in mind that all the way through, you should be threatening a choke. That will keep their attention divided between the two submissions, increasing the efficacy of both.


Teaching Notes: My continuing experiment to show techniques from Mastering the Crucifix has gone well so far. I think I'll emphasise that 'walking' thing with the feet next time, which is something I got from the Dave Jacobs seminar. This also inspires me to try armbars from crucifix more often, as previously I've focused heavily on the choke when attacking from the crucifix in sparring.

I'm still keen to attempt teaching the reverse omoplata, but I'll see how drilling that on Saturday goes (presuming I can make it to the open mat on Saturday). If not, there are several escapes I could show next week instead, from crucifix, the turtle and orthodox back control.

17/09/2014 - Teaching | Women's Class | Triangle Choke

Teaching #197
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 17/09/2014

There are lots of ways to set up the triangle, which is one of the fundamental submissions in BJJ. The name comes from the 'triangle' shape you form with your legs, capturing their neck and one arm inside that structure. The basic process is:

1. Get their head and one of their arms inside your legs
2. Put your ankle behind your knee to 'lock' the triangle
3. Squeeze your legs into their carotid arteries on either side of their neck.

Of course, there is much more detail to a successful triangle than that, which I'll break down in the rest of this post.

For the first stage (entry), the simplest option is probably to grab both their wrists (or you could try their forearms) with your same side hands. Push their arm into their stomach, while clamping the other to your chest. You can then bring your hips up in order to fling your leg (on the same side as the arm you've pushed back) over their shoulder, locking your feet by the top of their back. The important thing is to clear that hand and arm you've shoved into their stomach, so that you're ready to move into the triangle.

If you can drive your knee into the inside of the arm you want to clear, that can work too: in Gracie Combatives, Rener pushes into their bicep/crook of their elbow with his knee, grabs the wrist, then kicks over to get into position. Alternatively, he also shows how you can circle your leg around the arm to get your leg past. There are many other entries and not just from guard: the triangle is possible from pretty much every other position in BJJ too, whether that's the back, mount or side control.

Once you've got their head and arm trapped between your legs, it's also helpful to move their arm across your body, though not essential. You can still choke them without that arm across, it just tends to be more difficult. Triangle expert Ryan Hall repeatedly states that it isn't necessary, because you're choking them by pressing their shoulder into their neck, not the lower part of their arm (remember, to choke you are pressing into both carotid arteries on either side of the neck. With the triangle, on one side their shoulder blocks the artery, the other is blocked by your leg).

He demonstrates how you can still choke them even if their arm is on the other side. Still, it isn't 'wrong' to bring the arm across, particularly if you are going for a choke where you're square-on, as per the traditional triangle method. The point Hall makes is that you should never prioritise pulling the arm across rather than controlling the head.

That's because controlling the head is absolutely key. Ideally, you want to pull their head into your belly button rather than your chest, to really break down their posture. If they are able to lift their head up, they can regain an upright posture. So, be sure you have some kind of control over their posture before you attempt the triangle. If they are sat fully upright with strong posture, you're going to struggle to get a triangle from there: a different technique would be advisable.

Once you have their posture broken down and their head and arm between your legs, you want to lock that in place. When locking your legs in this second stage (locking), you can sometimes move straight into a locked triangle. If not, especially if you have shorter legs like me, stick with a secure 'diamond' leg formation rather than a sloppy half-locked triangle. From there, pull on your shin to bring your ankle behind your knee, swivelling off at an angle if necessary. Be sure you don't lock over your toes: it must be your ankle. If your leg is locked on your toes, they have a chance to knock your leg off them. More importantly, if you press down while locked over you toes, you're in danger of injuring your ankle.

You might well find you need to adjust to get your legs locked. Opening your guard to do that is easier, which will enable you to push off their hip with your locking leg foot. However, be careful that you don't give them space to escape when you open. You can maintain control by grabbing the leg you have over the back of their head, meaning that you are replacing the control your leg provided with equivalent control from your arm. Ryan Hall doesn't like to unlock his legs at all, but then he has long legs.

You also need to have your neck leg right across the back of their neck, rather than angling down their back. If it is part way down their back, you are no longer pressing into their neck: their body will get in the way of your choke. Similarly, your locking leg does not want to be obstructed by their shoulder. You therefore don't want to see their shoulder once the triangle is locked in: try and get your leg past it, or simply push their trapped shoulder back a little, in order to get your legs more tightly on their carotid arteries. If they have a lot of shoulder inside your legs, that's a chance for them to drive forward and dig out some room to breathe.

Having locked the triangle, you now have two main options for the third stage (finishing). The traditional way to complete the choke is to squeeze your abductors (i.e., the muscles of your inner thighs) into their neck. At this point, you might also want to raise your hips and/or pull down on their head for some extra pressure. Other little details that can help are pulling your toes back to tense your calves, meaning more pressure on their carotid arteries. Angling your locking leg outwards can also help increase that pressure, a nifty tip from Mike Fowler.

The other main option, which again comes from Ryan Hall, is to instead use what he calls the 'stomp and curl' method. The reason for his preference is that he says this uses larger muscle groups than the abductors, which tend to be comparatively weak. First, he attains a perpendicular angle, meaning he is looking at his opponent's ear rather than their face. From there, he can now kick forwards with his neck leg (the stomp) while pulling down with his locking leg (the curl).

Perpendicular angles are good for smaller people too, as it makes it harder for the opponent to stack you (I'll talk more about stacking in a moment) because you aren't straight on. The easiest way to get a perpendicular angle is hooking under their free arm, then grabbing around your own knee. This also has the advantage of clamping you in place: should they try to square back up, you'll stay where you are as they move. There's a second benefit too in that they can no longer use that arm to create a frame by linking their hands, which they could otherwise use to press into your hips and make space.

You can also grab right under their body and link your hands, though it is unlikely you'll be able to get to that extreme position. Hooking under their leg is another option, but normally you won't have the space to do that. However, it is important to remember the leg grabbing option. That is the best way to stop yourself from being slammed when triangling, so should you want to use a triangle in a situation where slamming might take place, it would be very advisable to hook a leg.

You may find you keep getting stacked, particularly if you are square on. However, as Renzo Gracie teaches, even with that style of triangle you can submit a larger opponent. The key is preventing them from driving into you and curling your body. Renzo's method is to brace his arms against his knee and shin, something I was first shown by my old training partner, Howard. Should they continue to drive forward, all they are doing is extending themselves, which makes it easier for you to choke them.

BJ Penn teaches something similar, which he refers to as the 'triangle sprawl out'. This time, instead of straight-arming into your own leg, you're going to wriggle back, then come up on your elbows and finally your hands. From here, keep moving backwards until they are almost lying down in front of you, making sure your triangle lock around their head is still tight. To apply the submission, drive your legs down as your lean your upper body forwards.

Generating that habit of moving backwards to stop yourself being crunched up is a good habit in general for the triangle, whether or not you're going for the Renzo or BJ Penn finishes above. It is less of an issue if you have attained a perpendicular angle, but sometimes you might find you need to shoulder-walk back in order to get the space to create that angle.

Teaching Notes: There are three main things I'd like to emphasise next time, as they came up during drilling. First is getting that leg right across the back of the neck, often a point that comes up when learning the triangle. It's natural to put it across the back at an angle, so worth re-emphasising that it needs to be straight across the back of the neck. Connected to that is turning to create an angle, especially if you're struggling to get that leg straight and to lock your legs.

I was focusing on opening the guard and pushing off their hip with your foot. I think next time I might instead focus more on underhooking the free arm and pulling yourself round: that may or may not make it clearer and easier. I did mention it as an option, but without much emphasis.

Finally - and again this kinda connects to the other too - shoulder walking backwards. People getting squished up onto their shoulders is probably the most common issue with triangles, as that makes it hard to finish. The solve that problem, you want to get your shoulders back, so that you extend your body and put your opponent further down. Shoulder walking is the simplest method, I think, which can be helped by stuff like Renzo's bracing against your knee.

I could also talk more about the finish, as a couple of people were having trouble at that point, but I think emphasising angling off would help there. If you can get your legs tighter around their neck and arm, that should end up making the submission easier: creating an angle is a straightforward way of getting that tightness. :)

15 September 2014

15/09/2014 - Teaching | The Back | Crucifix (Kneeling) Shoulder Lock

Teaching #196
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 15/09/2014

Tonight I shared another technique from the Dave Jacobs seminar, this time from the kneeling crucifix (as Aesopian dubs it in Mastering the Crucifix). Secure the crucifix by driving your knee in from the side ride, flaring your knee out, then hooking their arm with your other heel. Drag their arm back and make sure it stays trapped between your legs.

Put the knee nearest their head slightly forward, still controlling their arm. Turn to face their legs, grabbing their ankle to anchor yourself in place. At this point you will probably need to switch your legs, so that you can get the leg further away from their head closer to their wrist. Twist your body and swing the leg furthest from their head backwards, still hooking the arm. Do this movement gradually, as that shoulder lock can come on quickly, depending on their flexibility.

Teaching Notes: Interestingly, it seemed people were finding that sometimes this was a shoulder lock, sometimes it ended up attacking the elbow as with an armbar, depending on leg and arm configuration. Chris had a little addition, as he said he liked to be able to see what he was doing when submitting. So, he kept his legs together and twisted back to look at them. He also grabbed their wrist when switching legs, to make sure they can't wriggle their arm free.

Next time, I should probably mention that you can switch legs during the transition, though I'm not sure if that makes it easier. I had a play with the crucifix in sparring, especially the armbar I think I'll teach on Wednesday. I'm not big on armbars, but this is an important one to add into the mix, as it means you can attack with a choke and an armbar simultaneously: Aesopian makes a point of that when he teaches it on Mastering the Crucifix.

I'm also continuing to play with the 'post, posture, leverage' tip on sweeps from Beyond Technique. Although it hasn't yet led me to a sweep, it is useful to have it in mind as a goal when in guard.

13 September 2014

13/09/2014 - RGA Bucks | Closed Guard | Roger Gracie Armbar Setups

Class #592
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Sahid Khamlichi & Dan Lewis, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK - 13/09/2014

Kev wasn't there tonight, but RGA Bucks has plenty of other excellent instructors: there were two examples providing fantastic technique tonight, Sahid and Dan. Both of them recently returned from a BJJ camp were Roger Gracie in Spain recently, meaning their jiu jitsu power supplies were primed and ready.

It was all armbars from closed guard today, a submission I've never really gotten to grips with, both literally and figuratively. I tend to go for chokes rather than armbars, because I always feel that I leave too much space when I try to armbar and therefore risk losing position. RGA Bucks to the rescue, as the armbars Sahid and Dan showed were super-tight.

Sahid was up first, dividing his armbar sequence into three sections. First up, the legs. You're in closed guard. For the purposes of this drill (this could work nicely as a warm-up too), they are going to help you by putting their elbow on the opposite side of your belt knot. Bring your leg on the same side as that arm up, so you can pin your knee against their shoulder. Your other leg kicks up into their armpit. Use that to turn your own body, also bringing their body down with the armpit leg. You can now bring your first leg over their head, keeping your heels pointing down (don't cross your legs).

Next, you're going to add in one of your arms. They aren't generally going to give you their arm, so you'll have to drag it across yourself. Reach across with your opposite side arm and grab slightly above their elbow. Still keeping your ankles crossed, lift your hips, then as you drop them, pull the arm across your body. You want to end up with their arm between your forearm and bicep, enabling you to clamp your elbow to your side while also pinning their arm. Your hand goes to your chest.

Step your knee up on their trapped-arm side, again pressing it into their shoulder. Make sure you don't raise that knee before you've pinned the arm, as opening your guard at that point may give them enough space to start escaping. Then finish as before, kicking your other leg up into their armpit, swivelling, bringing your first leg over their head and completing the submissions.

The third and final stage adds in a collar grip with your free hand. Reach for their collar after you've pinned their arm, then pull them down. You can also use the elbow of that collar gripping arm to block the elbow of their trapped arm. That prevents them from trying to bring the elbow of their trapped arm to your other side hip, as that would scupper your armbar attempt.

Dan took over for the second armbar variation, which has some similarities but does not build off reaching across the body and pulling their elbow across. Instead, it starts with a grip break, as they've grasped your collar in the standard guard passing position. This is the classic two-on-one grip break where you grab their sleeve on top with one hand, then reach underneath their arm and grab your own wrist. You need to make sure that your grabbing the sleeve with the opposite side arm.

A handy tip Dan added for the grip break is to roll your wrists as high up their arm as you can before punching upwards to break the grip. Maintain your hold on the sleeve, then pull your elbow back. Rather than bringing it to your side, get your elbow high by your head, as far back as you can. This strangely makes the hold harder to break: you can test that out by getting your partner to try pulling their arm back when you have your elbow by your side and when it is up high past your head. That makes me wonder if that would work in other situations, like when holding a lasso spider guard.

Grab their collar with your free hand, doing a small shrimp in the direction of their trapped arm side to get a better angle. then use the high elbow as base to come up and get an even deeper grip. When you move back down, you can use that motion to get gravity on your side to help break their posture. My training partner had a detail on this, as he likes to drive his knuckles into their neck when you have that grip: I probably wouldn't use that personally, but it is definitely effective. I could feel a choke starting to come on during drilling!

Relock your guard up over their shoulder on the trapped arm side, almost as if you're doing a triangle. Push their head away with your gripping hand, then bring your leg over their head. Angle that leg away slightly (so it is a line across the back of their head), to make it harder for them to drive into you, like on Adam Adshead's DVD from a couple of years ago.

Sparring started off with me getting stuck under side control. I was trying to stay tight, move around a make space, but didn't pay enough attention to his arm reaching underneath. Too late, I realised he was setting up a baseball bat choke. I attempted to defend by spinning and underhooking his leg, but he already had that in tight for the submission. Good reminder to watch their arms!

In my next roll I had a go at getting some of the armbar set-ups but couldn't isolate the arm properly. I also tried practicing a principle from Beyond Technique, which I'm reviewing at the moment. It's the most useful one I've seen so far on the DVD, related to sweeps, but I didn't have too much luck. The idea is to have post, posture and leverage: I think I keep missing leverage.

Final roll was with one of my favourite training partners at RGA Bucks, which was cool. We had a flow roll to end, always a great way to cool down from training. I had loads of good chats as well, catching up with Stuart, Sahid and others. I look forward to my next RGA Bucks visit, either in late October or early November. :)

In keeping with previous visits to my parents, they took me down to London right after I got back and showered from training. I started off by heading with my father to the Tate Britain, to take a look at the exhibition on Turner's late works. As I've mentioned before on here, my tastes in art are fairly narrow: there isn't a lot I enjoy outside of 1400-1700. I'm therefore not a fan of Turner's work, especially as he is best known for his landscape painting and veering towards impressionism and even abstraction in some of his later stuff. If it isn't figurative, then I'm unlikely to be a fan, though I'm nevertheless interested in learning more about it. I think it's important to understand why you don't like something, rather than just dismissing it out of hand, and of course keeping an open mind can turn apathy into appreciation.

So, I was still looking forward to checking it out. I'll watch documentaries on anything (from shipping containers to heavy metal to German Romanticism), whether I'm a big fan or not. Tickets are £16.50, while the audio guide is about £3.50. That's well worth it, as the guide is well presented and packed with enlightening information. Considering that I'm not keen on Turner, I especially enjoyed the context provided by the commentary , both about Turner's life, his environment and his style. Best of all, it got into the nitty-gritty of exactly how he worked. There are six rooms of Turner's paintings (including other bits and pieces, like his glasses and sketch books), of which the audio guide covers 22, IIRC.

I whizzed round the exhibition, only really looking at the paintings covered by the guide, so it took about an hour and a half. Normally, I would have spent at least twice that looking intently at every painting, but that's when it's something I particularly relish (e.g., the 16th century German art at 'Strange Beauty' back in March). You could probably spend a good two or three hours if you wanted to, though I'd avoid Saturdays if you can as that's going to be more crowded.

At the end of the day, my parents treated me to a posh meal at the Ham Yard Hotel. I'm not sure what the rooms are like (they start at £400!), but the food in the restaurant is excellent and the service is fantastic. Perhaps unsurprising: the waiter told us that she was one of 5,000 people interviewed, of which only 38 were successful. If that's true, then it would explain why every single member of staff was so attentive, friendly and capable. But then it's not cheap, so you'd expect decent service. Another big plus is that they serve Pedro Ximénez, my favourite tipple: I don't drink often (this is probably the third alcoholic drink I've had in six months), but when I do, I look for syrupy sweet sherry. ;)