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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

25 November 2014

Spats Review - Samurai in Combat (Combat Skin)

Short Review: The second spats available from Combat Skin draw upon the classic martial arts image of the samurai, with several changes since their last pair of tights. The drawstring has gone (personally I'm glad to see it go, but your preference may vary), as have the anti-slip cuffs on the ankles. That anti-slip waistband is still there, but more comfortable this time around. The spats are also a little longer and wider than before (at least in Medium), making them a slightly better fit on my 5'7 and 66kg frame. Available to buy for $59 here.

Full Review: Since launching in November 2013, Combat Skin has continued to expand. I previously had the opportunity to try out their Combat Warrior spats, part of owner Steven Loi's inaugural market offering. That featured a design by Meerkatsu, replicated across a number of different BJJ fightwear products. The latest design I've been able to test, the 'Samurai in Combat' spats, has received similar treatment. Just like Meerkatsu's artwork, the Samurai in Combat appears on a t-shirt, rash guard and even a gi patch, as well as a gi.

It is not a new design: those samurai had already been revealed when I wrote my last review in March, although at that time it was being sold on a t-shirt. Notably, those sales had a charitable element. 20% of profits went to Bulig Isko, an organisation connected to disaster relief after the Haiyan Typhoon in the Phillipines. That's part of Combat Skin's stated aim of 'giving back to the community'. They've continued to back up that part of their mission statement, not just with various sponsored athletes, but helping out community projects and events too.

For example, Combat Skin provided the t-shirts for Jodie Bear's GrappleThon held in August, where she raised money to support the Donna Louise Trust. Jodie is herself now a sponsored athlete: you can check out her (slightly out of date, as she's since earned her blue belt) page on the Combat Skin website here.

Another part of the mission statement regarded using artists that train, something in evidence with the Samurai in Combat design. The two samurai that feature on these Combat Skin spats were created by Jay Acosta, who is based in the Philippines. He is also known as 'JayBhoi', the name under which you'll find his work on sites like deviantART and behance.net. His artwork on the left leg features a pair of samurai in full battle-dress, one wearing red armour while the other is in blue (there is a clearer picture of the design over on his Facebook page).

Drawing on Japanese tropes is a good move for a piece of BJJ fightwear. Anything Japanese is especially popular in martial art circles, from manga to cultural rituals. BJJ's titular Brazilian heritage has counter-acted judo's original stiff formality, although a few schools have poured some starch into the old Brazilian laid-back vibe. Still, although we might not be swishing our hakama skirts, the grapplers of BJJ nevertheless tend to love ninja and samurai just as much as the Japanophiles of a karate or aikido school. That also gives me an excuse to babble about samurai in general. Hooray!

The term 'samurai', which apparently translates as 'those who serve', was first used in a purely military context during the 10th century (according to military historian Stephen Turnbull). Their significance ramped up over the coming centuries: for example, the Gempei War (or Genpei War, depending on how you transliterate from the Japanese) in the 12th century, the rather fortunate repulse of the Mongols in the 13th century (the weather helped quite a bit), the Onin War of the 15th century and the following Period of Warring States, lasting around 150 years.

Tokugawa Ieyasu emerged as the victor of all that warring, after climactic battles at Sekigahara in 1600 and Osaka in 1615. The next two centuries would be remarkably peaceful by comparison to what came before, meaning that the samurai didn't have to do a whole lot of fighting. The fanatical Christian aspect of the Shimabara Rebellion in 1638 (one of the exceptions when the samurai did need to dust off their armour) triggered Japan's withdrawal from the world, codified in the 1639 Exlusion Edict that banned almost all foreign trade, barring a tiny selection of Dutch merchants based in Dejima. By the time Commodore Perry shattered that arrangement in 1853, the samurai had gone from feared fighters to pen-pushing bureaucrats.

From what I've read, the historical reality of samurai is not particularly elevated, much like the reality of European knights is far less 'chivalrous' than the Arthurian mythos might lead you to believe. Similarly to their European counterparts, samurai started off basically as mercenaries and bodyguards. Bushido was about as relevant to the original samurai as Idylls of the King was on the medieval battlefields of Europe (in other words, not very much). The samurai myth (again, judging by a few books and internet sites, so I could be wrong) was largely a 17th century creation, just when the real samurai were transitioning from a life of constant warfare to a life of political intrigue.

There's an article about myth versus reality over on TheGoldenEggs: I'm not sure how well researched that is as there aren't any footnotes, but it makes for interesting reading. Or have a read of this piece about a scholar of Asian history, which has several intriguing quotes. For example:

Samurai rarely used swords in battle — instead they most often used arrows. So the idea of the sacred Samurai sword isn't exactly accurate. Their weapon of choice was actually the pike, which was essentially a spear. Swords were very expensive, so they weren't used often, which also explains why they survived. [...]

Loyalty has been grossly exaggerated. Warriors were interested in reward and recompense. Conlan found evidence that warriors moved from one side to another depending on the reward they would receive.

Of course, outside of academia it doesn't matter all that much what samurai were actually like. What matters is their status in popular culture. In that context, they're undeniably cool. Whether that's in Kurosawa films and the work he inspired (Star Wars being perhaps the most notable example), Ghost Dog or countless katana-wielding anime warriors, samurai through modern eyes are sleek, graceful and honourable to a fault. The positive image of the samurai as an intensely loyal aesthete with a sword, despite not being borne out by history, also remains powerful, as does their rather better founded status as elite soldiers. One of my own BJJ heroes, Saulo Ribeiro, has proudly described himself as a "samurai of the modern world." So, samurai imagery is an easy sell to BJJers (including me).

My knowledge of samurai armour comes mainly from Akira Kurosawa and playing Wizardry (hence why 'ashigaru' is a familiar word to me, as they kept stabbing my characters to death), but Wikipedia has an impressively detailed picture with a complete key of all the parts. Based on that, it looks like JayBhoi has kitted his samurai out with ō-yoroi ('great armour'), rather than the later more mobile dō-maru. That also means I've now learned a new word: I'm a fantasy and history geek so I love armour and weapons, but 'poleyn' isn't something I've read before. Apparently that's the bit that covered the upper leg through to the knees (4 on the diagram). ;)

JayBhoi's Red Samurai is trying to chop into Blue Samurai with a blood-stained katana. However, Blue Samurai has managed to overcome him through - of course - jiu jitsu (I somehow doubt BJJ would help you against a great big sword in real life, but it's a cool concept for BJJ fightwear). The difference in armour tone is a satisfying touch, as it makes Blue Samurai's triangle-armbar attack much clearer.

The main body of the spats is a rich blue, setting off the red stitching that continues the colour scheme of the samurai. That blue background contains a blown-up watermark of the samurai design, extending across the entire surface of the spats. Directly behind the two combatants there is a large oriental dragon, mouth agape and claws raised. She looks partially armoured herself, further enhancing the samurai theme. The ethereal light blue colour presumably indicates that this dragon represents the fighting spirit of the samurai. On a personal note, it fits pretty well with some of Jodie's own dragon artwork, which she tattooed on my left foot a few months ago. ;)

At the bottom of the left leg, Acosta's personal logo (a quizzical stylised head, atop a plate with 'JAYBHOI' written across it) stares out. On the right leg, 'Combat Skin' is written down its length in large white letters. The 'CS' logo sits at the top of the leg, looking like it has just been sliced in half. The waistband of the spats has 'Comabt SKin' written all along it, separated again by that CS logo (untouched by a sword this time).

Acosta's artwork has the standard sublimation to prevent cracking, peeling and fading, while the spats have the equally standard flatlock stitching for comfort. The tags are sublimated too, greatly preferable to those irrtating flaps you get in most clothes. Combat Skin have also helpfully pre-washed the tights, so you shouldn't have to worry about the various chemicals from the manufacturing process that can linger in new clothes.

There have been a number of changes compared to the Combat Warrior spats. The Samurai in Combat do not have that 'waxy' sheen, presumably because instead of 80% polyester and 20% lycra, they are 82% polyester and 18% spandex (the same blend as the Mashuu 2.0 from Strike). The dimensions for 'Medium' have changed as well: the Samurai in Combat is noticeably longer than its predecessor. They remain a good length for my 5'7 and 66kg frame, because I prefer spats to extend to my ankles. They are 93cm rather than 85cm (unstretched), while the width is 34cm, compared to the Combat Warrior's 31cm (measuring it flat on the floor on one side, again unstretched). Overall I'd say these are an improved fit compared to the Combat Warrior, which was already among my best fitting spats.

Those Combat Warrior anti-slip bands on the ankle cuffs have gone, with added reinforcement: the Samurai in Combat has three lines of stitching on the cuffs compared to the Combat Warrior's two. The drawstring has gone as well. There is still an anti-slip waistband on the Samurai in Combat, but it's more comfortable than on the Combat Warrior. As you can see if you click on the picture, the pattern of stitching on that waistband is different too. For me that again is an enhancement. Drawstrings have been superfluous in my experience with spats so far, though if the elastic loosens over the years, the Combat Warrior drawstring will have renewed purpose.

The Combat Warrior spats arrived in a small plastic pouch. This has been upgraded to a mesh bag for the Samurai in Combat, with a toggle drawstring. That's perfect for wet clothes you want to compress, so I'm currently using the bag for my old travel towel. The Samurai in Combat spats are available to buy from the Combat Skin website for $59, here.

24 November 2014

24/11/2014 - Teaching | Mount | Roger Choke

Teaching #238
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 24/11/2014

Starting from high mount, keep low, your arm based out, putting your head on the same side to concentrate your weight. Remember to keep your feet tucked under their bum for control. Drive your first grip in, which normally is going to be blocked by their arms crossed over their chest. To work past that, Roger advises that you pull open their collar low on their lapel (or at least lower than their elbows. You don't want to get stuck trying to yank out the collar from directly underneath their tightly crossed arms). You can then slide your arm through. To make that extra-solid, Roger told me to brace your own elbow against your hip. You can then wriggle forwards, driving your arm in front of you with the combined power of your hips, legs and arm. Also form your hand into a wedge, as this will help cut past their blocking arms.

Either way, once you have the grip, lift them up towards you slightly, twisting your hand so that you create a small gap between their neck and collar. Into that gap, insert the thumb of your free hand, to establish your second grip. You can also drop your elbow to the other side, so that you're pressuring into their neck.

Slide that thumb behind their head to the other side of their neck. As you do, also move your head to the other side of their head. Next, bring the arm of your thumb grip to the other side of their head, 'shaving' close to their face. This is to set up the choke, putting your wrists on both sides of their neck.

Once you've got the thumb arm into position, so that both carotid arteries are blocked off, move your forehead to the floor directly above their head. Twist your wrists and drop your weight into them to finish the choke. Roy Dean provides a handy pointer here, which is to shift your hips forward slightly, still basing on your head. That will give you a little extra leverage, should you need it.

I also added in my preferred cross choke variation from Michel Verhoeven. After you've inserted your first hand, start to raise your partner towards you slightly. Bring your second arm around to the other side of their head, then 'shave' back across their face to position that arm by their neck. Grab a handful of gi by their shoulder, then drop your elbow so your forearm is over their throat. This second arm doesn't move after that point: the choke comes from twisting the first hand and drawing that first elbow back.
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Teaching Notes: I am tending to show a variation, which I wasn't doing earlier. I'm not sure if it is better to leave out the variation and keep it focused: I probably should do that, as I think I cut into sparring time a bit due to the variation. Though personally I much prefer the variation, I could just teach that on another day or next time. I have to be careful I don't get bogged down in too much detail, it's something I can add in during drilling.

The main problem people were having was, I think, not getting those grips close enough to the neck. One of the students also said they were struggling if their partner got a hand to defend. I don't advocate crushing through the hand for a choke, so my solution to that would be going for something else. E.g., if you can't get the cross choke without brute force and bone crushing, I'd suggest using the position to move your knees up higher. That could lead to an americana, or just taking the back.

24/11/2014 - Artemis BJJ | Open Mat | Closed & Open Guard Troubleshotting

Class #605
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 24/11/2014

Bristol Sports Centre has now fully rebranded to MyGym, with big banners outside. I thought the other name was good (must be handy for SEO), but I can see how making it sound really personal and friendly is a sensible marketing plan too. Great venue either way, so I hope it brings them lots more members. :)

Chris mentioned he was heading off to London later this week and busy at work, so wasn't going to be able to head to class. As his work is flexible and I haven't started my new job yet, we decided we could just meet up and train for an hour earlier in the day. I started by running through what I was going to teach in class tonight (the cross-choke from mount: as I'm writing this up several days later, I can link to it), then we did lots of troubleshooting on open guard and closed guard.

Like I was saying in my write-up of the class at RGA Bucks on the weekend, my guard has been getting stagnant, especially my closed guard. It's my biggest problem at the moment, so I was relishing the chance to really dig into it with Chris. Again, as I'm writing this up a few days later and I've done a few sessions with Chris, it has really, really helped. My guard feels way more pro-active now, so hopefully I can translate that into general training.

Anyway, on Monday I started off playing the collar grip, in order to both maintain guard but also go attack for the choke. I wanted to practice what Dónal taught about punching the arm across to get the second arm in. He also had some cool tips about bringing their far arm across, though I keep struggling to get that in sparring. You can do back takes too, armbars and triangles. Might be I need to grip lower, use my hips more or something.

Key thing is getting under the chin, as Chris was doing a great job of tucking his chin down, blocking the second grip. He suggested pulling him in with my legs and generally messing around with his balance, then working the grip under the chin. If you pull them in and they sit back, then you can go for a sweep, namely the sit-up sweep. Shoving my fist into the collar bone works, but I need to also control an arm. Or bail to a normal sit-up sweep, but I'm loathe to abandon that deep grip if I don't have to.

We ramped up the resistance a bit, doing the usual SBG 'aliveness' thing I like so much. More back takes would be good, kicking the knee out in order to move around. I also played with the mawashi grip, where initially nothing was happening, until I realised I again wasn't sitting up. I had more success once I did, though I still found he kept blocking with his arm, so I need to control that somehow.

If I keep the lapel in my first hand (the same side one to their leg) rather than switching to the opposite hand, that seemed to make it a bit easier. Hooking behind their leg with my same side leg was useful too, especially if I could then drive off my free leg. Getting the right angle is again central, stopping them getting into a strong square-on position. More on guard tomorrow and Wednesday! Tuesday was especially useful for my closed guard, revolutionary even, but we'll see if I manage to apply that in regular sparring. It's one thing doing it in drilling, even resistance drilling/specific sparring, quite another to regularly hit it against full resistance. :D

22 November 2014

22/11/2014 - RGA Bucks | Closed Guard | Scissor & Combat Base Sweep

Class #604
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK - 22/11/2014

I'm liking the pattern that I've settled into now. On a family birthday, I head up to my parents place on a Friday. I do some training at RGA Bucks the following morning, after which my parents treat me to an art exhibition and a posh meal in London. On the actual birthday I'll get yet more tasty food and catch up with my sister and nieces, before heading back home to Bristol. Awesome.

The art in question this time was perfectly targeted to my taste, a National Gallery exhibition dubbed Rembrandt: The Late Works. As my father is a member (one of the first, as that scheme is quite new at the National Gallery, compared to the Tate and Royal Academy which have had memberships for a long time), it didn't matter that all the tickets were sold out, as members can just wander up and show their cards.

Like I've mentioned before, my favourite period of art is 1450-1700, especially Mannerism, the Northern Renaissance and the Dutch Golden Age. Rembrandt is arguably the pre-eminent example of that third category. Even so, £16 is rather steep, given that despite my habit of staring at paintings a really long time and going through every single caption and audio commentary, I was still done in less than two hours. Fortunately I didn't pay anything, but worth keeping in mind if you're paying full price. Though it did work out well, as I only had just under two hours before the restaurant booking anyway.

Strangely, there are no descriptive captions in the exhibition space. Instead, those are all in the booklet you get given before you go in. For me that's positive, as firstly it maximises space for exhibits, secondly it means you end up with an informative memento of your visit. Hence why I'm armed with way more facts about the exhibition than I would normally: in total, there are 91 exhibits (5 of which are from The National Gallery itself) across seven small rooms. Of those 91, 33 are oil paintings, the rest are etchings and ink drawings.

The audio guide (£3.50) was a little sparse for my liking. It covers 24 of the exhibits (19 paintings and five of the etchings/drawings). Given that there were only 33 paintings in total, I felt there could have been more (although to be fair, some of the commentary did cover two paintings at one and multiple drawings, plus there were a few "click play to hear more" moments). It wasn't as good as the Turner audio guide from last time, as there was far too much pretentious waffling about Rembrandt's 'love of humanity'.

By contrast, the Turner guide talked about the nitty gritty of constructing the painting, so materials, technique, framing and so forth, with some historical context. The Rembrandt guide wasn't devoid of that, but I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the pontificating about the painting's meaning. Pointing out references and providing convention is useful, such as how Margaretha de Geer's confident pose and commanding gaze might relate to her sharp business sense and formidable personality, as she took over her husband's company after his death. Talking about 'feeling' is rather less helpful.

Any quibbles are forgotten when you're stood in front of the incredible paintings, which is of course why you bother going to the exhibition in the first place. Rembrandt is endlessly fascinating, achieving so much with just a few brushstrokes, innovating right up until his final painting. At first I was a bit disappointed that two-thirds of the exhibition was etchings and drawings, but here the audio guide became especially useful. It was enlightening to learn how Rembrandt had continued to fiddle with the original plate after he took prints from it. For example, when he got to fifty prints from one of them, there was quite a bit of wear to the plate. So he almost completely changed the scene before continuing to take prints.

There are a number of famous works in here too. Aside from the National Gallery masterpieces regular visits will already be familiar with, you get to see great works like 'The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis' (loaned from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Sweden), 'The Jewish Bride' (from the Rijksmuseum) and 'The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Joan Deyman' (from the Amsterdam Museum, also recently discussed on a BBC Four documentary all about anatomy). So perhaps a bit overpriced, but if you've got the money and you're a Rembrandt fan, well worth checking out. It's on until January, IIRC.
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Training at RGA Bucks focused on sweeps from guard, something I'm keen to improve. Kev teaches lots of technique on a Saturday (I don't know if that's a Saturday thing or if his classes are now normally like that), with three different options increasing in complexity. First off there's the basic scissor sweep. Start by getting a deep grip on their opposite collar, then with your other hand grab their same side elbow. Alternatively, you can grip their wrist and pin it to your chest.

Rener makes a clear distinction here, as he suggests grabbing the sleeve if they are pushing into your bicep, grabbing the wrist if they are pushing into your chest. Either way, your intention – and this is true for lots of sweeps and reversals – is to prevent their ability to post with that hand. That makes for a straightforward test for whether or not what you’re using is effective: can they put their hand on the mat and prevent the sweep?

The next step is to put your foot on their same side hip (or the floor, depending on your preference) and shrimp out slightly, to make space to insert your knee. Slide that knee over, once again to that same side, until your shin is across their stomach. Hook your instep around their other side. Another option is to angle your knee towards their shoulder, which can act as an entry into the triangle.

A key detail is to then raise your elbows towards your head, so that you're pulling them onto your shin. The aim is to load them onto your leg, which in turn means that their weight is no longer on their legs. Extending your torso back, rather than remaining curled up, may help that weight transfer.

This should make them lighter: drop your other leg to the mat, chopping underneath them as you bring your hooking leg over, rolling into mount. Ryron has two handy tips here. Firstly, use the heel of your hooking foot to swivel and clamp to their side, becoming a leverage point to assist your shift into mount. Secondly, bring the elbow of your sleeve gripping arm further backwards, to put your opponent even more off balance.

The sweep shouldn't require much strength, so if you're having to strain, you probably haven't pulled them forward enough first. You can also get this sweep if they raise a knee up, which is the classic way to teach it. Drop your same side knee towards their opposite hip, then continue the sweep as above. If you're finding that when you try and chop their leg they simply step over it, raise your chopping leg slightly. You might even try hooking behind their knee with it, as that will immobilise the leg, although it may also make it more difficult to get a smooth chopping motion.

If for some reason you're having trouble chopping out their leg, you can switch to a push sweep, which is very similar to the scissor sweep. Everything is the same, except that you don't chop the leg. Instead, move your head back in line with theirs, so your torso is square on, then slide what would have been your chopping leg backwards. You now have room to use the foot of that leg to push into the side of their knee. Tracing a semi-circle, you're then going to shove their knee straight back, which will knock them off balance, whereupon you can roll through to mount as before.

That was followed by the reverse scissor sweep, which I taught a class on a few years back. When you try to hit the scissor sweep, you may find that they shift their weight to block it, or try to grab your knee. Either way, that means you can then change to a reverse scissor sweep instead. Your shin is either across their stomach for the scissor sweep, or as Kev recommends, going higher and angling the knee up into their chest. You've also got a grip on the collar as well as their same side sleeve. Rather than pulling them onto you and chopping out their leg, switch your sleeve grip to their opposite sleeve, then yank it across their body. The elbow of your gripping arm can be used for base.

Next, release your collar grip arm and reach around to their opposite armpit, bringing them in tight. As when you're trying to take the back, you need to press your chest into the back of the arm you pulled across their body, so they can't pull it back out. On the same side as the arm you've trapped, put your back on the mat, which should enable you to fling them over in that direction with your braced leg (this should feel effortless: if you're straining, then adjust, as without good leverage you could hurt yourself) and move into side control. You should also end up in a great position to cross-face.

John Will uses a slight variation, on his Mastering Sweeps DVD (which I bought from him at his excellent seminar a few years ago). Rather than gripping the collar and sleeve, he advises gripping and then pushing your palms inwards, rather than leaving any slack. This makes it a bit easier to switch their arm to your other hand, as you already have a grip, rather than having to use your collar grabbing arm. Will comes up on one arm, then as he falls back to lift them, he switches the posting hand to instead reach through their arm. This is so he can end up reaching past their armpit into the collar.

Finally, Kev showed us a nifty option against combat base. Sit up, then reach your arm on the outside of their base, going under their raised leg. Feed their far collar/lapel to that reaching hand. That is enough to sweep them, but to make it easier, you're going to break their balance. If they are driving in towards you, pushing your inside foot to their same side hip/knee. To knock them forwards, kick that leg out, which is normally going to make them base on their far arm. You can now grab that arm and drive for the sweep. Put your inside knee to their hip, cutting their knee out of the way, then slide through to mount.

I had the pleasure of being smashed by a big purple in specific sparring, and that was with him being nice, waiting for me to react. It was from guard, where I am still weak: I need to keep looking for angles and pushing for some kind of offence. On top I was trying to keep my balance and failing. Each time I went for the kneeling break, he easily broke down my posture or simply sat up, whether or not I had an arm into the chest to try and keep him down.

He also got a really tight triangle, though strangely the choke wasn't on (he eventually rolled me into mount with it still on, so we reset). I think it could be something silly, in that I'm just a bit small for his frame! Later on, I overhead Kev giving a pep talk to a younger student, where he made the excellent point that sometimes you have to let stronger people have certain things. It's not worth the injury risk to strain against somebody way more powerful than you, so give it up, looking to make up any lost ground later.

In free sparring I continued having issues from guard with my first partner, a strong white belt, again because I'm ending up too square on. I'm still failing to angle off in closed guard and I need to improve that Relson grip, so they can't just swing their head under and out. I have a clear goal from most positions now, but closed guard keeps getting stuck into a repetitive cycle of break posture, grip, they get posture back, break posture, grip, etc. Or they manage to pass. The gi tail grip over the back is another handy goal, so I should be trying that more, though again I'm not angling off properly when I do get it.

Update November 2014: Thanks to lots of drilling with Chris back in Bristol, I think I may have finally cracked it in regards to my guard approach. We'll see how that goes, but the drilling has been massively useful so far! :)

The next round went better, with a blue belt, as I finally managed to mount some offence (though only once it moved into open guard, my closed guard was equally stale). It's also the first time I can think of that Kev's mawashi grip worked well for me, resulting in a few sweeps. The difference was an extremely basic bit of advice Kev mentioned when I said how I'd had trouble getting much off the grip: sit up. I realised that I've been trying to do it with my back too near the ground. Sitting up made it much more effective.

I managed to land the north-south kimura and mount was working well for me too, landing a few cross-chokes. I'm teaching the cross-choke on Monday, so it was very helpful to hit it a few times in sparring, in terms of establishing what elements of the technique are important to get it to function (for me at least: one of the best things about teaching is that it forces you to think about doing a technique using a body other than yours). Of course, this was against less experienced people who aren't too much bigger than me, but still handy to practice.

It was also cool to meet another of my blog readers: if he's reading this, as you asked about the details for my club, it's called Artemis BJJ. I teach in two places. The main one is Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym in the centre of town, over in St Paul's just off Portland Square near Cabot Circus. I also run a class in Kingswood, on Thursday, with an open mat on Saturday. Everything is up on the website, here - hope to see you and/or your Bristol family on the mats some time! :D