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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

29 October 2014

29/10/2014 - Teaching | Side Control | Transition to Mount

Teaching #223
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 29/10/2014

To transition from side control to mount, start by killing the near arm. When you're underneath, one of the worst things that can happen is they control your near arm. Now that you're on top, that is therefore exactly what you want. Start by digging your knee in to get it into the armpit: Saulo suggests faking a choke to get them to raise their arm. You want to slip your knee right under their arm, bringing your knees in close to their head.

Another thing to try is switching your hips into a scarf hold position to pry their elbow up, then switch back to a more orthodox side control to trap their arm. If you are having trouble, dragging your hip along the floor and into their elbow may enable you to scoop up their arm. However you mange it, getting the near elbow out of the way is key to this particular method of transitioning to mount. Once it's secure, you've got several methods for getting to the mount.

My preference is to use reverse scarf hold to go to mount. From tight side control, having killed the near arm, switch one arm to grip their far arm, putting your other hand by their near hip. Shift your hips right back towards their head, as far as you can. Your elbow will either be in their far armpit or wrapped underneath their far arm for control. This position means you're also blocking their view with your entire body. Lean into them, using your body weight to help maintain control.

That therefore stops them from seeing exactly what you're doing (note that when Saulo shows it on his DVD, he suggests you mess with them by slapping their legs, until you can pick your moment). When you've got up really high and are ready to go (at this point, they should almost be bridging to relieve the pressure), grab their knee to stop them snatching mount, then bring your leg across. Ideally, you'll pin their knee to the mat, squashing both their knees together.

If you're able to clamp their knees onto the near side, there is the possibility of inserting your foot behind their knees and switching through to mount. However, it generally isn't going to be easy to get them into that position, so I wouldn't rely on this, but still, if you can get it that's an easy route to mount. Second, you can grab your own foot and pull it across, or just squeeze it past your own arm, depending on your flexibility. This is useful when you have limited space, but personally I find it feels a little awkward, in that you might tangle yourself up in your own limbs.

Beginners will often try to simply swing their leg over, which is instinctive. However, while that can sometimes work, especially if you time it well, there are two main dangers. The first is that they will snatch half guard as your leg swings over, as it will normally be within range of their own legs. The second is even more dangerous. If they bridge into you midway through your swing, they can roll you onto your back and end up in your guard.

The safest option is to slide your knee across their belt line, then 'fishtail' (slapping the mat with the side of your lower leg) when your knee touches the mat. You can also grab their belt or cup their far hip to stop them shrimping midway through. I feel this is the best method, using steady pressure to get into place, rather than relying on explosive power, flexibility or luck.

Teaching Notes: Fish-tailing is the bit people have the most trouble with. To help with that, I could try emphasising shoving your partners leg back with your knee first. Alternatively, there is the option of driving your knee diagonally into their armpit instead. It's a bit less stable, IMO, but it makes it tougher for them to snatch your leg in half guard.

Also, I'm letting multiple variations sneak back into my teaching. Next time, I need to stick with just one, even though it's really tempting to show a couple when I teach. For this lesson, it's killing the near arm that tempts me into two variations. The basic way is to drive your knee in, but that often doesn't work because they're staying really tight. So, the more effecitve - at least in my experience - option is Roger Gracie's method, dragging your hip along the floor under their elbow in a sort of scarf hold. I should just teach that one next time.

29/10/2014 - Teaching | Women's Class | Elbow Escape from Mount

Teaching #222
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 29/10/2014

As a rule of thumb, if you're underneath, you don't want to be flat on your back. So, start your elbow escape by turning to your side, getting a shoulder off the floor. Saulo notes that you should be doing this as early as possible: if they are working to mount from side control, set up your escape during the transition, rather than waiting for them to secure their mount. Work an elbow inside their knee and set up your frame, in order to push into the leg.

There are several ways of framing for that push. I personally like to keep defending my neck throughout, using my elbows to dig into their leg. That keeps my neck safe, but it does limit your range and reduce leverage: you'll need to curl in towards their leg to generate enough push. The other main option is to extend your arms further towards their hip, leaving your neck vulnerable but considerably beefing up your leverage. That frame is also handy for stopping them moving up higher in mount.

When I went to the seminar with the Dutch black belt under Rickson, Michel Verhoeven, he began by reaching across to their opposite hip with his hand, keeping his arm slightly bent. He then pushed on the hip: if they were higher up, he would form a frame with his arms and push. That second option is the one my fellow Artemis BJJ co-founder Dónal likes to teach, putting one arm across their hip (the hand is by one hip, the elbow by their other hip). For extra leverage, brace that first arm with your other hand, against your wrist. Stephan Kesting recommends keeping the hand of the hip-arm in a fist, to lock in the grip (so your second hand doesn't slide off as easily).

Whichever option you use, the idea is to make enough space from the combination of your shrimp and bridge to pull your leg through. As with side control escapes, don't just bridge and plop back down, it needs to combine with your shrimp. The leg you're trying to pull free should be flat: if it isn't, they will be able to trap it with their leg. Having that leg flat also makes it easier to pull out. You other foot will be on the floor with the knee raised, in order to provide the push for your shrimp.

After you're on your side, bump slightly, then pry their leg open with your elbow. Aim to pop your knee through between their legs initially. If you can pull the whole leg out in one, great, but don't be greedy. Getting that first knee through will mean you can then brace your leg against their thigh, aiding your second shrimp to free your other leg. Once one of your legs is fully out, you can then use it to wrap around one of theirs and hook under their leg with your instep, or put your free leg around their back (be sure to clamp down if you do that).

You now have the option of moving to half guard (especially if you've wrapped their leg, you're basically there already), open guard (e.g., butterfly) or continue working for full guard. As with escapes under side control, keep shrimping until you have the room to pull your leg free. Even if you can't wrap their leg, you can jam your outside leg tight to theirs, then use that for your base to shrimp.

Teaching Notes: The women's class has so far had a looser structure than the mixed classes, with lots of discussion, going over other techniques as people ask and switching around partners. It feels very sociable, which is awesome as that's something I'm keen to build in all the classes. Naturally there's a balance, as you don't want people talking all the time, but I think that overall it's a very good thing. The number one thing is that training should be fun, not a chore. :)

In terms of the technique, I think everyone was getting it, though as ever there are always little details that could be tweaked. I could emphasise the combination between the upa and the elbow escape, as they fit together well. It will also be handy when I can show people my own personal favourite mount escape, the heel drag: I'll save that for the mixed class. There's the escape to butterfly too, but that's a bit less high percentage, I think.

Some people were having trouble making enough space to get their legs through, so I might need to emphasise bridging. I also didn't talk about pushing your opponent's leg up and over as you slide yours through, something that would probably help (but at the same time, I don't want to get into lots of variations, as that can get confusing). I don't personally use this escape all that much, as I tend to over-rely on the heel drag: this serves as a good reminder to try the elbow escape more in sparring. As next month is all mount, that will be a good opportunity to do so. :)

28 October 2014

28/10/2014 - Teaching | Side Control | Americana

Teaching #221
Artemis BJJ (PHNX Fitness), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 28/10/2014

I see the americana as the classic submission from side control: I'm fond of that technique, as it is one over which you can exert lots of control. However, it does have a reputation of being a technique that is mainly used by stronger people bullying a smaller opponent, so if I'm going to continue viewing it as a core basic submission, I need to keep refining my understanding to make sure it is functional whatever your size.

There are various set ups, but I decided to show how to go for the americana from that strong, orthodox side control position I've mentioned before. To start, you need to isolate their far arm. Often the set up is that they've pushed their forearm up towards you (which is why from an escape perspective, you don't want to be shoving up with your arm and trying to benchpress them). A simple Roger Gracie method is to trap their wrist with your chin, then drive their arm to the mat with your weight. Lift your shoulder slightly to then insert your hand on top of their wrist.

There are different arguments regarding gripping their wrist using your thumb or not. Some feel that having the thumb there provides better control, and that is the instinctive way of holding something. However, most BJJ instructors I've seen describe gripping for the americana advocate a thumbless grip, so that all of your fingers are over the other side of their arm.

That's the direction they want to escape, so that's where you want your strength. It also means you can really push down, rather than squashing your own thumb. Then there's the point Kev at RGA Bucks makes, which is that he feels the thumb can act as a lever for their escape.

Support your hand with your head if you're having trouble pushing their arm to the mat (Cindy Omatsu is showing it from mount in the picture, but same idea). Also be sure to keep their arm away from their body, so they can't grab their belt or gi. The aim is to put the arm at right angles. Another handy tip is to get your elbow into their neck. That means they can't turn towards you to relieve pressure on their shoulder and begin an escape. Finally, you also want to make sure that their elbow is stuck, keeping the arm you have underneath their arm tight so they can't slip their elbow free.

Finish by 'painting' the floor with their knuckles, moving their hand towards their legs, lifting their elbow off the floor. You may need to adjust the angle of their arm, depending on how flexible they are. Make sure you don't give them space by their shoulder, or they can relieve the pressure and perhaps begin an escape.

Saulo has a few extra details in the version on his instructional website, BJJ Library. If they are pushing up into his neck, Saulo moves his body forwards to move their arm away from their side. He then locks one arm under their elbow (again, to stop that elbow slipping free of your attack), grabbing their wrist with the other (this is easier to get if you time it for when they next try to shove into your neck. You can then drive it to the mat. Slide your elbow arm through, grab the wrist, then suck in their arm to tighten the angle, before completing the submission.

Yet another set-up option crops up if they are pushing you towards their legs. Go a little with their pressure into your neck, leaning away as if that escape attempt is working for them, then turn back towards them, driving their arm to the mat with your bodyweight, head and hand. You can increase the power by switching your legs as you move back, then switching again as your return your weight towards them. Alternatively, you can simply turn your body slightly as they push, with the intention to get enough space to go for their wrist, then push it to the ground, where you can finish as before.

Teaching Notes: I'm still going with the Roger Gracie chin-clamp set-up, though my concern remains that this doesn't emphasise setting up the figure four properly. I'll see how it changes when I teach it the 'standard' way next time, maybe adding in the chin-clamp during drilling. Another thing to keep in mind is different levels of shoulder flexibility. One of the students tonight had very tight shoulders, so it took hardly any pressure to elicit a tap.

Also, considering the difference that angles make in getting the tap. For some people who are more flexible, adjusting that angle can make all the difference. I tend to show the orthodox right angle, but it's worth keeping in mind other angles. Though again, that might be something to mention during drilling. I have to be careful I don't fall into my old trap of over-explaining and going through loads of variations. Keep it simple, add details if needed during drilling.

27 October 2014

27/10/2014 - Teaching | Side Control | Gi Tail Choke

Teaching #220
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 27/10/2014

I first learned this choke at RGA Bucks from Matt Burn, back in 2010. It's become one of my main offensive options from side control since then, though I still don't have a good name for it. Gi tail choke will do for now, until I can come up with something better. It starts from the classic side control position, with an arm under the head.

Open up your gi with your far hand. In sparring, you'll sometimes find that your gi is already open, or you may need to be sneaky about it (e.g., from reverse scarf hold, so they can't see what you're doing with your gi). Punch that gi tail inside their arm, then feed the gi lapel to your other hand (that should still be under their head). Once you have the gi tail in place, get a firm grip: you may want to keep on feeding it further to make your grip even more secure.

Cinch it tight to their neck, straightening the arm you have under their head. Put your free hand on the floor by their same side hip, to stop them following you (always a good idea if you are transitioning to north-south). Keeping your upper body low, walk your legs around towards their head, as if you were going to north south. At the same time, move your head towards their near hip: they will probably tap before you get there, but if not, keep going until you can put your head next to their hip. If the submission still isn't happening, make sure you're keeping your arm straight and pressed into their neck, so that your gi lapel digs into the other side of their neck.

Teaching Notes: I'm not sure whether to add in details about hiding the gi tail in your hand, though that is useful. The difficulty with teaching this technique is that although I know from experience it's a good submission, if people are expecting it, then it's clearly going to be much tougher to apply. So, that meant progressive resistance was more challenging than usual, as the person on the bottom focuses heavily on blocking that gi tail going by their neck.

So, I instead emphasised that students should be thinking about how they would progress from that submission attempt to something else, paying close attention to the reactions of their training partner. If they are blocking the choke, perhaps they are leaving themselves more vulnerable to a joint-lock, or they forget about defending against getting mounted. This lesson could then become a handy exercise in combining techniques and the important 'chess' element of BJJ, where you're thinking a few moves ahead.

Having said that, there are lots of beginners in the class: is it too early for them to attempt thinking several steps ahead, before they've got a solid grasp of the fundamental submissions? I'll see how it goes in future lessons and if any of the beginners start trying this attack. It might be one to leave to the longer lessons at PHNX Fitness, so I have the scope to fit in a follow-up technique. As ever, we'll see. :)