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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 ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

14 September 2016

14/09/2016 - Teaching | Side Control | Maintenance (Hip to Hip)

Teaching #559
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 14/09/2016

Today, I wanted to emphasise mobility in side control as well as focused pressure, again drawing on John Palmer's excellent 'control point theory'. Although it can be tempting to just seize up in side control, you have to keep moving. Otherwise, you aren't reacting to your opponent and they're eventually going to escape. The old "it's better to bend than to break" cliche comes to mind.

That transitional, mobile element to side control can be seen in Saulo's hip-to-hip side control, which he shows on Jiu Jitsu Revolution. He keeps his hip stuck right by theirs throughout. The only time he lets off the pressure is if he gets something better, like strong control on the far arm. As they move, turn and put your other hip to theirs, following them around with your legs sprawled back. Your elbow is across, blocking their other hip: however, be careful of pinching that in too forcefully, as that may help them initiate an escape where they roll you over the top. Also, don't rest your elbow on the mat. Putting the elbow on the mat takes your weight off them, pinch it into their far hip instead.

Your weight should constantly be on them, because of that sprawl: don't touch the floor with your legs or knees. You can also reverse, which Saulo's brother Xande discusses in detail on his DVD set. Turn your hips in the other direction, so that you're now facing their legs. Control their far arm, also making sure to block their near hip to prevent their movement in that direction. As you turn, it's worth blocking their legs with your arms, as well as clamping your head to their hip.

My favourite way to practice this is using the 'no hands' maintenance drill, explained in the video:


Teaching Notes: Again, nothing to change in this lesson, I'm happy with how it works. Also cool to see people getting creative with what to do in this position, though I think I could do more to emphasise the importance of working on your weight distribution on top. The no arms drill is best for that. When the person on the bottom can use arms and the person on top can't, it's really hard, but is it as useful? I should gather up more feedback on that, as it needs to be helping people improve their use of weight and pressure on top. I tweaked my neck slightly on that one, as my partner tried grabbing my head to go with a submission (possibly?), so that's something I need to be careful of too. :)

14/09/2016 - Teaching | Women's Class | Closed Guard Attacks

Teaching #558
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 14/09/2016

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. Your thigh presses into their neck. 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.

Finally, keep in mind that the triangle combines very well with the armbar. You will often find that when somebody is defending an armbar, they focus so much on freeing their arm that they when they yank it free, they forget their other arm is still inside your legs. That's the perfect time to swing your leg to the other side of their head and lock up a triangle. Even better, you can still attack the elbow joint from within the triangle, applying choking pressure while also going for the armlock.

A photo posted by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

A good technique to combine with the triangle is the omoplata. I went with the very simple set-up, where you rab their trouser leg with your same side hand, also securing their sleeve on that side with your opposite hand. Kick up into the gripped arm, into the crook of their elbow. Combined with a push from your hand, that should bend their arm around your leg. To fully knock them over, 'superman' their trouser leg, punching your grip backwards to straighten their leg and flatten them out. From here, you can sit up, keeping hold of their trouser leg until you can easily switch to their far hip without them being able to roll through.

Angle your knees towards their head, making sure that as you come up, you also bring your leg out from underneath them. Both legs should be on their arm, ideally triangled around their gripped sleeve. Basing on your outside foot, raise your hips and thrust forwards slowly, aiming to tweak their shoulder for the submission. If you miss the submission or simply prefer top position, you can also turn that into a sweep, rolling them over your body. If you don't manage to control their hip or leg, they will roll through anyway. Keep control of the arm, then you should be able to end up on top.

If you miss it and they posture back up, turning towards you, swing your other leg into the side of their neck and swivel into a triangle. The omoplata combines well with the triangle, continuing the armbar-triangle-omoplata sequence.

Teaching Notes: Continuing my efforts to change the women's class cycle around, with more techniques, I tried a guard attack sequence. Initially I went with triangle and armbar, but there was time to add in an omoplata too (as there were new people in class, who weren't as keen to do loads of sparring). I think next time, I'll stick with just the triangle and omoplata, which combine better. For this new cycle, I'm looking to pack in more into a shorter time, in order to get people up to speed for the mixed class, so they have enough technique to confidently jump in. That's the main goal of the women's class, to build enough confidence to go and train in the mixed classes too. :)

I'd like to add in armbars too: perhaps some kind of combination class of an armbar from guard and then armbar from mount in the next class? I'm doing a lot of submissions at the moment, because I also want to make sure this class is fun, to spark that interest in BJJ. In terms of technical progression, submissions are the least important - I would argue getting solid escapes and good maintenance of positions is far more useful in the long run. I'll keep thinking how to get that balance: one submission and one escape/maintain would probably be the way forward (like Kev used to teach, one top and one bottom technique), I just need to work out the best structure. :)

Equipment Review - 'Real Dope Pants' (Datsusara)

Short Review: A considerable improvement over previous Datsusara gi trousers I've tried, the Real Dope Pants are easily among the most comfortable gi trousers I've ever worn (and I've worn a lot in the last decade). The green and black colour scheme is striking, although the gentle humour of the embroidery may still be too much for some. I also found the drawstring was too long for me, but that is an issue with most drawstrings, easily resolved by cutting and singeing the ends. These trousers are not cheap at $75 (available here, from the Datsusara website), but if you value comfort, it's money well spent.

Full Review: Datsusara have remained the most prominent name in the hemp gi market, a profile that has risen since their sponsorship of the Eddie Bravo Invitational. On that event, you may have seen the referees wearing some stylish trousers with a green drawstring. Those are the 'Real Dope Pants', a marked departure from Datsusara's previous HCG ('hemp combat gi') model, at least in terms of the older editions I've tested over the years (the HCG-02 and HCG-03: Datsusara is currently up to the HCG-06).

Those older gis used a weave that was comfortable and breathable, if comparatively heavy. The same weave was used in the Flow Kimonos hemp offering (which I reviewed here). They've proven to be excellent training gis, but are too bulky for travel. This is in contrast to another hemp gi I own, currently my favourite of any gi: The Green Gi. I own two jackets and one pair of The Green Gi trousers. The weave is tighter than either the HCG-02/03 or the Flow Hemp, which may explain why it feels lighter and is easier to pack.

The Green Gi gets my vote for top spot because it's ridiculously comfortable. After I first put them on, the Real Dope Pants immediately reminded me of The Green Gi: they are just as comfortable. If the HCG-06 is made out of the same weave, then that is going to make for a very tempting purchase the next time I'm in the US.

The striking green and black colour scheme of the Datsusara trousers elicited plenty of comments when I first walked in wearing them, but as regular readers will know, if I own something black it doesn't stay that way for long: I like colour. I bleached and then dyed the trousers, as I wanted something I could match with my second The Green Gi jacket, which I dyed dark green a while back. Before I attacked it with various chemicals, the black was attractively set off by the green stitching and embroidery, along with a green bungee cord drawstring.

I found that drawstring overly long for my taste, though this is a problem with every bungee cord style drawstring I've tried so far. It's easily rectified, as you can simply cut the superfluous material, then singe the ends with a candle to prevent fraying. It comes undone more easily than my favourite drawstrings (which are from Fenom Kimonos), so there is perhaps slightly less friction in the finish compared to the Fenom.

I've been wearing both The Green Gi and the Datsusara trousers regularly over the last few months, culminating in an open mat where I switched between them midway through. I also asked my student Milka to test both of them, which proved illuminating. Her preference was the Datsusara, though she felt they were both excellent. To quote her:

These [the Datsusara] are the most comfortable. These [The Green Gi] are just as comfortable, thicker, so for the winter they'd be perfect. However, I can feel the stitches, because they are right across my thighs. But with this [the Datsusara], it's like wearing nothing.

As soon as she rolled in them, she was asking me where she could buy a pair. Personally, I prefer The Green Gi, but it's close. The reason is that while I find them equally comfortable, I prefer the cut on The Green Gi and they have thicker reinforcement panels by the knees. I haven't had any issues with the stitching on the trousers, though I did have the seam tape by the sleeve cuffs removed due to itchiness (I think from the seam tape edge, rather than the stitching itself).

A photo posted by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

I also prefer the plain design of The Green Gi. Normally Datsusara are notably plainer than most other companies, so the shift to increased embroidery and patches on the Real Dope Pants was a departure. I don't mind the kanji, it was the 'Real Dope Gear' embroidery I found off-putting. I live in Bristol, where you will often smell pot wafting down the street. My attitude is that as long as they aren't smoking it on my mats, I don't mind: what you do at home is your business. However, even the gently pro-pot implication of the 'Real Dope' pun wasn't a message I felt comfortable displaying on my gi, especially as an instructor. I therefore covered it with a patch, though the embroidery would also be fairly easily to remove, judging by my quick test unpicking a few of the threads.

Before washing, the A1 trousers I got were 93cm long. After several months of regular washing at 30 degree Celsius, they have shrunk to 90cm. If you stick to 30 degrees, then that would indicate you can be relatively confident that the sizes on the website are not going to shift dramatically.

It will be interesting to see what the durability is like on the Real Dope Pants, so I'll update this review in a couple of years. There are many alleged benefits to hemp (see my old HCG review for more discussion of that), but as ever the only one I can currently confirm is that hemp clothing has a considerably greater level of comfort compared to cotton.

The Real Dope Pants are an impressive achievement by Datsusara, which hopefully will carry across to their gis as well, if it hasn't already. If Datusara are able to produce a jacket as comfortable as these trousers, I suspect I will soon have a new favourite gi. ;)

The Real Dope Pants are available to buy here, from the Datsusara website

13 September 2016

13/09/2016 - Open Mat

Class #767
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 13/09/2016

Today I ran through some loop choke stuff with Tracey, which was fun. I'm not big on loop chokes myself, but it did remind me that Oli G has done some good videos on this, as he is a fan of that technique. The ones I had in mind are from a few years back (I hadn't realised it was that long ago, in Oli's brown belt days), but worth a look. I forget it's something you can do from half guard, so I must try that next time I'm in that position. :)

12 September 2016

12/09/2016 - Teaching | Side Control | Maintenance (Orthodox)

Teaching #557
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 12/09/2016

BJJ Bristol Artemis Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - Side ControlAs ever, I kicked off with the conceptual framework John described to me in Texas: the primary control points are the hips and the triangle of shoulders and head, secondary control is inside the knees and elbows, then finally tertiary control relates to the wrists and ankles. John goes into more detail over on this thread. I think it's helpful to have that framework at the start, as then the students can hopefully see how that principle filters through everything we'll be training today.

A particularly effective method of control is applying a cross face. If you're not familiar with the term, that means bringing your near side arm under their head: I like to reach right to their far armpit and anchor my arm there, either by cupping, or by getting a hold of the gi material. From that position, you can then drive your shoulder and/or arm into the side of their head or neck, aiming to get their head to turn away from you and/or generate some choking pressure to distract them.

If they can't turn their head back towards you due to the shoulder pressure, it will make it much harder for them to create space and escape. "The body follows the head" or "where the head goes, the body follows" is an old adage and a true one. This is what SBG call the 'shoulder of justice.' If you shift your shoulder from their face to their neck, that choking pressure can also open up opportunities to switch to mount or consider initiating a submission attempt. However, it does mean they can probably turn their head again, which improves their escape opportunities.

Next, it is a good idea to deal with their far arm. Reach under that far elbow with your arm, coming under the armpit. You have a couple of options here. Option one is linking your hands together with a gable grip and sucking them in towards you, providing a very tight side control. This is how Tran showed it to me several years ago. Option two is gripping around their shoulder, to bring their shoulder off the mat: this is something Dónal likes to do, which isn't surprising as I think I first saw that on a Braulio video. You can also use the elbow of your far arm to squeeze into their far hip. This latter option makes more sense if you're already grabbing by their armpit with your near arm. You want to keep control over their far arm for two reasons: first, they can use it to defend, by getting it into your neck. Second, there are a number of attacks you can do from here.

I also wanted to emphasise chest position. Picture an imaginary line between the middle of their chest and also between yours. You want to bisect those lines: don't be too far over them, or they can easily roll you (if they DO try and roll you and it's working, put your far arm or your forehead out for base). Too far back, and it's easier for them to slip out and escape. Stay low, dropping your hips: don't leave them any space.

Moving on to the legs, there are a bunch of different things you can do. I used to prefer to bring both knees in tight, but I later started sprawling the leg nearer the head backwards, which enables me to bring my hips much lower. This is key: you must keep your hips low in side control. If your knees are in tight, widen them if your hips are still high.

The lower the hips, the more weight on top of them, which therefore gives you better control. However, if you have both legs sprawled back, there is a chance they might be able to bring their knee inside: you need to block it somehow, which would commonly be with the hip nearest their legs, your hand or your knee. Play around and see which position you like, and also be ready to switch depending on your partner's movement. Finally, if you're sprawling your legs back, keep your knees off the ground and stay on your toes. This helps with mobility and driving forward.

Teaching Notes: I decided against throwing in an americana, as I think that the maintaining is enough. I did add in a drill where the top person can use their arms and the bottom person can't, the idea being that was an easy way to introduce the control. It makes it way simpler for the top person to maintain control, but I wasn't sure if it made it too simple, so that the drill wasn't helpful. Asking for feedback afterwards students did say it was of use, so I'll keep that in for the moment. The instruction portion of this still feels brief: I'll also keep trying to think of extra things I can add. Perhaps cross-face variations, like putting the hand there to bend the head? Stuff to try.