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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

07 June 2017

07/06/2017 - Teaching | Open Guard | Tripod Sweep

Teaching #671
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 07/06/2017

You can set up the tripod sweep in lots of ways. I usually teach this from the simple option of hooking behind both their knees, using that to pull yourself in towards them and grab their other leg with your other hand. When you grab for the ankle, you can control it in two main ways. Simply grabbing their heel is the quickest, but that means there is a chance they can kick their foot forwards and dislodge your grip. If you grab the trouser cuff instead, that escape becomes much harder for them, but it does give them more opportunity to turn their foot (i.e., for a knee cut pass).

With the heel grab, a good tip from my instructor Kev Capel is to pull that ankle onto your hip, clamping it there. This should also help with off-balancing them. You can also simply sit on it. Either way, remember to keep your other hook behind their knee tense, as you don't want them to free that leg and step around, because that will enable them to regain their balance. You can also put it lower on the leg, or even right behind their foot, but be careful, as just like the heel grip, that can increase the risk that they'll step out and avoid your control.

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Once you knock them down, because you have that grip on their sleeve, you can pull yourself up as they go back, moving through into side control. It also stops them basing with that hand, as you're sweeping in that direction (which is why you use a cross grip, rather than same side). Should you lose your sleeve grip, the sweep is still there, but it will be harder to sit up and move through to side control.

If you're having trouble knocking them down, angle the direction of your push a little, in the direction you want them to fall. It is important that you react decisively after you've knocked them down. Otherwise, they'll simply get up first, returning to your guard. That would mean you were back where you started.

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As ever, there are a couple of options. My preference is to come up and slide your inside knee over their leg, leaning your body towards them: you may find it useful to keep hold of their foot (which means you are both basing on your hand and maintaining control of their leg) to stop them moving, but you can still pass without doing so. Your other foot will step over their other leg, like a typical knee slide pass. From there, you can grab their sleeve, underhook their far armpit, then slide through into modified scarf hold. If for some reason you get your knee stuck in their gi, which has happened to me in the past, change your grip to their elbow, drop your bodyweight and move into side control. Here's Kev demonstrating the full sweep:

You'll notice the finish is different in that video: instead of the tight knee slide, you can do a sort of technical stand-up which ends up with a looser pass. For the stand-up, after you've knocked them down, put your hooking foot on the floor, bringing your other leg behind you. So, the hand that was grabbing the heel now pushes into their leg, pinning it to the floor and becoming your basing hand. Your other leg becomes your second base point, then you stand up from there. You remaining hand may or may not be gripping their sleeve, but this works either way.

From there, stand up, still holding on to their trouser leg (you could also keep hold of the sleeve, which will enable you to pull on both limbs for the pass, but it makes it harder to stand up), pulling up. That will make it difficult for them to recover, as you move around to a dominant position like side control or knee on belly. Standing up when someone has your foot in the air is hard.

Teaching Notes: I went with a different scenario this time, attempting to tie it into the long range thing of the maintaining open guard class. I'm not sure that was as effective a way to teach it as my usual hook behind the knees. Next time, I should connect that hooking instead during my open guard maintaining, somehow add that to the metaphor? Maybe even start the tripod lesson by talking about my battlefield metaphor, then noting that as well as spears, swords and shields that primarily push, you can use billhooks to pull them off their horse too? Yay for excessively complicated extended metaphors! :P

I also tried to avoid emphasising that you have to grab the sleeve, in favour of saying you just have to get up. I don't want people to rely on the sleeve too much, as you often won't have that because people won't let you. I also should have drilled knee cut, as that's the common pass to follow when you pull yourself up, though I don't want people to think they can only go for that (still good to have an option, though). A few people ended up just flying forwards, which looked as though in sparring they might fly all the way past. In that situation, useful to emphasise knee cut, control, etc. I'll be teaching it as a pass later anyway, as that's my core pass for open guard month.

Breakfalls are important for this class too, given the point of a sweep is to knock people over. I'm fortunate in that I have two judo black belts at the club, so asked one of them to demonstrate as I talked through the motion. Awesomely, Donal popped in tonight as well. Really good to see him, hopefully he'll be able to do that more often. :D

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06 June 2017

06/06/2017 - Open Mat (Tuesday)

Class #828
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 06/06/2017

I had a couple of rolls today, where I'm continuing to try my latest efforts with that sitting guard frame. Instead of grabbing the collar like I've been doing for the last few years, I'm trying a collar tie instead. That is much easier on my fingers and has the considerable plus of breaking their posture. However, it is also much shorter range, messed up if they stay upright.

I could try classic guard, but on reflection, I think it might be better to add that gi tail grab back in. That is easy to reach, then I can use that to pull them down. Either I'll then be able to get their head and continue on with head control, or if they stay out of reach, I can enter into de la Riva. That then goes into the various basic de la Riva pulling sweep options. Something to play with. I am looking forward to Dan Strauss' butterfly guard seminar too, I need more options from there. I basically just go for the sweep, along with pressing armbar/omoplata if I can get the shoulder clamp. Guillotines would be good to add, I have never got the hang of those properly.

Nevertheless, while I didn't get classic guard (too hard on my fingers), I did try Neil Owen's omoplata metod a few times. I kept missing it though. I'm not used to the turning away, so my control was poor. I need to drill that more, get it smoother. With Chris, more passing practice. I think he was taking it quite easy, I was trying head control once again, aiming for butterfly. I messed up on one, he jumped past easily as I over-committed. Should have pushed on his head, to regain my guard. I managed a half butterfly sweep, but need to be thinking more about angles generally. Grips that don't hurt fingers, I really want that: hopefully I'm getting closer to a solution. :D

05 June 2017

05/06/2017 - Teaching | Open Guard | Maintaining

Teaching #670
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 05/06/2017

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Using your legs is key in closed guard, and perhaps even more so with open guard. To help develop that ability to use the legs, I wanted to start with the great drilling sequence I learned from Kev Capel up at RGA Bucks. The idea is to improve your guard recovery. It begins on your back, while they pass your legs, but only to the level of your knees. Bring your outside foot over and hook inside their nearest leg.

Use that to pull yourself back into position, bringing your other leg through to re-establish a square-on open guard. For the next stage of the drill, they pass to your hip rather than your knee. That requires you to frame your hands against their leg and shrimp out, before recovering guard as before.

For teaching, I decided to use an extended metaphor, as if jiu jitsu was an ancient battlefield where you are facing a cavalry charge. The best way to defeat a cavalry charge is with polearms, like a spear. Stab that at their hips, knees, shoulders, stomach, arms, whatever makes for a good point of purchase. Or perhaps you have a different polearm, like a billhook, so you can also pull your attacker off their horse (i.e., pull against the back of their knees to affect their balance).

If they get fed up of trying to pass your spears, they might dismount and engage lower down. Now is the time to bring your shield to bear, which in this context is your knee and shin. Push that against their stomach, shoulders, arms etc to prevent them driving forward. That should give you enough space to draw your sword. You might have a straight stabbing sword, stiff-arming into their hips, shoulders and collar. Perhaps you also have a curved sword, slicing and swinging (in our BJJ context, that's grabbing the collar and pulling). But that curved sword/bent arm is no good for stabbing: if you're going to use a straight sword/stiff arm, if needs to stay straight to be effective.

Also keep in mind that they have swords too. Therefore use your swords and spears to parry, preventing their attack. Put your shield in place, which is your knee and shin pressed against their shoulder and/or chest, then use a stiff arm into their shoulder and or wrist: that takes their arm out of commission. You can also parry their sword with your spears, pushing your foot into their bicep. Remember, you can always keep resetting to the previous level. Having held them off with your sword and shield, bring your spear back in (so, blocking them with your stiff arms and knees may give you the scope to put a foot on their knee or hip, push back and return to a long range guard).

Finally, to keep the metaphor going, you have a 'command camp' that needs to be defended. Your general is stationed there, by your head and chest. You therefore need to keep this camp safe. The entrance is by your armpits, so keep the gates locked (i.e., elbows tight to your sides). That there is a major weak spot in your armour: the section from above your knees to your chest. You therefore need to defend this area, keeping it safe from attack. Conversely. if you are attacking, that's the place to aim for and control.

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Or to put it another way without metaphors, in open guard, your feet can be used both for creating distance and for maintaining control. In terms of pushing, the main areas are on the knees, the hips and in the biceps (as you would with spider guard). You can also hook behind the knee with your feet, which is part of many open guard sweeps. Make sure that you always have both your feet on them, rather than the floor. There are also little tricks you can use here, like sitting on their foot.

If they're standing, then grabbing behind their foot is the main grip you'll look for with your hand. I've heard conflicting reports from black belts on whether it is better to grip the bottom of the trouser leg or the heel, so I'd suggest experimenting with both (unless you don't have a gi, in which case you're stuck with grabbing the heel). Generally speaking, you always want to be grabbing something with at least one of your hands: as with your feet, keep them engaged on your opponent, rather than on the floor.

Kev has a great tweak on grabbing with the heel, where you pull that heel into your hip. That makes it harder for them to do the classic escape of kicking their foot out in a circle to break your hold. Even better, try to pull the foot off the floor slightly as you clamp it to your hip. That will unbalance them, setting you up perfectly for the tripod/sickle sweep combination.

If they're on their knees, then your own knees come more into play. You can use those for control in a similar way to your feet, again putting them into their biceps and hips, along with areas like their chest and shoulder, depending on their positioning.

While your legs are key and your first line of defence, the arms can act as a handy second or even third line of defence should they beat your legs. 'Stiff arming' into their legs, shoulders, arms etc can give you the space you need to recover back to an earlier line of defence. An alternative is to sit up into what is, appropriately, known as 'sitting guard', stiff arming from there. That can open up several sweeps and attacks.

I also added in a point from Christian Graugart at the 2016 BJJ Globetrotter Camp in Leuven. His opening lesson was titled 'jiu jitsu explained in 30 seconds', on which he delivered. In short, his argument was that jiu jitsu is all controlling the area from the knees up to the chest. On top, you're trying to get something into that space - your arm, your leg, your torso - while on the bottom, you're attempting to defend that space, keeping your knees to your chest.

I finished with those sparring drills again, learned from Kev: they're really useful for maintaining open guard. As before, the idea is to build up leg movement. To do that, the first round is sparring open guard, but only using your legs: both of your hands are tucked into your belt (or behind your back if you don't have a belt), whether you're on top or on the bottom (make sure to pull them back out if you're about to fall on your face!). That's followed by sparring with legs and one hand, then finally normal open guard sparring, with the proviso that you aren't allowed to close your guard. There's a bit of video up on the Artemis BJJ Instagram page.

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Teaching Notes: Like last time, I still feel as though I'm rushing the instruction portion of this. Though also as before, the focus is the drilling. I added in a bit to my metaphor, which was intended to incorporate Graugart's open guard stuff into it. The way I described was that the head and chest are your 'command camp' where the general was stationed, so you must defend it. I meant to make that even more convoluted, by saying that the entrance to the camp is via your armpits so you have to keep the 'gates' (your elbows) locked in tight, but didn't get round to that part. Next time, I'd like to see if it works. Also, Graugart describes it as the section from your knees to your chest, that needs to be emphasised too.

I also need to be careful of basic stuff like can everyone hear me. Classes have been getting really big in the lead up to the grading, with 20+ people regularly on the mats. So, I should explain the drilling BEFORE I split them into the two lines in two groups. I was starting to lose my voice a bit from shouting, as I've never been too good on loud volume. :)

I haven't been doing that Kev drilling sequence recently either, that's something else I'll add back in next time.