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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

12 October 2016

12/10/2016 - Teaching | Mount | Cross Choke (Verhoeven variation)

Teaching #574
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 12/10/2016

Starting from high mount, sitting on their organs not their hip bones (as Mike Bidwell puts it), I used the tip on getting your choke grip that Roger Gracie taught me. He 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 insert your hand, palm up.

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To provide extra leverage for pushing that hand past their defences, 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. Drive your knuckles all the way down to the mat. A tip from Saulo is to keep your head by that hand. If your head goes towards the other side of their head, it will be easier for them to roll you over.

My preferred variation from this grip is the one I learned from Michel Verhoeven. After you've inserted your first hand, start to raise your partner towards you slightly (that should make it harder for them to roll you). 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. You want this as tight to their neck as possible, like you've dropped on iron bar there. 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.

Teaching & Sparring Notes: The women's class was very useful for preparing this session, helping to put it in context for me. I also added that drill for maintaining your mount with a grip, again noting that you want to keep your head by that hand, basing out with your free arm until you're ready to establish the second grip.

I had what I thought was a pretty good sparring session. Rolling with Mike, he was stopping me getting the Saulo style palm down choke, keeping his other arm up as a barrier. It felt like there should be a way to capitalise on that space by the arm, which I need to try out more. Sparring Simon was fun too, as his defence is getting pretty good now.

I played around with attacks after gripping that collar, to try and go for a choke. He was doing a decent job of blocking my choke, attempting to get on his side and dig out space space with his elbow. He almost managed to get me into half guard a few times, but I was able to spin round and maintain a sort of mount (it was specific sparring, so I'm not sure if I was cheating by not stopping. I tend to judge an escape from mount by them securing a guard position, or reversing me).

I eventually managed to get my arm around his head and grip the collar, looking for a bow and arrow style choke. I got that at the end, but not before a lot of wriggling. At one point, I was in a weird position where I was up by his head, facing his legs, still on top. I attempted to get my legs through for some kind of crazy triangle. That was hard to lock in, though at times it felt like I almost had it. Immediately after that roll, my back felt sore: standing up straight was difficult, as my lower back in particular was complaining. I went and rolled two more times after that, mostly staying on the bottom.

Bad idea. The next day, it took me several days to get out of bed and I couldn't cycle to work (fortunately they're nice, so let me work from home). I think it was that attempt to pull my legs into a weird triangle that did it. Lesson learned, next time I'm in that position, don't try and force it. My back hasn't hurt this much since I messed it up at kettlebells, due to poor form after swinging a 32kg. At least, I hope that's lesson learned: pain tends to be a useful reminder. ;)

12/10/2016 - Teaching | Womens Class | Mount Choke Variations

Teaching #573
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 12/10/2016

Once again, it was just experienced students, so I tried out some choke variations from the mount. Last time it was mount month, I worked on the single arm choke Saulo likes, so I tested out that along with the standard Verhoeven variation I normally teach on the cross choke. From drilling and testing that lots with Ruth, I've got the next few lessons sorted for this month, which I'll try to build on as ever next time mount month rolls around too.

The Verhoeven choke is palm up, sliding that up the collar, then getting the other hand to the shoulder. From there you can apply the choke by leaning through your other forearm (I teach this as a sort of iron bar you lay tight against their neck), twisting your first grip and bringing your elbow back. For the Saulo single arm choke (which isn't quite single arm, so I need to come up with a better name for that, though I think he does manage it with one arm. But then he's Saulo, so he's on a whole different level ;D), the palm is down.

Rather than inserting your fingers into the collar, you're therefore just putting your thumb in. That slides in as before. Keep your head by that hand, to make it harder for them to roll you over. Reach under yourself with your other hand, grabbing their opposite collar: this doesn't need to be so deep as the first grip. Twist back towards their legs as you press your weight into your neck arm, rotating your torso.

The handy thing about both of these grips is that it also opens up the armbar. If they try to block, they will tend to raise their elbow. That enables you to slide your knee to their head. Your arm is already in place to hook their arm. You can now go for the armbar, or switch back to a choke. Saulo likes to switch grips for this, which makes sense. He can then take his pick of the armbar or the choke.

I'll keep playing with these in sparring, so hopefully by the end of the month, I'll have a good sequence for people to go for from mount. Depending on my back: I'm writing this up a day later, so as you'll read in the next post, I've managed to hurt myself again, so I'm not certain if I'll be teaching on Friday or not (fortunately Chris has said he's able to cover).

11 October 2016

11/10/2016 - Open Mat | Destination Star Trek Europe 2016

Class #775
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 11/10/2016

The last few days have been excellent. In terms of BJJ there was the successful charity #RollForNichole on Friday (with another on Sunday) and a third installment of excellent teaching from Chelsea and Tom yesterday (we did an interview too, I still need to get that all edited and uploaded). On the Saturday, I indulged my geeky side: as you might have noticed, I love Star Trek, so I was keen to head up to Birmingham for the 50th anniversary celebration at Destination Star Trek Europe. That event has taken a lot of flak both before and after it took place, but I had a great time. There was lots of queueing, but considering how long I spend on Instagram, it didn't bother me. The talks were excellent: it was very cool to see Gowron, Dax (both of them), Quark and Rom in the flesh. There were non-DS9 people around too (one of the guys from Enterprise was browsing a stall right in front of me, plus I went to a talk were the guy who played the original Gorn was chatting about that infamous fight as Vasquez Rocks), but Deep Space Nine has my heart. Also, I can now legitimately say I hold two world records: first the world's biggest open mat at Leuven 2016, and now the worlds biggest gathering of people in Star Trek costume (1,167, IIRC). ;D

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I want to go to more Star Trek themed awesome nerdery, so I've been looking around for other stuff like DSTE. It looks like the next event along those lines in the UK is the SFBall, though as it's fan-run it should be far less corporate and a lot more friendly. If I'm not already booked to do something that February weekend, I should be able to make it to Southampton (given that's not all that far from me). The big one would be the Las Vegas convention, but that is a rather bigger investment than popping on a local train. Still, I might do it in 2018, as they will hopefully do something big for the 30th anniversary of DS9. It's the 30th anniversary of TNG next year, incidentally, which should hopefully mean some good commemorative stuff happening in the UK. For a start, Dr Crusher is set to be at the SFBall. I'm one of the very few who preferred Dr Polaski, but hey, Beverly was still cool. :D


Open mat today didn't involve any Star Trek (boo), but did feature plenty of rolling (yay!). I got in good long roll with Heidi, playing around with stuff from open guard, like trying to establish grips. I also got the chance to practice some stuff from the Chelsea seminar yesterday too. The difficult bit is doing that Tom guard break with control, rather than exploding into it. Definitely want to teach that next time it's closed guard month.

The turnout from Tuesdays has been getting better and better, which is really good to see. I'm still keen to add a Thursday daytime session too, but that will depend on cutting down my office job some more (and therefore the BJJ will need to make enough cash). We're not there yet, but sign-ups to Artemis BJJ have been building steadily. So far, I've mainly been reinvesting that all back into putting on more classes (there will be a few more in the coming months, keep an eye on the Artemis BJJ Facebook page), but we'll eventually get to the point where it will help me go full time on BJJ. Which will mean even more classes! :D

10 October 2016

10/10/2016 - 3rd Seminar with Chelsea Bainbridge-Donner & Tom Barlow

Seminar #021
Artemis BJJ, Chelsea Bainbridge-Donner & Tom Barlow, Bristol, UK - 10/10/2016

A little under nine months since they last visited us in Bristol, Chelsea and Tom were back on the Artemis BJJ mats to share some techniques. Before the seminar got started I took the opportunity to interview them both, so that will be on the Artemis BJJ Podcast soon (and will mark the first time I've actually used new interview footage, ooo ;D). My free account on Spreaker is running out of space, so I've set up a Patreon for it. If there are at least six people out there who like the podcast enough to put in $1 a month, that will pay for an upgrade to the first tier of the pro account (which raises the amount of audio storage from 5 hours to 100 hours). If not, meh, saves me the work of doing a regular podcast. ;)

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Chelsea kicked things off with a quick warm-up, then into spider guard drills. I've been wary of spider guard ever since Chiu told me years ago that he mashed up his fingers too much to play it regularly, but it's useful to know for teaching (and the occasional time when I need to fall back on it). Today's seminar was especially useful on that score, as Chelsea built up to the main technique gradually, with plenty of drilling. Grab their sleeves, feet in the biceps, being sure to keep their elbows flared out.You spin from side to side, extending one leg while pulling back your other knee. Do that three times, then kick your bent out and around their arm. Weave it around the inside, threading in your lasso grip.

I got a bit confused on which side to extend, but fortunately this time I didn't accidentally delete all my videos after the seminar. Therefore I can double-check: when you spin to go slightly sideways, it's the inside leg that you extend, meaning your outside leg is bent. Bring your shoulders and bum off the mat as much as you can, as that will make it easier to spin. If you don't spin inwards and stay square on, they are going to be able to leg drag you. It is always the bent leg that moves into the lasso.

For the first sweep, bring your straight leg back and up, past your head. That should make them step forward, enabling you to switch your grip from their sleeve to the bottom of their trouser leg (don't grip inside the cuff). Keep your foot extended into the crook of their elbow for distance, then drop that same foot to the mat, behind their opposite leg. The foot of your lassoing leg pushes into their same side leg, toes pointing towards their other hip.

Chop back with your foot that's on the floor, coming up immediately after the sweep. You'll end up a little entangled in limbs, but on top. Keep hold of the trouser grip, pressing it to the mat. Otherwise, they are likely to try and get their knee in the way, making it awkward to complete your pass. Be careful of the arm you've lassoed, as coming up on top might generate some bicep-slicer pressure.

It's a fast sweep, but Chelsea highlighted that the downside to that speed is that the other person can sit back up again without too much difficulty. As they do, make sure to bring your leg that was behind their leg out. That goes to their hip or stomach instead, to slow them down. On the lasso side, pull their elbow, which pops your leg through. Your other leg goes to their head, letting you transition into a triangle. The omoplata is an option too (interestingly, Chelsea mentioned that although she's a fan of the omoplata, it is a much lower percentage submission than the triangle or armbar, but a high percentage sweep). She also added in her tip about grabbing their head and twisting it to expose their neck.

They also might end up on their knees due to frustration at dealing with your lasso. If their knee is raised on the opposite side to your lasso, you can easily hook your foot underneath and sweep them. Therefore more experienced grapplers will make sure they either keep both knees down or raise it on the lasso side. If you're gripping the trouser leg, switch to grabbing their opposite collar. From here you can again go into a triangle, pushing your foot into the non-lassoed arm (or on their shoulder, if you've lost the arm), in order to then kick that leg into their neck. On the other side, pull on the lassoed elbow again to get your leg through, ready to lock up a triangle.

The last spider guard option Chelsea shared with us was my favourite. For this spider guard sweep they need to have the knee raised on the lasso side. Again grab their opposite collar (although for this one, you can grab their same side collar. As you don't bring that leg through to their neck, a same-side grip won't block it). Your lasso foot hooks in behind their raised knee, moving through to de la Riva. You'll need to turn to get that de la Riva all the way in, unless you have very flexible knees. When the hook is established, it should be simple to knock them over in that direction.

Chelsea then progressed to closed guard. She started with the posture break we use in our warm-up drills, flaring out their elbows and pulling your knees in. You can move into lots of closed guard variations from there (my favourite is the shoulder clamp): Chelsea began with the lapel over the back grip. Pull out their gi and pull it over their back. To give you the time to do that, anchor your other hand into their armpit. Feed the gi over their back to your hand, cinching it by their head. Switch hands, palm up. You can now go for a choke by locking in the other hand (on that gi on the other side of their head, by the shoulder, or even in the collar).

Her last technique was on the overhook guard, where after breaking their posture, you overhook their arm, anchoring by grabbing their opposite collar. Shrimp out slightly towards your overhook, getting slightly on your hand. Put your foot on their hip to make some more space, then you can bring your knee on the overhook side on top of their arm. Squeeze for the pressing armbar (as ever, the tricky part is getting the right spot on their elbow). If they try to turn their arm, as long as your grip is tight enough to stop them pulling their arm right out, just twist and you can americana them.

At that point, Chelsea paused the technical instruction to do a few rounds of sparring. I took the opportunity to get a roll in with Tom, which mostly consisted of him hopping to either side of my open guard. It felt like my open guard was made of tissue paper, something I haven't yet been able to resolve properly. With somebody less experienced I can get a shin-on-shin in the way, or keep them at bay with my legs, but that doesn't work when your sparring partner is good (especially if they're much better than you, like black belts ;D).

I asked a question about that later, during the question and answer section. The simple response was 'get grips', a useful pointer to keep in mind. I'm wondering if I focus too much on that leg on the outside, when perhaps I should attempt to really lock up the inside leg? I'll keep playing. I have a private with my instructor Kev Capel this month, so that's something I can ask about more.

Chelsea then passed over to Tom, so that he could discuss his approach to passing closed guard. He goes into depth on this topic over on his website, which also has a bunch of embedded videos. Read that for the full details, but in short, you get into the usual posture with an arm by the chest and on the hip. Tom notes that the elbow of the chest arm should be angled down, as that makes it much tougher for them to collapse it. Ideally you want to grab their same side sleeve with your hip hand, meaning you can step your foot up on that side with impunity.

Once you've up, stand up tall, immediately angling your knee on the sleeve grabbing side into their stomach. You want to hang them off their sleeve (or their collar, if they don't let you grab their sleeve), twisting their posture awkwardly and affecting their ability to sweep. Don't wait around there, moving to push on their other leg as quickly as you can. Pop open the guard, following their leg down with your knee so they don't have any space to start setting up an open guard.