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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

22 October 2014

22/10/2014 - Teaching | Side Control | Americana

Teaching #218
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 22/10/2014

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 considering the best set-up. I think the Roger Gracie chin-clamp is good, as it's fairly common for the person underneath to push up into your neck. However, I'll keep looking in case I come across anything better. The only issue I've got with teaching the chin-clamp is that it depends on your partner making the mistake of pushing up. I'd prefer one that is more proactive than reactive, but we'll see how it goes. Tomorrow I'm going to play some more with that keylock position, either the Roy Dean lockflow if I get some blues, or a kimura if it is mainly beginners.

22/10/2014 - Teaching | Women's Class | Side Control to Mount

Teaching #217
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 22/10/2014

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: I don't think there is too much I'd want to add on this, except perhaps emphasising the value of shifting your hips towards their head once you've trapped the arm. Just like last week, I was impressed by how well the women were sparring and drilling today, loads of nice transitions and escapes. :)

I also added in a takedown, looking to gradually work those into the warm-up. I wanted something super-low impact, so I went with the osoto gari ('large outer reap' in Japanese: I couldn't remember the right name tonight, so just googled while writing this ;D). It's handy that a number of the women now have a gi (thanks to Geraldine!), as that provides grips for a gentle landing.

21 October 2014

21/10/2014 - Teaching | Side Control | Stiff Arm Escape

Teaching #216
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 21/10/2014

Another session on the stiff arm tonight. I know two main variations, of which I find Marcelo Garcia's elbow push (technically it's the triceps, but he calls it 'elbow push' on MGinAction) the higher percentage. He works from under a standard side control then brings their arm across. To do so, make some space by pressing into their neck and bridging if necessary, then sneaking your other hand under their armpit and onto your head.

Use your elbow to bump their arm over, bumping it up high on your head. As soon as their arm clears your head, immediately grab just above their elbow, pinching your hand around their triceps: you can support this with your other arm if necessary. Extend your arm so it is straight: this is absolutely key, keep it straight. Still holding their arm, swing your legs up, then as they come down, use that momentum to sit up. Bring your free arm backwards in order to base out on your elbow (if possible, extend that arm when you can, in order to post on your hand and create a stronger base). Continuing to push on their triceps, shrimp backwards into the space you've created, until you can recover guard.

Sometimes you'll be able to combine this with the other option, which is to keep pushing into their elbow or armpit until you can roll them over. Normally it's easier to shrimp out to guard, but sometimes their weight distribution means that pushing them over makes more sense.


Teaching & Sparring Notes: Tonight I added in the two arms option, as well as bumping them arm high over your head. I noticed this during progressive resistance and sparring: if I put my elbow high, it seemed to be a good bit easier to bring their arm over my skull. In terms of blocking the escape, my highest rate of success was turning my near hip towards their head. However, I think that also makes you more vulnerable to the pushover variation, judging by when I was on the bottom and my training partner attempted the same counter. If you stay low with the head, that helps.

I found a few times that when I was having trouble escaping as they had that near hip in (so, the hip-to-hip side control I taught yesterday, sort of), I could manage to knock them over by pushing into an arm and also shoving their gi collar into their neck. Sitting up was then enough to bump them over, though I'm not sure that's a high percentage escape. I was also attempting to bridge more powerfully when escaping, going off two legs rather than my usual one, as well as knocking them up over my head.

In sparring, I kept in mind the advice about always holding on to the figure four grip if you get it. I initially locked it in from side control, moving to north south to look for the kimura. He turtled, I kept my grip and moved into a crucifix. As he rolled over of that and back to turtle, I was able to knock him over (still with the grip) and walk my legs back round to side control. From there, I drove the other knee in past the hips as he attempted to turn, put my leg around the head then slowly dropped back for the armbar (I had a vague triangle around the head from side control at some point too, which further helped with control).

Normally I'm not keen on armbars, but when it feels like I have a strong control all the way through, much better. This could possibly fit in when I teach the americana tomorrow, though it may be a little too advanced if there are lots of beginners. I'm still having a think about the best set-up to teach.

I added in the same takedown drills at the start of tonight. From now on, I plan to just do them on the Tuesday and Thursday at Kingswood, because the lesson is a bit longer. Takes too much time in the hour I've got at Bristol Sports Centre, I think.

20 October 2014

20/10/2014 - Teaching | Side Control | Maintaining (Hip to Hip)

Teaching #215
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 20/10/2014

Last week, I went through the orthodox method of holding side control, something I see as the basic, 'safe' method for beginners that will give them some control. Today, I wanted to emphasise mobility in side control as well as focused pressure, again drawing on John Palmer's excellent 'control point theory' that I talked about yesterday. 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.

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.

Teaching Notes: I added some takedown drills tonight, building off the double-leg trip Roy Dean teaches. I think that works well as a low-impact, easy to understand takedown. I've got a couple more in mind, then once those are embedded into class, I can start considering combinations. That's a while off though: also, I'll probably end up limiting takedowns to the Kingswood location, as those lessons are longer. Showing the takedown tonight took a good while, so next time I'll just put in some of the drills rather than going through the whole takedown.