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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

23 May 2017

23/05/2017 - Calling Australian Readers | Open Mat (Tuesday)

Class #825
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 23/05/2017

I have been missing my training trips to see bloggers/online friends, so this year I'd originally intended to head back to the US to catch up with people like Suay and Josh. However, then you guys went and elected an orange misogynist who is still squatting in the White House (hopefully not for much longer ;D). That put me right off, especially given the idiocy about travel bans and the like: my name isn't exactly 'John Smith', meaning hassle in that kind of atmosphere is definitely possible. However, there is another country where I have lots of cool bloggers/online friends to visit: Australia.

I was considering a trip to Singapore anyway, meaning that Melbourne is only a direct flight away. Checking Skyscanner, it looked like a long weekend in Melbourne was totally viable (which will be my second very short trip to Australia). So, if you read this blog and want to meet up for training in Melbourne, let me know. I'll be going to Absolute and Academy (to see those aforementioned blogger and online friends, plus actual met-in-person friends too, such as my ex-student Erin) if you'd like to join me. Feel free to pop an email over to if you want to say hi when I'm in Oz. :D

Getting back to UK training, today I did lots of drilling with Tracey, which is always informative. It's an old truism, but you really can learn a lot from teaching, as it forces you to think through the technique in detail, what really makes it work. That started with discussing the americana, using the set-up I learned from Roger Gracie where you pinch their arm with your chin, should they try and push to escape. If you keep everything tight and don't lift up when you bring your other arm over, it feels nice and secure. You also want to already have your other arm under.

On the back control escape where you grab their arm, it's dangerous because they can reach under your arm and go for an armbar. If you can grab their head, that gives you an anchor and helps kill their rotational movement. I should play with that more, but combining the slow motion seoi-nage type principles seemed to iron out the flaws with that one. Fun times. :)

22 May 2017

22/05/2017 - Teaching | Side Control | Escape to Guard

Teaching #666
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 22/05/2017

First thing to note is that they will want to kill your near arm. This is bad for you, because it means you can't stop them shifting up towards your head. From there, they can make as much space as they want and pass to mount.

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So, you need to get your arm inside, the forearm pressing against their hip: this is more reliable than using your hand, as they can potentially still bring their body onto your hand and collapse it, especially if you're grabbing the gi (given the loose material). The forearm into the hip will help block their movement, and initiate your attempts to create some space. It should also help you block them moving to north south, as if you clamp your arm by their side, your body will move with them if they try to switch position.

Be aware that having your forearm by their hip like that does leave you more open to the cross-face. So, you could potentially block inside their cross-facing arm instead, which will prevent their shoulder pressure. This is the Saulo method from his book, which has advantages, but personally I prefer to block the hip.

With your other hand, grab the gi material by their shoulder, close to their neck, then pull down. You're aiming to use the lower part of your forearm. Twist that arm up into their neck, keeping your elbow in: you need to be tight here, as otherwise they will go for a figure four on that arm. Once you've got the forearm into their neck, they can't press down into you, as they'll essentially be choking themselves. Note that this is a block: you don't want to start pushing and reaching, as that may leave you vulnerable. Reach too far and they can shove your arm to one side and set up an arm triangle.

Next I moved on to the legs. Your legs have two main purposes here: first, blocking your opponent getting to mount. Raise your near knee and drive it into their side. The idea is to wedge them between your knee and the arm you have by their hip. Personally, I like to keep my knee floating, glued to their side.

That makes it easier to slip my knee under as soon as they give me any space, which is something I learned from Roger. Many people prefer to cross their foot over their knee, which is something I used to do in the past as well. However, as this long Sherdog thread discusses, that can leave you open to a footlock, and also limit your mobility. Then again, you can see it used at the highest levels, like here at the Mundials.

The second use for your legs is bridging. Marcelo Garcia has a handy tip for this (although the escape he is doing there is slightly different), related to increasing the power of your bridge. To do that, bring your heels right to your bum, then push up on your toes. That increases your range of motion, so you can really drive into them.

Make sure you turn into them as you bridge, rather than just straight up. This will help the next part, which is to shrimp out as you come back down. That's why you've created space in the first place: if you simply plopped back down, then you've wasted the opportunity. As soon as you shrimp out, slip the knee pressing into their side underneath. Note you aren't trying to lift them with your arms. Instead, you want to push off them, moving your body away rather than pushing theirs higher up. When your shin is over their stomach, you can use that to square your body up, pushing through your leg to move your head in line with theirs.

Once your knee is through, you need to be careful they don't immediately pass by pushing down and moving around that knee, ruining all your hard work. Control their arm with your hip-bracing arm as you escape, like Roy Dean demonstrates in Blue Belt Requirements. Bring your arm just above their elbow, reaching across to your opposite shoulder. That will stop them pushing down on your knee, as their arm is trapped. With your free arm, grab their head to control their posture

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To get your knee out from under them, you'll be looking to shrimp in the direction you want your leg to go. Bring your leg over their back, on the side where you aren't controlling their arm. Get your other foot to mat, using the base you gain from that post to shrimp out. That should normally be enough to free the leg and get into closed guard.

If not, you'll need to keep shrimping (and you may need to keep both feet on the floor until you have shrimped far enough that you can comfortably get your legs out). Sometimes there isn't space, in which case you can push off the shin/knee you have pressed into their stomach/hip. Keep in mind that you also have the option of going to butterfly or some other open guard, if you are really struggling to get your legs out for closed guard.

Teaching Notes: This is the class I'm most confident teaching, but I'm still trying to make changes. I added in more drills tonight, running through the straight up and down bridge, then at an angle, and finally bridge and mid-air shrimp. That's worth emphasising, lots of people don't bridge with purpose, meaning they can't make the space to escape. Get right on your head and shoulder, whacking your hips out as far as you can. I also included a brief drill where the person on top can use their arms, the person on bottom can't. I don't expect them to be able to escape easily, but the idea is to get them to really focus on the leg and hip movement.

Something to keep in mind is that getting that initial bridge and shrimp is still really hard, countering that top pressure. I'd like to come up with some kind of reliable trigger beyond just "bridge hard". Getting out of that heavy pressure is what makes the escape so difficult, and tough to initiate. I will keep thinking. :)

21 May 2017

21/05/2017 - Open Mat (Sunday)

Class #824
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 21/05/2017

There was quite a bit of takedown action still in the nogi class, so I stuck with filming that rather than taking part. This tailbone injury has been annoying, much more of a hindrance than when I last had it. Still, it's been cool getting lots of video, building up a library of footage. It's also giving me practice in terms of editing and presenting instructional video, which will be useful when I finally come to do it for my own classes (I'm not planning to do that until black belt, maybe brown).

Tad and Kirsty were both down, which was cool. Tad was making the point that for shorter legs, x-guard works well, transitioning from butterfly and the like. I've never played with x-guard a whole lot, so that's something I should try out more. I'll have to pick Kirsty H's brain about it, she's been using x-guard more these days. I know Jude was a big fan of it back in the day when I was learning from him at RGA HQ, I could check my notes from those days as well. Unfortunately I had to cut my open mat time short, as I had something come up at home, but next time. :)