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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

15 October 2016

Video Review - Flow Jitsu (Mike Bidwell & Nic Gregoriades)

Short Review: For Nic Gregoriades' latest instructional, Mike Bidwell of 'BJJ After 40' fame runs through some solid attacks from guard and the mount. Unlike what you may have seen on his popular channel, the techniques here don't require you to backflip around the mat and do the splits, sticking with more human levels of athleticism. It's well taught, clearly explained and the camerawork carefully follows the important details. Available to download here for £40, which gets you a hour of content.

Full Review: The concept of BJJ aimed at people over forty appeals to me. Although I'm not (quite) there yet at 35, training for longevity is something I've focused on more and more over the years. My thinking has been that as it takes me so long to get good at anything in BJJ, I don't want to have to relearn a whole new game a few decades down the line, as my body (especially joints) get older. Hence why I was curious when Nic Gregoriades asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing a new product he's produced with Mike Bidwell, a 47 year old black belt who runs the popular BJJ After 40 page on Facebook (not to be confused with several other sites called BJJ Over 40, like this one, or the product I reviewed a while back by Roy Harris).

I've been shown videos by Bidwell before and discounted them, because it looked far too flashy and acrobatic for my interests. He may be over a decade older than me, but wow, he certainly doesn't move like it! Therefore when Nic mentioned that the product was by Bidwell I was concerned it would be overly ninja. Fortunately on Flow Jitsu (apart from one example at the end), Bidwell keeps his impressive flexibility and movement skills simmering rather than to the boil.

Bidwell teaches at Tai Kai Jiu Jitsu in New York. He produced this instructional in collaboration with Nic Gregoriades. Having said that, Nic doesn't appear to have much involvement in the actual content: he appears briefly at the start to introduce it, but does not take part in the drilling. That introduction is around four minutes, where Nic raises the same concern I had, given Bidwell's unusual attributes. However, Nic was convinced after training with Bidwell that the material would be "adaptable, versatile and effective: guys can take this stuff and use it straight away." As Bidwell himself puts it, when asked about the name 'Flow Jitsu':

"I believe in the idea of flowing, I believe in the idea of movement. What I've done with this video is I've created techniques that I believe are very adaptable, because I believe that jiu jitsu itself is incredibly adaptable. Jiu jitsu will take you exactly as you are, your physical abilities and limitations etc. What I've done with this video is create techniques that I feel can work for anybody."

The first technique is what I would call a sit up sweep or hip bump: Bidwell refers to it as the 'outside kimura sweep' (three minutes), not a term I've seen before. His explanation for the name does make sense, as he points out that this sweep often ends up with an opportunity for a kimura. He goes for an unusual grip in the video, essentially getting a figure four grip on their belt (if they don't have a belt, Bidwell suggests grabbing your shin instead).

That's followed by the inside kimura sweep (eight minutes). This time when he sits up, he slides his hand inside their opposite arm, then continues the sweep. Bidwell says this stops them knocking you back down, as well as being explosive. That grip also means you can swivel your hand to move their arm across when you get to the mount, right into the gift wrap (or I guess armbars from the usual s mount). Continuing that much vaunted flow element he spoke about earlier, from that gift wrap, Bidwell shows how to switch right into a bow and arrow choke.

He then finishes with some details on what he calls the 'baby restraint' grip, similar to what I'd call the seatbelt from the back. After a few kimura sweep counters (slightly under four minutes), Bidwell has a section entitled chaining sweeps and setups (three minutes). I probably wouldn't use the term 'chain' for this (which I'd assume would be a sequence going from one sweep to another), but either way it's useful. Bidwell packs in plenty of different variations on grips and posture-breaks for the sit-up sweep.

It's then time to move on from the sit-up sweep to where it lands you in the mount, with Americana setups (six minutes). I rarely get an americana from mount, as everybody is expecting it and their arms are normally much too defensive. Bidwell's approach was interesting. He began by talking a bit about mount in general, sitting on their stomach rather than on the bones of their hips. He goes under the head to set up his attack, rather than attempting to push straight into the figure-four. That then allows him to go for a number of follow-ups, particularly the head and arm choke.

He's got some sneaky ways to make them give that to you, baiting it with more americana attacks and wristlocks. I played around with this over October, as that's been mount month at Artemis BJJ, particularly at one of the women's classes. This section also highlighted the helpful use of close-ups and reverse angles on Flow Jitsu. The camera zooms right in to show you the finer details of grips, often hard to see with a technique like this. With a mounted americana close to the head, there is lots of anatomy bunched together, which the camerawork manages to untangle.

Bidwell progresses with what he calls Americana to peek-a-boo (five minutes). If they push back firmly into your americana attempt, you can bounce off the first arm to the second. For this particular variation, Bidwell gives them some space to put their head under the arm, which again goes right to that gift wrap. Also as before, he can use that gift wrap to set up a bow and arrow choke.

This was the version with a knee behind the head (which I think some people call the crossbow choke? As ever, BJJ terminology is not consistent, so who knows ;D). He also fits in a nifty detail on armbars. Grip higher on the hand as you drop back, above the wrist. That will make their resistance weaker, compared to wrapping under the arm. Bidwell quickly shifts to a bicep slicer after that.

Seatbelt Counters (five minutes) is not about the back, which is what I had initially assumed from the name. By seatbelt, Bidwell is talking about them reaching around your waist from under the mount. This isn't something you'll see much beyond white belt, but it does happen sometimes. The mounted triangle is waiting for you here, which Bidwell finishes by twisting into a corkscrew. If you can't lock your legs, you can armbar them from that upright position. If they wrap with both arms, push down into them, then lock your leg next to their hand. Whether or not you can bring your leg over their head, that flows beautifully into an omoplata, justifying the name of the instructional.

There is bit of a jump after that, as he goes into around three minutes of triangle choke details from the guard (although that submission does of course combine well with the omoplata). Bidwell talks about using a very different set up to the triangle, by which he means the angled version Ryan Hall teaches, where you're looking at their ear. Personally I use the orthodox square-on approach so rarely that this angled approach is the one that now feels standard to me. Bidwell progresses mostly in the same way as Hall, except that Bidwell likes to finish by reaching underneath them and locking his hands. If you don't have limbs that long, he suggests cupping their far ribs with one hand and closing it off that way: the leverage is similar.

Next up, various ways to get into the gift wrap from mount (three minutes). Bidwell calls this the 'face wrap': I've said it many times before, but BJJ terminology is almost never consistent. I'm used to 'gift wrap', but 'face wrap' is arguably more accurate. The set up is they try to block your attempt to choke them once your hand is in their collar, by bringing their hand inside your arm. To counter, you can drop your elbow over to the other side.

That traps their arm underneath, helping you to then get behind their head with your other arm and move into the gift wrap. If they grab your sleeve, re-grip their sleeve and pull it across. If they are being really tight on defence with no arm to grab, that can make it easier to move them sideways by hooking under an elbow (the go-to option for me if somebody clams up tight is to use that to take the back).

At this point, Bidwell spends two minutes on a technique in his inimitable style, a flashiness familiar to viewers of BJJ After 40. It's one of two times he gets a little elaborate. This first one is a wristlock that starts by grabbing their fingers. I'm wary of small joint manipulation like that, plus the finish of wrapping around behind your head looks tricky. Still, if it's safer than it looks, certainly worth a try as the tap looks powerful. I'd be worried about mashing somebody's figures, but then I err on the side of caution when it comes to injuring my training partners (which is the main reason I pretty much never go for leglocks).

We're back in familiar territory for guard lapel attacks (four minutes). I often go for the gi tail ezequiel, although I rarely use it from the guard. This is therefore a handy demonstration of how to hit it from there, similar to how you would do it from mount (which is where I would normally try it, along with top half and side control). Bidwell adds in the detail of thrusting your knee into them for extra leverage.

Moving on to mount lapel attacks (three minutes), it starts with the same thing but from the top. Another detail where Bidwell varies slightly is that he doesn't chop into the neck, instead using a hammerfist. He's also got another tweak on the set up, wrapping their gi tail around his wrist to help get into position.

Still on lapel attacks, Bidwell then goes full ninja for five minutes. This the second time he gets right into the flashy material, with some crazy spinning chokes: e.g., something he calls the 'seppuku choke', which is just as fancy as that suggestst. This is way too complicated for me, but along with that wristlock, it's the only time he really gets into his standard BJJ After 40 fanciness.

If you're looking for some well taught attacks from closed guard and the mount, there is plenty for you in the hour of material Bidwell covers. Apart from that last sequence, it is not going to involve anything crazy, living up to my hope that these techniques had some longevity. It wasn't quite what I expected from the title 'Flow Jitsu', but then 'A Few Good Sequences From Mount and Closed Guard' is considerably less catchy. ;)

Available to download here for £40. I'd say that price is a bit high for an hour of content, but it's decent material, well presented.

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.

A video posted by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

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

A video posted by Can (Jun) (@slideyfoot) on

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