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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

21 December 2006

21/12/2006 - BJJ (day)

Class #15

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK – 21/12/2006

My first ever day class, and my first ever session taught by the man himself, Roger Gracie. Roger runs a more technique focused class than either Felipe or Jude (although this is going by merely one experience), quickly moving on to drills after the warm-up. Nobody was there when I arrived at around 12:20, Pippa coming in slightly later. That gave me the opportunity to have a long chat with her, which was good because I’ve not had the chance to talk to her properly before now.

Once everyone arrived, there was an odd number of people at the session, which worked out very well for me, as it meant I was drilling with Luciano, a purple belt who appears to often act as assistant instructor. That meant I had someone with much more experience and skill than normal. In addition, he’s Brazilian, meaning he has a laid-back manner which I find conducive to my learning. Best of all, because he’s a purple belt in a beginner class, there was no need to swap over, so I got extra drilling time.

Roger started off demonstrating the double leg, though we stopped short of actually throwing. The way he taught it was for Person A to first push Person B’s out of the way, stepping in between Person B’s legs with their far leg, dropping down with their head on the near side, grabbing behind both knees with linked hands. Person A, keeping their back straight, knees pointing forward and base solid, steps the other leg in line, then removes their near leg from between Person B and steps round. The finish would be for Person A to push with the head and lift with the arms, bracing Person B against a leg, then pulling up on Person B’s legs to drop them. Luciano was very helpful, as you’d expect, correcting my posture and answering noob questions like “should I drop to behind the knees or higher up?”

Next was the basic armbar from guard, which I last did a couple of weeks ago on 23rd November. First Person B isolates an arm, gripping the wrist with their near hand, then on top of the elbow with their other hand (coming underneath Person A’s non-isolated arm to do so). The foot Person B has on the same side of the isolate arm goes up on the Person A’s same side hip. This enables Person B to raise their hips, then shrimp, again to the same side. At the same time, Person B brings their far leg up under Person A’s armpit, pushing Person A to the near side in an attempt to push them off-balance and set up the armbar. Person B then swings their near side leg up onto Person A’s neck to secure the armbar, raising the hips for the sub.

As before, this was followed by a demonstration of the armbar escape. As soon as Person B puts their near leg up for the armbar, Person A needs to release their grip on Person B’s gi (presuming they’re holding it), then immediately bring the other arm under their near side hand, gripping Person B’s nearest leg. Trapping that leg between their head and arm, Person A puts up their far leg, pushes forwards into Person B, then jerks their arm out. Continue to press with the head and locking up the leg with both arms, Person A then moves round for the pass. (Dave Camarillo vid)

Before the next technique, it was time to spar from the usual guard pass position. I wasn’t so successful with the scissor sweep this time – I’m not sure I managed to sweep my partner, Zahir, though I might have. I did however pass his guard several times, although one of us seems to have misunderstood the object of the exercise. At one point, I used the double underhook from Marcio to pass Zahir and go to full mount, where he confusingly said “you’ve gone back to it now, that’s not sidemount”. I might have missed Roger saying the aim was to get to sidemount, and its also possible that Zahir might have resisted less if he was under the impression the object was to get to sidemount.

So, I then passed his guard and went for sidemount instead. I’m not quite sure what position I was in, as while I was perpendicular to him with my arms around his neck and arm, he was up on his side. I thought that was close enough, but Zahir kept going, so perhaps not – I probably should have tried to take his back and choke him to be certain. Either during that roll or the next one, I was in a position with Zahir’s knee into my stomach, which meant I had a chance to try something I’d seen in the Abhaya videos from that position. The idea is to reach behind the knee and grab the opposite leg by the gi, then grab their collar, also pushing your head into their ribs, enabling you to walk round for the pass as the other person should find it hard to move with you. I clearly didn’t do it right, however, as I ended back in Zahir’s guard, I think.

Final technique of class was a sidemount escape, which looked a lot like something I’d looked at in the Abhaya videos after my helpless performance last time we rolled from sidemount. Person B presses their near knee into Person A’s side, also pressing a forearm into Person A’s neck to make space. Person B then shrimps round to get directly underneath Person A rather than at right angles, pressing their shin into Person A’s stomach. Finally, Person B shrimps in the other direction to get back into guard.

Class ended on specific sparring from sidemount. This time, it went much better, I think because of the principles I’d started to learn from my focus on sweeps. I was sparring with Zahir again, and at first it was fairly even, both of us escaping However, I then started to get repeated success on the bottom, managing to twice flip Zahir straight into sidemount (especially satisfying as Luciano was right there watching). I think it was because I got my knee underneath him and arms behind his shoulders, which gave me sufficient leverage to throw him over, but not sure. I also managed to get back to guard – I’m not sure if I was able to mount him: can’t remember, as I’m typing this up in Waterstones a few hours later, having gone to the Velázquez exhibition at the National Gallery (well worth it, if you happen to be in London).

I was dawdling a little in the changing rooms because I knew I had a good six hours or so to kill before the session at 20:00, which gave me the chance to have a chat with Roger. Kinda cool to be talking to a world champion and pro fighter about christmas, family, relationships, training etc – apparently, he’d like to stay in England more consistently, but needs to get some training partners of sufficient calibre to prepare for his next fight. I imagine Renzo Gracie is a bit of a tough act to follow, but hopefully someone will surface. Would be good to have other classes under Roger, as I like his style of teaching (though Felipe and Jude are both excellent teachers too).

Time to go get my train from Charing Cross back to Westbourne Park, for my last session of the year.

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