| bjj resources

 BJJ FAQ  Academy

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

26 November 2006

25/11/06 - BJJ

Class #7

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 25/11/2006

Felipe was there to teach the kids class, but Jude took over for the beginners – I assume Felipe was doing a private or something like that. Judging by this class, seems Jude likes to run a more fitness intensive session, with plenty of sprinting during the warm-up and lots of rolling later on.

Jude began by going through the double-leg takedown I’d seen on Thursday. I was paired up with Daniel this time, who I think is also fairly new, and helpfully was closer to my weight than the last guy I worked with. I continue to suck arse at throws, and I think I’m still using my back too much rather than my legs, which is a really bad habit to get into: trying to concentrate on avoiding that. Jude then demonstrated a slightly different method – Person A shoots in for Person B’s leg, moves under Person B’s right arm, dropping their own right knee to the floor. Grabbing behind both of Person B’s legs, Person A then pushes up with their legs (maintaining good posture) and lifts Person B’s right leg. Using that to unbalance Person B, Person A grabs Person B’s left leg, using their own leg for leverage (IIRC), tilting Person B to the floor.

As far as I can tell, this way of doing it requires less strength, not to mention less chance of buggering your back if you do it wrong (as I often do). At present, I prefer the single leg Cesar showed us last Saturday, which involved driving through rather than lifting up, but then its good to work on the stuff I’m crap at (though as a beginner, that’s a fairly long list…).

Somewhat sooner than I’d expected, it was time for specific sparring, with Person A trying to pass and Person B wanting to sweep. I took the role of Person A most of the time, which meant I could work more on the standing guard pass. Rolling with Daniel was a bit of a stalemate, as I alternately stood and sat in his guard, resisting his attempts at subs and sweeps. The very basic tip Yrkoon9 (Elric's cousin?) mentioned in the BJJ Grandmaster thread - never have one arm in and one arm out when it comes to closed guard - proved helpful; I managed to avoid getting triangled due to keeping two arms in, at least against my fellow beginners. I also wasn’t getting caught in collar chokes, which I’m hoping was due to better posture on my part. My passing was often scuppered by an inability to break their guard – something I’ll have to work on.

Del was up next, and again I started in his guard. We struggled for a while, as I continued to attempt the standing guard pass, but had no luck. However, gripping his gi jacket low with both hands meant I at least maintained my position, and also stopped his triangle attempt. He strained away for a while, then tapped to signal he wanted to stop – we were both fairly exhausted, neither having got a dominant position. This is when I found out that Jude likes to intersperse rolling with yet more drills, as he told all the pairs to go through the double-leg ten times each. I’d somehow managed to forget how to do it properly in the meantime, and ended up dragging Del’s leg and sloppily knocking him to the ground rather than throwing: Del was considerably smoother when it came to his turn.

My third rolling partner was from the kids class, a yellow belt with a few stripes called Jerome. I assume his presence in the adult class means he’s especially good for his age, or possibly just more mature. Either way, he was certainly better than me. Jerome reversed me (swept me?) twice, starting from his guard – first time I almost got into side mount, then ended up not quite able to get past his left leg. Second time I almost got back mount, but Jerome managed to slide me round into guard. I was able to throw Jerome fairly easily when Jude directed us to go through the double-leg again, but I that was due to the weight difference rather than my technique.

Finally, I was paired up with Matt, a third stripe white. As you’d expect, he had no problems submitting, reversing or passing me, so I took the opportunity to try out triangles and armbars when on the bottom. They didn’t work, but still good to practice them. I also learned how to try and get a concussion, which is a feat I don’t plan to repeat anytime soon. I think I was trying to escape a triangle, whereupon I decided that throwing myself forward was a great idea, ending up slamming the top of my head into the ground. Can’t have been too serious though, as I was able to continue rolling a short while later, if a little groggy.

Jude wrapped up class by summarising everything that had been shown in class that week. Apparently, this is all written on a board, which I hadn’t realised until now. I was still feeling slightly woozy, not to mention totally knackered from all the rolling and drilling, so found it a bit difficult to concentrate. I remember Jude went through the armbar escape, but not much else – he was going pretty fast, and I hadn’t been present at some of the classes he was referring to.

Next session will probably be Thursday again: I’ve got an important meeting on Wednesday (hope that goes ok, though I do have one more chance if I mess up), but that will probably finish too late to make it down to London for training.

24 November 2006

23/11/06 - BJJ

Class #6

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 23/11/2006

Chatted to Kay and then Jan before the lesson started, having got there with a good 45 mins to spare. After the warm-up, it was time to partner up and practice falling back and coming up guarding. There was an odd number of people, so I got left on my own, but Felipe said that was ok as it wasn’t really necessary to have two for the exercise. I also managed to do it wrong, getting up going forwards rather than backwards, but Olly (the blue belt guy who has posted on Bullshido before) was fortunately there to correct.

Next we worked on a double leg takedown into side mount. I had trouble with this, as it was basically a throw: Person A, gripping Person B’s right collar and left arm, lifts up their own arms then pulls Person B in close. At the same time, Person A dips down under Person B’s right arm, dropping to grab the back of the knees. Shifting position with their legs. Person A crouches in front of Person B, back straight. Lifting up with the legs, Person A picks up Person B, then driving with the head, turns them to the right and drops into side control.

I’m small and weedy, so I always have trouble when it comes to picking people up: pretty much everyone is going to be heavier than I am, my partner on this occasion being Olly (not the blue belt I mentioned earlier), who had about 20kg on me. First I took too much strain on my back, as my posture was bad. Once Felipe corrected me, I still had trouble picking up and dropping – instead, I picked up and collapsed forward. Not too graceful, but at least a small improvement on my first attempts.

Then it was time for armbar from guard. Person B isolates…let’s say the left arm, grabbing the forearm with their left arm and around the elbow with their right arm, pushing Person A’s arm towards Person B’s left. Then Person B put’s their right leg up on Person A’s left knee, keeping it tight to Person A’s left shoulder. Person B pushes off with their right leg, swivelling their hips towards the right. Then Person B uses their left leg to push Person A off balance, aiming to get their left leg on Person A’s back. At the same time, Person B move’s their right leg up by Person A’s head, then secures the armbar.

I had some difficulty pushing sufficiently to get Olly off-balance – he, on the other, easily knocked me to the floor. Still, I got the position, even if he was vaguely upright. Olly proved another helpful partner, coaching me through the double-leg and also giving me advice on the armbar: as soon as people see you’re new, they’re happy to help, which is another point in the Roger Gracie Academy’s favour.

After that, Felipe handily showed us the armbar escape. As Person B attempted to shift their legs round to get the armbar on Person A’s right arm, Person A grabs their own right bicep with their left arm, then grips Person B’s left knee with their right arm. Even better if Person A can manage to get the right arm behind Person B’s left knee, but that takes quicker reactions. Once Person A has that grip, they stand up and stack Person B, gradually jerking their right arm out of Person B’s grip. Once free, Person A can press down and sprawl round, eventually passing Person B’s guard and getting side mount. Dave Camarillo shows it like this.

As usual, we then went on to specific sparring, Person A in Person B’s guard. Olly dominated me from both positions: if I was going to take something positive from the spar, it would be that I got somewhere near to reversing him a couple of times. The first one wasn’t especially near, as I tried to loop my legs round his head from behind, while attempting to slip out from his legs. Didn’t work, but it at least delayed his pass. Also tried to upa a few times, but need to practice that technique more – I managed to unbalance him, but not enough to push through and go into his guard. Finally, I got out of a few submission attempts, but it was the usual wriggling kind of thing rather than anything especially technical, so not much I can take to build on.

Felipe then lined everyone against one wall. Taking five people from the start, he told them to go out on the mat, after which another five would go into their guard. If someone was passed, swept or submitted, they went to the back of the line, whoever successfully applied their technique staying where they were. I first sparred with a tall guy called Sam (who I don’t think anyone managed to pass), who got me in a triangle. I tried the one standing guard pass that has worked for me in the past, but no luck – I get to my legs, but then normally get pulled down via my collar. Sam also grabbed me legs to stop me moving round. Finally I rolled with Olly again, where it went pretty much the same way as before.

So, clearly I need to work that standing pass, as at the moment it tends to result in me getting pulled down and collar choked. I’m probably being too slow, and no doubt my technique is bad too. The pushing their knee off my leg thing I tried last session hasn’t been too successful either, as again I’m a bit slow, so they have plenty of time to knock me off balance or grab my leg.

As with last week, next training will be on Saturday (although my gf just texted me and wants me to come up today as she's ill: hopefully she'll get better fast, but if not, then will have to try and get extra training in some other time). The skin on my knuckle still hasn’t grown back from ZSK (my own stupid fault for not wearing gloves because I was rushing), and I think I also managed to cut my lip (various splotches of blood on my gi from where I touched my mouth). Sam gave me a solid whack on the left side of my head as he ground the triangle in, so my ear is still a bit sore, as is the rear left part of my skull. Fortunately not had any major injuries so far, which I’m hoping to avoid: the judo one was really irritating!

22 November 2006

21/11/06 - ZSK

University of Warwick Zhuan Shu Kuan (ZSK), Me, Coventry, UK – 21/11/2006

Rod has apparently broken his toe, which meant that I had to take the class today. I went through the usual warm-up, adding on sprawls, then quickly going through the necessary stretches so we could get on to padwork.

As before, I tried to do ‘alive’ padwork, with the pad person moving round and smacking their partner, trying to break up the rhythm and vary the distance. I’d also finally managed to work out the timer on my phone, which meant I could work the bag. That also handily meant I could watch the class at the same time – generally I was shouting out for people to keep their elbows in tighter to the ribs and for the pad people to be more mobile.

I went through jab-cross, then any punch (with the pad person shifting the pads to indicate hooks, uppercuts etc), after which I added kicks. Next step was to get some sweat going with jab-cross for a minute, then turning kick with each leg for a minute. All in all, I was aiming to take around 30 mins. What I like about padwork is that as I don’t feel properly qualified to demonstrate technique in a particularly detailed fashion, this gives people the opportunity to work their striking despite the fact they’ve only got me taking class. Also means they get a change from the formal stuff Rod often dips into, which was especially hefty last week.

I had another 30 minutes left, which I wanted to divide up between sparring and then a quick warm-down. My favourite ZSK sparring has always been the ‘four corner’ approach, where you have boxing in one corner, just kicking in another, kicking and punching in the third, then finally grappling in the fourth. I divided up the corners between the seniors (of which there were only four present, including me), then set the timer for 3 minute rounds.

Grappling is not something people at ZSK know much about, so I gave people the choice of either going at it, or if they preferred, I could show them a couple of techniques. I kept it really simple (considering my own noobness at grappling), so stuck to armbar from mount and a standing guillotine. Those are the two I’ve been shown the most over the various MMA, judo and BJJ classes I’ve been to, so hopefully I didn’t show anybody anything stupid.

The fourth guy had done a bit of judo, which meant he was happy to do some grappling from knees. As usual, I ended up in guard, which eventually got passed, though I did almost manage a triangle. Again as usual, he slipped out – that’s something I’m going to have to work on, as I keep failing to secure them properly. After a while, I noticed he wasn’t going for any subs: he had only ever rolled to pin, rather than sub. Only three weeks of judo, apparently, though I would have thought that was sufficient to learn at least one submission: I guess it depends on the class. I had just enough time to show an Americana from side-mount (on which he commented “Ah, yeah, we’ve done that in jujitsu”, so not sure what other experience he might have had).

If there is a next time, I think I’ll keep it even simpler and do the specific sparring thing, working passing and sweeps (though that would mean I’d have to show how to pass and sweep properly, so will need to be careful). My plan is to try and throw in some grappling when I can, in an effort to drum up sufficient interest that people will try out judo, BJJ etc, or at least be willing to come along to Throwdowns. Tom mentioned that Rod has been running some grappling on Thursdays, which is cool – would be great if that became a regular part of every class!

After a brief warm-down, session was over. Rod is back on Thursday, so I’m told, so hopefully he’s going to take it easy on that broken toe! Next session for me will be BJJ on Thursday, as my gf is coming back to Bucks with me tonight, so no training this Wednesday.

19 November 2006

18/11/06 - BJJ

Class #5

I had intended to go to a corridor reunion tonight, or alternately Rod's party at his place, but annoyingly couldn't make either. However, I could at least still make training, as that was earlier in the day at 2pm.

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Bruno Roger & Cesar Lima, London, UK – 18/11/2006

This is what I’ve found especially useful so far from the noobie-relevant threads in the DHS:

First Day Lesson
Fundamental 5
Maximizing what you get out of rolling
Protecting Yourself During Sparring
Training, Stagnation and Tapping

I’ve been saving these to my computer, but I’m always on the look-out for more good advice, of which there is plenty in the DHS. I also had a look through some of the more basic Abhaya vids Aesopian found on Google Video, especially the sweeps and passes: I hadn’t a clue what to do last time, as standing passes weren’t allowed, so decided I'd have a go at the legpin pass (or whatever its called: break their guard, put your left shin over their leg, kick your right leg behind and past you, swivel round into sidemount).

However, Felipe was in the Netherlands today, so instead two purple belts – Bruno and Cesar (I'm assuming Bruno Roger and Cesar Lima, going by the site)– took the class. Bruno went through the warm-up, with the added exercise of picking someone up and running with them (I paired up with a guy whose name was Del, I think). After the warm-up, Cesar took over and moved onto techniques.

Instead of the triangle that Felipe probably would have continued to drill from the previous lesson, Cesar showed us how to pull guard from a standing start. The first method was for Person B to simply jump on Person A and pull them down. As that was a little intimidating, Cesar focused on another method, which begins with Person B putting their right foot into Person A’s left hip, holding on to Person A’s left collar and right arm (though this ends up taking the back rather than guard, though Cesar also showed how you could get guard using this method). Person B then pulls Person A’s right arm down and to the side, while at the same time Person B shifts their hips round to the right. Person B wraps their left leg round Person A’s right leg, threading the leg through so as to also hook Person A’s left leg. Using that to knock Person A off balance and spin them forward, Person B then shifts grip to Person A’s belt and takes their back.

I was with a guy called Misja (I think: unusual name. I know there is a ‘j’ in it, but will probably have to ask him again next time I see him), who was wearing a swish black Atama gi. Despite his stripeless white belt, he seemed to have a certain amount of experience, or perhaps had simply listened closely in previous lessons. He gave me plenty of tips whilst drilling, so proved an excellent choice of partner.

The obvious next step after getting their back was to choke them out, so Cesar demonstrated a collar choke. Person B reaches round with the left arm over Person A’s left shoulder, getting a deep grip on their right collar. At the same time, Person B hooks their right arm under Person A’s right armpit, then reaches round behind Person A’s neck, secures a grip, then squeezes for the choke.

Having showed us how to pull guard (well, back mount, but it was initially about pulling guard), Cesar then ran through a single-leg takedown. If Person B goes for the left leg, they drive in with their left shoulder, reaching round with their left arm and grabbing their own right gi collar. At the same time, Person B wraps their right leg around Person A’s left leg, pushing forward to knock them down.

Cesar then added another step, as Person A will then normally reach with their left arm (apparently: at least they did for the purposes of this drill), whereupon Person B grabs it with their right arm. Switching Person A’s left arm to their own left arm (which is still underneath Person A’s left leg), Person B then reaches up with their right arm for Person A’s collar, aiming to get a deep grip. This is where the legpin pass I’d looked at earlier came in useful, as Person B then shifted their base (I think that’s the right term) by kicking round with their left leg, swivelling round into side mount.

Once we’d got that down, Cesar demonstrated the final part of the motion, where Person B (now in side mount) grabs Person A’s belt and drives their left knee into Person A’s belly, sprawling out with the right leg. Person B then brings the left leg over into full mount, gets a deep grip on Person A’s right collar with their left hand and left collar with his right hand (so Person B’s wrists are now crossed over Person A’s neck), then twisting their grip and leaning forward, pulls for the collar choke. Cesar quickly got us to drill a variation, where Person A bridges and rolls into Person B’s guard: the choke still works, you simply have to maintain your grip and pull Person A onto you.

Drilling over, it was time for sparring. I managed to do the jumping into guard with Misja once, but had little success other than that. At one point, I was stood in his open guard with a firm grip on both legs of his gi, but had no real idea what to do from there to pass. I also had an opportunity to try one of the Abhaya guard breaks, where you rise up on the right knee and straighten out your left leg at an angle in order to push Person A’s right knee down to the ground, but failed miserably. Misja eventually subbed me by effectively rear naked choking across my nose – I tapped from the pain.

Second sparring partner was a fairly new guy (2 lessons) called Nick, with whom I ended up in a stalemate. As he tried to take me down, I attempted to sprawl, sort of managed it, going for a guillotine at the same time (about the only sub I ever got to work during my brief spate of MMA lessons from 2004-2005), eventually pulling him into guard. However, I only had my right arm under and couldn’t get enough leverage from the gi, or my left arm over the top to grip my right, so Nick escaped, sitting in my closed guard. That’s where we stayed for the rest of the 3 minutes. Nick flailed with his arms sufficiently to prevent me getting any kind of grip, and I defended against his attempts to collar choke and Americana me.

Finally, I sparred Harry, who despite having been there for a few months had only made a few sessions due to breaking his nose (in _ing _un, surprisingly enough). Again, it was a stalemate, but we both had good chances. The first time round, I almost got an armbar, but messed up and Harry got his legs in the way. I suggested we reset, as we both had a firm grip and weren’t getting anywhere. Second time round, we struggled for a while until Harry got my arm into position for an Americana. I was able to resist, and passed his guard…but he still had my arm, so that wasn’t much help. I was forced to swivel into half guard to prevent the submission, where we stayed until Cesar called time. I was grabbing my own gi, my arm, my collar etc in order to prevent the sub, but perhaps I should have simply given in so we could have done something more productive. I was annoyed I couldn’t do anything from that side mount, which is probably why I got pig-headed in my resistance. Again, will have to avoid doing that in sparring, or its going to hamper my progress.

As there wasn’t a class afterwards, Cesar suggested anyone who wanted to keep going was free to carry on sparring. However, the puny muscles in my left arm were whining their objection after holding off Harry, plus my girlfriend was waiting for me in Brum, so I decided I’d wimp out and leave on time. Next training I can make will be on Thursday, as like last week I’m busy Wednesday, so will train Thursday and Saturday instead.

17 November 2006

16/11/06 - BJJ

Class #4

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 16/11/2006

On Tuesday, I discovered some Fightworks podcasts linked by the Gracie Barra UK site related to the UK scene: this interesting interview with Jude Samuel (also talks about Europe in general), along with this earlier interview by Jude with Roger Gracie. Fitted in nicely, having been taught by Jude last session.

Moving ahead to Thursday, seems the Hammersmith & City line never runs on time: was late yet again today, but due to leaving work ridiculously early as usual, didn’t cause me any problems.

The one change to the warm-up today was a drill for pairs, in which Person A grabbed the back of Person B’s belt, who then ran up the room, dragging Person A (who was attempting to hold a firm base) behind them. I worked this with a guy I hadn’t met before, Dava (sp?), who had been to a couple more lessons than me. Then it was back to closed guard, but this time, Person A didn’t stand up. Instead, it was time to learn the triangle, for which I was paired up with another new training partner, John (like me, he was attending his fourth lesson).

Person A attempts to pass Person B’s guard. Person B raises their right leg, pushing their left leg off Person A’s hip, tightening it behind Person A’s neck, securing with their right leg. Next, Person B pulled down on their right shin (not the heel, ankle or foot: Felipe said that was a bad habit to get into, which could be harmful) and Person A’s head as necessary, squeezing for the triangle.

Felipe then showed us a variation in which Person B forces the triangle on Person A. First, Person B grabs Person A’s left arm and right collar, pulling down on the right collar while pushing back on the left arm, shifting their grip to the left arm and twisting their upper body to the right. The legs then came up again as Person A’s left arm was pulled across their body and under the neck, whereupon Person B could secure the triangle. Here's a vid of how Dean Lister does it, from a more MMA perspective.

As always, class finished with specific sparring. At first, I thought it was going to be the same as last week, with Person A going for a standing pass while Person B attempted a sweep. However, this lesson Person A was not allowed to stand: at most, they could lift one leg or sprawl. That made things much more difficult, at least for me. I’ve been shown a pass from that position before, way back when I popped down to Elite in 2004. From what I remember, the idea was to stay low, push down on the knee and slip past the guard, but I had no luck at all last time. 2006 wasn’t to prove much better, as I generally ended up straining against a leg, or got caught in a submission.

I managed to pass John’s guard once, shifting round to side control, and he managed the same on me – all in all, I think we were fairly even, unsurprising given that we’d both been doing BJJ for a similar length of time. I found it tougher with my next partner, Dava, who went to work on my neck. Several of my attempts to go for a triangle ended up with him twisting me over whilst crushing down onto my neck, the pain loosening any vague grip I might have achieved, then either getting mount or side control on me. I did manage to pass him once, though I’m not sure whether that was due to something I did or a mistake on his part.

Bullshido came to the rescue when I found myself in a triangle, as I remembered one of Aesopian’s pics, in which he spoke about a triangle escape achieved by grabbing the knee, rolling it to the ground, then pushing through. This just about worked for me: I didn’t exactly burst through Dava’s legs, but I did at least successfully resist the triangle and eventually escape. Can’t remember if that was when I managed to pass, but either way, Aeso definitely helped me out.

My final roll was with a significantly bigger guy, Simon, who had a lot more weight to use against me. I was ok when on top, working my through his attempts to elevate me (at least I think that was what he was trying to do, as he kept pushing to get his knee underneath me). Again, I managed to pass his guard once. With Simon on top, I fared much worse. I can’t even blame the weight difference, as he got me with a collar choke (my gi was loose, so he grabbed the left collar and used it to get the sub) and then later with an Americana (or is it called a kimura? Figure-4? Must get that terminology right).

In general, I think I probably should have tapped sooner in sparring today, although I don’t feel I’ve strayed too far from my initial determination to treat rolling as a learning exercise rather than a deadly serious competition. At least not yet: will have to be careful I don’t lose my focus on learning. I’m defending the collar chokes a bit better, but still getting caught in them. Wearing a gi takes some getting used to, especially keeping it tight so I don’t leave so much space for people to take advantage of.

Walking back to Westbourne Park, I chatted with Ben as usual, along with a Norwegian guy called Jan. Kay met us at the station, after we’d tried to tempt Jan onto Bullshido. Although he’d need to be careful, considering Jan has _ing _un in his background…

15 November 2006

14/11/2006 - ZSK

University of Warwick Zhuan Shu Kuan (ZSK), Rod Richardson, Coventry, UK – 14/11/2006

Bit of a formal class today, which as I’ve already established isn’t exactly my favourite thing. It started off with a fairly intensive warm-up, taken by Paddy (who had made sure to turn up to class today to work his black belt grading stuff with Rod), counting out in sets of 15 rather than the usual 10. He then moved on to riding stance and punches, a trend which continued when Rod arrived.

We began by going through the 8th grade (white belt, so the first grading) fixed spar. That’s the usual TMA procedure of one person punches, the other blocks – in this case, its rising, inner and outer forearm blocks. Rod then called Paddy over to work some pads with him (I presume the black belt form came in at some point, but maybe Rod just wanted to work Paddy’s fitness), meaning that I had to take the class through the compulsory movements. This again is something for the grading, which at 8th grade looks pretty much like the fixed spar done solo.

I felt a bit strange instructing formal work, considering my views on it, but tried to teach it as best I could, emphasise the stance and putting effort into the blocks and strikes. Mainly that’s because I know from experience that Rod won’t put them forward for grading unless they look crisp, technical and firm. I attempted to make it a little less abstract by putting everyone into pairs after running through the movements a few times (it was a small class, so this was easy enough), then getting one of the pair to punch. That meant that instead of simply blocking in the air, there was a target to resist. Hopefully slightly more interesting, and it seemed to help (though that can be hard to tell).

In the midst of padwork with Paddy, Rod then told me to get everyone to simply jab-cross until I got tired (which effectively meant until Rod stopped: I didn’t especially want to be twiddling my thumbs while he was still working!). A very quick bit of linework from fighting stance, and the class was over. No sparring today, which I guess is because Rod wants to work the formal side of things in preparation for grading.

Not going to be able to make BJJ tomorrow unfortunately, but I’m compensating for that by going on Saturday instead. The question now is what to do Saturday night: I had intended to go to a corridor reunion, but now have to change my plans. Will see how things turn out.

12 November 2006

11/11/2006 - BJJ

Class #3

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza & Jude Samuel, London, UK – 11/11/2006

Once again, I’m glad my father drilled punctuality into me from a young age, as it means I tend to leave loads of time when heading anywhere. The line from Amersham to Marylebone was down, so I had to get to Beaconsfield instead. Fortunately, I’d left at about 11:20, so that gave me loads of time to make it to Marylebone. Next thing that went wrong is that the Edgware Road entrance I used last time is closed on Saturdays: again, I was lucky, as the main entrance isn’t too far off, round the corner.

Eventually made it to class with about 30 mins to spare, the very loud kids session in progress. Presumably due to said loud kids, that class ran over, so the adult beginners started (I think) about 10 minutes late. Not that this mattered, as I was totally knackered by the end of the session as usual: could be that a few extra minutes were added on, but I forgot to check (yeah, I’m the kind of person that would want to know). Saw Dominique as I came in, who was there to bring her kids to class, but told me she wasn’t training herself today. There is a club competition on Sunday, so she’s saving her strength for that: bit soon for me after only one week of training, so I won’t be going tomorrow. Not to mention there’s a guinea pig to feed back in Brum!

Warm-up went as normal, going back to breakfalls and shrimping rather than throws, although that same old hip throw came up next. However, good thing that it did, as I clearly still need a lot of work on it. For the first time in drilling, I was paired up with a guy considerably bigger than me, called Diagul (if I heard him correctly, having asked for the spelling: apparently, its pronounced ‘Jergal’). He’d been coming for about a month, I think – not sure if English is his first language, judging by the accent, which may explain the lack of conversation. Nevertheless, seemed a nice enough guy, though I had real trouble throwing him. Kept on simply pulling him in front of me rather than getting him over my hip. I improved slightly later on, but still only getting one of his legs off the ground. Bleh.

As with the previous two lessons, the next drill was sweeping from the closed guard against a standing pass attempt (like this), then following through with the basic standing pass itself. This time, Felipe demonstrated the standing pass I’d been initially shown by Olly, in which you reach back with your arm and take one leg rather than two, then maintaining downwards pressure, sprawl and circle round until you can quickly push round the leg past your head, making sure to leave as little space as possible, finishing in side control. Another useful tip was to pull your arm right back, still gripping the gi, in order to avoid the triangle. I found this much easier than the two-leg version from Wednesday and Thursday. In fact, so much easier that I had the small victory of finally passing someone’s guard, though Diagul otherwise dominated me from both his guard and on top.

Switching partners, I then found myself against the slightly less heavily built but taller Milos, who I presume has been doing it a little longer as he had one stripe. I got absolutely nowhere with him, but as soon as I asked him for a tip on resisting the collar choke – which I still keep finding myself in – he went into teacher mode and gave me lots of good advice. First he said I should grip both collars in one hand. He also noted that I need to defend my neck more carefully (though I may have misunderstood him on this: think he said by putting my hands nearer my neck, but not sure). Keeping good posture was another pointer, which should aid me in resisting those collar chokes. He also coached me through a pass, and kept talking throughout. I had a go at landing a triangle, but stopped once I realised I was getting nowhere and simply wasting energy, using strength rather than technique. Think Milos would have preferred if I’d continued straining, but I’ve no desire to let pride stop me getting something more useful out of rolling.

Finally I rolled with a woman called Katie, who gave me another new experience in that she was the first person I’d sparred who had less experience than me (albeit only slightly: this was her first lesson and my third). I passed her guard easily the first few times, so the fourth time, decided that was getting rather repetitive and not especially helpful for her, so simply tried to resist her sweep instead (which she got). Despite being a beginner, she was able to give me some tips on the collar choke and sweeping, so clearly she was paying close attention that class and during her intro session. Felipe must have gone at some point, as another black belt had taken over (Jude Samuel, I’m guessing, but maybe not). He came up to Katie and I and talked her through a collar choke, which made her a bit harder to pass: at one point, I had her leg squashed against her face while she was still holding onto my collar. I couldn’t break her grip, so we let go and started over. Also managed to land a sloppy triangle, but I think she only eventually tapped due to discomfort rather than getting choke.

Next time I’ll be training will be on Thursday, due to aforementioned Warwick Open Day. Tonight, I’m off to an uni friend’s birthday party, so typing this up at my sister’s, who very handily lives in London and often lets me stay round. I’m all mapped up, so time for the drinking, which appropriately is at a Brazilian bar.

10 November 2006

09/11/2006 - BJJ

Class #2

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 09/11/2006

The Hammersmith & City line was a little pants today, which wasn’t helped by people holding up the ticket queue at Blackfriars: only every seems to happen when I’m in a hurry! Train down to Farringdon was fine, but from there to Westbourne Park was a little delayed. Still, I’d left enough time to make it to the Academy with about 10 minutes to spare, leaving me room to get changed and pop to the loo. Had another chat with Ben, just before class started.

Similar lesson plan today, with a couple of variations. No sprints on the warm-up, and instead of the breakfalling/shrimping up the room, we did hip throws (o-goshi, if I’ve looked that term up correctly) in pairs. As with yesterday, I was teamed up with a woman, which I definitely prefer – generally more mature, less macho bullshit and more considerate training partners. This time it was Indra (name has nothing to do with the Hindu god, apparently, just cool parents), who has been along to BJJ for about 4 months (I think, might have been longer), having also done a few months of MMA back in America before she moved here.

Felipe then moved on to the same drills as yesterday (though he had Olly explain the process, presumably to work on his instructing), starting with sweep from closed guard, then the counter and pass. That was then followed by specific sparring, with the same rules as before: Person A in Person B’s guard, Person A trying to pass and Person B trying to sweep/submit.

I think my approach this time was much better, and as a result I got a lot more out of the sparring. I wasn’t simply struggling in collar choke, although I did have a lot of trouble when on top. I ended up pretty much just defending my position, attempting to anticipate attempts at triangles, passes etc by moving round with my legs, but getting nowhere close to passing. With Indra, this tended to end with me getting rolled over as she worked round to the side.

I provided slightly more of a challenge when on the bottom, though still eventually getting passed. I tried to remember the Fundamental 5 thread I’d read earlier, with a mnemonic of ‘HALF 9E’ (hips/hunchback, arms between me and opponent, look and feel for their position, 90% hip 10% upper body strength and finally escape), though I ended up focusing mainly on the hips/hunchback part. I’m not sure if it made a difference from last time, but I was at least able to go for triangles (badly), and found myself in a vague armbar position hanging off Indra, but couldn’t finish it (not to mention I imagine she was taking it easy with me). Trying to remember to raise questions after rolling, I asked Indra if there was anything I could do when stacked (the position in which bottom person is getting their legs squished onto their chest by the top person, if I’ve got that terminology right). She wasn’t sure, so mentioned it to Felipe, who demonstrated how the bottom person could push on the elbow of the top guy and twist to one side to dislodge them (I think – I may not have understood properly).

I then switched partners to Ben, who with a 30kg weight and significant height advantage would be a quite different prospect. Dominique had been a bit shorter than me, while Indra is roughly the same build, perhaps a little taller. I had lot more trouble with Ben, though I did at least get to try and defend a range of attacks while on top, as Ben tried to triangle and sweep me (swept me no problem, though I don’t think I ended up in any submissions. Of course, sweeping was the point, so that’s unsurprising). On the bottom I probably fared worse this time, again tending to try and throw my legs round his neck. Might have helped if I’d actually caught his arm at some point rather than just dangling by his head.

Felipe next put us into groups of three (winner stays on bottom, loser switches with third guy), where again I was teamed up with Ben, and an Asian guy called Kay (sp?). Kay was closer to my build, though I think a bit beefier, and seemed fairly skilled. I didn’t get too far with him, generally just getting swept or passed very quickly. He also did this strange motion when attempting a standing guard pass, where he turned to one side and then thrust himself against the legs. I’m not sure if that was to unbalance the guy on the bottom, or perhaps open up their guard, but stuck in my mind afterwards.

I forgot to mention last time that the class finishes with a warm down, something which is all too lacking in a number of places I’ve tried out, so definitely a plus point in the Roger Gracie Academy’s favour (walk round to cool off, then stretch out the neck, arms, legs and back). As before, everyone shaking everyone else’s hand marked the end of the session.

All in all, I felt I’d got a lot more out of class today, and appreciated the chance to work the same position as yesterday. Submissions and the like are a long way off for me, so I’m looking to continue working my positioning and defence. Still need to get conditioned, as my ankles are sore from attempting to hold closed guard, and I can also feel the abrasions on my fingers from gripping the gi and getting it ripped out of my grasp.

The changing room wasn’t so packed today, despite the class appearing to be every bit as full, which either means people are being skanky and not showering because it finishes later, or I simply thought there were more people than there actually were. Did mean I got to shower and change without having to queue to get to my clothes, which was definitely a plus point.

Walked to Westbourne Park station with Ben, having a pleasant chat with him – will have to look into socials, as it would be good if the club goes out drinking together or something like that. There is a pub fairly nearby, so will have to see. I’m training again on Saturday, due to friend’s birthday party that night, but then won’t train again until Thursday – have an open day at Warwick to go to with my gf. Be most excellent if I can get her to come back to uni for a Masters, as then its less train travel for me, improved social life at Warwick and of course academic fulfilment for her (she’s always kicked arse at essays and creative writing, so would be shame if she stopped at BA).

08 November 2006

08/11/2006 - First Lesson of BJJ

Class #1
Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 08/11/2006

Having been incapable of training since my intro class with Oli Geddes, there was no way I was going to miss tonight’s lesson. I even skipped ZSK earlier in the week to make sure the illness had a chance to lift. I was still feeling a bit sniffly this morning, and I could feel the vestiges of a fever as I slept on the way down to Marylebone, but seems ok at the moment.

I got to Westbourne Park far too early, as I’d been worried sod’s law would fuck me up by delaying the train down from Birmingham or something like that. Eventually got to the Academy itself at about 17:45, which gave me a chance to hear the children’s class. There weren’t seats available to actually watch it, so I went into my usual introvert mode of sitting quietly out of the way. I had thought Ben would be along again this session, but presumably he’s either come down with something or couldn’t make it this time round.

Class started with running round the mats. At various points, Felipe threw in some exercises, with one of the (presumably higher: I couldn’t tell) white belts calling out the numbers. 20 star jumps, 20 squats, 20 alternating arms and legs (sure that has a name, but can’t remember it), 20 lunges (as in pushing as far as possible with one leg bent, the other almost into a kneeling position), then a few exercises incorporated into running round the room (facing out sidesteps, facing in, knees up, heels to arse, sprints down one side of the room). The warm-up finished with breakfalls. In two lines, we went down the room over each shoulder, then from the back, and finally shrimping.

That meant it was time for the first technique, which turned out to be the same hip throw Oli had shown me in my introductory class. I was paired up with the only person in the whole class shorter than me (though I’m pretty weedy, so there probably wasn’t too much in it weight-wise), a woman called Dominique. She’d been doing this two months, along with her husband and two children, which was kinda cool – a BJJ family. The throw was next put into a ‘self-defence’ setting, which was a grab round the waist. This necessitated drawing the hips back and pushing the attacker away, then back into the hip throw.

Felipe followed up with work on the closed guard. Person A was on the bottom, holding the other in their guard. Person B stood up, holding onto both collars. Person A raised up their hips, squeezed their knees together and pulled on Person B’s ankles, aiming to push them over and get into mount (which I'll call the ankle grab sweep - see below for how Rowan Cunningham shows it). This then switched to the counter, which was to have Person B hold a strong base (legs apart, knees bent) pushing forward with their hips maintaining a firm grip on Person A’s collars, circling their arm’s behind to break Person A’s closed guard, then forcing themselves down onto Person A’s legs until they’re effectively sitting on them. Finally Person B pushed aside Person A’s legs to move into side mount (video here).

While doing this, I realised that I’d misinterpreted last week: people weren’t taking a break, they had simply come to the end of Felipe’s repetitions. He tended to tell us to repeat 10 times on the more basic move, then 5 when it got more complicated. I preferred to get as many tries as I could, but at the same time I wanted to chat to Dominique: I don’t know anyone at class yet except Ben, so will be good to try and socialise a bit. Always makes it more enjoyable if you feel a part of the group and get on with your training partners.

Specific sparring was next, which this time was to have Person A on the bottom and Person B in their closed guard, as with the drill. The objective was for Person A to pass the guard and Person B to sweep. This proved rather educational: I’ve rolled before, but its been brief and spread over three years. Importantly, I’ve never rolled in a gi before, which made for a lot of changes. I spent most of the roll struggling against collar chokes from Dominique, as well as trying to free my left arm, which was crushed against my chest due to Dominique grabbing the sleeve.

Dominique gave me some advice on trying to defend, suggesting that I attempt to push my forearm into her throat to make her uncomfortable, and also use my arms to try and break the choke: I had been trying to use them to pass the guard, at which I failed miserably. I think what I should have done is resisted less and simply accepted I was in a collar choke, rather than straining uselessly – would probably have been more productive to tap out sooner and try the guard pass/sweep again, as I was supposed to be doing. I’ll have to concentrate more tomorrow.

I noticed that my left shoulder didn’t enjoy the roll much, so hopefully that isn’t going to flare up again. I also ripped some skin off my big toe, but I’m fairly used to that from ZSK – will see how my toes are tomorrow. Also ground my right knee into the mat, which resulted in slight mat burn. Again, will have to watch that, but I imagine these are all things that will come with conditioning, not to mention the experience needed to stop trying to put muscle in so much. That’s especially ridiculous on my part, as I barely have any muscle – I need to focus on technique, as there is no way I can rely on strength.

Also provides a small sample of BJJ’s effectiveness. Dominique has been training for two months, is not a big person and hasn’t taken martial arts before now. However, she was able to pass my guard with ease and had no trouble incapacitating me with the collar chokes. An untrained person of roughly the same weight (with a significant discrepancy in strength and size, no doubt things are different) has little chance against even a fairly novice BJJer, going by that experience.

The one downside I noticed to class (I was already expecting the helpless frustration, which hopefully won’t become a problem, especially once I’ve been there a few months) was that the changing room was way too small for the amount of people training. You basically had to queue to get to your stuff, then had to wait again for the showers, of which there were only three. An unfortunate side-effect of popularity, but perhaps like Oli said, the classes might be split up into an additional intermediate level to try and reduce overcrowding. We shall see.

I should be training again tomorrow, and I’ve got a friend’s birthday party on the Saturday, so can make another session then. For the moment, I’ll be making Wednesday and Thursday and the odd Saturday: quite a few social things happening over the next few weekends, which should translate to a fair few Saturday sessions.

05 November 2006

02/11/2006 - BJJ (too ill to train, so watched)

Since the intro class with Oli Geddes on Thursday night, I’ve spent most of my time in bed, not capable of doing much else except sleeping. Still, I did manage to get the following typed up on the train before the Lemsip wore off, finishing it up on Friday after yet more medication fun:

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Too ill to train so watched the class, London, UK – 02/11/2006

I woke up and still felt fairly shitty, but as I’d managed to make the ZSK class on Tuesday, I thought I’d still be ok two days later.

I was wrong.

Despite noshing on four fruit juices, three bananas, two nut bars, a 200mg helping of Vitamin C from a tablet, then a crapload of paracetamol and various other chemicals in increasingly stronger varieties of flu remedies, I still felt like I was about to be sick at work. The last extra-strong Lemsip did help, so my stomach was at least under control, but as merely walking around the Tube made me feel queasy, I decided that an hour of BJJ was a distinctly bad idea. I realised just how bad when the Lemsip wore off, the flu rushing back into my head and stomach. Feeling terrible, I stumbled off the train to get my lift home, then collapsed into bed: I’m off work today. So, I can at least recommend Lemsip Max (the extra-strong version with 1000mg of paracetamol: only available in a pharmacy, according to the blurb) – definitely makes you feel better!

So, with the help of all that medicine, I wanted to go get that £150 offer (including the £90 for the first month, £50 annual membership and what I presume is a good quality gi, apparently worth £90), which ran out after today. I also wanted to at least watch a class if I couldn’t participate physically, and in addition it meant I got the chance to meet a fellow Bullshido poster, Mungkorn Dam. Olly also remembered me from last time, and made the effort to come over and greet me. Rather nice of him, particularly as I was mumbling even more than usual, doped up on Lemsip.

To first go through the financial side of things (on the off-chance anyone reading this is interested in joining up), you initially pay the £150 I mentioned (or alternately, I presume you could just pay £140 for annual membership and the first month, but a good quality gi is surely well worth it for a mere extra £10). That has to be paid in either cash or cheque; always fun to walk round London at night with a tempting wad of notes in your pocket. The £90 a month is direct debit, so you need to have your bank details with you, but its not for a set period. There is the option to pause/cancel, as long as you give a month’s notice, which is perfect if like me you’ve got a longish holiday planned next year. If you suddenly fell ill or an injury turned out to be worse than you first thought, could be more problematic, but its not exactly dodgy for the club to expect a bit of prior warning (from what the secretary, Pippa, told me, its further exacerbated by bureaucracy, as the payment goes through a third party, meaning an inevitable delay).

The beginner class started behind me as I was finishing off the direct debit form, so I didn’t quite see the warm-up, but from what I remember of seeing last Thursday a bit earlier, it was probably running round doing breakfalls etc with various exercises. Once I’d signed everything off, I took a seat and watched the class unfold.

There is a wide range of sizes, ages (going all the way up to 86, impressively: clearly a very fit gentleman for his years, although as you’d expect he had to take it a little easier than the rest of them), skill levels and to a far lesser extent, gender (there were two girls IIRC, out of a fairly large class). People divided off into pairs of roughly the same height and weight, which they pretty much kept to until rolling at the end of the session. The class was taught by a black belt, Felipe Souza (I think), with help from Olly, the blue belt I mentioned earlier (albeit he mainly worked with the 86 year old). It all appeared fairly relaxed, a feeling probably augmented by Felipe’s laidback Brazilian accent, with most people chatting amiably as they drilled, with one or two pairs even taking a break. However, there was still a certain degree of discipline, such as when Felipe announced that three people had forgotten to sign in, which meant 50 punishment press-ups.

Class began with a basic takedown (which looked vaguely familiar from my brief brush with judo), which no doubt has a funky Japanese name: swinging the leg past the other guy then swinging it back and taking out his foot, while grabbing the arm for extra leverage. This was then modified slightly (I couldn’t quite see what Felipe was demonstrating, so I’m not sure exactly how), after which the class then moved on to an armbar from mount. Again, that was then modified – something to do with the guy on the bottom defending more carefully with his arm.

This was followed by what I think Ben (Mungkorn Dam) was referring to in this post as ‘specific sparring’; in this case, one person attempting to maintain mount. After a fair bit of squirming, the class moved on to what I think was free sparring, but I’m not sure if there were in fact restrictions. This took up the last 15 minutes or so, and is the main reason I’m especially glad I decided to watch rather than take part: rolling is knackering enough in good health (from my very limited experience in MMA). On a less selfish note, given the multiple changes of partner and overall close proximity involved in rolling, I would almost certainly have infected half the class with flu.

Felipe finished off by cooling down with some stretches, after which there was a quick bow, applause, and then everyone shook everyone elses hand. After a quick chat with Ben and Olly, I headed off back home – I did say I wouldn’t write much, but meh, I’m ill and don’t have anything else to do. Hopefully I’ll be sufficiently recovered by Wednesday next week. I’ve missed one session due to no lift, now a second due to illness, so it would be really bloody irritating to miss a third and fourth!