Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Luciano Cristovam, London, UK – 03/01/2007
The black belts were all still on holiday, apparently, which meant Luciano (a purple belt) took both the beginner and advanced classes, helped by Oli G as usual. I’d found him helpful when he assisted at previous lessons, so knew he’d be a good substitute for Felipe and Jude. I think his surname is Cristovam, though I've also seen a Luciano Cristocam when googling 'Luciano' and 'Roger Gracie Academy' - as vam gets more hits than cam, I'm assuming the latter is a typo. Then again, Oli G can tell me for certain.
Mungkorn Dam had PMed me earlier mentioning he was keen to try out the armless triangle, having come across the move in a book recently. Fortunately for us, there was no kids class today, meaning the mats were free for drilling. As Person A underhooks both legs in an attempt to pass the guard, Person B brings their left leg up behind Person A’s head. Instead of trapping an arm and bringing the other leg over, Person B wedges their own left arm into Person A’s throat, gripping their own left leg to secure the hold (I can’t remember if the grip is on top of the leg or underneath: will have to check a video or wait for MD to respond). Person B then brings their other leg across into the usual triangle position, squeezing for the choke.
After drilling some throws and a ‘self defence’ thing (when grabbed from behind, circle round the arm, pushing against the elbow, gripping your own hand and twisting up for a standing Americana), the first technique we worked in the actual class was the flower sweep, which I’d somehow managed to forget over Christmas. Luciano followed Felipe’s method rather than Jude’s, isolating an arm rather than grabbing behind the head. One thing I need to remember is that you underhook the opposite leg to the arm you’re isolating – kept getting that mixed up, meaning the sweep doesn’t work as your training partner can still base out with their arm.
Having had sufficient trouble with a technique I’d covered before, Luciano then sprung something rather more complex on us: the omoplata. I’ve seen the term used repeatedly on Bullshido without ever knowing what it was beyond some kind of shoulder lock, so it was good to finally drill it.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t even get the technique right when drilling with no resistance, which is probably why I’m having difficulty remembering exactly how the omoplata is supposed to work. I think this is a different set-up, but here’s how Rowan Cunningham shows it in one of the Abhaya videos. My main problem was pulling the arm through properly, as I kept ending up in a position where I’d triangled the arm, but it wasn’t bent backwards as shown in that video. Looking round the rest of the room, I could see I wasn’t alone: Luciano stopped us drilling to repeat his demonstration of the technique twice, the first time I can remember that happening. Here's another set-up, this time from open guard, by Cindy Omatsu:
Then it was time for specific sparring, as usual Person A trying to pass and Person B trying to sweep. I was with Herman again, but things didn’t go quite as easily as last time. He had a much more solid posture, my attempts to scissor sweep falling flat. With hindsight, I can see that my problem was a failure to move from sweep to sweep like I did previously, instead getting into a stalemate, going for the same technique rather than pressuring with several different manoeuvres. I should have been able to try the sit-up sweep, as Herman was often sitting back in my guard, but as before I forgot to go up on my elbow. That meant that Herman had no problem readjusting when I went to isolate one side, as it took me so long to get there. I did eventually sweep Herman, due to him putting too much weight forward (I think as has happened before in sparring, I basically rolled him with my knee), but it took almost the entire first spar.
Sparring in general proved useful in helping my passing. I managed to remember Marcio’s advice on getting the knee in between my partner’s legs, but that was about as far as my memory went. Nevertheless, it did enable me to break Herman’s guard (or he opened it), meaning that I was standing up gripping his trouser legs. As I tried to pass by switching my base, I didn’t defend properly, meaning Herman got my back.
Seeing my noob mistake, Luciano gave me the very useful tip to keep my elbows tight and inside Herman’s legs – I had left too much space, which meant Herman could get his foot to my bicep and generally hamper my movement. I did better on the second attempt, effectively driving straight through Herman’s guard with my knee and into side control, though no doubt fatigue on Herman’s part was a major factor.
Finally, I rolled with Basil, for whom this was his third lesson. If he had any more experience, I’m pretty sure he would have taken my back. Basil was keeping a tight grip on both my lapels, but had opened his guard sufficiently that I was able to get round his leg. Again, if he wasn’t so new, I imagine he would have capitalised on the fact he was still gripping my lapels while I was trying to pass. However, I was able to push round his leg to almost get side control, ending up in the familiar situation where my training partner is on their side trying to move back into guard. Luciano was watching, and shouted out the blindingly obvious next move: mount him. Simple, but I was so busy concentrating on getting side control I didn’t consider the much easier option of throwing my leg over until Luciano’s observation.
I still need to be quicker, and must remember to keep flowing from technique to technique rather than getting into a stalemate of failing at one move repeatedly. If I mess up the scissor, I should go for an armbar, possibly move on to flower sweep or try a sit-up sweep depending on the position. Also need to keep my elbows in tight when I’ve got the trouser legs, and be more careful of my back when attempting to pass by switching my base. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to test this out tomorrow, but we’ll see if it ends up being more guard passing and sweeping.
Chatting to Michael and Oli on the train, they confirmed the stripes are based on time rather than ability, which would make sense. If that’s the case, then I need to be careful if and when I get my third stripe and can move up to the advanced class, as it wouldn’t be an indication of my skill level. They also commented that there may be an intermediate class consisting of third/fourth stripe whites and blues in the future, which would tally with what Oli G said to me a while back.