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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

07 February 2007

07/02/2007 - BJJ

Class #28

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK -07/02/2007

I was feeling a bit down on the way to the session, but as I’d hoped, perked up considerably after training. Was a little preoccupied during the early part of the lesson, but once we reached the techniques I got back into the flow of things.

Jude ran a fairly hefty warm-up, but to my relief didn’t intersperse rolling with drills. We started off with headlock throws, later adding in an armbar. As often happens, I tend to worry that I leave too much space as I lean back to secure the submission. Concentrating on pinching my knees together seemed to help, and is probably a good habit to get into anyway.

I didn’t quite get the next technique we were shown – IIRC, it was a defence against a headlock throw, in which you shoved your arm into their chin, stepped behind, based out and pushed with your hips, then picked them up by a leg and dumped them into side control.

To me, that looked like it would require a lot of strength, particularly if like me you’re really crap at throws and therefore mess up the technique. I was with Dominique, which meant that wasn’t really tested, but something I’m always aware of with throws. I haven’t had to use throws in a ‘live’ spar yet, because we’ve never gone from standing or even from knees: will probably only really be forced to attempt it if I compete. That’s where judo would come in useful, or wrestling, which I’d prefer.

The rest of the lesson was dedicated to side control, beginning with an escape relatively similar to the one Felipe had demonstrated back in December. Person B gets their arm into Person A’s neck. Moving their legs to the side and shifting their other arm down onto Person A’s hip, Person B pushes up then shrimps out. Bringing their left leg underneath their right, Person B then moves into position to raise their far leg. They then grab round the back of Person A’s legs (I think we were grabbing both at first, then changing the grip, but not sure), putting their own head on the far side. Driving forward with the legs and pushing towards the near side with their head, Person B moves into side control.

I found this fairly confusing, as last time, particularly the part where you raise up. I felt like I was leaving a lot of space, so that’s something I’d have to be careful of if I found myself with an opportunity during sparring to try this technique.

As you’d expect, the sparring was from side control. I started off with Dominique, and had reasonable success. She pulled guard on me, after which I tried to stay tighter when on top. As with the last time I did side control, I went for the Americana – however, I couldn’t get it on Dominique. When I asked what I did wrong, she mentioned that she’s fairly flexible, so my best option would be to pull the arm in tighter. I had been focusing on bringing the arm down rather than in, so will try to remember to do both next time.

On the both, I fared better, but I think a lot of this was to do with the weight difference. It isn’t huge, but I have a few kilos on Dominique, which proved sufficient to bodily lift her with my elbow wedged into her hip, twisting round into side control. Similarly, I was able to shift round to grab her leg then drive through into side control, but this time I’m not sure if being able to push off the wall slightly made the difference. At least I can rest easy that when I pulled guard it was down to technique rather than environment or size advantage.

Next I rolled with Nathan, who I found out is actually younger than I thought – one of the few teenagers (most people in the class are around mid-20s, by my reckoning. Then again, I’m a pretty crappy judge of age). He’s a little heavier than Dominique, which is probably why I found that my attempt to lift him with my elbow into his hip didn’t budge Nathan at all. Dominique did mention she was off-balance, so it may be a matter of timing: after all, I was able to flip Zahir (about my weight and height) late last year, though in that case I had my knee underneath him.

Nathan and I ended up in a stalemate when I was in the bottom, neither of us able to get anything. However, on top I found that going straight away for the Americana was once again an effective tactic, getting it on both sides (though the first time I tried I went the wrong way at first, so had to struggle back to get into position). The second time, Nathan was able to resist initially by turning to the side (a defence I’ll have to watch out for), but I eventually got the sub by lifting him up slightly and cranking. Both times I was able to put on the Americana gradually and felt in control, so thankfully didn’t have any worries about accidentally pushing it too far.

At present, a lot of people don’t expect the Americana (am I still mixing that up with the kimura?), which I’m sure will change as the months go by, so that’s going to become much more difficult to get. Nevertheless, it’s a technique I’d like to improve, particularly making that transition between switching base and putting the weight onto the arm quicker. I also need to work my escapes, as I wasn’t shrimping very well or making enough space. Felipe will probably run a similar lesson, but we’ll see tomorrow night.


  1. I am very interested in your lives that is quite different with me, so, if you want, can we be friends?

  2. Insofar as anyone can be friends without having met, sure - as you're from China, I'd be interested in your life too. :D

    I've only been over there once so far, going round Beijing, Xian, Suzhou and Shanghai - basic tour. Still, highly enjoyable: would be great to go back to Suzhou when it wasn't one big construction site. ;)

  3. wow!!!
    you have been to China!!

    you even got some places where i have never been to!!! such as Suzhou and Shanghai. :P
    you can be my guide~~~

    My msn and E-mail is

    we can chat more~~~

  4. Heh - I don't think I'd be able to guide you very far, given that I was only in the country just over a week.

    However, If you're interested, I did a write up earlier in the blog (though I still need to play with the formatting: keeps going weird) here - brief summary of Beijing and Shanghai.

    I don't use MSN, but for chatting you can normally find me on here. :D

  5. well, I was just kidding, I have many friends all over the country.

    You may show me out when I go to other country

  6. England I could help you with, but thats about the only place I know well enough to function as any kind of guide.

    Great discussing BJJ with you. So, how IS your guard-passing? :p

  7. Glad I've found your blog. I've just had my second session ever of BJJ - doing it at the Budokwai with the RGA instructors on their mission to educate darkest South Kensington. Jude the first time in a white/blue/purple mixed class, yesterday Luciano in the new beginners-only class. Great to discover a blog that talks about the same people!

    I was so scared going there the first time, in the end the only reason I went at all was because you should not allow yourself to remain that scared of anything, ever. But it's impossible to do justice to the friendliness of everyone there. They're all delighted that someone new is discovering BJJ and loving the same thing they love. Even when they tear your arm off, they do it in a warm and caring sort of way.

    How long did it take you before the terminology started to make sense to you? How long did it take you before you stopped forgetting absolutely everything from one class to the next?

  8. Hiya Martin - Happy you got something from my ramblings! :D

    2nd lesson, eh? I'm jealous: couldn't get to training tonight, due to all the damn snow. :(

    Terminology is a bit of a problem in BJJ, as there is no standardised syllabus. That means that most techniques have a variety of names, which gets very confusing - for example, you might see the rear naked choke also called a 'mata leo' (killing the lion), or the Americana being referred to as a figure-four, bent armlock etc.

    In terms of remembering all those names, I find writing a log essential - that also helps with your second question. I try to always write down a review of the class on the train home (I live a fair distance away, so have to go to Amersham), which helps me remember both the terminology and the techniques themselves (though sometimes it can be hard to recall exactly how Jude/Felipe/Roger etc demonstrated it: thats when I try and find a video to jog my memory).

    Perhaps more importantly, writing a log also gives me the chance to try and focus in on what I need to improve, which in turn means I've got a focus for the following lessons. You don't need to be as longwinded as me, but I think it will definitely help you if you get some notes down after you finish class - bring a notepad, type it up when you get home, or even use your phone and stick it on there.

    I'd especially advise you to check out some the links I put up, particularly - I skim over the more advanced stuff, but things like his 'Nuggets of Advice' are extremely useful for us beginners. The Bullshido grappling forum is also very handy.

    If you do start a blog, I'd certainly be interested to read it - never been to the Budokwai class, and I've also only ever sparred white belts at RGA: as you're probably aware, its split into beginner and advanced classes.

  9. I won't start a blog right at once - it seems too much like tempting fate. In the early stages of acquiring a habit it is very easy to let your enthusiasm strangle itself by going too far too fast - like throwing too much fuel onto a bonfire all at once and smothering it.

    Perhaps when I've been a few more times, a blog might be a good idea. But you have more to say than me: years and years of experience in martial arts generally, while I have 2 weeks!

    (Unless you count a silly kickboxing class at a gym I was trying out: working with bags, no real instruction on technique, limped for 2 days and couldn't write for 4).

    (Or a silly no-gi BJJ class at Gymbox, where the music was too loud to hear the instructor and the session was in the boxing ring so the non-slip surface took all the skin off knees and elbows.)

  10. Heh - yeah, I guess that's true enough, not to mention I do like to babble. Not sure I would have kept a blog immediately from when I started MA in 1999 either (though I wish I had now, but then I've got a packrat mentality: memories as well as possessions :p).

    However, I would still recommend you jot down some notes - believe me, it really helps. Having some kind of vague 'plan' for sparring really boosts the learning experience, and also helps stop frustration.