Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK - 05/04/2007
Not quite so empty as yesterday, but still only around seven or eight people, so much smaller than usual. I was reminded yet again of the eternal truism that it never hurts to work the basics, this time getting really basic: shrimping. I’ve never seen Felipe teach shrimping as a technique before, but that’s exactly what he did today, and I realised that I have in fact been doing what is probably the most fundamental move in BJJ wrong for the past five months. I’ve been pushing off one leg on the inside, rather than pushing off the outside leg, or off both legs.
The reason why we did some extra work on shrimping soon became clear, as the rest of class focused on side control escapes. Felipe went through two, both of which we’ve done before, but as my side control sucks it was good to see them again. First, he showed how to recover full guard – bridge, shrimp away from the person on top, grab a knee and pull your own knee through, then finally shrimp the other way to make enough space to recover guard.
Second technique was the single leg. As before, bridge and shrimp away, but this time use that space to turn on your stomach and come to your knees. Grab your opponents leg with both hands, your head inside, and bring a leg inside as well. Driving with your legs and head, aiming to pull your partner to the side, drop them into side control. I mixed up my legs a few times, putting it on the outside, also doing the same with my head, so will have to be careful to get them the right way round.
Due to the small size class, got to do plenty of sparring today, unsurprisingly from side control. I started off with Majdi, who I’d been drilling with: he’s a bit bigger and stronger than me (probably around 10-12kg heavier). I was able to resist for a while, generally trying to move my legs round, and did eventually manage to recover guard. Majdi is a pretty helpful sparring partner, as he tends to offer tips all the way through – IIRC, he spent about a year at London Shootfighters before joining up at RGA, which would explain his high skill level relative to the belt he’s wearing. He managed to choke me out with just one arm at one point, so I’ll need to be careful that I keep my neck better defended: I effectively pulled his arm onto my neck, which certainly didn’t do me any favours.
On top, I had trouble getting anything – I can’t remember if he recover guard or swept me, but I don’t think I got anywhere near a submission of recovery to mount on him. I was more successful against my next partner, Nathan, probably because he is much closer to my size. I got a number of sweeps against him from the bottom, including from half guard, though I think that was mainly because Nathan was giving me space and also going for submissions. He used the side control with tight knees Maurição had advised against yesterday, so perhaps had he gone on his toes instead, I wouldn’t have been able to get enough space for a sweep.
On top, I couldn’t get any submissions (though I went for the Americana repeatedly, as that and the kimura are the only subs I’ve ever got from side control), but did recover mount a number of times. I often found that Nathan ended up with his back against me, so in hindsight perhaps I should have tried that sliding choke Jude showed us recently. Towards the end of the spar, Nathan surprised me by ended up on top – I completely didn’t see it coming: one minute I was in side control, then suddenly I was underneath. Apparently, this was just a simple headlock and bridge, wrestler style: Nathan noted that I’d been putting too much weight forward, enabling the sweep.
Finally, I got a chance to roll with Oli – as sparring a blue belt is obviously a rare occurrence in the beginners class, I was keen to take the opportunity. He gave a number of useful pointers, and confirmed that it was generally a good idea to put a foot on your knee when under side control to give the person on top less space. Oli also advised me that I should never have two arms beneath one of his, as that meant he could crush downwards: need to remember to only ever have a single arm through at a time.
I had the chance to do a little bit of drilling after class, where I tried out the wrestling sweep Nathan used on me. It worked, but Chris noted that you’d have to be very careful not to get pulled back into guard (I was able to get an arm in place to stop him, but this was drilling, not sparring). He also mentioned that when he sparred with Majdi, he’d advised him never to get into a position where you have one arm around the arm, instead suggesting you should try and drive that into the neck instead. I’d tried making a frame with my arms as I vaguely remembered Jude showing us, which I like to imagine helped when I sparred Majdi, but I reckon that’s wishful thinking on my part.
Should get a third class in on Saturday, which is good – at first, thought it was going to be cancelled, but Pippa came onto the RGA Facebook group and announced it was still on (for adults at least). So, anyone from RGA who hasn’t joined that yet, do so: handy for information!