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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

26 May 2007

26/05/2007 - Birmingham Throwdown 2 (Bullshido)

Birmingham Throwdown 2 (Bullshido), Birmingham, UK – 26/05/2007

The Caribbean was pretty cool, except for my gf having her bag snatched just as we were leaving Barbados, which was distinctly not cool. Most annoying thing about that is we no longer have a camera, which is a real pain as I love taking photos. But hey, Dominica was still great: lots of “ooo, that was in Pirates of the Caribbean! So was that! And that!” action.

Getting on to the point: sweaty men sitting on me. Like last year, the throwdown was held at Stevie B’s Gym in Birmingham, which unless they change the prices, is probably where we’ll keep holding it. Good enough for Gracie Barra Birmingham is definitely good enough for us. As I got stuck in Brum earlier this week, rather than going down to Bucks as usual, I didn't have my gi or rash guard with me. So, grappling in thin ZSK gi trousers and a t-shirt, which wasn't ideal, but better than nothing - probably good for me to get accustomed to no-gi anyway. The turn-out this time was pretty small, with only six people making it to Birmingham (me, Sasha, Colin, Joe, Teebs and Nate). Next time, I think I’ll ask for everyone to confirm and PayPal beforehand, to make sure we get a reasonable attendance – of course, that may not work either.

As usual, there were several techniques I particularly wanted to work, along with a general recap of what I’ve learned over the past few months. Side control and mount are probably the two positions I’m currently having most trouble with, so I hoped to go through side control to mount, as well as submissions like Americana from mount and armbar from mount. As it turned out, I mainly got tips on armbar from guard, along with some useful pointers on side control and general positioning.

I started off with drilling, and tried to recap as much as possible from my five months or so of BJJ. Armbar from guard is the first thing that sprung to mind, so I went through how I’ve been taught it with Nate and Teebs. The Gracie Barra Birmingham class had just finished before we went in, and one of the purple belts was hanging around. That proved rather useful, as he couldn’t resist offering some technical advice. With the armbar, he suggested that rather than gripping by the wrist and elbow, instead just hold with one hand, using the other to pull down on their shoulder. This makes getting the leg over their head much easier.

Once Colin arrived, he showed something similar – I’m not sure if this is just part of the difference between gi and no-gi, but either way, good to have some variations. Colin goes straight for the one arm, gripping above the elbow round the bicep, pulling that arm across his own body. Then he’ll grab the shoulder with the other hand, and another difference was that he pushes on the face to further help swinging the leg over. Finally on that technique, Colin also showed how you could quickly switch the arm you were attacking. Simply change your leg to the opposite side, driving the shin into their neck, then swivel round to go for their other arm.

Next I asked about side control to mount – what Colin showed me was basically the same as I’ve seen in class. On keeping your weight down, the main points he brought up were driving a knee into their side near their legs, with the other leg based out behind you. Your hips should be down as far as possible (something I haven’t been doing: previously I’ve been going up on my toes and raising them too much), as well as your chest.

Doing some light sparring from side control, Colin also commented that it was important to keep changing position if you’re losing control. In particular, he advised going to knee on belly, by pushing off their hips and shoulder to make space. I was tending to cling on from side control, and I haven’t yet developed the mobility to make those quick transitions. So, something I need to work on – a lack of familiarity with no-gi no doubt made me even slower. Colin also showed how knee on belly could open up opportunities for armbars when the person underneath tries to escape, something you can see in action in this video:

I only did sparring on the ground today, and got to roll with everyone except Nate. Teebs and Joe were around my level (neither having done much groundwork before), so that felt very much like rolling in the beginners class. I did guard passage with both, and noted that I’m tending to leave a trailing leg for them to catch in half-guard, as well as my usual problem of not keeping my weight down. Also kinda cool was that Teebs managed a scissor sweep on me, which he’d first seen earlier that day.

Colin, on the other hand, smashed through any meagre defences I had (as you can see in the previous vid!), so was a quite different experience. He’s a good training partner, however, as he’s always careful to point out mistakes. One especially useful tip was to turn on my side when he’s moving around on top, rather than waiting on my back and making it easy for him. Previously, I’ve almost always sparred from specific positions with a predetermined ending, so going from knees until someone got a submission was an eye-opener, particularly without the comfort of a gi to grab onto.

Once we finished up at around 18:30, Nate, Teebs, Sasha and I went out for drinks, as unfortunately Colin and Joe had to leave for home. Teebs couldn’t stay out too long due to his train, but numbers were made up by a guy Sasha and I know from another forum, along with his girlfriend (who seemed pretty cool: I haven’t met her before). As always, much red wine was consumed. Well, by me. :p

Joe got a bunch of videos of people sparring, so hopefully he'll be able to put those up soon. The next throwdown will probably be either in Grimsby, or possibly Bradford - Nate mentioned a place at his uni where you can pay per person by the hour, which would be ideal if we had a low turn-out again. Teebs also mentioned there might be a place at his uni in Oxford, which IIRC was where the Oxford Throwdown was held a while back.


  1. I've learned the armbar from guard very much like how you describe Colin's technique. We lock down the arm above the elbow with one arm and then come across and over the shoulder with the other to keep the opponent from posturing up.

    Side control tips sound very familiar, as well. Keeping the hip down is a big one and made a huge difference for me. Also, when you bring that hip side knee up, if you are having trouble keeping it up tight... one someone who's a shrimping maniac, for example... you can also use your arm to block him from bringing his knee in, as well. If that makes sense. Helped me a lot. I can't honestly say that I have any "strong" positions, but side control is less weak than any other for me.

    Good to see you posting on your blog again. I'll make a throwdown someday... probably not the B'ham one, but that would be a good excuse to hit the UK.

  2. Cheers, Steve - as always, technical comments very much appreciated! Side control has long been a problem for me, so I'm looking forward to putting those tips from you and Colin into practice.

    If you're interested in attending a throwdown in the UK (which would be awesome), then I'll almost certainly be listing the details of the next one on here. However, loads of throwdowns in the US, of course. My geography for America is terrible, so I'm making an assumption this is 'near' you, but apparently there have been quite a few in Washington.

    Always plenty in the Throwdown section of Bullshido - worth checking every now and then to see if anything has popped up in your area.

  3. Just out of curiosity, where you sparring at Stevie B's. That room looks different to how I know it. I know they have desized the cage martial arts area and turned the aikido room into a boxing/thai boxing room. I may be wrong

  4. Yeah, I haven't been back since the big refit, so entirely possibly it doesn't look like that anymore. Hopefully there's still a room I can hire for the next one, as if not will have to check around for a new venue.

    You training at GB Brum, then?