| 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

19 July 2007

19/07/2007 - BJJ (Beginners)

Class #74

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Maurição Gomes, London, UK - 19/07/2007Beginners

I’ve been having a very absentminded week. Started off by leaving my flip flops in Birmingham, then almost missing a bus despite leaning on the bus stop. I proceeded to sign the kids register, then today I forgot to pack my rash guard, so could only make the beginners session tonight. At least I remembered to bake that cake yesterday…although my mum did kinda take over (probably out of frustration at seeing me plod through a recipe she’s been doing long before I was even born).

Anyway, onto the BJJ. It’s a shame I had to miss the no-gi, as Maurição was teaching. However, on the other hand that did mean I was fully rested for the beginners, so could really concentrate on what he was saying. This lesson reminded me once again of Jude’s description of his teacher Maurição as a fine wine: one of the great things about training at RGA is the opportunity to learn from world-class people like Maurição.

First technique was the basic pass under the leg. I don’t think I have ever used this in sparring, as I pretty much always go over the over rather than under, which is apparently fairly common. Maurição mentioned how this was a very traditional pass which many people didn’t use because they assumed they’d get caught in a triangle. However, that’s only if you do it wrong: Maurição emphasised that its very important to first get the leg right up onto your shoulder, and secondly make sure the elbow of your other hand stays on either their inner or outer hip and does not get dragged across your opponent’s body. If your partner manages to get hold of the arm and start pulling, or is just very strong, then you can resist it by pushing through with your shoulder, meaning your whole body comes to your defence.

Another major part of the technique is to drive through and really stack them. As BJ Penn mentions on his site, the aim is to either get your shoulder right into their face, or squash their knee into their head. Staying on your toes is also essential, walking round and maintaining that downwards pressure, eventually pushing past the leg into side control.

Maurição went through this in meticulous detail: its rare that an instructor can describe a single, fundamental technique in such depth that its difficult to remember the full explanation. Just as he was about to tell us to go practice the pass, someone spoke up and asked about how to break the guard. This proved to be a fantastic question, as Maurição then, once again in fine detail, went through two breaks.

First was the one I’ve been using from BJ Penn’s site. Grab them by the belt, elbows in tight. Push back with your arms, knees coming back, with one pushing out to the side. That should eventually stretch their legs out and open the guard.

If that doesn’t work, then the second break is to stand up, then sit back down again. The integral detail here is that you shove your knee right into their cocsis before you sit down, so essentially impale them on your kneecap. Done right, that pops the legs apart straight away, leaving you with a knee in between their legs ready to start the pass.

However, I had some trouble finding the right spot, so will have to work on getting the positioning right. Still, very handy to have another option for breaking the guard, as previously I was feeling pretty limited.

Next technique followed on from the pass. Maurição noted that a lot of people were making a serious error, which was putting both hands through to the other side as soon as they got past the leg. That makes it possible for the other person to shrimp and recover guard, or potentially even take your back. Instead, you should keep a hand by the leg to stop them shifting their hips like that.

If you do find yourself in side control with both your arms over, then there is a transition to scarf hold and then back to side control you can do. First get an underhook on their arm, then switch your base and move to scarf hold, grabbing their arm and pulling it across your stomach. The leg near their head points straight out, the other is drawn up towards you, keeping your weight pressed down on them. Having secured that position, you then switch your legs back, trapping that arm that was by your stomach in the process and pushing it into their neck. One arm goes under their head, the other goes down by their hips.

Sparring was a little unusual, as often seems to be the case in Maurição’s classes. It was guard passage, but starting from open guard rather than closed. This was in order to have a chance to work that pass, which turned out to be more difficult than it looked initially. On my first attempt with Tamvin (who is close to my weight at about 63kg), I found that while I could get my shoulder to his leg, he could secure a solid grip with his legs which made it difficult to pass. I eventually got through, but what I should have done was stacked him more, coming up on my toes and pushing down, meaning that I’d be able to really put my legs into it.

On the second try, worked much better. I went a bit faster and drove hard, stacking my partner and slipping round. I still think I’m leaving too much space, however, as I should by pushing into the leg until I slip round. At the moment, I feel I’m still tending to bring my head around the leg and drop down instead, which gives my opponent the opportunity to shrimp and get to their knees. This happens pretty much every time I get in that position with Chris: his size and strength advantage no doubt helps, but the main problem is my sloppy technique.

Switching round, I had an interesting experience working open guard. I wrapped up Tamvin’s arm by getting my leg over his inner elbow and then a foot into his inner thigh, which stopped him pushing through effectively. I also went for a few elevator sweeps, getting it a couple of times the usual way (looped round the outside of one leg and the inside of the other), as well as from butterfly guard (both feet on his inner thighs). I found that I could relax in open guard and keep my partner neutralised without too much effort, but I think that was firstly because Tamvin isn’t used to open guard, and secondly because he was using his arms to try and work his way through rather than his legs. Nevertheless, was good to get a chance to play with some positions I don’t often have an opportunity to explore.

Next week I’ll be staying at my sisters, so I’m hoping to finally get a more hefty schedule of training. I’d also like to give the early morning class on Wednesday a go, which would make for an interesting change as it’s a mixture of beginners and advanced. Tamvin also tells me its pretty small, meaning that you get personal attention from Nick G, which would be cool.


  1. I know what you mean about the pass under the leg rather than over, it is really strange when you are sparring and you are use to the other and I personally think it is less effective.

    I also have a web site & blog, and, check it out.

  2. If I ever get over to that side of the pond, I'm definitely going to stop in at your school for some lessons! I'll have to convince my wife that it's worth an afternoon or two while on vacation! :)