Belfast Throwdown, Bullshido, Birmingham, UK – 17-19/08/2007
I flew in from Birmingham International to Belfast International on the Friday evening – should have arrived at 18:00, but various delays meant I eventually arrived more like 20:00. At first I wasn’t sure how to get the ticket for the bus, as the desk saying ‘buy tickets here’ helpfully wasn’t staffed, but I noticed a poster saying you could get them from the driver. The stop is just outside the airport, over the road and to the left. Return to Belfast is £9, taking between 30 to 40 minutes: Europa Buscentre is normally the stop you want.
Das Moose (Mark), Megalef (Johannes) and adouglasmhor (Dougie) were waiting for me at the bus station, though I somehow managed to walk past them…twice. Ahem. Anyway, once we managed to notice eachother, went back to Mark’s place and watched the awesomeness that is Flash Gordon. Forgot how kick-ass that fabulous exercise in camp really is (in fact, I think I can safely say its pretty much the epitome of camp) – been far too long since I last saw it.
I’d not quite shaken off my flu (or whatever it was) at this point, so had been taking it easy with the drinking. Still didn’t feel 100% on Saturday, but turned out I was sufficiently well to make it through the throwdown. Having got to the sports centre at Queen’s University, things kicked off with a warm-up and some very light rolling while everyone was still arriving. I played open guard with Johannes: he refrained from thoroughly squashing me, as we were only going very light. So, mainly ended up with me bouncing around on the floor by his legs, trying to pull him into guard.
Once everybody arrived (about 10 or 12, I think: will have to check the photos when they pop up), Mark organised some MMA sparring, of which there is plenty of video here on the thread. Mark fought pretty much everyone, Johannes also getting in on the action. There is one especially excellent video involving a slam that we’re waiting to augment with some suitable music: provided much entertainment watching it later, so hopefully I can whip up something half-decent.
There were only the four of us from Bullshido, so attendance was mostly made up by Gracie Barra Northern Ireland, along with a few other guys Mark knows. Ciaran and I partnered up for a no-gi spar, in which Ciaran went fairly easy on me. He’s got about 20kg and plenty more experience than me, but proved to be a really good training partner. Got armbarred early on (as per video), then fell into the usual pattern of wriggling about under side control or mount, trying to get to half guard and then full guard. At one point I seem to remember reversing and passing, but can’t quite remember how, so I think that was down to a combination of Ciaran not squashing me and luck. Felt like a fairly long spar, although its often hard to judge – a couple of minutes can feel like 10. The video is of the first part.
I couldn’t get anywhere with the stack pass, as I had trouble doing the actual stacking part, which meant I couldn’t get close enough to get a grip on their head. I also noticed how much easier it is to escape in no-gi due to sweat and the lack of grips. In Ciaran’s guard, I found it simpler than usual to pull out from triangle and armbar attempts because of sweat, though again as he was going light, might be that he was leaving more space than normal. Afterwards Ciaran complimented me on my movement, which was nice of him, though I didn’t feel I did anything more than damage limitation.
Had a good chat with Ciaran following our spar, in the course of which he showed me a handy looking technique he called the windscreen wiper sweep. When they’ve postured up, you grab their arm and opposite knee, shifting slightly in the direction of that arm. If they have the opposite elbow flared out, move your same side leg up their body, hooked round, keeping it fairly relaxed but still firm. That leg goes all the way up and then over, like a windscreen wiper, eventually rolling them to the side so you come up in mount. Not sure I’ve quite remembered that correctly, so will see if I get a chance to ask someone at RGA.
Thoroughly knackered after what at least felt like a long spar, I got scribbling down my notes as usual. Turned out there wasn’t all that much time left by this point, so I got in two spars before time ran out. First was with a very experienced blue belt (more than six years of training, if I heard him right), Waqi. Again, went fairly easy on me, and again proved a good teacher. As before I was mainly underneath and trying to go for half guard. Going for their far leg got some results, as did something I saw Johannes do earlier, which was to cross your right leg over both your left leg and their leg, then use your two legs to scoop their one into half guard. Of course, my attempt was very sloppy, as I was trying to imitate something I didn’t quite understand. Waqi advised me to be careful under side control, as I put myself in a very vulnerable position. In an attempt to go for his legs, I was bunched up on my side, which meant it was a simple matter for Waqi to mount. That position is something I should only use briefly, as part of shrimping out in both directions to recover guard. As you can see in the videos, Waqi was also letting me go to side control a few times while turned on his side, but I wasn't able to do much with it: tried feeding my arms through (we've been shown a choke from this position, but totally forgot how to do it), but didn't get anywhere. He also showed me a technique where you tie up the far arm, then move round maintaining that hold and switch to a kimura: didn't quite understand it though, and unfortunately not in the vid. Finally, I rolled with Mark, and again tried to pull guard. I ended up starting in open guard trying to hook a leg, then getting squashed in side control. I managed to escape…then fell straight into a triangle. That was to be a recurring theme, as the same thing happened when I escaped with a single leg, as well as trying to get out of an armbar. Suffice to say, Mark really likes triangles! In the video, you can see him do that technique with a set up from when I post out to avoid being swept - similar to the position where you can go for a kimura after a failed sit-up sweep. That also meant he had lots of good tips for the technique. To triangle from guard, Mark advised starting by grabbing your shin, in what I think is rubber guard (there’s video of both my spar with Mark and the many triangles he either attempted or got on other people, so can check those to be sure). Pull their arm across, then step off their hip, keeping your knees tight at all times. Get your other leg over, then if I’ve got the order right, underhook their leg to pull yourself round (further tightening the triangle, as well as giving the option of an armbar). Squeeze your knees and hips, pulling down on their head if you’re still having trouble. I couldn’t get the sub when drilling with Conor (yet another friendly example of Mark’s training partners), though I did get it to work on Mark. He also mentioned that if they get their elbow out to the wrong side, cup it with both hands and yank it right over. Checking further on triangle details with Ciaran, there is apparently some controversy over whether its best to post on the hip or on the floor – would seem both function ok. Generally I think I need to work on moving from half guard to full guard, rather than just kind of sitting there not entirely sure what to do (see second vid with Mark). I’ve been shown several sweeps, but under pressure only remember part of them – hence why in some of the videos you can see me going for someone’s foot but do nothing once I’ve got it, or bridge a few times without getting anywhere. Would also be good to give triangle from guard a go, though I still don’t really want to get into submission attempts too much before I feel confident in my escapes. The plan is get competent in fundamental defence and position, as then I’ll be able to attack in the knowledge that if I fuck up, I can recover quickly.
I cunningly left before the group pic, after which we popped back to Mark’s for a shower and to watch the vids. For the rest of the day, it seemed we were being chased around town by hen nights in pink stretch limos, pink stretch hummers, and even pink fire engines. We decided it must have been Johannes’ Swedish good looks drawing them in, so eventually hid in the pub (where Johannes was less successful with the bouncers, though they were soon placated by Dougie). The Bullshido contingent left the next day. No delays on the way back, though forgot there are normally replacement buses on Sundays. Belfast is clearly an awesome place to have a throwdown – as Mark is going to be at uni for ages, look forward to many more!
[I returned to Belfast for another throwdown in 2008]