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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

14 September 2007

14/09/2007 - BJJ (Beginners)

Class #87
Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Luciano Cristovam, London, UK - 14/09/2007Beginners

Unusually for me, I’m not going up until Birmingham til next week, as my sister’s 30th is this weekend so I’m staying at home. That meant I had the opportunity to give the new Friday class a try, as well as give my Padilla & Sons gold weave gi a test run.

The excellent Smash Pass review served as a very convincing advertisement, having been alerted initially by a post over on MAP. That convinced me to go for this gi as my next purchase: originally I’d planned to get a super lightweight Vulkan, but I no longer care about weight so much, as I don’t plan to drop down a category again (seeing how badly that seemed to fuck up my immune system and general health over August). My full review up here.

It was thinner and lighter than I expected, and also comfortable – there was none of the abrasion I get from the Katama Kimono (though that's just the gi you get when you sign up, so presumably isn't all that high quality). Class started with osoto gari (that basic trip where you pull them off balance then sweep the leg), so that was a good test of the fabric strength. Seemed to hold up fine, but then that’s just one lesson.

Luciano then moved on to what proved to be the only other drill of the lesson, a transition from side control to mount. Move your arm under their head and use your other hand to control their hip, grabbing their gi trouser. Bring your knees in and immediately shove the knee nearest their head under their elbow, pushing that right up onto your hip. Make sure you crush their face and ear with your shoulder, which will push their head to one side and make it difficult for them to being an escape (certainly felt immobilising when I was on the receiving end). Switch your base, making sure that you don’t allow them the space to get their elbow free, then grab the fabric by their knee, push it to the floor and swing your leg over into mount.

We followed that up with specific sparring, split into weight categories, which this time were under and over 79kg. Shame there weren’t more smaller people in the class, as that meant plenty of heavy people, with the exception of me, Nathan and Tamvir (he’s been off for a while due to holiday and sickness, so good to see him back).

First up was guard passage, where I had a rather strange roll with Nathan. I was attempting my normal approach, which wasn’t working, so switched to standing. That didn’t function too well either, and I ended up trying to stack Nathan as much as possible, but without a clear plan of exactly what I was aiming for. He started to turn, so I ended up sort of taking his back, not quite securing it because I was too far forward to get my hooks in properly. So as my legs were there and his arm and head seemed to be between them, I ended up trying to triangle him from behind. Emphasis definitely on the ‘try’: I really wasn’t sure what to do.

Luciano noticed the position and started coaching me through what was no doubt an awesome reverse triangle thingamajig, but I remained totally clueless, randomly pulling on Nathan’s head and arm. Luciano then said go for a kimura, so I again tried to get into the figure four position, but I don’t think I had it the right way round: Nathan certainly didn’t look like he was in danger of tapping. However, Luciano must have seen something, as he called a halt to the confusion. So would appear that when Luciano doesn’t run a complicated lesson, I subconsciously inject my own complexity in which to get thoroughly lost.

Next few rolls against other white belts didn’t go anywhere. Someone called Steve (I think) who I haven’t sparred before had little trouble passing my guard into side control. He was followed by a Polish guy called Yuri (or something like that), who quickly moved into butterfly guard and swept me over by lifting one of my legs up, with what looked like a similar principle to the elevator sweep. My favoured tailbone break was having no effect, so like I’ve said before, must concentrate more on the other methods of passing guard, particularly standing.

Luciano then changed it to side control sparring, where I again started with Nathan. As before, I ended up in weird positions. He was getting his arm solidly between his body and me, so I tried to move into scarf hold but couldn’t quite hold it properly. I noticed his arm was drifting towards one of my legs, so thought there might be an opportunity for an armbar if I stepped over. On the second attempt, I did indeed step over and grab his arm, but couldn’t get my other leg into position. So instead, I once again found myself in a ridiculous backwards triangle, though this time I didn’t even have the arm. In fact, I had no idea where I was gripping, except that it was somewhere around Nathan’s head. Not sure what else to do, I squeezed, looking around to see if there was anything to grab. I sort of succeeded in returning Nathan to his back (I say sort of because he pretty much put himself there without any help from me), after which I again tried to go for his arm. I still didn’t have position for an armbar, so tried for a kimura instead, but couldn’t break Nathan’s grip.

Finally, Nathan managed to slip out, though it had been a comparatively long roll. Apparently, I’d been gripping somewhere near his face, which had been painful but I don’t think enough to make somebody tap. Also, I had no idea what I was doing, so definitely not something I plan to get into a habit of testing out in sparring: getting basic defences sorted are infinitely more important than freaky triangle action. Still, fun to do every once in a while if the opportunity presents itself.

Things finished off with a roll against a Korean guy, whose name was something like ‘Seon’ or possibly ‘Sen’. Again, I had trouble keeping him in place and made a failed attempt to get scarf hold, meaning he steadily moved round until he escaped. Come to think of it, he’s probably my size too, so would be good to get to know him better: the more training partners of my build and weight the better!

I wasn’t in a rush to get home, so could enjoy something I’ve always really liked about martial arts training ever since uni: socialising. Herman, Nathan and I were all hanging around with no intention of doubling up classes (sorry Zaf :p), so instead had a long chat, which was cool. My Padilla & Sons gi held up well that session, but I’ll have to wait a few months at least to see what the quality is like – I can at least say it was comfortable to wear, as well as pleasant to roll in due to the light weight. I’d thought it would be heavier, but felt about the same as my Blitz judo gi.

Next week I’ll aim to do a minimum of three again, although I should make that two advanced and one beginner rather than the other way round. We’ll see how it goes. Also, before I forget, Nathan mentioned a kimura (or was it Americana?) escape Felipe showed him. From what I understand, its basically a matter of coming up on your side and driving the shoulder of your trapped arm into the floor. Sounds worth a try next time I find myself in the that position.


  1. Have a word with Luciano when you're not in the middle of rolling. He's perfectly capable of radical simplicity when he thinks it's appropriate: he's going through a back-to-basics phase in his 1-1s with me which is a bit humbling but very, very good for me. Probably he thought you were more expert than you really are. (Though you sound pretty expert to me!)

  2. Heh - if you had a roll with me you'd soon be cured of the delusion that I'm anything more than a beginner. ;D

    I presume he just got excited because he saw the opportunity for something cool: maybe it wasn't all that complex after all, and I'm simply crap at following instructions. :)

    Must try a private sometime - maybe if I get a bonus this year I'll look into it...

  3. Aw, I'm a little bummed you didn't post my hokey cokey comment....

  4. Yeah, at first I thought it was some random joker. Took me a while to realise I actually knew the joker in question. ;)

    In case anyone's wondering, it was checking if I knew the highly advanced 'hokey pokey' technique, where you put your left arm know the rest. :p

  5. Great blog. Lucky enough to train with the great Roger. Lucky man.

    We have a little forum dedicated to BJJ - We posted an ever growing compilation of cool training vids from all the good guys like Drysdale, Marcelo, etc. Hope you'll come check it out. Also have some notes from Jacare's last local seminar.

    Best of luck with your training!