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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

03 October 2007

03/10/2007 - BJJ (Beginners)

Class #92

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK - 03/10/2007Beginner

Someone from Gracie Barra Calgary bumped into my blog earlier this week, presumably while Googling BJJ terms, as my glossary has appeared on their site. Cool. :D

However, that does remind me to ask that if anyone notices I’m talking rubbish anywhere in the glossary, please stick up a comment correcting me. The instructor over at GB Calgary mentioned that he’s cast an eye over it and it seems ok (very helpful to have someone of that level check for errors), but as I intermittently update that glossary, I’m always grateful for constructive advice. I’m merely a white belt, after all!

I wasn’t able to train last Thursday as I’d intended, because the trains messed up yet again. Not only did they screw my journey back on the Wednesday, but when I arrived at Farringdon on the Thursday ready to go train, I was greeted by a sign telling me there was no Hammersmith & City line service. What was especially annoying was that I hadn’t had any warning – if this had been a strike, then it would have been announced in advance. However, because this was apparently due to concerns over ‘safety issues’, the line shut down rather more suddenly. On the other hand, I should have checked for disruption before leaving anyway, so will have to remember to do that next time.

Like I said, this October is largely devoted to teaching (Excel and academic stuff), so training is going to suffer. Normally, I would have come down late tonight, if at all, so I could fit in some more work, but as my gf is visiting her parents this weekend, I can spend the Saturday getting my seminars prepared instead. That’s especially handy, because that gave me the hope I could make four sessions this week, which would make up for potentially missing BJJ entirely next week due to a conference my department is attending and at which I’ll be presenting.

Anyway, on to the training: tonight we kicked off with the osoto-gari trip as is fairly common, this time Roger showing us a set up in which you aimed to sweep the leg with your foot first. When they step back to stop you doing that, you then keep your sweeping foot in the same place, step forward, then swing the other leg forward for the osoto-gari. If they don’t move their foot, you can continue with the foot sweep.

Next up, Roger showed us some useful things to do in closed guard. First of all, he demonstrated that the best position you could be in on the bottom was with your opponent pulled in tight. In order to get them there, bump them forward with your hips and wrap up their head. Alternately, you can lift up with your legs until you can break their posture. Once you’ve got them down close, they have to somehow push themselves back up. Generally, that’s going to involve pushing on your chest, meaning that you can grab their arm. As they then try to raise up by basing off your chest, you can swing into an armbar.

Another option is once you’ve got them in tight, slip one of your hands deep into their opposite collar. Bring your other hand around the back of their gi, getting a thumb in. As they raise up this time, bring that other hand around their head and across their throat, setting you up for the cross choke. I found I had some trouble with the thumb grip, as first of all I found it difficult to dig that thumb in, then secondly when I had it, the grip was often loose. I think a way to rectify this would be get that thumb in deep as soon as you’ve pulled them in tight: that becomes easier if they have a particularly stiff gi, meaning it would stand away from their neck if you pull their head down.

Roger followed this up with some work from side control. To begin with, he ran through the kimura from side control, which Jude apparently taught earlier in the week. From side control, you need to get their far arm by your head, trapped against your shoulder (which I guess you’d either do by grabbing, or when they try and get their forearm into your throat). Keeping one hand by their near hip, move round to their head until you’re in north-south (i.e., facing their knees). Pull them onto their side, bringing a knee up tight against their back, also shifting your grip on their arm to a figure four (not sure if that step comes earlier?). If they grab onto their gi, tug in the direction your elbow is pointing behind you, then pull them arm back into position, where you can apply the sub.

If they manage to get a firm hold by wrapping their hands together, preventing your kimura, you can instead go for an armbar. Bring the knee that is against their back in tight, dropping back into the armbar position with your other knee over their neck. Switch an arm under their wrist, then lean towards their head in order to loosen their grip. Finally, complete the semi-circle by moving back into position, dropping back for the sub.

Sparring I wasn’t managing to get anywhere in particular. I started off with Nathan in closed guard. On top, I persevered with my usual tailbone break, which did eventually loosen his guard, but I was constantly leaving too much space to close in and move to side control. Like Chris, Nathan simply went to his knees. I had a stack pass secured at one point, but couldn’t close in tight enough to stop Nathan again escaping to his knees.

In my guard, I had a quick go at the sit-up sweep, where I yet again forgot to try the kimura from guard after it failed. MUST remember to attempt that sub! As has been happening repeatedly for the past two months or so, I ended up moving between open and half guard, but Nathan was simply too mobile for me to stop him passing. I need to move my hips more, and faster, as well as get those legs into position to prevent the pass. I still don’t want to get into a situation where I’m expending lots of energy and straining away in a macho battle of pride, but I should at least be using my small size to get up a bit of speed.

I had a similar spar with Seon, this time from side control. On top, I went to scarf hold a few times as I could feel him escaping, but couldn’t keep him down, and also couldn’t stop him getting his legs over and rolling me into his side control. Underneath, I managed to get to half guard, but then kinda sat there while he attempted chokes and then eventually passed. Oli was telling me to move my hips out and shrimp more, which is good advice: I should focus on doing that when in half guard. I tried moving to rubber guard to help get the knee through, as worked a while back, but this time to no success.

So, key things are the old problem of closing the distance so that I’m not leaving them space to escape, and to capitalise on my small size and speed. I have to move my hips more, and I also need to come into sparring with a clear idea of how I’m going to shrimp and escape from half guard, rather than just clinging on pointlessly.

I felt absolutely terrible after sparring, but I’d set out from Birmingham determined to make two classes. I was all ready to go, sitting by the mat writing down my notes so I could get on to the advanced, but continued to feel crap. So yet again, I left before the advanced, repeating my Wednesday pattern of coming in all keen then failing miserably to make two classes. I think I’m just going to have to accept the fact that fitness or willpower is going to let me down every time I want to double up on Wednesdays, so instead I should skip the beginners and only do the advanced. Otherwise I’m going to continue this pattern of one or two beginner classes along with no-gi each week, whereas I should be making two advanced and one beginner. Not that I don’t get my arse kicked enough by the other white belts (as happened today), but the more comprehensive arse-kicking I’ll receive from advanced should hopefully result in greater improvement. So: no more ambitious attempts to double up on Wednesdays until I feel a shitload fitter!

Something else I should start doing is make a sandwich for the train on the way down. Nathan suggested, as I told him I was wimping out for the millionth time, that I should probably eat more, and he’s absolutely right: clearly the two cereal bars I munch on the Chiltern Line aren’t enough to fuel my weedy frame. To finish on a somewhat random note, I went to the doctors today for the introductory health check, and apparently I'm 5'8. Always thought I was 5'7 - maybe I'm just under? Either way: meh.

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