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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

06 December 2007

06/12/2007 - BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #107

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK - 06/12/2007No-Gi

My gf did have a spare gumshield, which is good: not sure I quite molded it right, but meh, better than nothing. I had meant to train on Wednesday, but trains on my way to campus messed up, so that I wasn’t able to get to Leamington in time to catch the right train to Marylebone. However, not too annoying, as my gf is visiting her parents again this weekend, meaning I’ve got the Friday and Saturday free to train. Also means I can pop in again on my niece this Saturday, then maybe make Christina’s xmas party.

Of greater annoyance was my laptop charger dying on the train down to High Wycombe. At first I thought someone was eating a curry, but turned out the smell was coming from the Dell adapter, after which it fizzled out. On the plus side, that meant that instead of pissing around on the internet last night, I finally got round to reading Pumping Iron, something I’ve been waiting to do since my birthday earlier this year. Every bit as enjoyable as the more famous documentary it spawned, this is packed with great photos and anecdotes (focusing on the 1972 Mr Universe contest in Baghdad and the 1972 Olympia in New York, following Mike Katz/Ed Corney and Schwarzenegger/Columbu respectively), along with a cool chunk of history related by Sig Klein on how the old strongman shows of Eugene Sandow laid the groundwork for bodybuilding in the 1940s onwards.

Getting back to BJJ: nogi began with light pummelling (weaving your arms through your partner’s in an alternating over-under clinch, in which you have one arm under their armpit while the other arm grips their other triceps). Roger, who was taking the class rather than Jude tonight, then demonstrated a standing guillotine, from the over-under position. With the arm that is underneath their armpit, pull them towards you and slightly to the side, while simultaneously with your other arm, push against their shoulder. This should put them in position so that you can use the arm that was pushing and instead wrap around their neck. Link up with your other arm and apply the guillotine.

If they resist that attempt by straightening up as you try to pull them forward and down, you can instead drop and shoot into their legs, taking them down. This led to an extended bit of drilling on the shot, for which Leo gave me a bunch of handy tips. The basic position is to come forward with your leading leg, dropping the knee to the floor in between their legs. Grabbing behind their knees, you step forward and raise up, driving them backwards and lifting for the takedown. Leo remarked that I needed to slam into his hip with my shoulder as I was shooting in, which helps to knock them off-balance.

After a bit more drilling, where the idea was that you had six seconds to take them down (one person crouched by their legs, not touching, until Roger said go), at which I failed miserably in both positions, we moved on to the next technique.

This was a guard break and pass, starting off in a slightly similar fashion to the old tailbone break. Inside their guards, your hands go on their torso near their hips, one hand slightly forward. Push back, with a knee raised up, until you’ve made a bit of space. Quickly slide your right hand in front of you, near your crotch, while at the same time digging your left hand behind. Slip both hands to their leg, keeping a knee on the ground with your other leg sprawled out behind you. Move backwards, which should give you the space to get your arms round both legs, gripping in front. Drive forward with your shoulder, trying to press their knee into their face, then finally push until you can slip past their legs into side control.

Leo gave me yet more useful advice whilst drilling this, as well as when we did some guard passage straight after. First thing was to be careful of the arm you’ve dug in behind: its possible for the other person to grab that arm and mess up your pass if you leave it vulnerable. If when you’re trying to slide past they lock an arm into your hip, jerk that hip forward. This will either bash their wrist, meaning they’ll unbend their arm, or you can keep wiggling the hip forward until you’ve knocked their blocking arm out of the way.

I mainly practiced this in guard passage, especially because the only thing the person on top was allowed to do was break the guard (the person on the bottom had the usual options of sweeping or submitting). Then again, that’s pretty much what I’d do on top anyway: certainly not going to be trying leg locks or something, as I wouldn’t have a clue what to do (not to mention I’m still woefully poor at passing, so need as much practice as I can get). Leo wasn’t going especially hard, and eventually starting coaching me as we sparred, building on what he’d advised during drilling.

I’m still struggling to be proactive when I have someone in my guard. With the gi, I’d get a grip on the lapel and sleeve and try to work from there. However, with nogi, I don’t have that option, so I think a particular focus for me has to be establishing grips, which for nogi would be overhooking an arm and controlling the head. I’ve not yet got that down properly, so will keep trying to work out how to get a secure hold.

I also kept on attempting the sit-up sweep, though it needs better set-up, and walking my guard up high to see if that would help my control. I need to be a bit more cautious with that, as a few times with Leo, he was able to use my attempts at a high guard to underhook both my legs and stack pass. So, that presumably means I’m leaving too much space, and also not attacking enough when I’ve the legs up, which should be pulling my opponent down towards me more forcefully.

I was totally knackered after that, so was the sole wimp sitting out the next round. I must have looked pretty tired, as Roger came over and asked if I was ok, commenting on my red face. Really could do with better cardio, but I can’t see myself getting my lazy arse into gear, given that in the comfort of my own home there’s nobody like Jude forcing me through a bunch of sweat-drenched exercises. Must try this willpower thing some time. ;)

After that rest, I rolled with Aika, who’s back this week after a long lay-off due to injury. She’s not quite recovered, as both her knees are still dodgy along with an elbow, but I was more than happy to go a bit lighter (though considering my pathetic levels of fitness, wasn’t entirely a choice). I spent most of the spar trying to get somewhere in guard, as with Leo, or spinning about under side control or in open guard. She got mount at one point, which gave me the chance to try for the upa/shrimp combo, but she moved forward at the same time, meaning she flew forward so we were basically back where we started on our knees.

Final spar, without a round of rest this time (though Roger was giving people a minute to recuperate between spars anyway), I went up against Frank. I think I may have rolled with him in the beginners before, and he’s recently moved up to the advanced: this was his second nogi class. Though he’s a little bigger than me, I was able to hold him off, probably because I’m a bit more used to nogi now. I kept ending up pulling half-guard, which wasn’t the idea (I was aiming for open guard), and eventually found myself under his side control. He switched to scarf-hold, and I noticed an opportunity to go for the escape where you bring your leg over their head and roll them. Getting my leg in position, I pushed forward, then suddenly he was tapping, which I didn’t expect.

Turns out he has a sore neck, and perhaps I was doing something weird that meant I ended up doing some kind of unintentional crank. Either way, that technique clearly needs work on my part, as it was supposed to be an escape, not a sloppy attack on the neck.

Rest of the spar continued the spin around in open guard, then go to side control theme. Towards the end of the round, I found myself in that ridiculous not-quite-reverse-triangle position. I was worried that I was going to end up putting his whole body weight on my head, which wouldn’t have been pleasant, but instead settled into using my legs to hold him in one place. I wasn’t anywhere near a reverse triangle, but I was at least able to prevent being crushed: need to think more carefully next time I randomly grab someone’s head with my legs from under side control.

Class finished up with a sprawl drill. The class had odd numbers (either someone left early or a group had been working in threes), meaning I was paired up with Roger. I took the chance to finally work out how to do a sprawl properly, which if I understood him correctly, was to shoot your hips back and down, hitting the floor before your hands or feet, also keeping your toes back (so the instep touches the floor). Also looked like Roger’s legs were staggered rather than parallel, due to one hip being further forward. I had previously through you shoot the hips back and land on your toes and hands, but from what I gather, the end position is closer to the floor, presumably to practice bringing as much of your weight downwards as possibly. Of course, could well have completely misunderstood what Roger was trying to show me.

Should be training in the beginner session tomorrow, which I haven’t done for a while (my gf is visiting her parents again this weekend), which I’ll then follow up with either the beginner or advanced tomorrow. Will see how I feel. That should also enable me to go visit my niece again on the Saturday, which is cool.

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