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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

27 December 2007

27/12/2007 - BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #112

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 27/12/2007No-Gi

[I’m going to babble for a while here about xmas etc: scroll down to the bolded bit for the technical details on double legs] I asked for a few BJJ/MMA books for christmas, two instructional and two biographical. The latter were The Gracie Way and Inside the Lion’s Den: I love history, especially contemporary history, so was hoping those two would give me an insight into BJJ’s formation and the early days of the UFC respectively.

The two instructional books are Ed Beneville’s The Guard and Eddie Bravo’s Mastering the Rubber Guard. The second I’m going to be leaving until later to read in depth: I stopped a short way into the half-guard chapter, flicking through the rest (though the chapters on half-guard fundamentals looks useful, and possibly some of the more basic escapes).

The introduction was amusing, as Bravo and Joe Rogan try to tell the reader how wonderful they’ve found smoking pot (I’m not convinced, but to each their own), along with various life philosophies I can’t say I agree with either (neither is keen on monogamy, from what I gather, something I value highly). Its unusual that a book meant to help you with BJJ would spend a significant chunk of its pages talking about marijuana, but then I was expecting that from the various mixed reviews on the net. Its also clear that if you take the intro at face value, Bravo believes strongly that pot has been of great help to him personally, so not surprising he wants to talk about it: its his book (for which he got free rein from his publisher), so I don’t mind a bit of distraction before getting to the technical meat.

While those internet reviews tend to be understandably dubious about the pothead intro, the majority seem to agree that the BJJ material is fairly good, if too advanced for white belts. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, but someone posted on an internet forum mentioning the half-guard section could be useful earlier on, so I decided to give that section a try. I often find myself in half guard, but have trouble getting a sweep/escaping from there (occasionally I’ll manage to roll into their guard if they’re going for a submission and don’t quite get it, but that’s about the only time). I might give Bravo’s basic half guard stuff a try, but my main focus is still going to be recovering full guard.

Which brings me to the other book, The Guard. I had wanted to get the even more highly acclaimed Passing the Guard, but that was hard to find: I only found The Guard through a second-hand bookshop site as it was. However, apparently there is going to be an updated version of Passing the Guard next year, so I can wait for that.

As I expected, I much prefer the look of The Guard. The techniques in here are ones I can recognise, starting with a detailed look at shrimping. Beneville and Moreira also demonstrate what to do when a technique doesn’t quite work as planned, which is very helpful. Still, there’s plenty to cover in this book too, so as has been the case with my guard pretty much since I started, I’ll continue to focus on sweeps. I also want to examine the kimura in some detail, as that’s currently about the only submission I’ll go for regularly (as it’s a natural follow-up to a failed sit-up sweep).

Finally, there are a bunch of drills in The Guard which look like they could be handy for solo exercise when I’m not at class. I’ve been looking for some direction for that, so I’m pleased to have some clear examples in front of me to use.

Getting back to training, I wasn’t expecting to make any BJJ in this week, so glad the academy opened up again so soon after xmas (although its only afternoon classes tomorrows, not that I’d normally train Fridays anyway). I arrived rather too early, at 17:30, so the academy was all locked up. Having wandered around a bit to waste some time, as well as dipping into my Ted Hughes biography (I’m teaching that seminar on Plath and Lowell soon, so refreshing my knowledge of both), I almost gave up when I saw it was still locked at 17:56. However, just as I was wandering to the bus stop to go back home, Oli appeared to open up RGA.

Tonight also gave me a chance to finally try out my Bullshido shorts – I normally always roll in gi trousers. I’d be a bit uncertain about the size, as they felt kinda loose, but the drawstring did its job. Even so, I’ll probably stick with gi pants for the future, as that fabric on the knees makes more difference than I’d realised. I could buy knee pads, I suppose, which would be another option: will if any cheap ones tempt me.

Jude, who fought his way through a cold to get there, focused on double leg takedowns, going from a clinch (the one where you have a grip on the inside of their biceps, the other hand behind their neck. Over-under?).

The first one starts with you stepping to your right, then stepping back with your left. This should cause your partner to bring their weight forward, whereupon you can shoot downwards for the legs. Your right knee goes in between their legs, giving you a base from which to grab their opposite leg. Bring that up as far as you can from the kneeling position, then stand up to complete the takedown, unbalancing them so they fall to the floor.

It was a very small class today, with just me, Oli, Lubo and Luciano, so lots of useful tips. Oli advised that I need to get a grip on their elbow (with the arm that was on their biceps), then use the momentum of dropping down for the legs to push that arm up and out of the way.

Jude then demonstrated a variation which we’ve done before, but thanks to the private-lesson level of people in attendance, this time he went into more detail. This time you should come in at an angle, diagonally across their body. Your knee drives in to the ground as before, but this time you put the same side hand down for balance. Slide the other leg through, again using your arm to help, aiming to end up behind their leg. At the same time, bring your hands into position, one on top, the other as far down the leg as possible (preferably grasping the heel), then raise that leg as you stand up. That will leave you standing behind them and them on one leg, so you’re set up for a takedown.

Next, Jude showed what to do if while you’re trying to get their leg, they turn and try to escape by running off. Making sure you’ve got behind them (if you don’t, they’ll have a much easier time getting their foot free), grab their other foot as they try to get away. Drive forward, aiming to knock them to their knees, then continue driving, pulling their knees towards your as well. Ideally this will leave them on their front, in position for you to scramble up and take their back.

We followed that up with some guard passage. I went for my usual tailbone break, trying to make space to get a knee through. Oli was taking it fairly easy, with lots of handy hints. For example, I need to pay attention if my opponent manages to grab my wrist: I kept moving forward and leaving my arm exposed for Oli to grip.

Underneath I was more comfortable, even managing a sweep at one point, but that was purely because Oli was not only going light, but tried experimenting with a guard pass he hasn’t had a chance to perfect yet (the one Roger showed a while back, where you drop both arms in and push forwards). I rocked backwards and rolled into Oli’s guard, but it wasn’t an especially calculated move on my part. Oli also suggested that I need to maintain a solid overhook on his arm, getting it right into my armpit. That then means I can use my other arm to try and manipulate his free arm: previously, I’ve been tending to grab the head, but then have no idea what to do with it. This position meant I could at least go for a kimura, even though Oli saw that coming from a mile off so didn’t really lead to anything (I’d like to start trying to work sweeps from their, or perhaps transition to a guillotine, rather than just going for the kimura, failing, and falling backwards).

Half guard yielded a bunch more good advice, as I’d hoped given Oli’s fondness for that position. First thing is when bridging, you don’t keep your legs locked together: probably a very obvious point, but up til tonight I hadn’t been sure if I should be releasing my grip before bridging. You still need to keep the legs close together, but unlocked its obviously a lot easier to bridge.

That bridging has a lot to with getting underhooks. The person on top will be trying to get their arm underneath your armpit and behind your head, so they can lock their arms together and grind their shoulder into your face. Therefore from the bottom, you’ll need to bridge up to make some space by their armpit, then feed your arm through. After that, the aim is to get up on your side, which for me will be a prelude to attempting to recover guard (half-guard sweeps and taking the back can come later, when I’ve got the guard recovery sorted).

Having read the Bravo book, I noticed Oli going for that ‘Lockdown’ position when he was on the bottom, which from my cursory glance at the text, seems to basically be normal half guard, but bringing your foot round to further lock their leg and then stretch them out. I’m not sure what the best escape is for that, so I was generally just trying to work my foot free to prevent Oli having that control on the bottom.

Side control came next, which followed the typical pattern of me spinning around underneath trying to stop them going to north-south and then getting some kind of choke thingy (which is where I often end up under a senior belt’s side control). That pattern continued with ‘interval training’, in which one person rolls with the other three for two minutes each, without a break. The last person then switches, so they get the pleasure of being squashed by everyone else. Apart from a brief stint in Luciano’s guard trying to avoid getting armbarred, and then rolling around to fend off Lubo’s footlock (which I only escaped due to restarting, after we got too close to a wall. Jude and Luciano were shouting out advice, which if I understood correctly was largely to do with using your other foot to push on them, attempting to free your trapped leg), it was side control all the way.

Its harder to get some kind of grip with no-gi, in order to spin with them to avoid north-south. With a gi, I can normally grab a pant leg or some of the jacket, so will have to come up with something more secure without the gi. In my last spar, with Lubo, I unfortunately got trapped underneath with my hand at an awkward angle, meaning (intentionally or not) I was tapping from a wrist lock. I should have yelled or something, as my tapping was rather limp due to being both knackered and fairly immobilised. Still, the wrist doesn’t feel too bad right now, so hopefully that will be sorted by next week. My ankle is a little sore too: have to hope I didn’t injure that while caught in the foot locks without noticing.

This lesson marks my last one of 2007, so looking forward to more training in 2008. I don’t have any big holidays planned so far, just some time in Spain – should only miss a week due to the way it falls, though. Would also be good to compete again, but I’m not all that bothered: SENI will likely be the next one, as that’s the easiest for me to reach.


  1. Hey thanks for the review. I've been planning to pick up the Bravo book for a while but I wasn't sure. I'm going to get off my duff and pick it up now.

  2. No problem: glad it was useful. I'm told a lot of people get overexcited about all the crazy stuff later on in his book, so I'm determined to avoid doing that.

    For a not entirely serious take on it, check this thread.

  3. Jiu-jitsu 365 says....

    Eddie Bravo's "Jiu-Jitsu Unleashed" has really been useful. I especially like the lock-down and using the half-guard to get to people's back. When I first learned it I was almost able to get the back of people at will until they caught on at my club. On the reefer issue, he truly believes that it makes him better so I can't argue with him...

    I have "Mastering the Rubber Guard" too but a lot of it is too technical for me right now and I am not flexible enough...

    "The Gracie Way" was an excellent read. Once I started, I didn't pick up another book until I finished it....

  4. Hey man, I just realized browsing your blog that you started taking BJJ the same time I did. I've been all No-Gi though. I'm also a big fan of the lockdown and hence have seen a lot of good escapes from it since I slap it on everyone from half guard. The highest percentage I've seen is to sit back into it, lock your arms around the bottom guys waist and sprawl hard.
    That usually frees your leg and gives you control of both of your opponents legs. The lower down on his legs you can get a grip the easier it will be to turn it into a pass. Just keep your chest pressing on their knees and work your legs around to the side and you should be able to take side control.

  5. Cheers - I was wondering what the escape was, and that variation definitely sounds worth a go. Will have to try it next time I spar Oli. ;)