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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

02 January 2008

02/01/2008 - BJJ (Beginners)

Class #113

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 02/01/2008Beginner

Nick G has moved his excellent blog, The Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood, to a new site, here. Looks like he was still working on it last time I checked, but presumably new articles will be appearing there rather than the old blogspot site.

As it’s the start of a new year, I’m going to go through my training to date (I’m very, very geeky about my statistics: Excel sheet stuffed with formulae). Since November 2006, I’ve been (before tonight’s class, that is) to 112 classes of BJJ, of which 85 were beginner, 26 were advanced (11 gi and 16 nogi), which means 122.5hrs total at RGA, with another 1.5hrs from the Brighton TD, and finally the half hour intro with Oli back in October 2006. I’ve been to one competition, and plan to make at least one more this year (I doubt I’ll ever be all that into competition, as its not really my personality to compete, but nevertheless important to test myself outside of class). That means BJJ now makes up 16.93% of my total martial arts experience (which – and this is partially guesswork – is 735.5hrs), the lion’s share still being Zhuan Shu Kuan (68.66%, but that’s unsurprising, seeing as I trained there for 8 years). I haven’t been back to ZSK since April last year, as I’m not really interested in stand-up anymore, but as I enjoy the socialising, may well try and make some sessions later this year.

My main focus hasn’t really changed much since I began: in the beginners, I concentrated on sweeps, and since moving to the advanced, I’ve been looking into escapes. Those two areas (which are big areas) still need plenty of improvement, so I’m not going to stop working either of those. However, I also need to get some kind of top game, as at present its non-existent, along with attempting more submissions (though I mainly want to use them in combination with a sweep, like the kimura from sit-up or armbar from scissor and flower/pendulum).

I wasn’t feeling 100% this morning, and still felt a bit off during work, so decided to go for the beginners instead of advanced tonight. That’s what I normally do if I feel a little dodgy, but not enough to skip training: means I still get at least one class in, so don’t then feel so bad about taking the rest of the week off if it turns out I am coming down with something.

Training tonight focused on sweeps when they stand up in your guard. First one was the usual ankle grab sweep, which despite being basic is something I always have trouble with. It might be that I’m not raising my hips high enough, or thrusting them forward sufficiently, or perhaps both. Will have to remember to check that with Jude or Oli etc next time I have a chance. I also find it difficult to follow it up quickly, particularly when – as today – my partner (a guy called Doug, who has been at RGA around two years, but kept away by work for the past three months) is a fair bit taller than me. Doug suggested holding onto the gi to pull yourself up, though mused that this might also mean you effectively pull the guy towards you, negating the sweep. Either way, the proper method as Jude showed it was to come up on your hand, pushing forward so you can get to mount.

The next sweep involved feet in hips (not sure what the usual name for this sweep is, though I think we’ve done it before). If the ankle grab sweep fails because they’re pulling on your lapels for balance, reach inside their arms. Then draw your legs back until you can get your feet into their hips. Finally, pull their elbows back to your head, so they’re overbalancing right over you, then lift your legs and roll them straight over into your mount. I need to remember to get them all the way forward before straightening out the legs, as I think I being a little premature at points in the drill, meaning that the sweep didn’t quite complete properly (or wouldn’t have, if there had been much resistance).

Sparring was guard passage, which on top against Doug I generally tried the tailbone break. As often happens, that wasn’t hugely effective, but did put me in position to bring my knee through when Doug attempted to initiate something. He swept me a few times by getting his knees into my legs (or was it a scissor? Frequently find myself falling prey to this, but I don’t think it involves getting the shin into the stomach as with a scissor sweep. Could be wrong, though), but I also managed to use that opening once or twice to pin a leg and get through to side control.

Need to be more careful of my base, so I don’t get swept in that position where I’ve got my knee back, and also should try standing passes more often. I was possibly a bit wary this time due to having spent the whole class working standing sweeps, but that’s no excuse. I did at least defend OK against his choke attempts, by either squashing his arms together at the elbow or isolating one arm until I could get space to posture up.

Underneath, I got passed a few times, such as when attempting scissor sweeps, but had a chance to play with my half-guard. I had a vague attempt at the lockdown thingy where you use your foot to wrap round and cause extra pressure, but will need to review the basic section of the Bravo book to make a more serious effort. I did find I was able to get up on my side, and get my arm right across Doug’s back, but couldn’t quite move through to taking the back. However, it did at least enable me to recover full guard.

I also tried slipping down to a single leg when Doug stood up in my guard, which sort of worked, in the sense that while I didn’t manage to catch the leg, I was able to come to my feet. That does rather defeat the object of the exercise, though, as I want to be going for a single as opposed to merely ending up in a clinch. Final point I wanted to note is that I found myself in that position where I have a leg flailing by their head, which eventually gets batted away and they move into side control. I need to work out what to do in that situation to regain a secure position: I was trying to get my foot into his biceps, but couldn’t get the foot away from by his head.

My next partner was a Brazilian guy called Felipe, who apparently trained under De La Riva for four years (although this was ten years ago). According to him, De La Riva is a really nice guy, and very small (at least I’m guessing that’s what he meant by holding up his little finger: perhaps I missed some nuance of Brazilian sign language). Felipe had a tendency to cling firmly onto my trouser legs by the knee or ankle when I was in his guard, which I felt sure must mean I had a good opportunity to pass, as he was tying up his arms. I did manage to step through at one point, albeit with Felipe continuing to hold on to the trouser leg. He eventually relented and switched to half-guard: I can’t remember if I managed to step through initially and then on the second try stayed stuck in half-guard, or if I stepped through the half guard too. Either way, I tried to focus on fighting for the underhooks from half-guard, and flattening Felipe out, which sort of worked, as I was able to get my arm under his head and drive my shoulder forward.

With my guard, I found again that Felipe likes to hold on tight (though he mention, not at all to my surprise, that his fingers were sore from the previous round). I put my legs up too high at one point, meaning he could easily stack pass me, and he also slid through to side control a couple of times. As he was staying so low, I probably should have tried to work my flower sweep more, which is something I’ve yet to work out, despite having been trying to do so for over a year now. I also couldn’t quite succeed in armbarring him, although he was going for a thrust choke and seemed in perfect position for the attack: need to get my hips over faster. We finished off as I was hanging on to his arm looking for a kimura, or possibly using that hold to sweep: couldn't manage either, though the latter looked viable at one point.

I don’t feel too bad after that class, but will see how my body is tomorrow morning. Hopefully make the no-gi, as it would be annoying to start the year with a single-class week (though at least that isn’t no classes). Also depends on the weather: trains in this country are terrible, and tend to collapse in bad weather. May be snow tomorrow afternoon, so will need to check that before I consider heading off to training.


  1. I was wondering if you could clarify on Felipe's technique of holding your pant legs when trying to maintain his guard. Did you find this effective? Is this something you've seen used much before?

  2. Is it effective? Not really, at least in terms of (as in this case) grabbing the material at each knee and then just lying there and holding it. The only people I tend to see doing that are beginners who aren't sure what else to do. Main problem, as far as I can tell, is that it means both their hands are occupied. If I was better at BJJ, I presumably would have been able to capitalise on that. ;)

    Grabbing the pant leg material with one hand, by contrast, does have some purpose. Having been on the receiving end plenty of times, I know there are at least a few sweeps that involve doing that. Could be there are ones that involve grabbing both, but so far I haven't seen any. But as I'm still just a white belt, I guess its possible there are some I simply haven't seen yet.