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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

25 January 2008

25/01/2008 - BJJ (Beginners)

Class #116

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Gustavo Dos Santos Pires & Luciano Cristovam, London, UK - 25/01/2008Beginner

Exciting news for any fellow history fans: Isabelle Pafford, who did the awesome Ancient Mediterranean lectures last term is returning with a series on the Roman Empire. Reason that excites me is because when I emailed her at the end of last term to ask if she'd be webcasting the course the following year, it sounded as if History 4a wasn't happening again in 2008. So I'm thrilled to see 'Roman Empire' pop up on the Berkeley webcast list - more than adequate substitute! :D

As has been the case all this month, I'm just going to beginners this week. I'm still feeling a bit hot in the head and slightly achy at work, so will continue taking it easy in class, making sure I hydrate.

Gustavo and Luciano were taking class again tonight, starting off with a throw I've not seen before. Starting from the arm and collar grip, the hand that’s grabbing the collar moves under their armpit and grabs the gi fabric. The other arm lifts up their elbow and pulls them in, as you step your left leg back. This should put them up on their toes, whereupon you sweep their leg by swinging your foot, finally bringing them over your hip (at least I think you use your hip somewhere in the motion, but got a little confused, as one of my training partners was almost exclusively using his hip. At first Luciano nodded approvingly, but then told him to use his leg – presumably the guy was either throwing slightly differently before, or his hip wasn't quite so noticeable).

We followed that up with lots of work from the spider guard (where you have your feet pressed into their biceps, grabbing both their sleeves with both your hands). First, passing the spider guard, which begins by gripping the bottom of their gi trousers. Bring your hands together and downwards to get their legs close to each other, then step backwards and put their feet on the floor. As they sit up, push their legs to one side, step round and go into knee on belly (so if you stepped round with your left, you'd put your right knee into their stomach). Having asked, you apparently don't need to break their grip on your gi first.

If they manage to stop you from pulling their feet to the floor, there's a variation to pass the spider guard. Instead of gripping the bottom of their gi trousers with your hands on top, move underneath their legs and grip the fabric at the bottom of their gi trousers there. Again, bring their legs together, but this time move forward and push out your hips, shoving their legs towards their head. That leaves their bottom and the back of their upper legs for you to sit on: drop your weight on there, then slip into side control, wrapping up their head and their legs with your arms.

Finally for technique, Gustavo showed us (through Luciano's translation, as before) how to maintain spider guard. If they try to pass, straighten out one leg into their biceps, while blocking their other leg with your shin (low on their leg, with your foot ready to hook). For example, when they step to your left, you'll block that leg with your left shin and foot, shoving your right leg straight into their biceps.

At first, I wasn't quite sure how that worked: am I supposed to hook round their leg with my blocking foot? Should I be coming in close? Luciano then explained that the important point here was the straightened leg with the foot pressing into the biceps. That sets you up for several sweeps – he quickly showed me a variation to make the point, though I didn't quite catch exactly what he did, but I ended up on the floor (I think from my weight being forward, meaning he could carry my motion through behind him by using his foot). Another guy then asked what would happen if he just stepped over the blocking foot - he also ended up on the floor for his troubles. So, stepping over their foot can also set the bottom person up for a sweep.

Sparring turned out to be brief. We went from spider guard, and were expressly told not to move into closed guard. My natural instinct is to move to half guard and then work back to closed guard, playing with open guard along the way, so this felt a little weird. I was with a rather enthusiastic noob, who at some point brought his weight down on my arm as he passed. My arm must have been in an awkward position at the time, as I felt a sharp twinge somewhere in my upper arm (or possibly shoulder). Last time I injured my left shoulder, I was out for seven months, so taking no chances I sat out the rest of sparring. Whether or not it was serious, I didn't want to take the chance of making things worse.

Hopefully I'll be ok to train another beginner class tomorrow (and this time my excuse won't be illness, but the train I need to catch soon after). However, as both Zaf and Christina urged, I really must get back to the advanced class! If that lingering illness hasn't gone by then, I may have to take some more time off to make certain. I'll soon be on holiday in Spain anyway, which will mean I miss at least a week of training either way.


  1. I can't believe how much you train! You seem to be in there 5 days a week!


  2. Heh - most I've ever trained in one week was 4, and that was way back in March last year.

    Normally, its just two classes (in term-time. Outside term, goes up to three): this month, I've not trained much at all. First and third week of January I only managed once, while in the second week I didn't get any sessions in at all.

    Its only been this week I've finally made two, which will hopefully go up to three tomorrow (depending on this arm - still a bit sore, but will see how it is in the morning).

  3. Yo Can,
    If you return to train with us in the adv class (on a friday) and if your not having to chase a train..then pop down to the pub with us. It's only next door to the academy.

  4. If you're flying to spain get some Airborne Cough and Cold medicine. Make sure you don't catch something else on the flight.

    Do you ever do any No-Gi stuff or are you strictly Gi over there?

  5. Anon: Definitely - if I train on a Friday, that's because my gf is doing something, meaning I don't have to rush to Birmingham. I always enjoy socialising with people in the academy. After all, the better you know someone, the better the training partner. ;)

    Kintanon: Normally I'd get in one no-gi class a week - statistically (yep, I've got an Excel sheet), no-gi makes up 13.8% of my classes, or 19.3% if you're going by hours. In other words, 16 classes/24hrs out of a total 116 classes/128.5hrs.

    Good idea on the medicine - definitely don't want to catch something in Spain!

  6. Slidey! i love your blog

    also you guys amaze me with the excel training sheets! how you manage to find time to get those done

    do any of you guys have shoulder problems? I can't train for a month due to shoulder injury. have to have physiotherapy and apply cream 4 times a day.

    it feels so bad to miss so much training!!

  7. Thanks!

    Beauty of Excel is that once its set up (mine just get growing as I thought of more stats to play with: you should see the offline version...), very little effort required to do much with it. You stick in a few numbers, and the formula does the work. ;)

    I don't have shoulder problems, fortunately. The main way to avoid injury in my experience is to always stay as relaxed as possible during sparring, and avoid anybody you know to be an injury risk.

    When you're off training, great time to get stuck into some books and DVDs: a bunch you could try here.