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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

21 February 2008

21/02/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #121

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Gustavo Dos Santos Pires, London, UK - 21/02/2008Advanced

I thought at first the class was going to be taken by Jude, as he ran the warm-up (which was a typically hefty workout), but the main class was taken by Gustavo. He speaks much better English than I realised, so perhaps having Luciano translate was a way of slipping into teaching in another language: his command of English was more than adequate, so presumably he won't need a translator anymore.

First technique he showed was an omoplata from under half-guard. To start, you pull out their gi, so that there is a decent chunk for you to grip: this is always on the side of the leg you haven't trapped. Pull that up around their back. Next, you're going to need a bit of flexibility, as you now raise up the leg (this time on the same side as the one you trapped in half guard), bring your same side arm behind your own leg, then feed their gi into that hand.

You then move your other leg underneath them, bringing the leg near their chest. Use your same side hand to push on their face, making space in order to shift your first leg to the other side of their head. Roll onto the arm, bringing your legs out to get into the omoplata position (the sole of one foot is by the knee of the other, with the knee leg tucked slightly behind your, both wrapped around your partner's knee). Finally, raise up and forward to apply the lock. At least I think so: needed some help from Tran to remember that properly! ;)

Alternately, you can switch to a triangle, readjusting your legs as you bring them over the head, then swivelling to the side and squeezing to secure the choke.

Next, Gustavo showed a kimura from on top of half guard. Bring your knee up into their armpit, then switch your same side arm over to the other side of their head. Cup their elbow and lift it to your chest, posturing up. Grab their wrist, then reach under to grip your own wrist (so the usual figure-four position), bring their arm slightly away from their body and twist. If they manage to take hold of some gi material, you can try grabbing the wrist anyway and initiating a kimura to loosen their grip.

Also, Owen did something with his elbow when we tried using more resistance, pressing into my head or arm: not exactly sure what he did, but made me sufficiently uncomfortable to loosen my grip. Finally, must be careful of my head position, as it was vulnerable to guillotines.

After that, we did some specific sparring from half-guard. As ever, I didn't get too far with Owen, generally just resisting for a while before he either swept, passed or submitted me. I was able to get to the right side to go for a sweep or something proactive, but still having trouble getting up and into position. Need to work on raising up: perhaps think more about simply pushing up on my elbow, or wrapping an arm round to go for the back. Also, reminds me to be careful of people's fingers: you're not allowed to grip those in competition, so I had to pay attention and make sure I was pulling on the palm, back of the hand, wrist etc rather than any fingers.

Specific side control sparring with Grant followed a similar pattern, though if anything he dominated me even more. I couldn't do anything to stop him moving through my side control: felt like I was made of wet tissue paper. I also wasn't able to do a whole lot underneath, though I think I managed to get into half-guard at one point. Not sure, though.

Finally for the specific sparring, we moved to mount, where my partner this time was Huey. I had a bit more success here, at least on the bottom. On top, I could hold him down for a while, keeping my balance by using my hands, holding his head, or a combination of both, but couldn't do anything offensive. I did look for the sleeve choke again, but got nowhere in terms of getting the top arm onto his neck.

Underneath, I was much more comfortable. I move to half-guard a few times, but mainly did the trap and roll, grabbing an arm and leg on the same side then bridging him over. Largely I was able to do so because Huey was actively going for submissions, sitting back and looking for a choke. He wasn't far off the sleeve choke a few times, but I just about managed to get my hand in the way.

Confusingly, class then seemed to end, with everyone stretching, and somebody getting a stripe. However, this is apparently normal – Owen said they've been doing this in the advanced class for a while, although it wasn't done last week. Turns out it isn't the end of class, just the end of formal instruction. After that first hour, people can then spar for 30 minutes. So its effectively the same as normal, just with the option of leaving early. I'm sure I'll be tempted to take that option at some point, but I want to make sure I get at least three spars, which normally takes the full 30 mins as I tend to have a rest between each one.

First bit of free rolling was with Owen again, sucking me into his open guard and moving to a sweep soon after. That happened repeatedly, much the same as when I last sparred Owen some time ago. I think I again ended up under half guard, with similar results to our specific sparring.

After a break, I then had a roll with Daniel. IIRC, he's the 16 year old who moved up from the juniors straight to blue, so I was expecting him to be sharp: having seen plenty of junior classes (because I often arrive early), I noticed Daniel was easily the most dedicated guy there, spending a lot of time getting close attention.

As expected, he was significantly more skilled than me – Jude even told him to tone it down at one point. I think he could probably have been more dominant if he wanted, but presumably went a little lighter after Jude said that. Still, didn't stop him passing my guard at will, getting a mounted triangle, and generally bouncing all over the place while I scrambled to get some kind of hold on him. Only thing I can take away from that is that at least I managed to stay relaxed and not expend too much energy.

My last roll, in what is becoming a regular occurrence, was with Tran. Tonight was especially educational, as he gave me a bunch of handy tips. First was the correct way to hold side control. Start with an arm under the head, the other one underhooking their elbow. Clasp your hands together in a gable grip (palms together, one thumb in and one thumb out), then pull your partners towards you. This isn't just squeezing, but actively yanking them tight into your knees (though there are various leg positions you can use, Tran prefers to bring his knees in close). Make sure the middle of your chest doesn't pass an imaginary line running the length of their body from the middle of their chest, and keep your weight down.

The spar followed the same pattern as before, with me bucking away under Tran's mount. Tran noticed that there was something important I was missing with the upa, which is to bridge up over a shoulder. At the moment, I've been bucking straight up, when I should be looking over to my left or right and bridging in that direction, which makes the motion more powerful.

I seem to have picked up lots of abrasions this class, with the skin of my left shoulder feeling raw, a ripped up left small toe and a hot feeling on the right side of my face. Hopefully my skin is going to get more used to the punishment – I guess I can always tape up my toes, but that doesn't really work for the face and shoulder.

Also looking forward to my blue belt getting less stiff. At the moment, it keeps coming undone due to the lack of give: I've handwashed it once, as I'm a bit wary of the dye. May put it in with a dark wash later, or I could just wait for the belt to go floppy. From what I'm told, most people don't bother washing it to loosen the belt up, as it does that eventually on its own.


  1. Can,
    I forgot to mention; with the Upa - you have to have a goal in mind. If you want to make space for your knee to come through that previous upa you have been doing is fine. But if you are looking to roll me over then looking over to the 1 O'clock positon as this works well beacuse of the extra momentum you generate.

    Remember that you have to work to a goal whenever you do a move!!

  2. Cheers!

    I want to improve escapes, so probably best for me to try both options. At present, I'm still most comfortable in guard, so bringing the knee through is the one I normally go for. However, I think a big problem I'm having there is that I'm not using the space I make in order to immediately shrimp and try to get my knee into position. Also, I need to use my elbows more help make further room.

    As my top game is still woeful, rolling back to my partner's guard is also something I should improve, as I'll never advance my top game if I can't even get there. ;)