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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 February 2008

27/02/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #122

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Gustavo Dos Santos Pires, London, UK - 27/02/2008Advanced

My map has been expanding swiftly over the past week, so I'm up to about 90 locations now. I also discovered a site called, based over in Brazil: that was the first thing to pop up when I google "bjj map". As far as I can tell, they've been attempting to do something similar to me, except with the grander ambition of a global club map. As that site also appears to use Google Maps as its basis, I'm hoping they can incorporate what I've already done: I'll keep on building mine up, but those clubs should help to beef up the global map (if only UK locations).

My thumb was still a bit sore from the throwdown, but its been ok for holding drinks and the like, so I decided I'd just go a bit easy on it tonight. I was planning on trying to grip less with the thumb anyway, so this is a good opportunity to put that into practice.

I forgot to get on a later train, meaning I arrived an hour early, but that meant I could have a good chat with Joelma, who's returned from Brazil. I don't know how I missed her German accent before: strange that you can't hear things when you aren't looking for them, as I'd automatically assumed she must have a Brazilian accent. Its not like I'm unused to heavy German accents either, as my mother has a similar inflection to her speech (though with parents, even heavy accents fade in the child's hearing, so I can't hear my father's Turkish accent at all). We also spoke briefly in German, which is always pleasant – something I really need to improve, as its got increasingly rusty from years of misuse. Not to mention its never been fluent anyway, particularly grammar: as I mentioned to Joelma, my understanding of German grammatical rules is total crap. I've never got the der/die/das thing down properly.

Other thing to note is that the expansion of the mats has been completed: there is now twice the room to roll, which is cool. Still only the one toilet at the moment, but hopefully the plumbing will be finished soon. Also waiting for the extension to the changing rooms, which looks like it might be done in the not too distant future.

After a relatively hefty warm-up, led by Oli G, we moved straight into guard passage. This seemed to go on for a long time, and must have taken up most of class (I don't think it just felt like it, though always hard to tell). Particularly given the length, I was staying relaxed throughout. My top game, as I keep whining, is awful, and guard passing is definitely part of that. Except for a brief period back in the beginners when I was getting passes comparatively regular, I've never been comfortable passing. So instead, I was focusing on maintaining posture today, trying to look carefully at what my partner was doing to put me off balance in order to sweep or submit.

It seemed that there were two main attacks people were doing to set up their sweep. First option would be to isolate and arm and drag it over to the other side of my body, meaning my torso was twisted. To counter that, I was attempting to either fight to get my arm back to their hip, elbows out of danger, along with readjusting my knees so I didn't end up overbalancing. This was always a matter of holding off the inevitable, but it did provide me with a good opportunity to observe the mechanics of breaking down posture.

The second option most people seemed to take was to grab onto the material of my gi trousers around the knee, also maintaining a grip on either my sleeve, arm or collar, then pull me off balance using those two strong points. I tried to move my knees out of range, or keep them close to their butt, along with pulling my arms away to disrupt their grips. That wasn't too successful, but keeping in mind the principle of making them work to get any grip is something I'd like to ingrain, so again it was good practice for me.

One thing I need to be careful of is people surprising me, like Jeff suddenly getting his leg right over for the armbar. I didn't think he had enough room to do that, so either I was less tight than I thought, or he's a lot more flexible than I realised. What I should have done as I saw that leg coming over was bring my other arm near my face, so I could grab the back of the knee in preparation for an escape. As it was, I just ended up immediately trapped.

The one technique of today was a little complicated: I'm not sure if it’s a De la Riva sweep, or just an open guard sweep, but either way, it was a strange position. You start in a sort of spider guard, one foot on their hip, the other pressed up high on their arm, gripping the sleeve of their same side arm with your same side arm. First, switch your grips, so you're now holding that sleeve with your other arm, and with your same side arm, grab onto the bottom of their gi trousers. I was advised to secure that grip before bringing their sleeve underneath my leg, and at the same time shifting my foot up under their armpit.

Using the hold on their gi trousers to help you, spin round so that your head is in between their legs. Move your grip from one trouser to the other, maintaining your hold on their sleeve. Then bring the leg on the same side as the sleeve behind the knee of their nearest leg, and use your various grips to pull them over and down. You'll need to quickly roll your legs underneath you in order to move forward into side control.

Initially, I was ending up too far away, or in some strange sitting position, but just about got it eventually. You have to be fairly quick: as Nick Brooks described it, there are a lot of 'moving parts', so like any complex bit of machinery, it won't work unless all those parts are functioning properly.

Sparring started with Christina, where I aimed to attack her leg and pull her off balance. I also had in mind what Brian had showed me at the throwdown, but couldn't remember it properly. Speaking of Brian, I totally forgot about the sprawling guard pass, which is something I'd like to give a go, so will have to remember next time.

I spent most of my time in Christina's guard, again trying to maintain posture, bringing my knees and elbows together if she broke down my position. I was also defending against chokes with my hands, and attempting to work back to an upright posture if she'd managed to drag my torso down.

I just about managed to avoid an armbar, though the second time I think she released once she knew she had the position, and also tried to drive into the knee to escape her triangles. Later on I found myself in a bizarre triangle position, I think from trying to escape her rear mount. She had her legs wrapped round and one of my arms in, while still behind me, though I was able to resist as I had an elbow close in I could use for leverage. However, given that weird hold, if time hadn't run out she could probably have rolled into something more secure.

Finally, I had a long roll with Zaf, although it was pretty light, with Zaf taking an educational role. Zaf is a fair bit bigger than me, so we started off with me on top, Zaf letting me move through to mount from half guard and side control. Once there, I did the usual thing of underhooking the head, using my free arm for balance, and trying to walk my knees up into his armpits, at the same time seeing if I could slip and arm over his neck for a sleeve choke.

Neither option worked, and after a while Zaf offered a few useful suggestions. First was to always keep my weight on the side that wasn't trapped, meaning that when my partner then tries to roll me (going to the side where I've used an arm to underhook their head), I can counterbalance it with the rest of my weight. Secondly, Zaf provided some tips on how to loosen up the elbow more effectively. One option was to 'spider walk' your fingers up, having underhooked the elbow with your arm. That will eventually put their arm into a sufficiently weak position that you can move to an attack. However, they can also free themselves comparatively easily midway, by bucking, which throws your arm off.

Another option is to push on the point of the elbow. This is basic leverage, as its much simpler to move something pushing from the end rather than the middle. I need to think more carefully in mount on how I can achieve that, rather than just wiggling around ineffectually, which is what I normally end up doing at the moment.

Having been through my usual three spars, as Zaf went through two, I decided I'd leave early so I could get home quicker. That’s the main handy thing about splitting the class into a main section of an hour, then sparring for thirty minutes: you can leave whenever in the latter half. Then again, I normally take a break between each spar, which takes up the half an hour. Convenient to have the option, nonetheless.

Thumb held up ok, though I got abrasions on my face and foot again. Just a matter of the skin toughening up, I suppose.


  1. Thanks for posting about! We are really glad about adding all UK bjj locations provided by you on the world map! We've also posted about it on the bjjMap blog (


    Luciano Ayres
    bjjMap staff

  2. Cheers! Best of luck with the bjjMap project: should soon become an awesome resource once the word gets out. :D