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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

28 February 2008

28/02/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #123

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 28/02/2008Advanced

My thumb is still giving me a bit of irritation, but equally its not affecting my training in a noticeable fashion. Hopefully any niggles will be gone by next week. My gf didn't go along to her pilates class last week (she's not quite settled into a routine), so instead she took the cheaper option of running through a class with me at home. I'm thrilled she was willing to do some BJJ with me, but if this becomes a long term plan for her fitness (and I very much hope it will be), I'm going to need some proper mats. Even if her interest drops off, I could do with mats for doing drills etc at home, though that’s another point in favour of the cheaper eBay option.

I've thought about this before, but now I've got motivation: last time, I was thinking of either the swish looking Swain mats, or some cheap Jigsaw mats off eBay. The Swain looks good, and also stores away easily, with dimensions of 1.5m x 3m x 38mm (if I understood the Imperial measurements on the Swain site correctly). Before shipping, its about $250. Unfortunately, looks like they don't ship to the UK anyway, although I think Dollamur sell the same mat and ship internationally (doesn't mention the cost, though).

The eBay jigsaw mats are a lot thinner at 20mm, with each one 1m square, and they only cost £10 each (though I think the shipping is around £7 per mat). I'm presuming for two people I'd need about four, which would mean £40 before shipping, then another £30 or so. Much cheaper than the Swain option (particularly as I'm not sure on shipping from the US to here for something that big), but the downside is the thickness. I wasn't planning on doing much, if anything, in the way of throws, so I'm assuming 20mm is enough for the lesser impact of things like scissor sweeps. Could be wrong though.

Checking on forums, I see there are also cheapish ($150 for 4x8 foot) mats from Mancino, but they don't mention how much international shipping is (so I'm guessing that means it’s a lot). They don't seem all that highly regarded, but meh: I wouldn't exactly be judoing my way through lots of throws or anything, just a bit of light rolling.

Before class started and everyone was chatting, a guy I haven't spoken to before popped over and introduced himself as Greg. He mentioned he'd seen the technique summary on my blog, but that some of the videos weren't working. I've noticed that the embedded Google Video ones were a bit temperamental, but hoped it was just my browser or something: perhaps not. If people notice videos aren't working, due to broken links, browser, something with the HTML or whatever, then let me know – stick up a comment on the technique page itself, or drop me an email (my username on here at gmail).

Instead of Felipe and Jude alternating, it now appears to be Gustavo and Jude: I've not had a class with Felipe since October last year, so presumably he's going to be doing that Open University degree (IIRC) until at least the same time this year. At least, I'm counting this class as taught by Jude, seeing how he took the warm-up, helped out during drilling and presided over the sparring. I suppose nominally this would be Gustavo teaching again, but in the interests of pedantic categorisation, its going down in my spreadsheet as a Jude lesson. :p

The warm-up was again hefty, even more so than yesterday, with the pain of repeated tuck jumps and sprawls. We then moved on to technique, where initially Gustavo was going to show an armbar off the open guard, but instead decided to show the same sweep as yesterday. That was fine by me, as it was a complicated move: I was happy to grab the opportunity to see it demonstrated again.

With that open guard sweep (I still don't know the proper name, but its apparently nothing to do with De la Riva, as I randomly thought it might), there were a couple of points I hadn't noted yesterday. First, when you push that leg through, use the grips on their leg and arm to help drive the motion: seemed less likely to get caught up in the gi fabric of the armpit that way, which was happening to me yesterday. Secondly, when you're doing that, you should also shift in closer, so as not to leave too much space and therefore mess up the sweep.

I was finding it a little hard to maintain my grip on their sleeve after swivelling round, but the tip on readjusting the distance was useful in landing the technique. I also noticed that when Gustavo demonstrated, he moved into a sort of scarf hold by shifting his legs rather than rolling under himself and going to side control. That’s what I was attempting yesterday, so perhaps instead I should try to scarf hold thing then switch my base for side control.

Gustavo followed this up with an armbar. This is for when you're in position, with your leg wrapped round their arm, but they've grabbed the fabric around your other knee. Hold the outside of the elbow and kick the leg they're holding straight, pushing their elbow across your body at the same time. This should break their grip, whereupon you can push the arm down towards your opposite armpit, locking the arm up there. You can now bring your leg over their head and raise your hips for the armbar.

Class then became a series of specific spars, with the same partner. Starting with guard passage, I found myself playing around with open guard against Christina. This is because I kept trying to pull her elbows apart in order to sit up guard, but that merely resulting in her standing, until I couldn't keep my legs locked and went to open guard. I vaguely tried wrapping up her arm as per the earlier technique, but that didn't go anywhere: generally I was flailing around low on her legs trying to get some kind of hold.

What I should have been doing was paying more attention to my foot position. I could have put one on her hip and one in her bicep, or both on her hip – instead, I just kept failing to get one behind her leg and the other pressing her knee. I should also try using grips on her trousers more too, in order to limit her mobility.

Under side-control, knee-on-belly was a big problem for me, with Christina regularly moving to that and steadily shifting to mount. I was attempting to remember the escape Gustavo showed us, which involved pushing the belt, but I couldn't get it. Will have to have another look at my notes. I'm also continuing to forget about going to my knees – I'm going to have to start chanting an inner monologue on that during side control, as I keep ignoring the option.

On top of side control, I felt more secure than I have for a long time. This is entirely thanks to Tran's tips a few lessons ago. I locked up the head and arm with an gable grip, as he advised, also pulling Christina in towards my knees, trying to crush down and stay as tight as possible. However, I found that I had trouble working a knee into her armpit to make space for the mount. I'm going to have to work out how to be more proactive from that position, as while I felt I had more control than normal, I wasn't really doing anything, which is kinda pointless (though better than just getting repeatedly swept, which is what tends to happen).

In mount I wasn't able to move up to Christina's armpits at all, as she get her elbows in tight. I attempted pushing on the point like Zaf recommended yesterday, but couldn't work my way in to get at them. That meant repeated sweeps, including one where Christina managed to slip right through into guard.

Underneath, I was defending ok, but not getting anywhere with sweeps. I was occasionally able to isolate a leg, but couldn't get enough purchase on the same side arm to make the sweep happen. I also managed to shrimp more than I've been able to in the past, pushing on the knee to help, but not enough to work through before Christina readjusted.

In her guard, I was again mostly just defending, working to a position with my elbows close to my knees, aiming to slowly free my upper body and posture up. After a long period of doing that, Christina opened her guard slightly, and with my hands pressing on her hips, I had a go at that sprawl pass Brian showed me last weekend. I don't quite understand it yet, but the motion sort of worked, enabling me to work to half-guard. I didn't have a chance to see if it would lead anywhere, as time ran out, but definitely something I want to try more often. Better than sitting and doing nothing but defend all the time in somebody's guard. ;)

After a break, where Jude chatted to me about the UK BJJ map and development of the BJJ scene (always cool to hear the perspective of someone so centrally involved in UK BJJ as Jude), I rolled with Joanna. Either because she's going easy, or she just has a relaxed game, it felt looser than with Christina, as I span around underneath in open guard, working back to either closed guard or butterfly guard. However, I couldn't do anything with the position, trying to pull Joanna down close to then attack her arms, but got stuck. An arm was sitting there staring at me, offering up a kimura attempt, but Joanna also had a firm grip on my gi – I wasn't able to break that hold to go for the sub, or try shifting to a sweep. Something I want to work on, as the kimura from guard is easily my favourite submission (seeing as it’s pretty much the only one I ever get, on the very rare occasion I sub my partner).

I need to make my butterfly hooks (by which I mean hooking the instep underneath their leg) more effective, as I was in position for a sweep, but couldn't finish. I need to bring their weight towards me, also isolating one side so they can't post out to stop the attempt. Joanna had no problems keeping her balance, so I was clearly doing neither.

All of today I've felt like I had shin splints, as if I'd been running. That could be from all the open guard work we've been doing recently, but felt weird: I've never had that without running before (I hate running, so I'm sure my technique is awful and highly shin splint inducing). I get a rest now until next Wednesday, though hopefully I'll get in another lesson with my gf on either Monday or Tuesday.


  1. Check out these guys for mats in your house: I have my whole garage floor covered with their Reversible Judo Interlocking Mats. They're about an inch and a half thick and about 3' X 3', and under 9 lbs. And they're tough! We've used them at US Grappling events before. The website lists the MSRP as US$60, but you'll get them for closer to half that. Also, surf around their site a little and you should find their UK distribution. You are in the UK, right? I just started reading your blog today.

  2. Cheers for the tip, Brian! The mats are these ones, presumably? If they're 3x3 feet, that's around the same as the £10 ones I saw on eBay, but they're also twice as thick, which is a big plus (along with their use in US Grappling: if they're good enough for you guys, they're plenty more than good enough for my flat).

    And yeah, I am in the UK - hope you enjoy the blog! :D

  3. For some reason I can't follow that link. I get a blank page. Goto the homepage and select Judo from the fire/orange menu on the right. Then click Mats. It's the only result - "Reversible JUDO Interlocking Mat"

  4. repeated tuck jumps = shin splits

  5. Brian: Hmm. Strange the link isn't working for you. But yeah, that description sounds like the ones I looked at (listed as 'Reversible mat 4 cm'). Cheers!

    Zaf: Aha, mystery solved! Damn tuck jumps... ;)