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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

13 March 2008

13/03/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #127

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Gustavo Dos Santos Pires, London, UK - 13/03/2008Advanced

Classes are settling into a pattern of a thorough warm-up by Oli, throws, specific sparring, a technique, more specific sparring, and then finally free sparring. Sometimes the instructor will stop the class after an hour, giving people the opportunity to leave before the thirty minutes of rolling: that wasn't the case tonight.

From guard passage with Joanna and then Herman, I definitely need to stand up more. This is an old problem I had in the beginners, and it hasn't yet been solved: my passing attempts are getting very one-sided and ineffectual, as I keep going for that tailbone guard break and getting nowhere. When standing up, I'm either getting swept straight back with very basic techniques, or I'm finding myself trapped in my partner's open guard. Next time, I'd like to try and somehow neutralise those legs before they can wedge themselves into my arms or hips: perhaps maintain a firm grip, pull them towards me, or maybe unbalance them using a hold on their lapel. Plenty of options to try out.

Underneath, I'm continuing to try and prise the elbow up for a kimura attempt, but still have the problem of releasing their grip on the gi. I may need to try pushing against their hip in combination with a knee by their arm to isolate the limb. It would also be good to work a sweep off the position, though I tend to be too far back to easily get my hips underneath, which is necessary before I can go for the sit-up.

Gustavo again showed us an open guard sweep, this one relatively simple: no De La Riva hook involved. The position was that your partner had just attempted to pass your open guard, having brought your legs together and pulled them to the floor. Grab their collar, then as they posture up, grab behind their same side ankle, push off your leading foot and drive them to the floor.

Much more difficult was trying to get anywhere near that sweep when we did specific sparring. The starting point fit the previous demonstration, as the person on the bottom has a collar grip, while their standing partner holds their knees. On the bottom, I was passed repeatedly, with almost no effort on Joanna's part. I couldn't control her at all – if I got my feet to her hips, she soon managed to step away or slide past. I also couldn't get a good hold, like the De La Riva hold, or wrap up an arm. Much the same happened with Herman, though I held him off a little longer with grips on the arms and trouser leg (though that didn't lead anywhere. Couldn't remember the sweep from that position).

I think my main problem here is that I'm not using all of my limbs. Most of the time I've been flailing with the legs, rather than supplementing that using my arms to grip their sleeves, collar etc. Also, I'm not staying tight enough: I hadn't looked very closely at the forward snake move in The Guard (excellent book by Ed Beneville), but that’s going to change given the trouble I had with distance.

On top, I had more success, passing to the side, or sliding through their legs. I tried to keep in mind something Owen said, which was to wrap up the legs and move your way up, but failed to grab high enough and press my weight down. As with the standing pass attempts, I need to watch I don't give my opponent solid purchase on my arms/armpit/hips etc.

I spent free sparring, for a change, with white belts, which I don't think I've done since getting the blue back on Valentine's Day. Paxton maintained good control as I tried to pass his guard, eventually moving on top, meaning I retreated to half guard. We stayed in that position for some time, as I attempted to secure a lockdown (a position where you've got half guard, but in addition to the hold with your legs, you also use your instep to wrap their leg).

That helped stop Paxton move his knee higher, but I wasn't able to do a whole lot with it beyond that. I was hoping to lift up his leg and use that space to either recover guard or move to the side, possibly going for his back. Instead, I ended up in a bizarre position where I was mostly behind him with a hook in, reaching over his collar, while he had an arm firmly around my head. We struggled there for a bit, until Paxton showed some great timing and exploded right out and back on top, shortly after which time ran out.

After another rest, I finished up by going with Herman. We're about the same weight and have a comparably passive style of sparring, so it was refreshing to roll with him. Again, I spent some time in half guard, trying the same thing as with Paxton. I swept somebody from that position, so might have been during that spar, or one of the specific spars earlier. Either way, I found myself on top in half guard, but couldn't do too much beyond holding the position.

I also found I had real trouble working my knee into Herman's armpit. I was trying to go for the kimura, pulling up on the elbow, but as from guard, I couldn't isolate the limb. I had a figure four, but couldn't shift Herman's grip. As that's been a recurring problem, I'll need to think more carefully about how to loosen people's grasp of their gi. I also want to use my weight better on top in half guard: while I could hold it, I failed to prevent Herman's arms from working underneath. Ideally I'd be able to secure a solid position and trap at least one of my partner's limbs, but I'm still leaving too much space for that. I tried using my hip to prevent his arm moving later on, which had some success, but still not enough to bring my knee into play.

Owen would be a good person to roll with to learn more about open guard, so I'll have to grab him next time and then observe closely how he controls me with his legs and arms. I also need to remember to pick up my certificate from Joanna: Christina mentioned yesterday that you do apparently get a certificate for blue belt, you just need to ask for it. As I'm paying for the thing anyway, might as well have something I can keep as a record. In the only other martial art in which I've got rank, Zhuan Shu Kuan, I went up to brown belt, but most of the certificates are still with the instructor.

Next week, I'll be staying at my sister's, and my gf is also away at the weekend, so I'm hoping to make Friday. That depends on if RGA is open on the bank holiday, though: if not, could try for Saturday, though I'm keen to go to the Cranach exhibition at the Royal Academy.

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