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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

26 March 2008

26/03/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #131

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 26/03/2008Advanced

My back has been acting up since yesterday: not sure if that is due to training, or the large bag I lug around when travelling. Probably a combination of both, as I'd hope my back would be used to the bag after four years. That thumb still hasn't quite got sorted, but it seems to vary. I'm trying to avoid using it at work (I do a lot of typing), which I think is helping.

We had a classic heavy Jude warm-up, with lots of press-ups, tuck jumps, squats etc: he was really looking to work us hard today. Once we'd suffered our way through that, moved on to guard passage. I was knackered from the warm-up, so took the lazy option of sticking with defence. I held off Christina's choke attacks for a while (though I'm having trouble stopping her from raising up. I've been trying to keep Jude's advice about bringing your weight over an arm pressing into their chest in mind, but not entirely successful with it just yet). Towards the end, she worked my gi free, wrapped it around my head, and eventually got the choke. Tran was watching, and later told me that if I'm defending with a single arm, get it higher up on my head to neutralise that submission. I was mostly holding it by my cheek, which is too low.

Underneath, I tried my tactic of preventing my partner from standing up, but this didn't quite work as planned. Christina is very strong, so instead of pulling her down, most of the time I was pulling myself up. I'm not used to that position, so was at a bit of a loss. I tried going for the kimura, but without much effect. Christina was leaning back at several points, so I would have thought some kind of sweep could have been an option, but wasn't able to get into position. She always maintains firm control of my hips when in my guard, which makes things difficult.

When she stood up, I felt I was doing a teeny bit better in open guard. I managed to wrap up the arm a few times, although I couldn't maintain the grip for long. I also vaguely managed that guard recovery tactic from the Beneville book, where you swing one leg over the other and push on the hip. However, that also brought up a useful lesson: don't kick your partner in the face! I managed to smack Christina right on the ear while going for a third try, so will have to be more careful.

Next came sparring from stand-up, which I didn't get much out of. I still hate throws, so need to come up with a goal to make stand-up specific sparring more productive for me. Grip fighting might be one option: at the moment, I continue to flail about half-heartedly, effectively waiting to be thrown.

Technique today was first the same triangle set-up from yesterday, where I noticed that I think you're meant to stretch them out with the foot on the hip earlier than I'd realised. Could really feel the difference when Christina started doing that.

Jude followed that up with something new, a half guard sweep: Christina said it was similar to the helicopter sweep, which means little to me, but somebody more up on BJJ verbiage might recognise the similarities. Starting from half-guard, you grab the sleeve of their opposite arm (cross-grip), while simultaneously gripping their same side trouser leg with your other hand. Bring your opposite knee up into their stomach, curling your body close to them. Move the cross-grip hand in an arc away from their body: Christina described it as "like a rainbow", which was kinda apt. Made me think of dancing to 'Reach For The Stars' during Top Banana back at Warwick. :)

Shifting your legs (which are still wrapped around one of their's, as per half-guard), you should now have your partner spread out on top of you, as you also straighten out the arm gripping their trousers. Roll backwards over your own shoulder, which should end up putting you on top in their half-guard.

My first free sparring partner was Tran, one of my favourite people to roll with. He also provides an excellent test of my defences, because his game is so tight, leaving no space at all. Initially I tried to pass his open guard, shifting my knees around, but eventually got swept. I couldn't snatch half-guard from mount, though I think I was getting slightly closer, vaguely nabbing his foot. That wasn't enough, however, as he soon got to a high mount. I bucked away, getting into a pattern of Tran moving up, while I bucked and shifted out a little distance. Its impressive just how heavy Tran feels on top: excellent at employing his full weight against you. That also means it’s a good way of practicing staying relaxed in tough situations, keeping in mind your goal of getting to a certain position to launch your escape.

Against Christina, it was more side control than mount. I spun around trying to stop her going to north-south or knee-on-belly, totally unable to get my preferred half-guard to escape. She managed to get me in a very bad position, where the only thing stopping me getting armbarred was my grip on her foot. However, that was pretty pointless on my part, as firstly if she'd been using her full strength, I'd have been tapping immediately. Secondly, and more importantly, that position wasn't helping me improve my technique: I should have released shortly after realising the position wasn't a useful one to work, so we could restart and do something more productive.

Finally, I had a short spar with Pippa. As ever, the size issue was in my mind the whole time, as even though I'm tiny, I've got at least 10kg on her. I tried to roll in a way that didn't rely on strength, ending up underneath, where I wanted to practice half guard and that 'paw' thing again. I think I should have switched to what Indrek calls the 'double paw', as Pippa was crushed down on me, not leaving any space. As I wasn't getting anywhere, I instead swept her over to end up in her half-guard.

Again, I tried to stay technical, attempting to free my leg. Her arm was looking vulnerable to attack, so I switched to an Americana, whereupon she unbent her arm. That gave me the opportunity for a straight armbar (figure-four with their elbow as the pivot, pushing down on their upper arm), but I'm sure that would never work on somebody I didn't significantly outweigh: anyone bigger could probably have just curled their arm, my weedy little limbs helpless to stop them. Still, fun to try the straight armbar, which has been in my mind due to Beneville suggesting it as a follow-up to the failed kimura attempt (though that’s from a quite different position, principle seems to apply).

Hopefully my body won't complain too much tomorrow, and I'll be able to train again. I've got a few weeks where I have three evenings available to get to RGA, so would be great to make the maximum.

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