Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Gustavo Dos Santos Pires, London, UK - 09/04/2008 – Advanced
I skipped Thursday and Tuesday (but with the three evenings free now its out of term time, that still meant I could make my minimum two classes a week) as I've been worried about aggravating my left knee, but wanted to see if it had recovered by training tonight. The original injury shouldn't have been too serious, as it was merely bashing my knee into the mat a bit hard when trying to pass guard (sort of like when you try to put your foot down on a step when going upstairs in the dark, but misjudge as you've already reached the top).
That did give me a chance to delve into my newest BJJ acquisition, Ed Beneville's Strategic Guard. I'll almost certainly be mentioning Beneville again next week, once I've selected some techniques to focus on and try out in class. It also reminds me to double-check some of the information in his previous release, The Guard: still loads in there I need to absorb.
Getting back to tonight's class, Gustavo kicked off with another open guard sweep. You wrap your leg and arm around their same side leg, similar to as if you were going for a single leg takedown. Also grip their opposite sleeve, then feed it through to the arm you have around their leg. With your free arm, hook around the back of their far leg, spin round, then pull them towards you. The aim is to roll them over, ending up on top.
Gustavo followed that up by showing the sweep defence, passing their guard straight into rear mount. Once they have a grip on your arm, move your hand so that you can grip their sleeve too. Pull right up, then with your other hand, push down hard on the back of their gi, trying to drive their head to the floor. Step over their head, going to your back in order to take rear mount, slipping your arm round their neck and getting your hooks in.
Tran gave me some useful tips at this point. First, when you're rolling them in a particular direction, that should be where you insert your first hook (i.e., if you're rolling them towards your left leg, put that hook in, and you can then use additional pressure to complete the roll). Second, get a deep grip with your arm around their throat, and make sure you don't bend your wrist. The way Tran described it was keeping your arm like a bar: straight, so there is a straight line running down your knuckles to your elbow. This makes the choke much tighter, and you can feel the pressure even before the person applying the choke secures the submission.
We then did specific sparring from that position, which was pretty weird. As seems to happen when we try this, I don't get all that much out of it: as I'm only going for one thing, I soon get swept or passed. However, I need to make sure I approach it properly, and try to improve some small aspect of the technique incrementally. Making it a race is pointless, as your partner already knows what you're going to do. Therefore, I should think about things like hand positioning, where I'm putting my feet, my balance etc.
Tran advised me that when on the bottom, because I was going straight to my back when trying to swivel round for the sweep, it was a simple matter for him to drop his knee and control me, pushing through to mount. Instead, I should have stayed more upright, moving around the leg as they moved, rather than providing an easy target. It was unusual to not do the technique drilling with Christina, but like her, Tran is a great person to drill with because he offers lots of advice.
Class moved on to the more familiar specific sparring from closed guard. I went with Pippa, and took the opportunity to again try and really concentrate on technique. I passed a few times when on top, but came close to falling over: it was a good way to practice my balance.
Underneath, I started by working the kimura from guard again. As before, I started by prying the elbow with my knee, pushing off their hip, scooping the elbow with my hands, locking it to my chest, figure-four, then going for the submission. Also as before, that included the obstacle of my partner gripping onto a gi to stop me isolating the arm. I was eventually able to free the limb and twist for the kimura, but I'm not sure how sharp my technique was in doing so: tried to keep in mind what Beneville says in The Guard about attacking in three directions. Push their body away with your leg, pull on the arm with your figure four and finally also rotate your torso. At least I think that's the idea.
Free sparring kicked off with Christina. I sat the first one out, because as the radiators were on again, my meagre reserves of fitness were rapidly dribbling onto the mats. I had a go at the "It's me!" pass (well, technically that's a hook guard pass, but I'm getting used to Christina's more memorable term :p) from earlier, which I think sort of worked, but I wasn't quite able to complete the technique. I also found myself with an opportunity to work the 'paw' concept from half-guard, which I think I applied a little better than before this time. I stayed up on my side and pushed against Christina's arm, but wasn't able to turn it into a sweep. I did randomly end up trying to attack her back, but was way too sloppy and loose, soon ending up back underneath.
After another break, I finished up with Jason. I had intended to try and grab Tran, so he could show me that side control submission he mentioned earlier as well as practice escapes, but Jason proved an interesting change. He was going easy on me, but nevertheless his speed and flexibility at using the open guard caused me lots of problems. I tried to stay mobile, though that didn't yield much on top: I did fling his legs to one side and pass at one point, but he immediately recovered (and like I said, he was going light), eventually wrapping me up in an armbar.
I'm getting a little bit OCD with the Savlon after class, but then I'd rather be over cautious with stuff like staph rather than ill-prepared. Hopefully regularly rubbing the cream on any abrasions, bruises or cuts will keep me healthy. Speaking of which, my knee seemed ok tonight, but will have to see how it feels tomorrow. I'm still trying to take it easy on that joint, attempting to avoid positions where its going to be put under strain, but that can occasionally be difficult in the midst of free sparring (of course, I can always simply tap if I find its getting hurt: didn't seem to be in danger tonight, fortunately).