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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

15 April 2008

15/04/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #137

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 15/04/2008Advanced

Roger was chatting to Owen, Paxton and I before the lesson, which is always nice. I'm attempting to dissuade Paxton from competing as he's awaiting knee surgery, but then Roger mentioned the other argument that there shouldn't be too much stress on his knee, particularly at white belt, and if he tries to stick to playing from his back. So advice is to give it a week and see: if it was me, I would probably barely even be training, but then I'm terrified of getting an injury that would put me out for a long time. One of the many things that makes me less keen on competing, though I do plan to get back into it next year, hopefully.

Lots of black belts at RGA tonight, which I didn't realise until the end. Aside from Roger and his father Maurição (who just flew in today, I think), there was also Marcio Gomes from GB Brighton, Gustavo, Jude and Braulio Estima. Could be they were there to help with Roger's training before his MMA fight, or perhaps more likely, they're all getting ready for SENI. Either way, cool to have that many big names around.

Technique kicked off with the sweep from last time: I noticed that I'm tending to forget about grabbing the ankle, which is an integral part of the technique, so useful to be able to drill that in.

Jude then followed the sweep by applying an achilles lock. After you've swept them, stand-up and control their foot. This isn't with the figure-four, as that leaves your forearm bone pressing flat rather than digging in with the edge. Instead, Jude suggested bringing one hand over the ankle, grabbing the wrist of your other arm underneath, pressing the edge of your forearm into their achilles tendon.

You then bring your inside knee through their legs and onto their torso, dropping your body in that direction, leading with your same side shoulder. This should cause your partner to come up on their side, whereupon you bring your feet into their stomach to lock up the leg, then arch your back to apply the lock. This is apparently legal in competition, though I doubt I'd try this in competition, as I'd most likely fuck it up under pressure and end up doing something illegal by accident.

That would definitely be the case with the variation Jude showed next. It starts the same way, but this time you don't drop your body to the side. Instead, you go straight forward, then roll with your partner, until your end up again in a position where you've locked up the leg and can arch your back for the sub. I felt nervous about falling forward with somebody's foot trapped in my grip, as it seemed like it could easily go wrong and cause some unpleasant damage. Of course, I'm in no way confident with footlocks, so I'd probably feel the same way no matter how safe they are on paper.

Guard passage started with Christina, where I tried to force myself to stand up more in her guard. She was going easy on me, but I still couldn't get into position for a pass. I ended up crouching, trying to grab an arm and a leg for the "It's me!" pass, but no luck. This has long been a problem for me, and I need to build up confidence when standing up. I also need to push forward with my hips more, and generally watch my base.

Underneath, I continued trying to bring my partner down towards me, then work for the kimura. With Christina, I only get to the "try to bring them down" part, as she inevitably gets her posture up, stands, then passes my feeble open guard. I like the principle of wrapping my foot around their arm, but that isn't enough control, so I need to work on that further. I also need to greatly improve my footwork in open guard, getting onto their hips and off-balancing my partner.

Switching partner, I went with one of my favourite partners, Tanvir. As usual, I went for the kimura, prying the elbow and eventually breaking his grip free to go for the submission. However, I think my technique was kinda sloppy and more down to force, so want to focus in on the proper way to break a grip. I also want to make sure I'm really controlling their shoulder in tight to my body.

Still, I was pleased to then get the reverse kimura too, on the other arm. This is something I wanted to try out from Beneville's The Guard: instead of the usual figure four, you bring same side arm past their armpit, then the opposite arm over the top to grip their wrist. Your first arm grips the bicep of the other, which then puts you in position to apply the submission. Seemed to work ok, though as I'm just going off a book rather than instruction, there's a lot I'm going to be missing, so needs more practice in live rolling.

I wasn't as successful on top, though I did manage a sloppy sprawl pass to get to Tanvir's half guard. I was in definite danger of getting guillotined as I did so: need to control the legs better if I'm going to pass like that, and use my hips better. I should have been able to go straight to side control if I had done it properly.

My first free roll was with Herman, which followed a similar pattern to Tanvir. I again was going for that kimura, which resulted not in a submission, but lots of spinning round instead. I ended up both underneath in guard, in half guard and in side control, still with that kimura grip. Clearly I need to transition better, as I'm getting stuck on the one thing: I haven't really pushed for a sweep in a while, and I haven't tried any other submissions, except the reverse kimura. Chokes would be a good thing to work, so might try those, particularly if I can get some in combination with a sweep.

I also ended up on top in half guard with Herman, and I think in side control once. I tried to step over his head and spin to an armbar (as yet again, I had a kimura grip on the arm), but messed it up and ended up dangling underneath instead. So, broader range of submissions and more sweeps required. Herman is competing at the SENI, and as a fellow small guy doesn't get to try going from on top much, so I said I'd be happy to start in mount or something to give him some practice.

However, that will depend on my neck. I think I hurt something when sparring with Christina, when trying to escape north south. I was playing a lot of open guard again, trying to wrap her arms up with my legs, but ended up under side control. She moved round to north-south, which is probably where I hurt my neck attempting to escape, until she went for the armbar. I followed her up with it and went for the armbar escape, but she most likely would have put the armbar on quicker and harder had she been going full bore.

Another reminder during that spar that I have to be more careful when flailing with my legs. Once again, I fucked up a north-south escape (clearly I have a lot of work to do on those!), and ended up kneeing Christina in the face instead. Not clever, and I hate it when I hurt people, especially when its stupid avoidable stuff like that (though she seemed ok). She later showed me how it should be done, pushing me away with a carefully aimed shove around my clavicle.

Applying my usual "anything hurts, stop" approach, I didn't spar any more after that due to my neck, though I didn't notice just how sore it was until I sat down by the side. Hopefully that rest will mean its ok for tomorrow, but if not, then I guess I can wait til Thursday. I'll definitely be able to help out on the first day of the SENI, so that should be interesting: just need to remember to email Jude. I don't feel qualified to referee or anything, so probably end up doing something menial, or maybe selling stuff. Will see.


  1. Hey Slidey!

    Always interesting to read your blog. Maybe some advice I could give you on some issues you seem to have

    1) Open Guard- You have identified the correct principle, which is keeping your opponent of balance by exerting pressure with a combination of hooks and grips. It is a VERY hard and long road (just at the beginning myself) to get a good open guard. Some advice would be:
    - The legs/ hooks are key. Number 1 make sure you keep them engaged (not dangling), which you have already identified as important. Number 2 never let them control both ankles or knees. Ever. Work hard to strip those grips. Number 3 keep them in front of your knees,, as that is your line of defense. Once they are past the knees they are close to passing. This is where you have a chance to initiate an early escape/ guard replacement, just before the establish position. What often happens is that if you still try to work to MAINTAIN your guard at that point, you make it easier for them to pass.
    - Pick one type of open guard and just keep working it, why not the arm-loop guard you seem to like? (Good series here: )

    2) Guard attacks- You mentioned that you get the opponent broken down quite often, but often fail to make that count.
    The Kimura is a great attack, but sort of a make-or-break technique in my opinion. If you get it, great, but if you don't there are only a few follow ups. Also, their defence involves posturing up, so if you miss it you are back to square one. (*side note: A good combination for the Kimura is the hip up sweep that I am sure you know. Check this vid of Kron Gracie using it to perfection - on a fellow brownbelt none the less - at 2:24. This one is all about timing though and remember to really elevate your hips into the opponent and TURN. *)
    What I would suggest, since you also want to use chokes in combination wtih sweeps is starting out with what I call the 101 grip. It is the most basic, but I found everyone uses it for a good reason.
    DEEP cross collar grip and a same side Gi grip at either his wrist or elbow. Get up on your arm/ elbow first to get that grip with the other hand deep. Then grip the arm.
    Break their posture.
    If they do not defend it Cross collar choke. Tap.

    If they bring up the arm to defend either armbar or triangle, depending on how close to their chest they defend.

    Also the 101 is the grip set up for the scissor sweep.

    You can also get the flower/ pendelum sweep from them defending the armbar.

    Lots more options from there. Omoplata or back to the armbar from the triangle and so on....

    It is a good grip to focus on at the beginning, sure helped me to keep a string of attacks going from closed guard.

    3) Injuries- Are part of the game, especially when you are smaller like you are. But you should feel a mental and physical toughening taking place. If you keep having injuries, a good place to look at is the quality of your diet and rest. Can have quite an effect.
    Also, mentally it helps to just accept small injuries and work through them (the neck NOT being one). But just going in and accepting that is a contact sport frees up the head immensly sometimes. If you love it as much as most of us, you just soldier on. Same goes for sparring partners. If you bang them up and you can tell it is not bad, forget about it!
    Now I am not telling you to be a prick, but just accept it, as I am sure your friend has, especially since she is a female, which I imagine to be tough.

    Quite the post, jeez.... Hope you get some out of it, just didn't think it was right to always just benefit and not give back.

    Plus I have my thesis to write and always looking for excuses not to :-)



  2. Wow, thanks man! That kind of informative, specifically targeted post is exactly why I wanted to make my training notes public and on the net rather than a private journal. Loads for me to digest and put into practice there: much appreciated!

    Can definitely sympathise on the thesis distraction: mine continues to find itself frequently ignored in favour of the internet/DVDs/training/random Roman history etc. ;)

  3. Good to hear.

    I would also recommend you to get the "Path to the Blackbelt" book from Rodrigo Gracie.

    I know you just got the stuff from Beneville, but I have found the book from Rodrigo to be great for the following reasons:

    - he goes over important principles (such as the ones I explained above)
    - Good selection of techniques
    - explains common mistakes (never seen this elsewhere)
    - GREAT section on how to approach training and the whole journey.


  4. Any reason why you aren't triangle hunting from the bottom? Is it just that much harder to get with the Gi on? My entire bottom game now consists of Triangle -> Omoplata -> Gogoplata -> Triangle again with the occasional armbar attempt thrown in. I can never get a sub with my arms, I'm just too weak.

  5. ShanghaiBJJ: Yeah, I've heard good things about The Path to Blackbelt. Sticking with Beneville for my next purchase, as his updated Passing the Guard sounds like it would be of massive benefit to me, but the Rodrigo book is certainly on my 'to buy'.

    Would be good to get some kind of fundamentals DVD set at some point too (focus on escapes would be ideal), though with the two Beneville books (and I guess the Bravo one, but I've essentially decided to leave rubber guard and all that craziness til much, much later: basics first, and I've a long way to go on those), plenty of reading to absorb.

    Kintanon: No particular reason, aside from being crap at them (though that of course is just a matter of regular practice), especially setting them up. I can't remember the last time I even tried to go for one. I'll occasionally flail for an armbar, but tends to be sloppy and loose.

    One of the guys from Bullshido, Das Moose, is shit hot with triangles, so must remember to ask him about them again at the Belfast TD.

    As you've probably gathered from the blog, I've mostly ignored submissions up until fairly recently (also helps that there are some newer people around my size in the advanced class now, so I get a chance to at least briefly try something aside from escapes), so plenty to work on and try out.

  6. Triangles are so simple though dude, and they combo so well off of so many other things. Including your situp sweep -> kimura. If you try the situp and fail, but latch onto the arm and can't finish the kimura you can pull your leg through and lock on the triangle. I can't recommend them enough.