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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

30 April 2008

30/04/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #141

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Maurição Gomes, London, UK - 30/04/2008 - Advanced

Turned out that SENI was well stocked for helpers, so I wasn't really needed. I brought the food round and did an hour of table judging (i.e., flipping the points board), but aside from bringing along some of the tickets, that was it. Very much enjoyed even that small bit of helping, though, and definitely would like to do it again. Excellent way of getting an in depth view of competition, given that you're forced to concentrate as you're waiting to note down points.

It was also really nice to chat to various people at RGA, as well as see a few other BJJers for the first time in a while (like Ben and Oli, who both used to train at RGA and are now at Farringdon, along with the guys from Belfast and Anne, who is now in Brighton).

When I left (about 17:40), there had already been a few RGA successes, most notably Christina kicking arse: gold medal in both her weight category and the absolute. I think one of the heavy whites also got a gold, along with Joanna too. Joanna also, somewhat randomly, did some fights in the cage set up elsewhere at the venue: I missed the first fight, but in the second (pure grappling match), she won through armbar. Not only that, but she beat a guy, which always makes me happy: hooray for feminism! ;D

Watching the SENI did make me think that when I next compete, I might do it at a smaller tournament. The white belts took so long that they were still going when I left, having started at 10:00: some very packed weight divisions. The other thing was that space restrictions (not in terms of competition, as there were eight mats, but around the edge) meant you couldn't take your bag with you. I really don't like being away from my stuff, as I'm hyper-paranoid since getting things nicked twice last year.

I've spent a lot of yesterday and today reading my way through Roy Dean's website, which has lots of interesting content. Dean is a BJJ black belt under Roy Harris, but he also has an extensive background in styles like aikido, which has clearly affected his approach. What I like most about Dean is his teaching style, as seen in a number of his videos. He emphasises basics, which is definitely to my liking, and in particular escapes, which is even more up my street. So may well have to pick up one of his DVDs in the future.

Getting back to tonight's class, somewhat strange in that there was no technique. Instead, Maurição talked for a while about general strategy. His main point, if I understood correctly, was that you had to think a few steps ahead of your opponent, instead of just working to counter whatever they were doing. His analogy was going round a wall – if they went the long way, circling around the right to reach the left corner on the other side, you shouldn't follow them. Instead, walk straight past the left corner, heading them off.

In the course of demonstrating his point, he went through a whole bunch of positions, mainly working through side mount and knee on belly, showing various submissions and ways of regaining your control. I was waiting for a particular technique, but he then said "go and try," which confused me: that left a lot of room.

So what Christina and I ended up doing was a bit of side control, moving to knee on belly. The way Christina advised, having learned from Maurição, was to bring your knee diagonally onto your partner, then use that to shift up high onto their chest. From that, you can then swivel round for the armbar. I have never used knee-on-belly, but then I'm rarely on top. If I get there, its either side control or top half guard, after which I normally get swept.

King of the hill guard passage followed, where I was trying to make myself stand up. That didn't get too far until I went with Lorenzo, who essentially coached me, which was pretty helpful. He emphasised driving my hips forward and being very careful not to lean over, especially as a small guy. I was also trying to remember ShanghaiBJJ's point about your feet and knees pointing in: Lorenzo let me pass a few times, and then went to sit out. I didn't actually pass his guard properly, but ended up staying on anyway (though that was short lived, as I was then immediately passed by my next partner).

Free sparring was interesting today. I started off with Tran, and as ever worked escapes against his tight top game. As with the nogi class last week, I keep ending up clamped in half-guard, though this time I tried to move in towards them rather than just clinging on waiting to get passed. Maintaining that grasp on Tran's leg (which kinda shifted to his ankle several times, so a rather tenuous half-guard on my part) seemed to help resist his submissions, but it was completely defensive. I also used my knuckles to block his hand sliding across my throat, which again was a purely defensive measure.

I need to have a clearer goal to work towards when I'm doing my "clinging like a limpet" half-guard. There's the option of trying to come up on my side, but that never happens, as I can never find the space. Going to a deep half guard curled up against their legs was a position I could achieve, but do nothing with. Ideally, I want the half guard to be a transitional position for me to get back to full guard. As usual, that’s due to my desire to keep things basic, rather than attempt lots of half guard sweeps or something.

Much the same thing happened with Yasmine, though I did find myself moving towards a stack pass several times. However, on each occasion Yasmine was able to come to her knees and I found myself once again on the bottom. I think that must be my old problem of keeping my weight pressed down: securing the double underhooks isn't enough, I need to drive forward and really use my hips to maintain the pressure.

Finally, I had a roll with Christina. I'm still working on my spider guard with her, and today I felt a bit more confident with the position. Rather than kinda hanging there and then getting passed, I was focusing on shrimping away, using my wrapped up legs to push off my training partner's arms. Christina was continuing to drive forward powerfully with her hips, but shrimping away helped a little. However, I'm not doing enough with my arms, and like with half-guard, need to come up with a more specific aim. For that, I've been looking at Mark Massey's videos on YouTube, which gave me some ideas. Possibly a little ambitious, but the concept of shrimping away certainly helped.

As before, my neck was a bit stiff, so I may have to look into that if it becomes a problem. The right thumb is also still sore, but I'm hoping that’s just a matter of time: I'm not really using it much beyond typing, so it shouldn't be under a great deal of strain. Also need to watch whacking people in the face when in open guard, as I caught Christina with my knee. I don't think it was too bad, as I didn't feel any impact (unlike last time), so hopefully it was just a minor knock. In recompense, I'd earlier got smacked in the nose by Uyi. ;)

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