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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

23 June 2008

21/06/2008 - Belfast Throwdown II

Belfast Throwdown II, Bullshido, Queens University Belfast, UK – 20-22/06/2008

Once again, I flew out from Birmingham International to Belfast International with bmibaby: about £70 total, though that's with no extras ('extras' for these super cheap flights meaning stuff that used to be included, like luggage – I only took hand luggage). They do an online check-in thing which is pretty handy: you tick a few boxes, choose your seat, then print out your boarding card. That means you can then basically walk straight onto the plane after going through security. No delays with the flight this year, then headed into the city with the frequent 300 Airport Express (out the airport, over the zebra crossing, then the stop is to your left: £9 return, which you can buy from the bus driver). Takes about 40 minutes to get to the Europa Buscentre, which as you'd expect is right in the middle of Belfast.

Mark and Aisling were in Dublin getting Mark's new house sorted, so wouldn't be back until the evening. As I arrived fairly early, that meant I had plenty of time to check out the Northern Irish capital. My girlfriend, who is part-Northern Irish herself, recommended doing a tour round the City Hall, but unfortunately that was closed for refurbishment. So was the Ulster Museum, which would have been my next choice, but that still left me with plenty of art galleries to choose from.

I'm not normally a fan of modern art, as I tend to go for the kind of painting you can see in my blog background, but the Ormeau Baths Gallery turned out to be pretty cool. It’s a short walk from the Europa Bus Centre: I went via the City Hall, where Linenhall Street goes straight to it.

The Ormeau Baths Gallery is free, and had two exhibitions on when I went. First, there was a display by the Chapman Brothers, called 'My Giant Colouring Book'. That's based on the innovative idea of taking a children's colouring book, then basically painting lots of bizarre imagery over the top, often rather macabre. For example, there's a teddy bear with shorn-off limbs, an open rib cage with the intestines hanging out, along with fangs and a partially melted face. An interesting - if slightly disturbing - contrast with the original, innocent join-the-dots picture. That's a touring exhibition, so may be coming to a gallery near you if you fancy checking it out.

Sue Williams fills up the rest of the space, with her 'Small Talk, High Heels', also a touring exhibition. According to the leaflet by the door, that is "concerned with perceptions of women, with gender roles and sexual power relations", which immediately appealed to my feminist impulses. Most of the work seems to be a woman (perhaps the artist) in various sexually provocative poses, but the large installation upstairs struck me as a bit more polemical. I'm not entirely certain what she was trying to say, but there was definitely a feeling of strong narrative across a bunch of scrawled pictures with bits of text scribbled across them.

Most of the galleries in Belfast were closed by 17:00, so I needed to think of something else to do. Eventually, I ended up taking the somewhat less culturally edifying option of going to see The Incredible Hulk at the Movie House. For anyone frustrated by Ang Lee's lumbering attempt at injecting some arthouse into the comic book genre, this film will come as a considerable relief: Ed Norton goes green and starts smashing things during the opening credits. ;)

So, to get to what I assume anyone reading this is actually interested in: rolling around with sweaty men and women. The turn-out for the throwdown, held the next day, was pretty small. Last year we managed a whole four people from Bullshido (including Mark and I), which in 2008 dropped to three (again including Mark and I, plus his girlfriend, so not much in the way of internetty people).

However, also like last year, that didn't matter, because the numbers were made up by Mark's training partners: Olga, Peter and Waqi all showed up from the QUB BJJ club. I again got to roll with Mark and Waqi, and also had the chance to roll with Ais: pretty cool, as she's both a pro MMA fighter and a BJJ purple belt. I approached sparring as I normally do in class, trying to work my open guard, but ending up underneath in side control most of the time. As we were going to a gi seminar later on, this was all nogi.

I got in a bit of drilling before the sparring kicked off, running through some mount escapes and guard passes with John, Mark's housemate. He is a ninjitsu guy rather than BJJ, so I wanted to see if I could get him interested in something with a bit more aliveness. In keeping with that ideology, I ran through the drill with progressive resistance, ending up with Mark trying to escape as I adjusted my mount on top. He's got a fair bit of size on me, so hopefully the fact I was able to maintain my position as he struggled to throw me off might lead to him popping down to a BJJ class. Of course, to each their own, but I can't help doing a bit of BJJ preaching when I get the opportunity. ;)

With Mark, I again found the main thing I need to do is raise up more in open guard. I keep staying too flat on my back, which makes me much easier to pass. Mark mentioned that Caiomhe, one of his training partners (who unfortunately couldn't make it today: shame, as she's a high-level purple belt), will sometimes sit up and grab the leg. That's something I haven't tried from open guard, so worth a go. Mark later choked me out from the back: he frequently uses a body triangle, so I was even more at a loss than usual in terms of my escape options.

I also found myself getting arm-triangled a few times from under side control and half guard, so need to watch I don't let my arm get stuck on the wrong side of their head. That normally happens when I'm trying to push myself into a better bracing position, but either misjudge things or get squeezed into a bad position. I have to stay aware of that, keeping a close eye when my partner starts to try and knock my arm with their head.

Something similar happened with Waqi. I was getting repeatedly guillotined because of how Waqi was able to control my arm and bump me into position. Reminding me once again how I'd definitely train at QUB if I lived in Belfast, Waqi then immediately demonstrated exactly what he did, describing it as a 'Gorillatine', if I heard him correctly.

Basically, that’s a guillotine from butterfly guard. First you overhook one arm, underhooking the arm. Move round to one side, releasing your far hook to put your hand behind you (in order to facilitate your motion to the side). You can now grab their far arm, pull it towards you to prevent them posting out, then lift them with your near butterfly hook for the sweep.

If they realise what you're trying to do, your partner will normally try to block you at this point by posturing up. That sets them up for a guillotine. Instead of grabbing their far arm, you can now wrap it over and around their neck. Its important to stay up on your side, maintaining your far butterfly hook. Secure your guillotine grip and switch to half-guard (hooking their near leg), staying up on your side. To get the submission, arch back (not into the floor: remember, you need to be up on your side, so go straight backwards from that position).

Your partner may be wise to your attempt, or perhaps have a strong neck. If they resist and you can't finish the guillotine, then instead of going to half-guard to finish, you're going to use that butterfly hook you have on the far leg. Flick them over, where you can finish the guillotine from on top: that is going to be very tough for them to resist, or as Waqi put it, "we've lost cabin pressure". :p

I managed to do something to my hand when drilling the butterfly guard stuff with Waqi, presumably from posting out at an awkward angle at the wrong time. I think I've done that before, so will have to be extra careful next time I'm in a similar position: pretty silly to injure myself in drilling! That meant I waited a bit before my final spar with Ais, but didn't seem to be much of a problem when rolling.

I found it difficult to raise up in guard, as Ais was able to keep me at bay with her arms: one on my hip, the other pressing into my throat. I eventually ended up in half-guard, and I also got the Tran side control escape at one point (bridging into them when they try to bring the leg over to mount). I grabbing the leg from open guard too, thinking of what Mark had said earlier, but Ais seized the opportunity to take my back and choke me out.

Like Waqi, Ais then also gave me some technical tips, this time defence against the rear naked choke. She demonstrated what she called the 'Shirley Temple' defence: you bring your hands to either side of your face, cupping your jaw line, elbows in tight. From there, work your way down from between their arms, move around their leg, then drive through to end up on top.

Like last year, it was almost entirely a BJJ open mat, especially as we were actually just using the QUB BJJ open mat session. Ais and Mark did a bit of MMA sparring, but they were the only ones doing anything non-BJJ (well, apart from John going through some ninjitsu kata, randomly). After a shower and popping down to the shop to get a bite to eat, we jumped in a taxi to Gracie Barra Northern Ireland, where Vitor Estima was holding a gi seminar.

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