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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 - Vitor Estima Seminar (Belfast)

Seminar #1
Gracie Barra Northern Ireland (BJJ), Victor Estima, Belfast, UK - 21/06/2008 - Seminar

I've never been to a seminar before, so I was intrigued as to what Vitor (or Victor, which I think is the English version of the name, and the one he normally uses) would show us today. I've also not been to Gracie Barra NI before (having arrived too late to Belfast during last year's throwdown weekend), so was cool to meet the rest of Mark's training partners. My hand was still a bit sore from earlier, but I was hopeful that wouldn't be too much of a problem.

The other two people I met last year, Ciaran and Conor, were both at the seminar, so nice to catch up with both of them as we warmed up. Vitor had some unusual exercises, like lying on the floor in open guard, hooking round the knees of your partner, then following them as they walk backwards to the other end of the room. Something I'll keep in mind next time I want to drill something, as I need to work my control from open guard.

Victor turned out to be a fantastic teacher. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I love the basics, and would appear that Vitor does too. The entire seminar was built up around a single technique, for which Victor kept on pointing out more details. This is exactly how BJJ should be taught: perfect class.

He began with some theory on guard passing. He had Graham, the purple belt instructor at Gracie Barra Northern Ireland, lie in front of him with legs splayed in a V. The line between his legs marks the edge of a triangle: Vitor emphasised the point that when passing guard, you simply want to get yourself out of this triangle. That can be done in four ways: through the guard (e.g., bringing your knee over their leg), over the top, to the left and finally to the right.

Today was going to be all about guard passage, as you'd expect from that introduction. More specifically, it was going to be about one particular guard pass. To start with, you have to break the guard, for which Victor demonstrated a twisting guard break. Grab both their collars with one hand and twist it over to secure you grip. With your other hand, take a firm hold of their same side sleeve. The leg on the side you grabbed their collar is now going to move out to the side, so your leg is against their bum, foot pointing away from their side. Your other leg lifts up.

As you stand, twist your body (don't stand up then twist: for this to work, you have to twist on the way up), so that the foot which was pointing out is now by their bum – after you've stood up, immediately bring that in tight. Your other knee is going to press into their side, twisting down. You'll need to bring that foot higher up, moving towards their head (so you'll end up driving it into their chest, or just below). Once you've established your base, posture up and shove your hips forward.

Throughout all of this, you have to keep a solid grip on their sleeve. While holding that sleeve, watch your elbow stays tight inside their leg, so they can't move to a omoplata or break your posture. Once you're upright, you can let go of their collar and grab their trouser leg instead. Grip comparatively high, and push their leg down: this should be made easier by the heavy pressure you're creating with your other knee, and you'll also have them off-balance due to the twist you did when you stood up.

That heavy knee, combined with the grip on their sleeve and your posture, should prevent them from being able to move their hips. Now that you've pushed their leg down and have a good grasp on the trouser leg, you can begin your guard pass. Step your same side leg back, bringing their leg between your own legs. Next, bring both your legs past (you'll effectively be jumping over, as you don't want to leave a trailing leg for them to catch in half-guard), dropping your shoulder straight into their chest, still holding on to both their sleeve and their trousers: this is why your grip can't be too low.

Keeping the pressure by staying up on your toes with your shoulder driving into them, move around their torso until you've got enough pressure on top of them that your can release the trouser leg. Note that this grip on their trouser leg and sleeve can feel awkward: I found it to get right over their legs while still holding the leg, as I think I was holding their trouser too low. However, its essential to keep their leg and hips under control, so you need that grip. Finally, bring your knees in and secure side control.

That's all we did for well over an hour, Vitor wandering around answering questions and giving out tips. I made sure to get hold of him both times after he demonstrated (he started with the guard break, then showed the guard pass): his advice was always spot-on, and Conor was also a good training partner, so we discussed to technique as we tried to improve. Victor seems really friendly, chatting away to me about Roger and how he's looking to bulk up. I'm beginning to sound somewhat sycophantic, but seriously, there was nothing I could fault about his teaching. Awesome instruction.

Vitor had been emphasising the importance of basics all the way through, but wanted to finish off class with a bit of flashy fun. So, to close off he went through the flying armbar. The position is that they are grabbing your collar with one arm. Bring your arm over the top and grab their same side collar, then with your other arm grab the other collar. You're now ready to jump into an armbar. Bring what will become the bottom knee up into their armpit, then your other leg comes over the top. That leaves you in position to secure the submission.

I'm not sure I was doing it right, as I was jumping up ok, but brought my leg over as I was pulling them towards the floor, rather than immediately after my knee hit their armpit. It felt like a smooth transition and I ended up holding a fairly tight armbar, but I'm wondering if I should have been flinging my leg over earlier. Either way, fun to do: Victor also showed a flying triangle, but I couldn't quite follow the technique. He also showed Mark and Ais a cartwheel pass, where the main thing seems to be getting your hand into their opposite armpit, the other hand by their shoulder, cartwheeling over and ending up in a high side control.

There was a bit of guard passage after the technique demonstration, but as there was such a huge turn-out, took a while to get round. I sparred twice, first with a big purple belt known as Angel (looks a bit like David Boreanaz). As Mark mentioned later on, probably one of the major reasons he's a purple belt is that despite being much larger than everybody else there, he doesn't use strength: he didn't simply bowl me over, but used methodical technique to get the sweep.

Next was a stocky looking white belt, who tried to choke me for a while, after which I passed to half-guard (he probably got a little tired after straining to get the choke, meaning his guard opened up). However, I must have been too far forward, as he was able to roll me over (unlike Angel, sounded like he was perfectly happy to use strength: some hefty grunting as I went over ;p).

I hadn't had a chance to roll with Ciaran since last year, so before we left I wanted to do a bit of sparring. As before, he crushed me, but like Angel, Ciaran is another strong guy who uses a technical game to dominate his opponent. He was very mobile on top in side control, so I found it difficult to work my usual slow escape. I think I might have managed to roll into guard from under his mount at one point, but not sure: I was doing a whole lot of tapping. Unfortunately I also managed to whack his nose at some point, but can't remember when: seemed ok, but had to stuff some tissue up there to stop the bleeding. Hate injuring people, but didn't look like it was anything serious.

Speaking of injuring people, I also got to witness my first belt whipping. One of the white belts was promoted by Vitor to blue, after which almost everybody in the room lined up and took it in turns to whack him on the back with their belt. Some of them were pretty vicious, with a painfully audible snap as their belts connected with the poor guy. I sat out, along with several other people, as its not a practice I'm comfortable with, especially as I was merely visiting. However, the new blue belt didn't look like he minded, and everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves: lots of laughing and good-natured banter as he was congratulated on his achievement.

I had a brilliant time in Belfast, just like last year, and it was really great to hang out with people who were more than happy to just talk about BJJ all day long. Also cool to roll with people who I hadn't rolled with in a year: Waqi and Mark said they could see the improvement, which was gratifying. I don't feel like I'm doing much different from last time, as I'm still clamped to the bottom trying to escape, but its hard to tell if you're getting better. That's why its extremely helpful to have the perspective of people who don't train with you ever week – looking forward to doing it again next year! :D

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