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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

09 July 2008

09/07/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #162

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Gustavo Dos Santos Pires, London, UK - 09/07/2008 - Advanced

Useful tip from Joanna yesterday I forgot to mention: if you want to get someone to put their limb in a particular place, pull or push it in the opposite direction. If they resist, that means they are now directing their limb exactly where you initially wanted, so reverse your push or pull to get them in position. I've heard this before in reference to finishing a kimura, but worth repeating, particularly as its got a broader application than just that single technique.

Tonight's class was all sparring again. However, I preferred it this time round, as it wasn't king of the hill with the specific sparring, staying with your partner instead. I find this far more useful, as that way you definitely get a chance to work both the top and bottom position for the specific spar. When doing guard passage, I'll never get to work the bottom in king of the hill, because my passing is too crappy to get me through anybody's guard (unless they're really tired or something, like Gary yesterday).

My partner was Anthony again, who is proving to be a good person to both drill and spar with. Thing began from guard passage, and having had another chat with Paxton about just going for it by standing up and driving your hips, I tried that a few times. Didn't really get me anywhere, but I did at least try it out. Later on, I reverted to my usual patient defence, generally not achieving a whole lot, but I did pass at one point. I can't remember if that was from standing or after Anthony had gone for some kind of sweep, but I did knock him in the head as I went past: must be careful of my elbows if I'm trying to jump past quickly.

Underneath, I still really want to work the flower sweep, but couldn't work myself into position. I've been trying that grip break where you figure four their wrist and lift, which does work, but I haven't been able to follow that up with good control of their arm. So most of the time I was working open guard again, the main focus for me still sitting up. I think I managed that better today, and also kept Anthony away for a little while by using my legs more offensively, pulling on the back of his knees to break his posture. He generally got round in the end, but at least my open guard wasn't quite the damp tissue paper edifice it has been so often in the past.

Next up was half-guard. On top, I found it hard to maintain control, trying to lock my arms around Anthony's head and arm. Even if I was able to hold him down for a little while, I struggled to do anything proactive: he was able to sweep me several times, or work back to guard. I had a go and attacking the far arm a few times, but Anthony could see it coming a mile off: I should start looking into chokes rather than always going for a bent armlock or straight armbar.

Underneath I fared better, which tends to be the case as I spend such a large proportion of my free sparring in that position. I was pleased to get the arm sweep a couple of times, which I think was the same slightly overbalanced position I failed to capitalise on against Joanna yesterday. Reaching all the way over their back and grabbing the arm, then pulling that arm back across while bridging is a fairly simple motion, so its easy enough to attempt.

I also managed to work my way back to full guard once or twice, which is good as that's been a central goal for some time now. I kept in mind trying to bring their leg out to get them to raise their knee, as shown in Strategic Guard, and also the half butterfly game that I've seen various people talk about, like Aesopian. It was kinda sloppy, but it did seem to be enough to whisk my legs under and out back to full guard.

By this point, I was getting pretty tired. Side control was up next, where I clung on top. I could maintain that for a while, but again in a rather inactive fashion: I think Anthony realised he wasn't at much risk of being submitted or mounted. I tried to then get under his elbow and shift to scarf or something, but that merely gave Anthony the opportunity to escape.

Underneath, I felt very immobile. I should have been bridging and trying some escapes, but I simply didn't have the energy. I did attempt to go for Roy Dean's spin-out, off his Blue Belt Requirements DVD, but that just ended up putting me under north-south. I need to time that better, and combine it with some other escapes to be effective. I also looked for Tran's bridging into them escape, but Anthony had his timing down, so had no trouble quickly bringing his foot over and securing mount before I could react and bridge.

Despite my body's protestations that it would much prefer to go and flop by the wall, there was still yet another position to work: mount. I was dreading this one, as its always been one of my biggest weak points. However, it seems that being so knackered actually worked in my favour, as I was looking for a way to basically lie on top of my opponent without having to expend too much energy. I grapevined Anthony's legs, with one arm under his head, adjusting my feet as he tried to unlock the hold. I also switched to crossing my ankles underneath his bum a few times, having read (I think on the Grapplers Guide) about how that is a good way of taking their hips out of the equation. Seemed to work, so instead of being my worst area, today it was a strong one for me today. Then again, I don't often get to try mount against someone my own size, and no doubt Anthony was getting fatigued by that point too.

Underneath I felt ok too: much better than under side control. I attempted the escape, again from Roy Dean, where you wait for them to grab under your head, then wrap up their arm by grabbing your own and bridging. As usual, I wasn't able to complete the technique, as Anthony immediately slipped his arm back out when I tried to trap it.

More successful was my favoured step-over heel drag. I haven't been using that as much as I once did, but put it into practice a lot today. I was pleased to get the full motion shown by Roy Dean, where you step over, drag, go to a half guard position, then shrimp to the other side and free your leg for full guard. Finally, I was defending a lot of chokes with my knuckles again, blocking Anthony's questing fist with my own, literally pushing it out of the way at one point.

Fortunately we stopped there to go to free sparring, so I collapsed against the wall to catch my breath. I sat out the first one, and was quite tempted to keep sitting there, but Tran called me out, so as he is among my best training partners I dragged myself over to spar. I tried working on top and attacking his guard, getting my knee in the middle, also attempting to base off my head into Tran's body (or was that with Anthony? Think it was Tran) but ended up getting swept after a short wait.

Underneath, the main thing I remember is trying to escape an arm triangle. I was able to resist from guard and half guard, adjusting to relieve the pressure, but once Tran worked through to side control, I had nothing to resist with. I could see him going for it earlier, as he had knocked my arm with my head. I struggled for a bit trying to slip my forearm back into a safer position braced into his neck, but couldn't stop Tran getting it set up for an arm triangle: pretty much a lost cause after that point, though I tried defending anyway to see if shifting my base and hips had any effect.

I was completely drained after that, and also had several chunks of skin dangling from my fingers, so sat out the rest of sparring. Abrasive gi on exposed flesh did not sound like a good idea, though its not like I need much of an excuse to take a break when knackered. ;)

One of my friends from Bullshido, Johannes, might be popping over from Sweden in a few weeks, which would be very cool. Depends on being free at the same time, of course, but look forward to rolling with him again if he makes it. He was a solid blue when I last saw him a year ago, and recently got his purple. Most importantly for me, however, is that he's the guy I have to thank for the step-over heel drag: I saw him doing it at the first Belfast TD, and have been using it ever since.

Off to Wales tomorrow, so won't be training again until Thursday. At the end of class, I got my first stripe on my blue belt, which was a pleasant send-off: I'm definitely feeling more comfortable with the belt now. My lack of submissions is still a major flaw, but my top game appears to be slowly improving. Returning to sweeps is my current goal, especially the flower, and then trying to build on that, as well as continuing to try working the scarf hold. Getting better escapes is always going to be important for me, but I'm especially keen to develop the facility to recover full guard from half-guard. One or two basic sweeps from there would also be useful, but I'd prefer to recover guard than sweep, as the former would provide me with a more solid fundamental base.


  1. Congrats on the stripe...only 3 more to go!


  2. Though its merely an indicator of how long I've been training rather than any reflection on skill level, nice to have. Excitingly different type of tape too. :p