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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

17 July 2008

17/07/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #163

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 17/07/2008 - Advanced

I got back from my trip to Barmouth in Wales yesterday, which surprisingly did manage to squeeze out a few sunny days at the beach. Harlech Castle was cool, as that hit two of my biggest pleasures, fantasy and history, as to a lesser extent Powis Castle did later on. King Arthur's Labyrinth was rather cheesy, as it consisted of about five wax set pieces with a narrator booming out of some nearby speakers, but was at least in an atmospheric underground setting, built up out of an old slate mine.

That extended stay over on the Welsh coast meant that it was just one session this week. The main focus of tonight's lesson was passing half guard, emphasising the importance of getting the underhook and then gable gripping under your partner's head.

Jude's first half guard pass started by underhooking the arm opposite to their trapped leg, bringing your other arm underneath their head. Clasp your hands palm to palm, securing what is known as the gable grip. Once you've got that, crush your weight down, getting chest to chest, shoving your trapped leg side shoulder forcefully into their chin. This should make them very uncomfortable, and therefore enable you to use your free foot to push on their same side leg. Press straight down, and don't lean forward: if you need extra leverage, put extra pressure on their chin instead. Free your leg, then bring the knee through to either mount or side control.

The second half guard pass develops off the first. You've got into position and are crushing with your shoulder, pushing on their leg to try and free your trapped limb. To relieve the pressure, they bring their underhooked forearm in front of your face and push up. This could provide them with space to start working an escape, so to keep the pressure on, switch your head to the other side. Now press your skull into their skull, which both isolates their head movement and is also rather unpleasant. As with the shoulder pressure previously, you can use this pressure on their head to distract them sufficiently to free your leg. If you're having trouble getting your leg free, you can also kick out their bottom leg and slip through to side control.

Specific sparring from half guard was tough on top. I was with Paxton, who I always find a challenging sparring partner. I had real difficulty securing that underhook, meaning that Paxton would frequently be able to slide his knee through to full guard. Even when I did get the underhook, I still couldn't maintain enough pressure to stop Paxton recovering guard. As ever, need to work on keeping my weight down on my partner.

Underneath, things were easier, as this time I was able to recover full guard (although with Paxton's level of success when our role's were reversed). Securing my own underhook and trying to duck under his arm were both useful in avoiding the passes we'd just been shown, although Paxton did at one point manage to use his head in a similarly effective fashion to what Jude had demonstrated. Good to be aware of that, as now I know to make sure to stop my partner getting their head into position.

On top in guard, I found myself in my seemingly inevitable defensive mode. I'm steadily trying to move towards standing up and driving my hips forward, but today I was finding it difficult to work into a solid base from which I could go to my feet. Frequently Paxton was dragging my arm to one side and then attempting chokes, so I had to defend that before I could think about standing up. Raising up my same side leg, as Tran had advised, worked well, but it was all defensive: I wasn't able to launch any kind of offence of my own.

Underneath, things went worse. I have said in the past that closed guard is my strongest position, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I'm finding that my partner will often stiff arm both my hips, meaning that I can't raise up, then gradually stand and walk through my open guard. I did at least manage to use my legs more, rather than straining away with my arms, and I also found myself shifting to a sort of butterfly guard at several points, with Waqi's gorillatine vaguely in mind. However, I wasn't able to secure it properly, so eventually got passed each time I tried it.

I also attempted to use my legs to bring Paxton down towards me, so I could think about the scissor sweep I've been wanting to work, but that didn't quite go according to plan. I did get Paxton's torso forward, but couldn't lock up his arm, so while I tried to switch to an elevator sweep, he stood up, then went through my open guard.

I think working the armdrag may pay dividends for me: a fellow small guy asked Kid Peligro about the guard on the Fightworks Podcast #125, where Peligro's advice was to armdrag and take the back. I'm terrible at back control, but using the armdrag to at least get my partner onto their side could be a useful tactic to try. I'll have to look into armdragging, and also review the Grapplers Guide videos on grips and back control.

Free sparring started with Christina (glad to see her back, as haven't trained with her in a few weeks), where we took it fairly easy, with Christina taking on an instructor role. She coached me through some guard passes, giving me advice on driving my hips forward and standing up as soon as possible in guard. From that spar, I think my posture needs improvement in guard too: I can defend against chokes ok, but that has meant I've been getting too comfortable with leaning forward in guard. Good posture involves a straight back and looking up, so I need to concentrate on achieving that positioning.

Finally, I had a roll with Bruno, a high level purple whose relaxed rolling style makes him a good sparring partner. He was taking it pretty light, which given the large skill discrepancy makes sense. I tried to put into practice what I'd learned from Christina (which also fits with an earlier discussion with Paxton from a while back), driving my hips forward, but not yet getting it quite right. Something I need to keep doggedly attempting until I start to make some improvements.

I was more comfortable defending underneath, as usual, particularly after I almost got flung straight into one of those flashy armbars where you get flipped up by your opponent's leg and dropped straight into position. I could see what was coming, so scampered round to escape, but goes to show the difference between a low level blue like me and a high level purple like Bruno: he can throw in playful stuff like that with impunity.

I'll be training again next week, but not sure whether or not I'll do the Tuesday. As I'd expected, there's some hefty writing commitments coming up, so it would be good to devote my Tuesday to that instead. Depends if Johannes makes it on both Tuesday and Thursday as he'd planned, or opts for just Thursday (RGA is a pricey place to drop in, after all, at £18 for a single session. If you've come from Renzo's, or somewhere with a similarly close connection to the Roger Gracie Academy, its normally cheaper, but Johannes is a Brasa guy).

Hopefully he does make it to at least one, as it would be cool to train with him again. Always nice to meet up with fellow Bullshido people. :)

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