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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 July 2008

23/07/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #164

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK - 23/07/2008 - Advanced

I couldn't get to sleep last Sunday, so decided to get up and be productive. As I do rather strange things for fun, that resulted in my new BJJ Beginner FAQ. I'd appreciate any feedback (e.g., further good questions you think should be on there, broken links, informative threads/articles I could add in for further reading etc). Still adding things to it, but just about got in all the questions I wanted (last one I can think of is cross-training, for which I mainly use my Bullshido.txt file, especially my usual 'Welcome to Bullshido!' post with the stuff about 'if you're interested in striking/ if you're more interested in grappling').

Also didn't get to train yesterday, as my writing commitments has stepped up a gear (though I also got an extension, which is nice: the final deadline is now October 2010). That’s probably going to mean I'll be spending most of my Tuesdays writing, at least until I feel I've got on top of it and have a solid chunk of the word count ready. If only it was as easy to pump out academic prose as it is to write several thousand word essays on a BJJ blog…

Nick G took class today, who brings something different to the table as an instructor. He runs one of the top BJJ blogs on the net, The Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood: the same thoughtful style is evident in his teaching. It felt very much like reading one of his posts when he began the drilling, as he discussed his theory that there are two main types of position in BJJ: set positions, like side control, guard etc, and the scramble, where neither person has settled into a controlling posture. As he mentioned, this is common in nogi, but not often the focus of a lesson when wearing the gi.

To help develop this ability to scramble, Nick had us do a drill where we were effectively sparring, but the whole point was to simply keep moving: no submissions and no grips. That meant I found myself rolling over to my back, swinging my legs over, spinning around underneath etc. I tend to be slow and steady in sparring, as I like to feel secure and then work from a comfortable position, so this was a useful exercise for me.

We then did the same thing again, but this time with the difference that one of us had their eyes closed. That meant I now had to feel for my partner so I could work out where they were going, not to mention the practical reason that class was stuffed so I didn't want to slam into anyone. The 'seeing' partner basically ended up shepherding their training partner away from walls and other grappling pairs.

Technique tonight was an armbar from the back. I can imagine Nick G doing a good instructional video, as his method of demonstration was tailor-made for recording: methodical and clear, with several repetitions. We started from the back, with hooks in, your arms underneath theirs, while they defend against the choke. Your same side hand slips through their armpit to grab their same side wrist. Bring your other arm over the top to grip their wrist, then switch your hands. Your first hand now grabs the wrist of your other arm, meaning you've secured a figure-four hold.

Drop slightly towards their legs, shrimping out your legs. You are now in position to execute what Nick called the 'stamp and clamp'. With your far leg, 'stamp' on their same side hip to stop them turning towards you (as they'll be aiming to get back in your guard). Then bring your other leg across their waist, hooking across their hip: this is the 'clamp'.

Your free leg goes over their head, pushing them back (make sure you're holding them firmly with this leg, squeezing your knees together), while you push their arm up towards their head then down in a semi-circle. That should enable you to straighten out the limb and secure the armbar.

Specific sparring, unsurprisingly, was from the back. As I've mentioned before, this is easily my worst position. I find it very difficult to maintain any kind of control over my opponent when I've got their back, particularly with my legs. Back mount is supposed to be an incredibly dominant position, so I'm clearly doing something very wrong: however, I was trying to put into practice some tips I'd read on the Grapplers Guide (e.g., keeping your head low). I need to watch the video on back control from their too, as I don't think I've done that yet.

While I lasted slightly longer than I have previously, both Liam and Christina gradually worked their way free, the normal process being that I lost a hook, they kept moving to the side, then spun into my guard. With Liam I had a vague attempt at going for the armbar we had learned in class, but didn't manage to secure the stamp and clamp – I also went for the wrong side initially, which messed me up further. Still, reminds me I absolutely have to go for techniques we've learned in class more often when sparring.

The skin on the top joint of my fingers is still giving me trouble, so I've been taping it up recently. However, the specific sparring had dislodged all my tape, so I popped back to the changing room to reapply before my first free spar, with Christina. She has been working her guard a lot at the moment, which gave me a chance to try and implement some of the principles I've been failing to use in passing. Most importantly, that is standing up and driving my hips forward: I tried that tonight, but generally just put me in position to get swept over Christina (though I did at least manage to snatch half-guard as I was being swept a few times).

I also found that Nick's flow drill from earlier had an impact on my escapes. I never normally try to get to my knees, but it felt natural to do so today after all the rolling over my back in the earlier drill. Could be a useful thing to try at home with my gf, as she sometimes complains about the pressure BJJ drilling puts on her muscles (e.g., when passing): not a problem with that flow drill.

Christina and I were a little delayed in starting, because I was taping up my fingers, so had an extended spar spilling over across the next round. I then went with Tran, although that ended up (much to my benefit) being a bit of instruction on the flower sweep. Tran does it a little differently than the Grapplers Guide video I've been watching.

Tran's variation begins when your opponent is doing the usual stiff arm thing against your hips (as I mentioned that's where I've been having trouble). Pull their head down, underhook one arm, bringing your other arm over the top. Grab your hands together palm to palm for a gable grip, keeping your opponent tight. You can then walk your legs up their back for a high guard.

Next, bring the arm that came over the top of the arm under their armpit, aiming to grab their opposite collar: you've now secured a firm overhook. With the same side foot, push off their same side hip to rotate (not shrimp, but literally bring your upper toward their opposite knee). You should get your other leg right up into their armpit.

Finally, grab their pant leg on your armpit leg side, then push your leg down while simultaneously lifting their leg up. If you've got the leverage right, you should be able to roll them straight into mount.

Zaf mentioned something which sounded very handy when he saw me taping up my finger. At first I thought he was joking, as he said I could do with some new skin. Turns out New Skin is actually a type of liquid plaster, so I'll be sure to look into it: could be more effective – as well as more convenient – than my roll of zinc oxide tape.

Tomorrow Johannes should be popping down to RGA, so look forward to training with him again. No doubt the higher belts will also relish the chance to roll with a tough Swedish purple (I'm more interested in just seeing him again, and whether I've improved much since we last met at the first Belfast Throwdown. Looking forward to it. :)



  2. Cheers Zaf: looks good. I can't see an obvious way to get hold of the New Skin thingy in the UK, but there's a Boots on my way to work that might have the Elastoplast thing.

    Should be perfect for my finger problems. :)