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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

30 July 2008

30/07/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #166

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK - 30/07/2008 - Advanced

The Fightworks Podcast has been shifting to more user-generated content recently, meaning that Caleb is asking the audience if they have any questions for upcoming guests. I emailed a few for the judo interview (subscribing in Google Reader is a good way to keep up to date with the content, or alternately getting on the mailing list). Caleb managed to fit them all in, which was a pleasant surprise: I thought maybe one or two would make it, so to hear all five was kinda cool.

No technique tonight, just sparring. We kicked off with throws to warm-up, then straight on to guard passage. I was trying to stand up in order to try and pass Tran's guard, but found it difficult to even get to that position. As has been happening frequently from this position, I tend to get pulled down and then have to defend, rather than getting my hands secure and rising up from that. It could be that I should be quicker in getting up, or worrying less about having a totally rock solid base first. Clearly I should be attempting something slightly different, as I'm finding myself in a predictable pattern of putting hands on hips, trying to raise up, then my posture is broken and I'm defending.

Underneath I didn't fare much better: Tran inevitably got my guard open, pushed a knee through and moved round. As he said afterwards, I need to think about how he is passing and what to do to stop the pass. First off, I have to come up with a way to block that knee and elbow, perhaps by coming up on one side, or working harder to break their posture. I was also looking to try and break Tran's grips, so I could armdrag and bring him in close, but not quite there yet: if I keep trying, will eventually improve.

Next was half-guard, for which my partner was Dean. He is a bit larger than me, but stays controlled, probably because he's fairly experienced (I think he mentioned about six years of training). I tried staying tight and seeing if I could move round, but wasn't able to free my trapped leg. I also attempted to remember the half guard passes we'd be shown by Maurição a while back: drew a blank on the upright passes, so will need to review those.

When we reversed I felt a bit more comfortable, aiming to get up on my side and either try for their back or the arm sweep. I think I can see improvements in getting to my side, particularly as before I was often just lying there squashed, which doesn't seem to happen quite so often. I need to use my legs more, and also shrimp a lot more, rather than thinking about over and underhooks so much (though they're still important). I managed to sweep once, but it was fairly sloppy on my partner. I almost recovered guard a few times too, but on each occasion Dean was able to bring his knees through, so I'm still missing some vital element, which I'll be sure to watch out for especially carefully when I'm next in that position.

Specific sparring from the back was against a much larger guy, but as he had hurt his shoulder, that meant he was basically only using one arm. Due to that, the spar wasn't quite as painful as I'd expected, with him spinning fairly easily into my guard when I was on his back, while when he had rear mount I stayed tight in defence. We also ended up back in mount or with him in my guard a few times, which I guess counts as an escape: better than being choked. I had one arm in place for a RNC for a while, but couldn't get the other one secure: if I got close, he was more than strong enough to simply wrench my arm away.

My partner for side control was Radek, which turned out comparatively even (though as he's got a considerable bit of muscle on me, could well have been taking it easy). On top, I rather fortuitously found myself in reverse scarf hold (at least I think I was: my side was across his torso and face, with one of his arms around my back). It was fairly simple to shift back, then bring my leg through for mount. Definitely something to work on more, as I remain very limited from the top.

That was rare, however, as mostly I was getting rolled over, although I slightly improved my mobility from position to position as the spar went on. I'm still nowhere near mobile enough, however, and get to try and sit in secure side control, which almost always results in a gradual escape on the part of my opponent.

Underneath, the Tran side control escape worked several times. Radek had control of my legs, but must have left some room for my hips, as I was still able to bridge into him and roll into his guard. I think I also recovered my own guard at one point, but can't quite remember, along with snatching half guard, which tends to be my favourite escape.

I was pretty tired once we reached free sparring, so happily sat out waiting to see if anyone wanted to roll with a small guy. Two purple belts duly obliged, starting with Tomek. He kept it fairly light, given the usual weight difference, so I spent most of the spar trying to avoid getting triangled in the guard, then attempting to work my way free from side control.

Much the same happened against Bruno, though he threw on a leglock part of the way through. I'm very wary of lower body submissions (though I was more confident about escaping an earlier attempt from his guard), so tapped immediately, seeing that he had the position and I was off-balance, leaning back. That had the added bonus of him showing me an escape, which is to push their bum with your free leg.

Roger was in class, rolling with several of the students: I saw him go with both Zaf and Tomek, and no doubt a whole bunch of other people too. Always nice to see him on the mats. Nick taking the sessions has been another pleasant change: its great how RGA has so many top notch instructors to cycle between.


  1. Hi Slidey,

    I'm thinking about getting a grappling dummy and wanted to get your opinion on them. Do you use them? Do you think they are worth it, etc?


  2. I've never used one myself, so can't speak from personal experience. Keeping that in mind, I would assume they're useful for remembering position: e.g., easy to get confused as to which arm goes where for certain techniques.

    However (and again this is merely an assumption with no personal experience to back it up), the lack of resistance would probably rule out effectively practicing many, perhaps even most, techniques. E.g., it would be hard to develop a good side control escape if you don't have that immediate physical feedback from a resisting opponent, shifting their weight and using their arms and legs to block your attempts.

    Much better to find someone at home willing to drill with you, like a girlfriend/boyfriend, or perhaps sister/brother, or maybe just a flatmate. Alternately, hanging around after class finishes is a great time to drill, if your instructor doesn't kick everyone out (which would be unusual).

    But of course, if you had those options, you wouldn't be thinking about a grappling dummy, so probably a redundant suggestion on my part. ;)

    You could also try making your own, like this guy. If I had any kind of ability at practical stuff like that, I'd be tempted to give it a go. Free is always good value, after all.

  3. hey slidey sorry it took me so long to get back to you on your question... i've kinda been neglectingg this so i am going to do a whole bunch of updates. umm okaces to train, i believe in terrehaute, there is McVicker, he's a pretty good guy to hit up, my coach i believe has a coach in near south bend named corral. and as of the other place i dont know what it is.. were you talking about indianapolis? caique is a great instructor if you can get to his actual classes, im not sure about his other instructors though... if you're going to be in indianapolis you are more than welcome to come train with us!!! my coach loves having new people come and train with us!

    by the way what belt are you?

  4. No worries, I'm not going to be in the US for at least a year, probably two, so plenty of time for me to gather up BJJ research. ;)

    Cheers for the info on South Bend and Terre Haute: very cool that there is training available there, as I'd assumed I'd have to travel round the state or something. My father has an old friend in South Bend, who I definitely want to drop in on (if only for the cakes: damn good cook, from what I remember of my childhood!).

    It was just those two places, or did you mean IIRC? As thats just geekspeak for 'if I recall correctly'. Though it would be cool to drop in on Indianapolis if its reachable by public transport: I'd kinda given up hope on reaching most places by bus/train, as I keep being told how the US is a nation of car drivers. I neither own a car nor know how to drive one, so its going to have to be buses for me.

  5. Oh, and almost forgot to mention: I'm a low-level blue, having got it recently back in Feb 2008.

  6. indianapolis is the capital of the state, you should definately be able to get a train ride there. and yes, in america we like our cars, alot... i am a blue belt as well! i got mine in december, and i have a belt test on saturday to see if i can get any stripes...