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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

06 August 2008

06/08/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #168

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK - 06/08/2008 - Advanced

Great news for people looking to train BJJ in Aylesbury: a new club, Roger Gracie Academy Aylesbury (RGAA), opened its doors last Sunday, headed up by Kev Capel (purple belt) and Yasmine Wilson (blue belt). Having trained with both of them at the Roger Gracie Academy, I'm sure that RGAA (note that the url is it as 'fightin-fit', not 'fighting fit', as the g is missed off) will be an awesome place to learn BJJ. I was chatting to Yas about it tonight, and she mentioned that they've already had a good turn-out since opening up last Sunday. This is the address:

Roger Gracie Academy Aylesbury (RGAA)
McLeod Academy,
7 Pembroke Road,
Stocklake, Aylesbury,
Bucks, HP20 1BD
07904810640 (Kev)

Aylesbury is relatively near where I live, so I'll have to see if I can drop in somehow: too far to make after work, but if for some reason I'm at home on a Friday or Sunday, wouldn't be overly difficult. I also see they've got a decent BJJ history up on the site, as well as details on UK BJJ history. That reminds me I should really finish up the one I've been compiling since last christmas – I've just about got all the sources I wanted now (RGAA provides another, handily), so it’s a matter of getting it into shape.

Another senior belt from RGA, Andy Roberts, is already running a club, but will soon be moving to new premises in Farnborough. Hopefully the open day will be on a weekend so I can make it: would be nice if I could go support my fellow RGA members. :D

Tonight's class was split between three instructors, though I'm putting this down as one for Nick, because he taught technique. Gustavo kicked off class with the warm-up, which as ever includes throws. I don't normally bother noting them down, but I liked the technique tonight, because there seemed to be little chance of accidentally tweaking your back through bad form.

I think Christina said it was called 'ippon' something, but basically, it’s a sort of trip where you throw them over your own leg. Grip their same side lapel, halfway down, while grabbing the fabric by their elbow with your other hand. Step in close to them and shove your elbow up into their armpit (on the lapel side, IIRC), twisting them off-balance. Swivel to bring your back against them, dragging down on the arm as you drive up with your other elbow into their armpit. Put your foot in front of them (on the trapped arm side), with your leg slightly bent. Finally, straighten up to put them onto your hip and bring your arms around, throwing them over your outstretched leg.

Main technique was taught by Nick G, and I was pleased to hear we would be doing side control escapes. With his trademark methodical, clear instruction, Nick broke the technique down, starting with a drill to get us used to the principal motion. Shrimp to one side as you would normally, but then bring one leg underneath the other and come up on your toes, so that you're now facing the floor with your bum in the air. This looks a bit like a drill I've seen called "threading the needle", but I don't think its quite the same thing.

The actual side control escape starts from a typical position, in which your partner has one arm under your head, the other under your far arm. For this technique to function, you want their arm past your head. To get it there, grab the gi by their opposite shoulder, then with your free arm grip the material near their elbow. Bridge up and thrust, dragging their arm over your head.

Keep that motion going, pushing their arm down towards their knees, aiming to get it between their legs. You can now execute the drill from earlier, shrimping, then bringing one leg under the other, rising up on your toes with your bum in the air (or in this case, pressing into your opponent).

As you've still got that grip on the arm, which they can't use to post because you've got it by their knees, you can now roll over your shoulder, bringing them with you. Be careful to come up on your elbow as you do this, rather than putting all the pressure on your neck: that hurts, as I discovered when drilling. As you roll them, you'll need to twist in mid-air to land on top in side control.

The next side control escape builds on that technique. You've got to the point where you've done the shrimp and step-through, raising them up ready to roll them. However, this time they're wise to it, and step round past your head. Let go of their arm, and instead hook around their leg, making sure your head is directly between their legs.

Your free arm is going to act as a lever – Nick described it as a 'robotic arm', pressing your body up, also using your lower back. That will lift your partner into the air, completely destroying their base. Drop them off to one side, holding their legs, then use that grip to twist them onto their back, driving through with your shoulder and ending in side control.

I wanted to keep trying to stand up during guard passage, but found that both the guys I was sparring were too strong for that to be effective. Or rather, they were sufficiently strong that I was extra-wary of getting up, a mental barrier I still need to overcome. Its so much more comfortable to just settle into base and defend, but that always ends up with the inevitable sweep.

Specific sparring from side control went better. My partner was Rohit, who hasn't been back to class for a few months, meaning he was rusty. That meant that he was tending to lean forward too much on top, so I was able to roll him over: wouldn't happen normally, but it can take a while to get back into the flow of things.

On top, I mainly tried to hold him down in scarf hold, which sort of worked, but I had some trouble breaking his grips on my legs. I should have secured his arm properly before shifting to scarf hold, though I managed to get back to side control (rather sloppy though, as I was leaving too much space).

In free sparring, I was a little better about standing up in guard, as Christina went to her back. She still swept me, but at least I worked getting to my feet a little. I also had a play with open guard again, trying to establish some grips, but I'm not active enough: need to review some of the many sweeps we've been shown from there. I got into a weird position with my legs, wrapping them around her legs, but to no meaningful effect (though it did show me I haven't lost all my flexibility from when I did stand-up back at Warwick Uni ZSK).

Following Rob T's advice after my last post, when Christina went to her favoured knee-on-belly this time, I grabbed her ankle and moved to quarter-guard (which from what Rob said is where you sort of have a half-guard, but only around their foot). Getting into that position seemed relatively straightforward (pull their ankle in, bring your leg over, lock your ankles around their foot), but the hard bit is going to be working back to full half-guard from there. Also as Rob mentioned, its not a secure place to be, as they are almost past your guard.

Finally, yet another weird position happened later on, I think from my attempts to use quarter-guard to escape knee-on-belly. I was reaching for the other leg with my arms, trying to pull myself through and pop out the back, while Christina was looking for the armbar. I did get behind her, but she was still holding me with her legs. Random: eventually think I either ended back in her guard, but can't quite remember.

My last spar was with the aforementioned Yas, having chatted about the new Roger Gracie Academy Aylesbury (RGAA) BJJ club in Aylesbury she's running with Kevin. I couldn't pass her guard, though I was trying to drive my knee through, shifting between pushing on that and sprawling back, looking to either get my legs under her knees for a stack pass, or pushing both knees to one side and spinning round the back.

Neither worked, and I fell into half-guard. I'm still ending up on the wrong side: I want to have my torso on the same side as the trapped leg, which should be viable because I'm often grabbing half-guard as they try to pass, so have a small window to position myself. I had a go at the arm sweep, also pulling Yas' gi around her head, without being quite sure what to do with it.

I did finally get back to guard, but then somehow found myself with Yas going for my back and looking for the choke. Vaguely remembering a video, I grabbed for an arm, as I assumed she had one wrapped around me, and eventually secured a grip. I then attempted to use that to roll her over and land in scarf or something, but totally couldn't recall the technique. After the spar, I realised I was thinking of the wrestler's sit-out, so should have been attempting that motion instead. Something to remember for next time.

Roger had been rolling with students during free sparring, and now took the warm-down. I like that he emphasised the importance of stretching to avoid injury: I've trained in a number of places (outside of BJJ) that don't include a warm-down, which I feel is a serious omission.

Should be training again tomorrow, then I'll be looking to get in another meet-up of the Warwick Uni BJJ training group on Sunday. I have the weekend free, so should be good: also want to finally finish up my BJJ history post.


  1. It was cool that you mentioned one of the throws, getting better at them will help you out immensely in competitions and really help in rounding out your game.

    It sounds like you were practicing seoi otoshi, which makes them land to your side as you step in and drop your centre, planting them onto the mat by the leg you have dropped them over.

    In comparison ippon seoinage your partner ends up going a bit more head over heels and lands in front of you, with the thrower not having a split stance.

    I really like the animations and articles on and some of the topics on are really helpful, which could give you a few ideas to play around with.

    Hope the animations make up for my slightly dodgy descriptions...

  2. Cheers - judging by that, yeah, looks like seoi otoshi.

    My stand-up remains awful, so I should really give judo another try. Its unfortunate that I got injured so early into my first stint of judo class, as that's put me off going back. Might have a chance to try it again later this year, depending on circumstance.

    JudoInfo is indeed an awesome resource, which I used to check out in that very brief period when I was a judoka: definitely the best place around for online judo.

    Forum is pretty good too, although its a shame almost every time BJJ gets mentioned, the thread devolves into judo vs BJJ.