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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

03 September 2008

03/09/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #175

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK - 03/09/2008 - Advanced

As I'd expected, that damn work meeting meant I wasn't able to make Thursday. Grr. I think I may need to get my ear checked out, though, as its been sore for a good long while now. I don't think its cauliflower ear, as it doesn't look swollen, but when things hang around for more than several weeks, I tend to think its worth seeking medical advice just for peace of mind. Of course, I'm in the UK, so our healthcare system is provided by the state rather than by emptying my wallet. ;)

On a more positive note, great interview with top female competitor Penny Thomas over at the Fightworks Podcast. She had some excellent advice for women looking to progress in the sport, as well as encouraging those already in BJJ who might be getting a bit frustrated at the lack of numbers on the competition scene. Also turns out she knew Nick G back in South Africa, which is kinda cool.

Getting back to tonight's class: after the warm-up, Nick immediately moved into guard passage. I was with Christina, and started off with an attempt at the Saulo Ribeiro pass (right click and save link) UpaLumpa linked on Bullshido. While I didn't have much luck on that first try, the instruction looks good from that sample video, so will hopefully pick up the DVD set its from at some point. I then fell into the familiar pattern of defensive posture, blocking her chokes and trying to keep my base. She locked on a collar choke, but I was able to get my arms around hers, push the elbows together and posture up to ease off the pressure.

Underneath, I wanted to work my open guard. Its still really weak, but the more I do it, the better it will get. I aimed for De La Riva and trying to use all my limbs, getting at least three control points on my partner's arms and legs. Christina passed without too much trouble, but I'm hopeful there's been some small improvements on my part. A clearer focus would help, so I need to pick some solid basic sweeps, then aim for those.

Technique started with a takedown, moving from a double leg to a single leg. You've dropped and driven for the double, but they step back their leg. That makes the double difficult, but the single is still an option. Step your same side leg around their forward leg, wrapping it behind. Now shove your hips into them, knocking them to the floor. You don't need to use your arms for this: its all in that hip motion.

Next Nick showed us one of his favourite open guard passes. First, grab their gi pants at the knees, your arms inside, bringing your elbows in tight. Step back with one leg and pull their knees towards you, aiming to end up with your other leg between their legs. This should also cause them to sit up, which is where you want them to be.

Drop your outside shoulder towards their chest, swinging the foot you have inside their legs over your other leg. Make sure that this lands flat on the floor, to provide you with a point to post off should you need it. Also, as you drive into their chest, make sure you do not let go of their gi pants with your hands.

Finally, you can now switch your legs again, moving to side control. Remember to keep your head towards their knees: if you're not careful, they may be able to bring their arm up, cross-face you and roll you over.

That then led to open guard sparring. This meant that I continued in much the same vein as before, trying to secure hooks with the De La Riva and generally attempting to get some kind of control by pushing on the hips and gripping the sleeves.

When passing, I found it much more difficult, and ended up basically flopping onto their legs with both Tran and Christina. This was in an effort to keep my weight down, but just led to getting swept in both instances. Tran did so by getting a shin across my stomach, wrapping an arm under my leg and then rolling me to one side (he showed me the counter, which is to simply grab that knee by your stomach and pull it onto their other knee, making them vulnerable to a pass).

I stayed with Tran for free sparring, initially trying for that half-guard sweep Oli showed us last week. I had my arms in position, but couldn't make space to shrimp out and move to the dogfight. I also found it hard to keep the leg trapped properly, meaning that it wasn't secure enough that I could switch my legs and pull the heel back.

Instead, I found myself under Tran's mount, which happens all the time. I tried moving back to half-guard, but couldn't quite manage it, Tran taking the opportunity to move into knee on belly. From there he took my back, meaning that I spent the rest of the spar trying to defend the choke. Think I just about managed it, but wasn't able to triangle the leg and move to top half-guard, which was my intended goal.

Bruno took it easy on me, noting that I'm going to my back too readily, and also giving me some useful advice on crushing down when in top half-guard. I should be using my shoulder to press my partner's face in the other direction, also really pushing down with hips and chest. To free the trapped leg, I need to step up, making it harder for them to keep their ankles locked, then gradually work my way out and slide through.

Unusually for me, I didn't take a break, so my third spar in a row was with Christina, where I struggled helplessly as she calmly switched from side control to knee-on-belly. Again, I really, really have to keep my arms and elbows tight, as I continue to leave my arm far too vulnerable. Numerous times when in knee-on-belly, Christina could easily have dropped back for the submission, but didn't want to risk yanking the elbow (as due to the position, the armbar would have been very tight). Similarly under side control, my arm was asking for the kimura, so I need to take a good look at my posture.

Sparring tonight reminded me how it is all too easy to get demoralised in BJJ: this is a tough sport, and it takes a long time to get anywhere. Even when you feel you're progressing, it’s a matter of peaks and troughs: some of those troughs seem to stretch far off into the distance.

That means its important that you don't allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in self-pity. As with anything, the only way to improve is to pick yourself up, try to work out what you did wrong, then try again. I always try to take away at least one positive from class, be that some helpful advice, a great new technique, or just something to work on. If all else fails, then I can at the very least be happy that BJJ gives me a great work-out. ;)

Should be training again tomorrow, and hopefully I'll be able to get in the Saturday as well, to make up for only making one session last week.


  1. Thanks for posting a link to that Saulo Ribeiro pass video. Great stuff :)

    Last night was a "trough" night for me. After some thinking about what I did wrong, and a good nights sleep though, I think I'm good to go again :)

  2. Cool: glad to hear you're not getting demoralised! Easy to get frustrated - I've got some more thoughts on the topic here, if that helps.

  3. Thanks! Let me know if there any other questions you can think of. At the moment, I tend to go off stuff like Yahoo Answers to see what kind of thing beginners might want answered, so always interesting to get a different perspective.