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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

04 September 2008

04/09/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #176

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 04/09/2008 - Advanced

I was a bit down earlier today, but BJJ totally lifted my mood. It’s a great sport for taking your mind off stresses in daily life, meaning you can concentrate on the finer points of a side control escape or guard pass instead. I also had an interesting chat with Helen, an English Lit PhD, which further cheered me up.

At lunchtime today I decided to buy myself a headguard (or earguard, whatever the common term is), plumping for the Brute Shockwave, as it was recommended on EFN. I considered buying it from the US, but postage meant it would still be around £30, which is what it would cost from a UK supplier. In the end, I went with good ol eBay, where it was more like £20. Will be interested to see what its like to roll with one of those on.

Jude started off with a triangle from guard I think I've seen before, but always good to get a reminder. First, cross-grip their sleeve, then on that same side, grab their knee with your free hand. Place your same side foot on their hip and shrimp out, making enough space to get your other knee through (making sure you go inside their arm, not outside: otherwise they could gain control of your leg).

Press your knee into their chest to make some more space, then push them right back with your foot (I wasn't sure if you push on the chest, shoulder or arm: I think the arm, but will have to check the last time I wrote this technique up). Pull on their cross-gripped sleeve at the same time to stretch them out, then raise your hips. This should put you in position to lock in a triangle, bringing one leg behind their neck, then locking your other leg over your ankle, squeezing and pulling on the head if necessary.

We were then shown an open guard sweep, for when they're trying to pass under your leg. They have a shoulder into your leg, with their knee up and ready to press into your other leg. Cross-grip their sleeve, grab the gi pants of the leg with the raised knee, and bring the leg they're pushing with their shoulder to the other side of their head.

Now push with the leg on their shoulder, while also pushing with the leg by their knee, pulling on their gi trouser and finally using the cross grip to knock them over. Move to their side, lifting their leg so you don't crush your own foot, then turn towards their legs to secure side control. Make sure you do not turn in the other direction, as otherwise your partner will be able to take your back.

Last technique was a sort of omoplata from open guard, but I don't think I understood it properly. It starts from that same position, where they're trying to pass under your leg. Instead of putting them on their back, you knock them to the side so that they end up on all fours. This is the first part that confused me: I'm not sure if you're suppose to yank your cross-grip to off-balance them in one direction, or use your legs.

Looking around at what other people were doing, there was definitely a point where you raised up just before knocking them over, but I'm not sure how that fit in. Anyway, once you have them on all fours, bring your leg over their arm and triangle your legs, in the omoplata position. This was the other confusing part: it wasn't a normal omoplata, but one where you locked a leg under their armpit and turned the other way. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get hold of Jude to try and clarify, so hopefully the technique will be demonstrated again at some point.

During guard passage, I got in my first spar with the female purple belt I mentioned earlier, Helen: as has been the case with every woman I've rolled and/or drilled with up until now, she turned out to be another great training partner. She's both a fair bit smaller than me and was going relatively light, so I was eventually able to get to half-guard after sitting defensively in her guard for a while. I tried to implement the tips Bruno mentioned yesterday about crushing down your upper body, then raising the knee of your trapped leg, but still had trouble getting through.

Helen took pity on me after a while, and advised that I should be moving my hips towards her head. That would help to slowly loosen her legs, meaning I could pull my leg free. Thanks to that bit of excellent advice, I did finally manage to get to side control later on: definitely a good tip to keep in mind.

Free sparring kicked off with Joanna, who is currently suffering from tonsillitis. That meant she didn't want to go too hard, which is always absolutely fine with me. Worked my open guard as usual, taking the opportunity to try and stay mobile. I also attempted to get to that half guard position Oli showed us last week, but couldn't get my legs set-up. Putting the arms in place is straightforward enough, so it’s the legs I need to work on.

Next I got to spar twice with Helen. Having already given me that tip on half guard, I got some further advice on finishing sweeps. We spent most of the spar, again, in open guard and half-guard, where I was generally just trying to wrap up her legs with mine, then attempting to break her posture and knock her to one side. Managed it towards the end, though in a rather sloppy and unplanned way, but didn't capitalise, so she had little trouble escaping.

Her advice was to make sure I drive my hips forwards as soon as I sweep somebody. That way I can keep the pressure and push through to side control or mount, rather than just watching them escape. It’s a problem I've had before, such as when I finally manage to open somebody's guard, ease off for a moment and lose the chance to try and pass. Same goes for sweeps, so another good tip.

Finally, had another light roll with Bruno, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite people to spar. He always eases off and lets me work, then gives helpful advice at the end. Yesterday it was about half guard, whereas today he had some thoughts on side control. As I'd been poor on escapes with Christina yesterday, I asked him a very basic question on arm position underneath. I've been sticking my arm into my partner's throat when underneath, but the point I've been missing – as explained by Bruno – is that I need to tuck my elbow under their armpit. This means that I can drive the forearm into the neck without being so vulnerable to a kimura.

Should be training on Saturday, which will also give me a chance to catch up with my sister and niece, which is always nice. She keeps on putting up loads of videos of the baby on Facebook: well on course to becoming the most filmed baby ever, though I have to admit, the videos are all very cute. I don't want children myself, so handy that I have a sister who plans to have loads. Big plus when you know you can give back the baby and leave, not having to deal with the sleepless nights, vomit down your front, constant worries etc.

Well ok, she has thrown up on me before. Lesson there is when you’re bouncing a baby to stop them crying (which generally works great: they seem to like the motion), don't shift them from shoulder to shoulder. The results are messy. :p

I've got a bunch of reviews I'd like to get done, so hopefully the house-hunting etc will be sorted soon to give me some more time. In particular I wanted to put up some thoughts on The Grapplers Guide after my first three months, though I don't think I'll be able to give a full and fair review until a year (as things like responses to video requests and the like can take a while to get sorted).


  1. Just curious as to how your headgear has been treating you :) I've been looking around and I can't decide which to try out first.

  2. I've been pretty happy with it so far, but then I've only had it about a month now. I'll be seeing how it reacts to washing tonight, as it definitely begins to stink after a few uses.

    Once I've had it a bit longer, I'll get a proper review sorted. Though I seem to remember you said you used to wrestle, so presumably you're more familiar with headgear than I am? ;)

  3. haha Well the headgear I used was supplied by the school (small town, small school). So I used a cheap, used plastic one. It did the job (survived without getting cauliflower ear), but I must say that it wasn't too comfortable to wear. The way it fit, my ears were sore after taking it off. Seeing that one you purchased though, it looks like it might be a bit more comfortable. I'll keep an eye out for that review ;)