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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 September 2008

06/09/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #177

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK - 06/09/2008 - Advanced

I got a bit wet last night walking home from the station (about 50 minutes or: no lift, meaning I had to rely on my legs instead), so my shoes and bag hadn't quite dried out by this morning. I'm not sure if that was why my gi was also slightly damp: annoying, as I washed that back on Wednesday and hung it up, so should have been fine by now. On top of that, there was no food in the house: that had to wait until after my return journey to the station. Once I finally got there (fortunately it didn't rain this time round), I scoffed a less-than-extensive breakfast consisting of an apple and a banana. Few hours later, managed to grab a chicken baguette and a Nutrigrain bar.

All in all, not the best way to prepare for a load of BJJ sparring. No technique tonight, just rolling straight after the warm-up. Things kicked off for me with Tanvir, where I again worked towards what is becoming a favoured top position for me, the scarf hold. Nick G was watching, and mentioned afterwards that I was leaving my rear leg too far back, putting it at risk of being hooked by my partner's leg.

However, Tanvir wasn't aware of that escape, so I was able to push his arm down then step over his head to lock in a triangle (which I learned a while ago during a nogi class). I had intended to use that mainly as a distraction, working for an Americana, but didn't have Tanvir's arm in the right position. He managed to keep his elbow in towards his side, and I couldn't seem to work out how to put the arm into the required right-angle. That brings me to the obvious advantage of the step-over triangle position: if you can't get the arm, then you can always try squeezing for the submission instead.

At another point, I saw an opportunity to attempt the triangle from guard Jude showed on Thursday. I got the cross-grip and put my knee through, but I think the part I missed was properly stretching Tanvir out. While I managed to get my legs into place for the triangle, it wasn't at all tight, and my knee wasn't close to his head, leaving him some space. Probably should have raised my hips more too. I also couldn't transition to the armbar, so ended up switching back to closed guard before he escaped completely (a sequence that happens quite often on the rare occasions when I actually attempt a triangle).

Next I had a roll with Yas, where I spent most of my time trying to work out what to do with mount. I walked my knees up into her armpits, pushing on her head to get them as high as possible, but once there, couldn't do anything else. Being in a dominant position is very unnatural for me, as I spend the vast majority of my time attempting escapes. That means that I'm really, really bad at finishing from the top. I decided to just try something, lifting up Yas' head to see if I could slip my leg under and go for another triangle.

I left way too much space and didn't set it up at all properly, so Yas easily escape, slapping on a triangle of her own (a reverse triangle, I think). She didn't quite have it cinched in, so I could resist without too much discomfort, but at the same time I wasn't sure how best to escape. Mainly tried holding her leg and driving my weight forward, but that largely resulted in a stalemate rather than an escape.

After a nice long chat with Yas (stuff like commenting how small people like us often find it difficult from mount, how to get more women involved in BJJ, and the growing success of the club she runs with her partner Kev, the Roger Gracie Academy Aylesbury), I had a roll with Indra. Similarly to Yas, I again found myself in a top position, this time half-guard, and as before couldn't press through to pass. However, with the helpful tips I got from Helen and Bruno this week, I think I am at least understand the top half guard a bit better. Eventually ended up underneath Indra's mount, which is where time ran out.

My final sparring partner was Kev: that meant that everybody I rolled with today was around my size, which again goes to show the range of people at RGA. Definitely one of its biggest advantages, in my view. Kev took it easy on me, so I spent the roll either under side control, mount, scarf hold or his knee-on-belly. I feel ok under mount and side control, but have more trouble working out how to escape scarf hold and knee on belly. Fortunately I've been shown escapes for those positions before, so good reminder to go take another look back through the blog.

As the roll was light, we ended up carrying over in the next sparring session. Back in the changing room, I asked Kev about the positioning of the arm when trying to escape side control. This builds on Christina's advice to protect that arm better, as she kept putting me in Americanas, while Bruno suggested tucking the elbow into their armpit. Kev provided a useful approach to getting it there, starting by grabbing their near shoulder. Use that grip to then bring your elbow into position, keeping the arm as tight as possible while you do so. The grip gives you a base to work from, and also helps to protect against submissions: if they try to control your arm, that grip will assist resistance.

Back to normal again next week, hopefully, with Wednesday and Thursday. Having not eaten a whole lot today, I just enjoyed a lovely steak and kidney pie and a load of chips. Gotta love that English cuisine: pie is awesome. :D


  1. I haven't heard of the "scarf hold" before. I went over to youtube though and was able to find some videos (you should add this to your technique page being that it's one of your faves now :). When I used to wrestle, we called it a "head and arm." Since starting jiu jitsu though, I've noticed that it's not a favored move at my school. Say you have side control on their right side, and have their head and right arm in a scarf hold. I've instead been shown to instead of letting them have the left arm underhooked, get your right arm under their left also. That way you have a lot of control on their upper body, and there's no chance of them shrimping out and taking your back. Or if by chance they hook a leg, they can't use that free left arm to pull on your right shoulder to roll you over themselves and onto your back (wondering if this was the escape you've been shown...).

  2. Cool - hadn't realised there was a wrestling term for it too (though that makes sense). Will add that in to the glossary. :D

    Yeah, there appear to be numerous ways to hold it: there is also 'reverse scarf hold', where you're facing their knees, their arm behind your back.

    You'll also see it described as kesa gatame, the judo term. As far as I'm aware, its particularly common in judo, where its used as a dominant pin.

    I hadn't really used it much before until a judo guy gave me some tips (like grabbing your own thigh under their head to make the hold tighter) which helped a lot with my control.

    As with everything, still needs lots of work: hopefully I'll be able to return to the uni judo club (was put off previously, as I got injured in my third class and couldn't train for several months), where I'm assuming the newaza section of class will have plenty of kesa gatame.

    Also reminds me I should update that technique page. Been a while since I added anything! ;)

  3. That's a good tip when using that scarf hold - grabbing your own thigh. I just saw that in a couple videos on youtube actually. Gonna have to try and remember that for next time. I find myself doing things I used to do in wrestling all the time. One is when I'm going for a single leg takedown. Say I'm holding a guy right wrist with my left hand. Shoot in to take the left leg and I pull the arm up and go under it. I've gotten myself into one too many guillotines that way haha Learned to drag the arm in front of you, that way when you grab that single leg, you have an arm hooked in there too.

  4. I used to go for scarf hold alot, just as a reflex from my judo days. But it quite often lead to them taking my back and Andy telling me over and over not to do it.

  5. Interesting: I see a lot of people use it at RGA (I was stuck under Kev's for much of yesterday's sparring), so surprising Andy dissuaded you from it. Unless it was something like Nick's advice to me, that I need to watch that rear leg position?

    Is there a particular type of scarf hold where you kept getting your back taken, or did you find that happened however you held it?

  6. I am not the biggest or strongest guy in the world so switching between side control, modified scarf hold, knee on belly and north south as my training partner moves and escapes is crucial. Here are a couple of techniques which might help out your submissions and fit into your game quite well, I don’t think you have mentioned previously.

    After getting my back taken more times than I care to remember for using a scarf hold (kesa gatame) in no gi, I now mainly use the modified scarf hold in which you under hook the far arm.

    One of our purple belts showed us an old judo technique which allows you to armbar the nearside arm from modified scarf hold without giving up positioning.

    I normally set it up either the way in the video, or by using my far side underhook to pull their far side arm up trapping it against my head. Once I have trapped their far side arm against my head the aim is to either tap them by applying pressure in an inwards / upwards direction underneath their elbow joint or to make them uncomfortable and try and escape, at which point you can step your leg over their head and armbar like in the video.

    Another sneaky technique using a failed kimura attempt from side control / when you are sitting on their head, due to your opponent gable gripping their hands or grabbing their belt to defend is to switch to a bicep slicer.

    The submissions101 guys go through it but I would find it almost impossible to use their hand placement series while sparring, because my hand would get stuck between me and my opponent even if we were not wearing a gi.

    Normally I have a standard kimura grip on their left arm from side control with my left leg over my opponents head and they defend by gripping their hands. I will then take my left hand off my right wrist and place it on the inside of my right bicep (thumb towards my head) before releasing their wrist and grabbing my left tricep with my right hand (thumb towards my head).

    At this point I sit through, taking my right leg under my left and end up with my right hip by my opponents shoulder. You really need to maintain as much top pressure as you can otherwise they will escape, the sit through around their head and switching your hips must occur simultaneously with the kimura like motion of putting on the bicep slicer.

    I have a fair amount of luck with this especially against bigger or stronger opponents, it actually works better than a standard rip the grip away and then kimura as its harder to muscle out of.

    It is not legal in CBJJ comp at lower levels for some unknown reason, however it is judo legal for randori or competition and doesn’t carry any more risk than a standard kimura but does take a little getting used to.

    Hope this helps, will be interesting to read how you get on in training.


  7. Cheers! Submissions aren't really a concern for me at the moment, because I'm still mainly trying to work escapes, but good to have some more options from scarf hold.

    Mobility does seem to be the key for smaller guys in side control, but so far, I'm very limited on that score. Normally if I manage to switch between anything, it will be scarf and side control: knee-on-belly remains pretty alien. Something to work on.

    I think its mainly related to my general problem with weight distribution (keep meaning to get a basketball so I can try some of those drills, which might help). ;)

  8. You are absolutely right positioning is really important and you do seem to be picking out more opportunities to set up submissions during sparring, but sometimes it takes a few switches or chains of techniques in order to get the sub.

    Occasionally with the newer guys I don’t go for subs but work on positioning instead, basically end up trying to link all my transitions together almost like the basketball drill you linked to but using my partner. It doesn’t work out all the time, but if you can link it to your back control game when they try to escape or start going from the dog fight position it could definitely improve your technique.

    Pretty good example of positional switching for a lot of the in-between positions you will get when a partner is escaping or switching round when playing top game, it also includes an idea of how you need to control your partners arms and gripping control positions which a ball doesn’t.

    Unfortunately they miss out one of the most fundamental side control variations, in which you can link together three switches in position to stop them escaping by trapping your leg, getting to their knees or making enough space to bring their knee in to capture guard. It is all about using your hip line to control theirs, cutting off their hip movement while putting them back in an inferior position and maintaining control.

    Try switching between:

    1. The one where you have a gable grip under their head and far shoulder with both knees in tight and your weight being driven into them while applying the shoulder of justice (seriously, that is what my coach calls it) to their face in order to maintain enough control to stop them making space with their near side elbow.

    2. The one where you have a gable grip under their head and far shoulder, with the knee nearest their hip in tight and the other kicked out and your weight being driven into them while applying the shoulder of justice to their face. You get here from position 1 by kicking the knee nearest the head out and sprawling your hips down when they try and bring the nearside elbow in.

    3. The modified scarf hold I mentioned involves a far side under hook and sitting through from position 2 in order to clear their nearside elbow, which then allows you to switch back to normal side control in position 1 and importantly you don't have to release the under hook.

    You could always fit in an extra round of drilling instead of catching a breather during sparring, especially if one of your friends is taking it easy that night.

    Good luck in training.

  9. mark: thanks for sharing that link for the armbar from scarf hold, that's really cool :)

    slideyfoot: those basketball drills sound awesome! I know I have a basketball somewhere around here...

  10. Mark: I would like to use more mobility drills, but normally I have to rush to get a train after class (and as you've probably encountered when rolling, 'light sparring' or 'positional drilling' tends to escalate in sparring, unless you can find a particularly relaxed partner. Still, worth a go: there is an injured guy who can't spar, but has been looking to drill, so could ask him).

    However, that Warwick Uni BJJ group I've mentioned a few times is the perfect opportunity to drill stuff, so next time that meets up I'll be looking to try some side control drills. I'm hoping to move nearer uni next month, which should mean I can drill much more regularly.

    Shoulder of Justice? That's an SBG term, isn't it? Seem to remember reading Matt Thornton using the term.

    Mike: Various other kind of drills all over the web. Nick G does something related to what Mark was talking about above, 'flow drills', where its all about position rather than submissions. See here.