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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

17 September 2008

17/09/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #178

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK - 17/09/2008 - Advanced

I came down with some kind of illness last week, which annoyingly meant I didn't get any training in. On the other hand, that's the first week I've had off training since getting my blue belt in February, so could be worse. Shame though, as I was looking forward to trying out my new headguard (earguard? Still not sure what the proper term is: I've seen both, though the latter probably makes more sense as its for protecting the ears rather than the head).

On a random technical note, I noticed recently that this blog looks horrible in Internet Explorer. As it’s a generally crappy browser, I avoid IE, but I'm forced to use it at work (presumably they have to code in various blocks and the like to annoy people trying to read Bullshido, who instead get a Websense page because apparently Bullshido is 'violent'. Grr). If you have the choice, you should really be browsing with Firefox: way better, and the tables don't all get whacked out of place like in IE.

I love listening to podcasts, and had a new one to check out recently (or at least one episode: I don't think this particular podcast is generally focused on martial arts). Well-known internet poster and SAMBO instructor SamboSteve appeared on LA Talk Radio a little while ago. Check out the show here. He's one of a number of guests, who also discuss topics like MMA, competition and martial arts cinema.

Tonight Nick showed us two open guard sweeps, helpfully strung together off the same position. I think the first one is called the tripod sweep, but I'm not completely sure on that. You start from closed guard, immediately getting both your hands gripping one of their sleeves, bringing your elbows in tight. Then your partner stands up, while you stay clinging on: finding that they have a strong base you can't break down, you bail to open guard, still maintaining that two-on-one grip, immediately pressed a foot firmly into their hip. Combined with your sleeve grip, this should bend them in half, making it more difficult for them to prepare a pass.

Hook your other foot behind their same side knee, then switch your other hand to grip their free leg, by the heel. You can now complete the sweep by simultaneously pushing on their hip, pulling on their heel and yanking back on their knee. As they fall back, make sure you keep that hold on their sleeve, pulling it tight: this will stop them posting on that hand or elbow. You can also use it to bring yourself forward. To further aid passing through to mount or half-guard, bring your pushing leg back to trap their shin, then slide into position on top.

If that doesn't work, you can try another open guard sweep. You're in position, ready to pull/push/pull with your three limbs, but their base is too strong. That is the time to try a different tactic, removing your hold on their heel, so you can switch your grip on their sleeve to that hand. You're then going to swing the leg you had behind their knee all the way to their other foot, keeping it close to the floor: your aim is to chop their leg out from under them. At the same time, you're going to push with your other foot (which is still on their hip), while using your other hand to yank on their same side foot (note: don't fling that foot straight into your face, which is what I did the first time round. Hurts!)

We followed that up with sparring from open guard, a position I'm still struggling with. I think my big problem continues to be a lack of proactivity and clear goals. I'm much happier when I can settle, establish grips and limb positioning, like under side control. Open guard doesn't allow that, as you have to keep moving, which is difficult for a person of my temperament, who likes to slow things down, analyse and plan the next move.

Instead, I should be immediately establishing a grip (e.g., the two-on-one we were shown tonight), then working for a sweep, not allowing my partner to get a good base, constantly trying to break them down. My first goal should be to get that grip, then I can build on top of that. This would at least give me a sweep to aim for, so I'm going to try and approach open guard like that next time.

The same is true on top, as again I'm trying to settle into a position and think about my next move, while my partner keeps working and sweeps me. My guard passing is terrible in general, but its even worse from open guard: in closed guard, I can at least fall back into defensive mode, but that option is taken away in open guard.

Yasmine and Christina provided an interesting contrast, as while Christina stays really tight and applies lots of pressure, Yas is relatively, staying very mobile, shifting round quickly to exploit any openings. They both had no trouble passing my guard, whereas the same could not be said for me when the situation was reversed. I did manage to sweep Yas with an elevator (I think) at one point, hooking her leg and lifting it up while dragging her arm down and trapping the other leg, but it was rather lucky in that I happened to catch her off-balance, and there is also the weight discrepancy to consider.

Free sparring started with Herman, who has definitely gotten much tougher to roll with over the last few months. He felt a lot tighter, and I had more trouble escaping. I also couldn't suck him into my guard and work for the kimura, which is what I used to frequently do in previous spars. I did eventually get on top and try to pass half-guard, trying to use my shoulder and skull to limit his head movement, but wasn't able to get my leg free. However, I'm glad I have those technical tips from Bruno and Helen to aim for when in top half-guard.

Helen was up next, but like me she's just come back from an illness, so we kept things fairly light. That would probably explain why I was able to spin out of side control back to guard: normally the side control would be far too tight for that. Indeed, that proved to be the case later on, when I found that she trapped me securely between her elbows and knees, so that it was difficult for me to make enough space to escape.

I put the forearm positioning tips from Christina, Kev and Bruno to use, trying to keep my elbow out of danger by tucking it under their armpit, but still needs some work to reduce the vulnerability to kimuras and Americanas.

The class finished on both a good and bad note. Christina unfortunately got injured in her last roll, possibly dislocating her elbow due to getting her arm stuck behind her at an awkward angle. Hopefully she recovers soon: she seemed in less pain at the end of class, so will have to see how the injury responds to the usual RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) method of recuperation.

The good news was that a much deserved blue belt was finally awarded. After over two years of training, Herman at long last got to move up from white belt, which was really great to see. His job involves extended periods of travel, which makes consistent training difficult, so cool that even with those obstacles, he has still managed to develop the skill to earn a blue belt.

My headguard felt ok rolling and drilling, though it does make your head a little hot, reduce hearing and you also have to watch how much you tighten the chin strap. I think it got loosened during rolling, but not entirely sure. Still, I was pretty happy with how comfortable it felt, as I didn't find myself desperate to fling it off. Once I've rolled with it for another month or two, I'll be able to stick up a review. I also need to stick some masking tape or something on it, as quite a few people have the same Brute Shockwave earguard: need to distinguish mine so I don't accidentally pick up somebody else's.

Roy Dean fans will be interested to hear that his next DVD, about wristlocks, is getting towards completion. He put up a post about the cover here: should be interesting, as I can't think of other DVDs which try to incorporate aikido into BJJ.


  1. Firefox FTW! :P

    Glad to hear you're well enough to train again. I haven't been sick since starting BJJ, but I grew up playing sports, so I know how much it sucks to miss practices.

    I'm one of those interested in Roy Dean's wristlocks DVD :) Still working on getting my hands on his blue belt DVDs too since reading your review. Why is money always an issue? haha

  2. Yeah, its a pain, but I've been trying to make sure I don't force myself down when ill (though normally I won't leave it longer than a week). Not only would that make me feel even shitter, but I don't want to infect everyone else.

    I've been impressed by Roy Dean's DVDs so far, so I'd assume the wristlock one will be well-produced. A bit of a departure from the solidly BJJ stuff from earlier, so I'm interested to see how it goes.

    The Blue Belt Requirements is still $44.95, as far as I can tell (pretty cheap for an instructional DVD, but 'cheap' is always a relative term ;p).

    I did see one on Amazon for $39.99 a while ago, but presumably that was a marketplace thingy thats gone already.