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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

25 September 2008

25/09/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #182

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 25/09/2008 - Advanced

No technique tonight, just sparring. I didn't manage to stand up so much as yesterday in guard passage, getting into a defensive mode again. So, will have to make sure I don't allow myself to slip into the comfort zone of sitting back and keeping my elbows by my knees, shifting around to free my arms if and when they get yanked out of position.

Underneath, I'm still trying to get into that two-on-one position for the sweep, but continue to have trouble stretching my partner out. I felt slightly increased control when attempting to hook their legs, but generally they either passed, or I ended up in half-guard. In that position, I'm aiming to get up on my side, with my torso on the trapped leg side so I can try to take their back. I've sort of got to the right place a few times now, but can't quite make that final step to popping up onto their back. However, better than just squirming ineffectually under half guard until they pass.

Under side control I also wasn't being too active, though I did at least make an attempt to go to my knees (which merely resulted in Helen passing to mount fairly easily). I was trying to concentrate on tucking my elbow into their armpit to stop it being so vulnerable, as well as developing the habit of gripping their shoulder. However, the arm wasn't the problem today, as instead I was having to escape lots of choke attempts, particularly Helen and Bruno. I need to pay greater attention when my gi is being pulled across my neck, as at present I think I'm too complacent in preventing my partner from getting that hold on the fabric.

On top of side control, I'm continuing to work for scarf hold. Again, while I could get to scarf hold, I had trouble properly controlling the arm, which I wanted to trap with my legs so I could step over for a triangle position. I felt as though I was able to at least hold scarf for a while, but I'm sure a lot of that is down to size difference.

Various things I need to keep in mind, like keeping my head and shoulder down close, which also applied to when I got stuck in half-guard. Couldn't manage to pass, though I did almost get my foot through: I'm still pretty bad at freeing the leg, even when the other person is going relatively light (Helen was actively telling me to just point my toes and pull the foot through, but even with coaching I couldn't release my limb).

Rear mount, as ever, is not a good position for me. I implemented tips like keeping my head close to theirs, but even so Helen didn't have much difficulty spinning out. I also went for the body triangle, but immediately got leg locked. Helen gave me a useful tip on avoiding that, which is to tuck your foot underneath their leg, rather than leaving it dangling for them to trap and submit. I was able to get round to mount a couple of times, but got absolutely nowhere with the choke from the back, and also failed miserably to move into armbar position. Again, I'm assuming the size difference was a factor too, as otherwise I doubt I would have been able to get on top in such a sloppy fashion.

I had a long chat with Helen before free sparring, which was cool, as I've been wanting to ask her more about her PhD. She'll soon begin teaching a course at university. On a BJJ note, I was also interested in why she held her hands out in front of her with the elbows tucked in while we did side-stepping during the warm-up. The reason was a sensible one: its to ingrain good habits like keeping your hands up and elbows tight. I very much like the idea of making every movement in class directly beneficial to BJJ, so that's something I think I'll start doing myself. Maybe we could start a trend?

Sparring with Bruno was mostly from underneath, though as usual he went light and eventually let his instructor instinct take over, coaching me through an arm triangle. He emphasised getting your shoulder near theirs and pressing down, using your weight to effect the submission.

With Tanvir, I spent a lot of time in half-guard, again attempting to get to one side and move round to the back. I have to be careful of bad habits, like using the wrong arm, which could lead to getting my own back taken or some kind of submission. I also tried to sweep, but didn't get too far. Annoyingly, my calf cramped up again when I was trying to adjust my half-guard: still not sure if that's lack of sleep, crap diet, too much force through one muscle, or a combination of all three.

Back in October 2006, when I was getting the initial sales pitch from then-secretary Pippa, she gave me a piece of paper detailing all the benefits of signing up to the 'Blue Belt Package'. Included in that list was a Roger Gracie Academy handbook: unfortunately when I did put down my signature, they didn't have any in stock, so Pippa said I could wait for the next batch. Tonight, I at last got my hands on one, which I've been looking forward to a while: interesting to see what kind of things are emphasised in the manual.

There is a lot of emphasis on ethical conduct, with several parts that I assume are directly influenced by Carlos Gracie Jr's philosophy. For example, there is a clearly laid out minimum time for belt progression, which looks similar to the one up on various Gracie Barra websites. Also, there are some clear elements of judo tenets, going right back to Kano's original precepts: maximum efficiency and mutual welfare (Ray Stevens influence, perhaps?). Excellent principles, so it was nice to see them cropping up throughout the handbook.

Particular quotes that jumped out at me were "there is no winning and losing in randori", which was great to read as that's been my mantra since I started. At the same time, a couple of points which I haven't quite taken to heart: "act now, think and analyze later" (I doubt I could ever shake off my tendency to analyze everything, even if I wanted to), "never refuse a training partner" (I do that all the time, either because I'm tired or I'm not convinced of their control) and "never adopt a defensive posture." Food for thought.

There's also a brief historical chunk included towards the start, which will provide me with another source for my BJJ history. Always looking for more reputable sources, no matter how small.


  1. Dude, if you're getting half way to taking their Back from halfguard, which is to say you have an underhook and you are laying on your side not directly under them then you should try using some of the Eddie B lockdown/halfguard sweeps. I guarantee that if you get that far and take a really tight body lock you can roll to your back, load them up on you and continue the roll, then sprawl out into Side Control.
    From reading your stuff from the past few weeks you're just too tentative. I'm also small and weak. If I'm not aggressive and always looking for mistakes or openings in my opponent then I never get anywhere but crushed.

  2. I hate being aggressive, as its a personality trait I really dislike and have no wish to cultivate, but yeah, definitely need to be more proactive in sparring. Though thats getting petty and semantic on my part. ;p

    I'm also wary of the Eddie Bravoing, but I have been meaning to take another look at his opening half-guard stuff, which I remember looking useful last time I had a read through. Preference remains recovering full guard, but adding in some basic sweeps couldn't hurt.

  3. I started out using the Lockdown game as a way to stall and regain guard, then guys started stuffing my attempts to regain guard, so I had to go somewhere else with it. The Old School sweep, the Plan B, and the Half and Half are in no way crazy exotic moves. They are just really good, solid halfguard sweeps. Old School is my default escape when getting Darce'd from half guard. I use it to sweep and pass to side control.
    I'm telling you man, for your game to develop you NEED to be attacking. You just have to be dangerous from everywhere on the bottom so that your opponent never has time to set anything up.
    We started at the same time, and I've also taken a couple of months off here and there. I think we have roughly the same amount of training hours. But I think at this point I would wreck you in NoGi (I've never grappled in a Gi, so you'd collar choke me senseless) simply because you're not aggressive or threatening. Step it up man!

  4. Heh - I'm pretty sure you'd wreck me in gi too, as I go for a submission once in a blue moon, so they're woefully under-developed. ;)

    I'm happy with being passive at the moment, though I'm sure the fact I'm not all that interested in competing has a lot to do with it.