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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 December 2008

17/12/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #202

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK – 17/12/2008 - Advanced

The redundancy has been pretty much confirmed, so barring something very unexpected, I'll be without a job as of Friday. That also means I'll have to leave RGA, but I do have a plan that should mean I can at least keep training there through January. After that, even if I'm still in London, I won't be able to afford it anymore: the eventual plan is to find a permanent position either near Warwick Uni, in Coventry or in Birmingham.

I feel a lot happier about it than I did last week, thanks to my girlfriend (who, as ever, has been wonderfully supportive) and the relaxing trip we took to Amsterdam. Worries over jobs and the future kept me awake and probably contributed to a cold, so I didn't do any training since the 4th, but renewed and refreshed I was looking forward to tonight.

Guard passage was interesting, as I was with Ted, who I haven't rolled with before. I think he's around my size, if stronger (I'm almost always weaker than my partner). I had a go at the loop choke, but didn't have sufficient control of his head, and also looked for omoplatas, but again failed to get position. Its unusual that I get the chance to work submissions, so something I'd like to work more often, though I'm still very keen to improve my defence.

I managed a sweep from half guard into mount too, which was fun, but rather random, as I lifted Ted the other direction to my usual attempt at sweeping from half guard (which is grabbing the arm opposite to the trapped leg and pulling it over). Not entirely sure how it happened, which therefore isn't going to help my technique a great deal.

On top, I again attempted the Saulo Ribeiro guard break, which didn't have too much success. I really need to watch it when defending the armbar, as several times now I've pulled out the wrong arm and given my partner a triangle. Ted didn't punish me for the mistake as much as I thought he would, given that I eventually worked free and passed, but it’s a dangerous habit to get into. I also need to crush my weight down when going for the stack pass, which I'm still not doing properly.

Roger gave us an insight into breaking posture in guard, with the kind of useful advice on fundamentals you'd expect from the king of effective basics. First, he emphasised the importance of breaking their grips: don't let them secure a hold, particularly with a straight arm pressing into you. If they can get that solidly locked into you, it sets them up well to stand and try to pass. So, pull your collars apart, figure four their wrist and yank it away, working all the time to prevent their grips.

Second, having moved their arm out of the way and knocked them off balance, try and get an arm around their head. This will make it difficult for them to posture up and stabilise their base. You can grip your other hand, or on their collar, but make sure its tight: if they manage to push up on your chest and break the grip, swim your other arm through and pull their head down with that instead.

Third, you want to start working for an armbar from guard. You've broken their posture and got them in close, so now try and get a grip on their arm. You could try this when they attempt to push up on your chest, as to do so they'll have to bring their arm into range of your own limbs. If you can't get the arm, then you can always try and get a deep grip inside their collar instead, to work for a choke.

Either way, climb your legs up their back, furthering tightening your control over their upper body. For the armbar, you'll need to swivel by pushing off their hip, then get your leg over their head. They might try to stand up from here, but if you still have that hold on their head, standing up isn't going to help them much. You'll be in perfect position to swivel, hook the leg with your arm and bring your leg over for the armbar.

Another essential detail Roger pointed out was keeping your knees together. Squeeze them between their legs, allowing no room to get their arm free. This will be of immeasurable benefit in launching your offence, opening them up to armbars and chokes. If you've got a really solid grip around their head, you may even be able to take their back by popping up onto your elbow.

Specific sparring from that position followed (one person could only go for the armbars, the other had to break open the guard), having done some drilling with light resistance. I struggled to keep Ted's head down: he kept managing to free it from my grip and lean back, and I in turn couldn't bring him back down easily. When I did, it felt like the reason was mainly force rather than technique, which is no use to me. I simply not strong enough to fall back on muscle, so I have to keep everything technical.

Nick gave me a tip at this point, as I was finding that Ted kept standing up in my guard with good posture, putting me in a position where I was at a loss how to get the armbar (normally I'd bail to open guard and try to sweep, but that wasn't an option in this particular specific spar). Nick advised that I should try to drag the head down, as that will make it far tougher for them to remain standing. Easier said than done, but gave me something to work towards.

Free sparring followed, where again I went with Ted. This time I was using open guard and half-guard, which has become a trend for me. I concentrated on pushing on the hips and pulling on their sleeves, then moving into full guard or spider guard if they went back to their knees or crouched. I was still seeing if the omoplata was an option, couldn't get it, but did somehow end up going for the belly-down armbar.

I was in a good position, with a grip on the arm and my legs in place, but couldn't seem to get Ted's arm free, or control his body. I stuck with it as he tried to escape, finding myself in another good position, still attacking the arm as he went to his back. Again, I couldn't finish, but at least managed to move into mount. I think the problem is that I'm not using my legs enough, squeezing my knees or putting my weight down.

I also failed to use the myriad of techniques Roger and others have shown us in the past for getting their arm free (e.g., making a semi-circle towards their head, or Nick's version when your shin presses into their face). Still, like earlier, it was nice to get a chance to practice my offence, given that I'm normally always defending.

Finally, I had a shorter roll with Bruno, who in his typically laid back way broke through all my defences and could have submitted me several times over. I found it hard to make room under his side control, and also couldn't shift away from his knee-on-belly. Handy reminder to never face away on my side too, as that was just asking to be armbarred.

Roger closed up the lesson with some big news about the academy. He has bought the building next door, so the mat space is going to double again, providing room for a load more classes. As of next year, there will be beginner, intermediate and advanced, with white belts in the first, blue belts in the second, and purples upwards in the third. Real shame that I'll be leaving next month, amidst all the excitement, but with my job gone, there is no good reason to stay in London (particularly when the alternative is the long-dreamed of prospect of finally living with my girlfriend the whole week up in the Midlands, rather than bouncing up and down the country in an endless cycle of train journeys).

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