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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

29 December 2008

29/12/2008 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #207

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK – 29/12/2008 - Advanced

Over Christmas, I enjoyed myself geeking out over the online archive of Black Belt Magazine, hosted on Google Books. Specifically, I made a spreadsheet, trying to list all the BJJ-related articles from their first appearance in a 1988 issue of the magazine, up until Rickson Gracie discontinued his ‘No Holds Barred’ column in 1999. The archive itself is fairly comprehensive, but there are a few issues not included, some months are mixed up, and occasionally an issue will have a chunk missing. Still, makes for a fascinating look at the early history of BJJ in the US: I’m hoping my Black Belt spreadsheet can act as an index for fellow history fans.

Today the Academy was open for a sparring session from 13:00-14:30, so I decided to take the opportunity to get in one last bit of training before the end of the year. Roger kicked off with specific sparring, starting with guard passage. I couldn’t get past Liam’s guard, spending pretty much the whole time pondering how to free my sleeve from his grip. That tight hold meant he could keep my arm pulled across my body, so in order to get into position to free myself, I put up my same side leg. I also kept shifting my knees in close so that Liam couldn’t make space to go for a sweep, or perhaps a submission.

So, I managed to present a defence, but nothing more than that. I find it hard to extricate myself from grips, particularly when I know the other person is stronger than me (almost always the case), so need to develop some technical methods of removing their hold, as well as improve my ability to prevent them getting a good grip in the first place.

Side control was up next, this time my partner being Rico, a stocky white belt (about my height, but 15kg heavier). He had no trouble flinging me off when I was on top, though he was trying to avoid just using power moves. The main reason was that I kept putting too much weight forward, rather than staying on his chest. Always useful to try side control against a big guy for that reason: you become very aware of your mistakes.

Underneath, it was the same pattern as normal, as I stayed relaxed and looked to go to half guard or slip my knee under. Didn’t get very far, so if I recall correctly, just moved around in a circle. Again, I need to be more proactive, particularly in terms of getting to my knees, and I also have to watch my forearm under their neck. I was trying to make sure I tucked the elbow into his armpit to stop my arm being so vulnerable to submission, but not sure it worked. Could be he just held off going for the Americana due to the size difference.

Finally, I did specific mount sparring with Nick Brooks. Naturally he could have escaped any time he wanted on the bottom, or submitted on top, but instead offered lots of helpful advice, waiting to see how I reacted to what he was doing. Main important thing to keep in mind is to squeeze my knees and feet: Nick mentioned I was leaving too much space, so he could get his elbow in. Also, I should be aiming to move forward, getting up under their armpits.

For free sparring, I just waited to see who wanted to roll. First person to ask was a powerful purple belt, who I think is called Darren (but had something else written on his gi, though he might have been borrowing it). He went really easy on me, noting when I could go for a submission, and letting me try for armbars. Even when he let me isolate his arm and get into position, still a simple matter for him to escape. I continue to be a fish out of water when I’m staring at a submission opportunity, even when my training partner is literally telling me what to do in order to secure it.

Next was a tall purple belt I’ve rolled with before, called Lex. He’s still carrying an injury, which I assume is why he approached me: because I’m small, people with busted up shoulders/backs/legs etc are often keen to go with someone unlikely to aggravate injuries. After getting me into position to choke, he mentioned I should be turning in the other direction. I had in the mind the “face the same way as their fist” principle, but clearly that can’t be applied to every situation. He had my collar pressing into my neck, so as he advised, in that case it is better to turn the other way, raise their elbow to make space, then turn back and try to escape.

The general principle of using elbows and knees is something I tried to implement today, which was of some help with my next spar, against Lubo. I managed to land on my fingers at one point, making an unpleasant cracking noise, but seems ok: the little finger is still sore, but as its only slightly painful, should be fine in a few days. Lubo danced around on my back, then worked for a choke for the rest of the spar. I attempted to triangle my legs around one of his limbs and then turn into him, using my elbow to block his efforts at getting in a second hook. Didn’t quite work, but did appear to hold off the choke. I squirmed around until the end of the spar, and as ever, I’m not sure if I was defending well, or Lubo simply didn’t slam on the choke because he’s bigger.

Finally, I rolled with another larger training partner, a blue belt called Johannes. He was definitely taking it easy, letting me work underneath with my half guard and open guard. I’m continuing to try and get a two on one grip on their sleeve then push on the hips, which is working out better than my previous habit of attempting to wrap up their legs. I still need to bend them in half properly, and it might also be good to switch to spider guard occasionally to further try and off-balance them.

In half guard, I wanted to get a high overhook on the arm, so I could try and go to their back. I got the high overhook, but couldn’t switch to the back properly. My balance is lacking, as is my weight distribution. I did manage to get back to full guard a few times, although not always closed: Johannes kept trapping my leg. It wasn’t in too bad a position across his stomach, but as he was squishing it tightly between his torso and legs, I couldn’t pull it free to go back to closed guard.

Not sure when I’ll next be training, but I’d guess January 6th or the day after. That’s when I’ll be meeting my solicitor to go over the redundancy package (legal requirement to get a third party to run you through it before it can all be signed off), and can then presumably train in the evening.


  1. that spreadsheet looks like a lot of work...what do you plan to do with it eventually?

  2. As an index, so I can add some further sources to my history. If I'm reading something online anyway, I'll try to make some kind of record so I don't lose the links.

  3. Holy crapola! I never knew about Google Books! droooool! Sigh, there just isn't enough hours in the day...

  4. Great resource Slidey.

  5. Cheers! I plan to add to it in the usual ongoing fashion. Looking forward to sticking the sources into my various history posts, especially now I finally got hold of Martial Arts in the Modern World at christmas (though the chapter on Maeda is pretty short).