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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

07 January 2009

07/01/2009 - BJJ (Intermediate)

Class #208

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK - 07/01/2009 - Intermediate

The classes have now been split into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. White belts start with the Beginner class, then on getting their third stripe they can progress to Intermediate. Once they get their blue belt, they can only train in the Intermediate, until they get their third stripe on that new belt. Then they can move into Advanced, to which they're restricted once they get to purple.

That means that several of my favourite training partners are now, understandably, training in Advanced rather than the new Intermediate session, like Christina, Helen and Tran (the latter two who, as purple belts, couldn't train in Intermediate anyway). Still, plenty of good people left, like Paxton, Tanvir, Anne and Indra, all of whom were there today.

Paxton gave me several good tips on throws, which I think he heard from Bruno. On the seoi-nage, grip a lapel with your same side hand. Use your grip to pull across to put your partner off balance, then twist into them, bringing your free arm underneath theirs, then lifting them in the usual way (remembering to use your bicep to hold them and not your shoulder, or they may be able to choke you).

Also, on the tai-otoshi, make sure you really pull and push with your arms: I keep making the mistake of forgetting to use my arms sufficiently, which goes for various other techniques too. It will be good to get in some more judo, as that will help lots with the 'kuzushi' part of things, learning how to properly unbalance an opponent and enter into throws. Shall have to see how my schedule works out, once I find a new job.

Specific sparring from side control raised the familiar problem of being unable to clear their elbow. I was trying to get my other knee underneath to scoop their arm out of the way, but couldn't quite manage it. I switched to north-south instead, as its better than a stalemate, aiming for the reverse scarf hold transition Iain showed us in judo a while back. I was able to get my elbow into one of their armpits, but failed to remember how the rest of the technique went. Underneath, I was mostly just stuck under knee-on-belly for a while.

The focus on knee-on-chest tonight was therefore rather useful: I've never used it, as I've always felt way too unstable and easily moved. I feel much more comfortable in side control or in scarf control. Best of all, not only was Nick there to teach the correct positioning, we were also lucky to have a man present who is famous for his knee-on-chest, Maurição.

To transition from side control to knee-on-chest, you first need to clear their elbow. Use your knee to do this (the leg furthest from their head), then switch your hips back to trap their arm. Grab the collar behind their head with one hand, with the other should be pressed into their far hip, both hands attempting to push firmly towards the floor.

From there, push off with your arms and pop your knee onto their chest (Nick mentioned that while the position is often called knee-on-belly, knee-on-chest is more accurate, as pressure on the chest is a lot more effective than pressure on the belly). The knee should be pointing towards their far shoulder, keeping your toes off the floor to maximise the amount of weight on your partner. Your other leg should be stretched out, making sure that it isn't easy for them to grab it.

Keep your hips as low as possible, meaning you end up sitting on them, but with your bum off to the side of their body. To further add to their discomfort, the arm that is gripping their collar can be used to press into their face, making it difficult for them to turn their head.

At this point, Maurição stepped in with a great tip. Even if you can't clear their elbow, you can still transition to knee-on-chest. Bring the knee nearest their face right up to their head. Grip their collar and hip as before, and again push up and bring your knee to their chest. Though they have an elbow in the way, you will simply shove past it, bringing your knee outwards in a small arc as you do so. I'm always having trouble getting past that elbow, so this should be very useful for me.

To finish, Nick then showed us an armbar from knee-on-chest. Having got your knee in place, the natural reaction of your partner is often to push on that knee with their hand. It's painful, so shoving with the hand is the immediate response to get rid of all that pressure. However, this also frequently means that there will now be a gap by their elbow.

You can take advantage of this by feeding your hand through (on the inside). Wrap your hand around the back of their bicep and pull in tight with your arm. That should now mean you can squash their arm against your shoulder (I also wondered if a gooseneck wristlock might be an option at that point, given the angle of the wrist: Roy Dean shows a bunch on his DVD, though I don't remember them being from this position). Push down on their face and step your leg over their head.

Having trapped their arm, you can now spin all the way to the other side to go for an armbar. Nick noted that at this point, many people make the mistake of not spinning far enough, so lose the armbar. To prevent that, grab their trouser leg to help pull yourself round: you want to be facing the opposite wall, making a complete spin. Finally, drop back and go for the armbar, squeezing your knees together.

Technique was so in-depth today (always a good thing, in my opinion: the more detail on technique the better), sparring was cut a little shorter. As I normally only do two or three, that wasn't much of a concern for me, just meant less resting time. I started off with Tanvir, who has recently come back from a knee injury. I was looking to go for the hook sweep again, but still not properly bending my partners at the waist properly.

When I could see I was losing control of Tanvir's leg, I secured a De La Riva hook instead. That did indeed give me better control, but I then didn't know what to do with it: should take another look at sweeps from there. I made sure not to do the same thing on the other leg, as especially because I'm not as familiar with De La Riva as half-guard, I didn't want to do something random and exacerbate the knee problem.

With Indra, I was again looking for the hook sweep. Got a bit closer this time, but as against Tanvir, I wasn't getting the necessary bend. Indra was able to push with her knees and break my control, getting back to a sitting position. I tried going for an armbar instead, but as usual with my submission attempts, left way too much space so she spun out. I at least ended up with a sloppy side control rather than losing control altogether, but had time run out I imagine Indra could have escaped from that too.

In half-guard I was finding the lockdown useful again, in terms of preventing Indra from getting into a good position to pass. I aimed to push her leg back to disrupt her base, then try to shrimp to the other side, press on her other knee with my arm and hopefully make enough space to get a knee through for closed guard. Worked twice, I think, but I should be using my arms more and being careful not to end up flat on my back.

At the end of class, lots of gradings, which is in keeping with the various new belts I saw earlier that night. Jason is now a purple belt, and I saw a new brown belt too, so most likely others I missed. It was mainly stripes in the Intermediate class, with one new blue belt. Indra, Anne and I all got another stripe, which puts me on two. Always pleasant to get a promotion of any sort, but as its time based, I'm not sure what it will mean when I train somewhere else, as I will have to leave RGA at the end of January. Hopefully I can shift to one of the affiliates (such as Jude's new place in Kilburn), but that all depends on cost and how long I'm in London.

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