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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

16 March 2009

16/03/2009 - BJJ (RGA Kilburn)

Class #211

Roger Gracie Academy Kilburn (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK - 16/03/2009 - Beginner

As of this week, I'm finally getting back to regular training at a proper BJJ school. I haven't been on the mats for a while, so plenty of stuff to talk about since January.

To start with more mundane matters, I'm still job hunting (if anyone knows of anybody around Coventry or Birmingham who could use somebody with four years experience number-crunching in Excel, let me know), but on the writing side of things, its been a lot more positive. That is largely thanks to Dolph: I've been looking for a particular text for ages, which Dolph was able to resolve with one email. Very awesome. That kick-started my research, which had been languishing a bit recently, so I've been delving into the history and context of AIDS.

Most recently, Randy Shilts' And The Band Played On has been an excellent and informative read, though I'll of course need to check through lots of other sources before I can get a true picture of the period. US Government archives have been handy for corroborating some of what Shilts' mentions, like the shocking lack of official action on AIDS during the 1980s, both in terms of policy and budget, by the Reagan administration.

In terms of BJJ, there has been some big news this month. The Gracie Academy, where it all started, has now taken a step further than its already controversial Gracie Combatives program. Previously, you were able to test for a 'combatives blue belt' after completing the 36 lesson syllabus. That brought up the possibility of people with only a few months (or even weeks, with intensive courses) training being able to claim they were qualified to teach (whether or not they would make the distinction between Gracie Combatives and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was an especially important issue).

The Gracie Academy's argument was that a Gracie Combatives blue belt was not the same as a BJJ blue belt: Rener, Ryron and Rorion have been making an increasing distinction between self defence orientated Gracie jiu jitsu and the 'sport' jiu jitsu of other BJJ schools. The new Gracie University (also available on DVD) does a whole lot more. Not only is it now possible to get blue, purple, brown and even black belts in Gracie Combatives, but you can both learn and test for those belts through video submission.

Needless to say, that's been all over the net: EFN, NHBGear, Sherdog, The Underground etc. I go into more detail on my own opinion in the Bullshido thread, here. Note the similarity to the earlier debate about Gracie Combatives: Sherdog, NHBGear, Bullshido and EFN.

I'll be reviewing developments with interest: from what I can tell (e.g., there's a free sample showing the kimura), Rener and Ryron's level of instruction is excellent. Also, the Gracie Combatives DVD set itself is comparatively reasonably priced, at $119 for 13 DVDs and over 18 hours of instruction. By comparison, Saulo Ribeiro's excellent Jiu Jitsu Revolution commonly retails for around $150, getting you 6 DVDs and slightly less than 6 hours of instruction.

The controversial part, the online grading, is where the cost begins to add up. On top of the learning material ($144 for online or $119 for the aforementioned DVDs), to test costs $85, and there are then four stripes per level. Still, it does apparently stay at $85 for testing, judging by the response on the GU forum (which is in a pure question and answer format, rather than the normal bulletin board set-up). The big question is whether or not you can really evaluate somebody's jiu-jitsu purely through video, without having observed the student for a long period of training month in, month out.

As to the BJJ class I attended tonight (I'll type up a fuller review of the facilities, environment etc a bit later), techniques stayed fairly basic, as it is mostly white belts. That is one of the best things about this class: I'm really enjoying the chance to work my fundamentals. Jude starts that right from the drilling, with standing up in guard, side control escapes and cross choke from the guard.

In the technical section, the focus today was the armbar from guard, followed by armbar from standing guard and finally armbar defence. Jude clarified a point I've wondered about in the past, which is crossing your feet when doing an armbar.

If they're in your guard on still on their knees, crossing your feet will put weight down their spine. That is to your disadvantage, as it will naturally lean their body in the wrong direction. Instead, you want to keep your feet uncrossed, so you can push down behind their neck. This will keep them off-balance in the direction you want, breaking their posture.

However, once they've stood up, it doesn't matter if you keep your feet crossed or uncrossed. What is important is that you drive your heels down whether or not your feet are crossed, to keep their arm trapped and prevent them pulling up to make space.

There was also a slightly more advanced technique, but Jude still managed to keep it relatively straightforward. For a basic spider guard pass, first step to the side, past their straightened leg. At the same time, bring your hand on top of their other leg, then drive that arm diagonally across and down.

You can now grip their straightened leg with one hand high, the other low by their inner thigh. Step the foot nearest their head next to their ribs. Yank their leg up, pushing your hips forward. Finally, drop into side control, replacing your blocking foot with a knee.

Sparring was guard passage, where as ever I wasn't too successful on top. However, I did at least manage to stand, which as I've been saying for ages, is a habit I need to get used to. Underneath I was a bit more active: the main thing I wanted to try was following up a handstand sweep with a star sweep. In short, the latter technique is swinging your leg around to the same side, roll to your knees, then pull up on their leg to drop them to the floor.

It sort of worked, but the problem I have is that I'm concerned about my training partner's knee when I do that. It looks as if I'm not careful, that could tweak their knee, so definitely need to watch it when practicing the star sweep. No point in doing a technique if its likely to cause injury.

Free sparring was as ever lots of escaping from side control and knee on belly. I keep forgetting to really bridge into them, like Saulo shows in his DVD set, so that's a habit I'm trying to build. Had a quick BJJ session with my gf last week, so hopefully we can make that a regular thing again. Only going through a quick warm-up at home, using techniques for drills, but still helpful to run through side control escape repeatedly.

My sister is away, so I'm probably not going to be able to make any other classes this week, as I need to be there to look after my niece (my brother-in-law came back early today, so I can get in some BJJ). Might try and do three lessons next week to make up for it, but depends on how quick my sister gets back from work.

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