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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

12 May 2009

12/05/2009 - Nova Forca

Class #223

Nova Forca (BJJ), Ricardo Da Silva, Epsom, UK - 12/05/2009

Unfortunately I wasn't able to make another class at Kilburn like I intended, which also meant I wasn't able to say goodbye properly. I sent Jude an email, but that obviously isn't quite the same, so hopefully I'll be able to drop in again before I move away from London for good. Fingers crossed I can somehow manage to find a job in the next few months, as then I could do a private with Jude, which would be a great way to leave the capital.

My sister has now moved to Cobham in Surrey, so naturally I'm there too to keep on helping out by looking after my niece. I had been intending to head to another RGA affiliate in Wimbledon, but that's a three month minimum contract and a little far from Cobham. On top of the cost being beyond my means at present (especially with transport), even if I can't find a job, I'll still only be here until August. So, that didn't seem like a viable option.

Fortunately for me, there is another possibility, and its much closer to Cobham: Nova Forca in Epsom. Getting there by train proved to be awkward, as you have to bounce around different lines. From the station its about ten minutes or so to walk: the class takes place in a Scouts hall, next to a church. I arrived way too early as usual, getting in at 19:30. Class was supposed to start at 20:15, so I figured I could pop in, sort out payment, maybe chat a bit.

Turns out there was already some kind of Scouts thing going on when I went in the door, and asking one of the adults there, they said BJJ started at 20:30, not 20:15. I'm not sure if that's a regular thing, but I guess I can always email Ricardo to double-check. People started congregating outside around 20:30, and judging by one guy's Tapout shirt, I was pretty certain this must be the place.

Ricardo charges £10 a lesson, then there is a £25 membership (which he mentioned is payable after your third class). There are also two monthly options, £75 for three classes a week and £65 for twice. Classes are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. That means I can only do once a week at the moment, as I'm in Cobham up until Thursday each week, spending Thursday night until Sunday with my gf in Coventry.

The warm-up brought in a few things I hadn't done before, like shrimping then immediately going to all fours. There was also a drill where you roll over your shoulders, which took me a moment to get: Ricardo walked over and gave me some pointers, realising I clearly hadn't done the exercise before. It is a bit like the one I was trying to do at the Farnborough throwdown, so I relish the chance to improve the technique (presuming this is a regular part of the warm-up).

Tonight's class was all about half guard sweeps, put together into a flowing sequence. All of them began by getting an underhook on your partner, after which they immediately overhooked that arm (or to use the wrestling term, a whizzer). Shrimp out to the underhook side and come up on your elbow.

At this point, they will normally drive their weight into you in order to maintain control. That provides you with the leverage to drop underneath them and push on their far knee, rolling over into top half-guard.

Ricardo followed up with a variation on the same sweep. This time, you use your hooking leg to tweak their foot out to the underhook side, disrupting their balance. That should help when you try to bring them over, as they'll already be leaning in that direction because of the pressure you're putting on their leg.

Finally, once you've got the underhook and they've established a whizzer, you can shrimp all the way out, coming up onto your knees, still trapping their leg. This puts you in what Eddie Bravo calls the "dogfight" position. From here, again drop under their body to grab their far knee, then roll into top half guard. If you've got Mastering the Rubber Guard, this is basically the same as Plan B on page eighty. Its also something Oli taught back at RGA last year.

Like RGA, the class pattern was warm-up, technique, specific sparring then free sparring. As you'd expect, specific sparring today was from half guard, where the person on the bottom already has an underhook. Therefore I was starting from the ideal position to have a go at Saulo's whizzer armbar from Jiu Jitsu Revolution, though I didn't get too far with it. Its easy enough to get the whizzer, but I found securing some kind of base from that position rather more difficult. So, that looks like the first aspect of the technique I need to work on.

In free sparring, I was soon asked by a brown belt named Tim if I wanted to roll. As I'm a random blue belt they've never seen before, I guess the higher belts wanted to get an idea of my level. I imagine they were distinctly unimpressed, as I'm a pretty mediocre blue, but good for me, as I haven't sparred with anyone that senior for a while now (except for Jude, of course).

Tim took it easy on me, while I as ever alternated between either flopping around on the bottom or passively wondering what to do in their guard. Managed to force myself to stand up once, where I immediately got knocked down again. Like I've been saying for ages, just need to get into the habit of standing to initiate a pass, instead of just staring at the legs from kneeling.

In the midst of googling for Nova Forca the next day, Tim cropped up again: turns out he is an MMA fighter, with a blog here. Always cool to spar with high-level BJJers, as they tend to stay very controlled, along with often offering useful advice.

Much the same thing happened with Ricardo himself. Again, he was being relaxed, waiting for me to do something, catching me in various chokes along the way. Unfortunately, one of the white belts ran over his foot while we were rolling: space is a bit limited, as its appears to be a popular class with plenty of people in attendance.

Finally, I went with my drilling partner, Mark. He's been training about four years and used to do judo, but more importantly, he is around my size (probably a few kg lighter, as he competes in the under 64kg category. That's where I fought for my one and only fight back in August 2007, but I was foolishly about five or six kilos below my natural weight). The roll was reminiscent of sparring with Jadon at the Farnborough Throwdown, as I was repeatedly defending against collar chokes from mount and knee-on-belly. Clearly I'm doing something wrong: possibly I'm lifting my head off the floor too much, going by what Rich said a few weeks ago. I'm also not defending my neck well enough, and I'm being far too passive about escaping knee-on-belly, which is getting me in trouble.

Also like Farnborough, there aren't any showers at the Nova Forca venue. On the other hand, as I'm planning to cycle from now on, I'll be sweaty by the time I get back to Cobham anyway. While I always prefer to immediately shower after training, due to my paranoia about MRSA and the like, delaying by an hour or so isn't too bad.

Class finished with two guys getting promoted, and as per the tradition at Nova Forca, everyone lined up and whipped them. Except for me, as belt whipping is not something I'm comfortable with just yet: we never did it at RGA. Also, it would feel a bit unfair after only having trained there the one lesson.

Should be down again next Tuesday, once I've sorted out the bike route. Class finished a good forty minutes later than I'd been expecting (I left the building about 22:35), so definitely don't want to rely on trains, as they're infrequent at best. Its been a long time since I've cycled any kind of distance, so we'll see how my legs hold up. Either way, I'll be nice and warm by the time I arrive!


  1. Wondered where you been, your blog was a bit quiet for a while.
    sounds like Nova Forca are a decent crew.
    I was a random new blue belt when I first turned up at Mill Hill. Nick suggested I roll with this 16 year old kid called Dan. Ha! little did I suspect, that young Dan was teen prodigy Daniel Strauss and I got the beating of my life that day. And now't changed since then as well!

    1. Ha - I must have never seen this comment. Just noticing it now because I'm trying to work out when I first met Dan myself, though various searches. ;)