Combat Athletics, (BJJ), Rich Green, Coventry, UK - 30/07/2009
I had thought I'd get one more session in at Nova Força, but turns out my sister needed me for slightly less time than she'd originally thought. That means I'll be up in Coventry now until the end of August, except for a final weekend to pop down and look after my niece (which also means I'll have the dubious pleasure of watching her overnight: sleepless nights, where you're woken repeatedly by baby-powered alarm clocks, have been something I've been able to avoid up until now).
Therefore I needed somewhere to train in Coventry, or more specifically, Canley, which is about twenty to thirty minutes walk from Warwick Uni campus. Fortunately for me, there is a club close by, called Combat Athletics. It is run by Rich Green, who received his blue belt from John Will last April, which looks to be a regular seminar slot. Rich also has a wealth of other martial arts experience (JKD, kali, boxing etc), and mentioned the club has links to SBG. So, sounds like an interesting set of affiliations.
Best of all, the price is very reasonable at £5 a session. Definitely something I want to mention to the students over at Warwick, as while Braulio is the number one option in the area, it tends be outside the budget of hard-up students. As I'm still job-hunting, its also outside of my own resources at the moment, particularly with the transport costs (to Rich's gym at the Canley Sports and Social Club, its a couple of minutes walk, so rather easier).
As I walked through the double doors round the back, it looked like a typical MMA gym: punchbags, guys in rashguards, and part of a cage wall (presumably for fighters to practice against). However, from 20:00-21:00 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, its a BJJ class, though judging by today at least, people prefer nogi. Rich did mention at several points everyone should feel free to put on a gi, so we'll see if anyone does next time I'm along (I brought my gi in case, so will do that again).
After an informal warm-up, where the stretching was left down to us, Rich moved on to shrimping. This proved to be the start of a nicely constructed theme for the lesson. After shrimping, then shrimping and stepping over, we went into pairs. One person stepped round the others open guard, while the person on the floor shrimped away and reached around for their ankle.
The purpose soon became clear, as it grew into a drill on guard retention. As they step around your open guard, shrimp away, reach around their outside leg and grab the ankle. Come to your knees as they try to move into north-south, then block their other knee with your same side hand and take them down. You can then circle around to their back, making sure to control their elbow so they can't simply spin out.
Resistance gradually increased, before moving on to a comparable drill, but this time with your partner passing directly through your guard. They are in combat base, then drive over one of your legs with their shin. As they do so, you again turn into them, grabbing the ankle, and aim to repeat the previous process.
That became a little more difficult as other guard passes were added into the mix, like the double-underhooks, but the principle remained the same. I was with a guy named Yanek (not sure on the spelling), who I think is an MMA fighter, going by what he said. Either way, he seemed to know what he was doing, so through his actions gently reminded me a few times I was being sloppy: I need to react quicker, keep my head in and be sure to drive through.
Specific sparring from guard followed, where this time I was partnered up with Brad, a guy roughly my own size. Underneath I was happy enough, although the lack of a gi meant that my ability to hold onto triangles was even worse than usual. I got into position a few times, but Brad was able to simply shrug it off. Not having a gi is probably a good way for me to see my mistakes more clearly, as I'm not getting sufficiently firm control: underhooking an arm as per Ryan Hall might also help.
That lack of a gi was also noticeable when I went for a standing sweep (I think it was here, and not later). I could knock Brad down, but there was no handy sleeve to pull myself up, something I normally rely on. Definitely an error in this situation, as that leaves me on my back scrambling to drive forward, too slow to secure the position.
On top, my woeful guard passing was exposed as completely useless in nogi. I made a brief unsuccessful attempt at controlling the biceps and digging my knee into the tailbone, as Roy showed me at the weekend, then settled into the usual pattern of effectively waiting. Brad offered some advice, and Rich also popped over to demonstrate one possibility.
It was the tailbone break I've seen before, but looking at how Rich did it, I think hunching over and shrugging might be a better strategy for me: I haven't been doing that properly in the past. My concentration has always been on trying to extend my body to put pressure on their ankles, which I've yet to master. Hunching up and using the knee to split the guard open, as per Roy's technique and the similar tactic Rich showed, could be a preferable solution.
Class finished with a round of free sparring, where I again went with Brad. I squirmed around underneath as ever, looking for guard, and again seeing if I could get into position for triangles. Eventually managed to sweep and get on top, using Roy Dean's advice on maintaining the mount, and also slipping into side control and scarf hold a couple of times.
I had a chance to try the step-over triangle from side control (or scarf, one of the two), but wasn't able to properly trap the arm. Ended up swivelling to north-south without much success. Losing the friction of the gi definitely makes a difference, which helps to fully reveal the flaws in my mediocre offensive ability. Training nogi (or mostly nogi, depending on if others start bringing their jackets with them) for the next month should prove educational.
I also need to watch out for leg locks, something which I'm not used to. It happened a bit more often at Nova Força, but in nogi its quite common. Brad tried it while I was looking to play guard, but fortunately didn't have a foot crossed over, so I could roll over and eventually work my leg free. However, I need to be a lot more careful where I put my feet, and also watch I don't let myself get caught and then tap too late.
I've got the activities room at the Warwick Uni sports centre booked tomorrow, from 17:00 to 19:00, so hopefully get in some more drilling and sparring there before I head down to my sisters. Would be good to work some of the things from the seminar, along with a few sequences I liked from Purple Belt Requirements (especially the two additional options Roy showed from the overhook in guard).