Uplands School, (BJJ), Roy Dean, Poole, UK - 25/07/2009
Today is only the second time I've attended a BJJ seminar, the first having been with Victor Estima in Belfast. That day, Victor focused largely on one guard pass, adding details and getting in lots of drilling. Roy Dean has a very different style, running through a huge number of connected techniques. As he says, his goal is for the student to at least get one or two techniques that really fit into their game, so having that sheer number of techniques increases the likelihood of providing something specific for a diverse range of people.
This first day began with various single leg takedowns. Grip their same side collar and use your bodyweight to pull them down and off balance. Drop to your outside knee, moving around to the side of their same side leg, then hook that leg with your arm. Use your head to drive forward, getting to your feet, clamping their leg between your knees. Shove your shoulder on the inside of their leg while simultaneously stepping back, which should knock them to the ground.
Alternatively, once you are up with their leg between your knees, step back with your outside leg, dropping down so that you end up with a knee raised inside their guard. Still holding their collar (which you used to pull them down at the start), keep your elbow in, bring your knee across their leg and pass to the side, pulling up on their sleeve to settle into a controlling position.
Checking my notes, I've mentioned a heel hook here, so I must have meant from that position. You have one foot underneath their bum, the other over their leg. Scoot in closer towards them so that their leg bends, making it easier for you to wedge your hand and wrist under their heel. You can then twist that up for the submission.
Importantly, Roy mention that this technique was not for sparring, merely something for his students to be aware of. It is always essential for a safety warning whenever going over a very dangerous technique like a heel hook, particularly if you're teaching white belts.
Roy then demonstrated some 'what if' scenarios for the single leg takedown. Again, you're standing with their leg between yours, looking for the takedown. However, they have managed to circle their leg to the outside. You can still take them down: step in, sweep their standing leg, then in conjunction with your collar grip, drive them to the mat.
If they circle their leg to the inside, you need a different option. This time, you can move right into an Achilles lock. Bring your arm under their leg, pressing up in their Achilles tendon: your arm will be near their foot. Lift up the leg, then step forwards with your far leg. Block the foot of their standing leg with your near leg, driving in to take them to the mat.
After a short break, it was time for the second hour of the seminar. Roy began with a basic rear naked choke, in back mount with them sitting in front of you, feet hooking their inner thighs. Roy emphasised that it isn't just the arms that make this submission. You also need to shrug your shoulder, further cutting off any space around their neck.
Aside from the usual grip, where you hold your bicep, brining a hand around the back of their head, Roy also showed a variation using fists. As ever, you get the arm around the neck, so your elbow is under their chin. Grab their shoulder with the hand of that arm.
Put the elbow of your other arm on that same shoulder, then bring the fist of that arm around to the back of their head. Instead of pressing with your palm, you press with the back of your fist.
Next up was a sliding choke Again in back mount with them sitting in front of you, get one arm under their armpit. Open up the nearest lapel, then feed it to your other arm, which you bring over their other shoulder. This should be a tight grip, with your hand curled.
The other hand, which is still under their armpit, now grips their other lapel lower down. You can now lean back, pulling down with that hand while twisting the other for the choke. In other words, you effectively straighten your arms out to create the pressure.
To create even greater pressure, remove one of your hooks and put it across their stomach. The way I tried to remember which leg to use was that the sole of your foot should be pointing the same way as the knuckles of your lower hand. Lean in the direction of the knee of that leg you have across the stomach, again straightening out the arms for the choke.
You can make it tighter still after removing the hook and establishing the leg across the stomach. Release your lower grip. sliding that hand along their arm until you reach their elbow. That gives you the space to then reach behind their head, setting up the choke.
Before you sink it, make the submission super-tight by swivelling your legs around, so that you are able to bring your free leg over their shoulder, locking your feet together. This is a very stable position to get the choke, with little room for escape.
If for whatever reason you aren't able to get that choke on, switch to an armbar from the back. Keep swivelling your legs, push their head, then bring the leg over their head. You're now in perfect position for an armbar.
Staying with chokes, we shifted positions. Instead of back mount, Roy showed us how to attack the turtle. Establish one hook on the near side with your foot, also hooking the same side arm with your own, coming underneath their armpit. Your free hand will reach over their far shoulder, gripping their collar.
Roll over your shoulder towards the unhooked side, locking in the other hook as you turn, aiming to use momentum to drop them right into the crook of your elbow. You can now go for a rear naked choke.
You can go for an armbar from the turtle with a similar set-up, with the key difference that this time, you don't secure your second hook. Instead, you want to bring that leg all around, pushing their head, going straight into the armbar. If they try to turn towards you to escape the armbar, there is the option of a triangle too.
I would note here that you can get stuck under their arm as you attempt to move round for the armbar. If that happens, you can go for a choke instead.
Last one for the turtle was to get a hook, grip their collar, then grab under their thigh, on the far side. Roll over your shoulder again, but more perpendicular than before. You should hopefully end up with a collar to pull over the neck and a firm hold behind their knee, pulling their leg up. Pulling from this position will give you a bow and arrow choke.
The final technique for that second hour was from the previous position, a choke from rear mount with them sitting in front of you. For this particular technique, you don't put in either hook, but instead grip one collar, then using the mechanics of a technical stand-up, bring your legs back and pull your partner towards you. To finish, twist into the grip, using the pressure of your shoulder to complete the choke.
Hour number three focused on how to attack from the knees. This is handy for sparring in class, as BJJ sparring commonly starts from the knees: Roy provided some option. It is also applicable beyond that, such as if you end up in a scramble, with both of you suddenly facing each other on your knees.
Roy kicked off with a throw. Grabbing their collar and elbow in the usual way, put your opposite foot by their near knee, to a point that about half your foot is directly next to the knee. Using your grips, pull them over that knee and to the mat, then move directly into knee-on-belly.
Alternately, you can armbar from the knees. As before, you are holding the collar and elbow. You also have one knee up, by their opposite hip. The other knee is on the floor: keeping it flat on the floor, slide that leg over towards their knee. You can now swivel, and then put the foot of the raised knee leg into their armpit. The other leg goes over their head, after which you can complete the submission.
Another option is that you are on your knees, but they want to pull guard, so they are waiting with one knee up, the other leg flat on the floor, knee pointing to the side. Attacking the leg with the raised knee, grab their heel with your opposite hand. With your free hand, grip their same side sleeve.
Next, pull their heel back and yank their sleeve (or wrist, if it is nogi) out. This should spin them and expose their side, leaving you plenty of room to go straight into knee-on-belly. Roy later referred to this as an ankle pick, a term I've heard related to wrestling, but never really understood before now. Its also what Christina called the "it's me" position, which is how I'll always remember it.
From knee on belly, there is often the option of the armbar: that is again the case here, as you've still go hold of their sleeve. So as before, bring your leg over their head, then drop for the armbar, making sure you keep your knees pinched and don't land with your hips too far back.
Alternately, you can spin and catch the far armbar, if they try and push your knee off with their hand. Same technique as yesterday, reaching through the frame of their arm and swivelling into place for the armbar.
The technique portion drew to a close with numerous options from the armdrag. Starting position is and open guard, with your feet on their hips, but they are still on their knees. Hold their opposite sleeve (or wrist), then with your other hand, grab the knob of their elbow, gripping on the outside of their arm.
Pull with your arms and push with the feet, which gave Roy the opportunity to repeat a useful description of BJJ by his instructor, Roy Harris: BJJ is the art of pushing and pulling. Disengage your foot from the side where you aren't holding their arm, then shift the grip you have on their sleeve or wrist to high under the same arm.
You can now pull them past you onto their knees. That disengaged foot is perfectly placed to become a hook, while you will establish an over-under grip with your hands (i.e., where one arm goes under their armpit, the other over their shoulder, then grip together). Potentially you could spin right to their back and get the other hook in on the far side.
However, if you can't quite get that foot all the way over for a far hook, reach over with an arm to grasp their gi near their far lat muscle. With your other hand, reach under their same side arm and grip their wrist, pulling it inwards.
The hand you had on their lat will now move to block their same side hand, enabling you to roll them into back mount, where you can finish with a choke.
That ended the third hour, leaving a final fourth hour for open mat. My first spar was with Gareth, the big white belt from Friday. I was more proactive this time, managing to get on top and into mount. I'm remembering to switch to s-mount when people try to roll me over, which is good, but can't finish the armbar from there. I had it in place, but wasn't able to prise Gareth's hands apart in order to properly extend the arm.
I also couldn't get the ezequiel from mount, which I tried a few times, but was probably holding it wrong, and I also don't think I created the right pressure by lifting an elbow. Attempting to finish it from guard after he rolled me was no more successful.
In guard, I continued to work for triangles, and continued to get stacked. I also always seem to have the wrong placement for the arm and leg when looking to switch, though that could just be another example of my failure to react immediately rather than pondering what to do next.
Roy interrupted us midway through, which was cool as I was looking forward to rolling with him. Sparring black belts is always awesome, particularly when they are able to carefully observe and break down your game like Roy. As usual, I was very defensive, protecting my neck, looking to go to half guard from side control and mount.
I'm still a bit flat, but Roy kindly said he thought my defence was pretty good, as I didn't leave him much space, kept my neck safe and showed signs of using my legs as well as arms. I mentioned that while I'm content with how my defence is progressing, my guard passing and submissions remain awful.
That led to what was perhaps the most useful thing I learned all weekend, a guard break. As any regular reader knows, I have been trying to get the damn closed guard open ever since I started, without a great deal of success. Previously I've been trying to tailbone break, but generally get swept or stuck. I've also been attempting to trap and arm, stand, then step forward to their trapped arm, pushing on their other leg. There too I'm still lacking key details, as they often manage to grab the foot I have back anyway.
Roy's suggestion was that I push up into their biceps with straight arms, taking them out of the equation. At the same time, bury your head into their stomach. That provides the stability to jump straight into a wide base with your legs. You then jump again, but this time in order to bring your knee into their tailbone. Sit down and use that knee to cut through their guard, opening the legs.
To pass, grab their collar and arm, dropping your raised knee to trap their leg with your shin. Bringing the elbow of your collar-gripping arm in, slide through, pulling up on their arm in order to secure a good side control or scarf hold. This is apparently on Purple Belt Requirements, Roy's new DVD. There was more guard passing in store on day two, which proved to be just as heavy on technique.
That ended the seminar, but I was in for another surprise. Roy had two students with him, Glen and Rick, who you might recognise from their blue belt demonstrations up on Youtube. As well as acting as uke for Roy (along with Steve), Rick and Glen were in charge of filming the seminar and taking photos.
Update May 2011: Some of that footage has now been released on DVD, as part of The White Belt Bible. The section in question is a short documentary about the Roy Dean Academy trip to London, so also shows them going round the capital, Paul's private lesson, and earlier rolling from Roy before I got there. If you're wondering where yours truly pops up, there is about forty seconds of me from 08:02 onwards ;).]
Rick has an additional project in the works, which sounds fascinating: once its finished, it will be a BJJ documentary, with the central thread being Rick's progress towards his purple belt demonstration this year, alongside lots of interview and competition footage from around the world. I'm assuming the video will be incorporated into that, but perhaps it is meant to be stand-alone.
Either way, I was pleased to be asked to take part in that, with a quick interview about my training, the blog, how I got into BJJ and the like (naturally much, much longer than forty seconds, but I like the quote Rick took: makes me sound coherent instead of rambling ;p). I could talk about BJJ for days, so relished the opportunity to let loose with a stream of enthusiastic, but hopefully coherent babble.
Back at Steve, Kirsty and Paul's flat, I had a chance to look through Purple Belt Requirements with Steve. Looks brilliant, and very different from every other instructional DVD I've seen up until this point. Also useful to have a first viewing to get in mind some of the things I want to discuss when I come to review it in a few days.
Even better, I could ask Roy himself later that evening, as we all hit Bournemouth for some drinks. Talking with Roy and Rick (Glen stayed at home) was awesome, with lots of long conversations about BJJ, Roy's DVD, Rick's documentary, along with a whole load of other stuff.
Four hours of training followed by several more hours of talking with top BJJ black belts and their students: that's a day that is going to be tough to beat. :D
[Pics included by kind permission of Paul Laver]
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