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18 August 2009

18/08/2009 - BJJ (No-gi)

Class #237

Combat Athletics, (BJJ), Rich Green, Coventry, UK - 18/08/2009

Wales was good fun, with yet another set of people in the house: changes every year, as different groups of friends manage to make it down (normally Aberystwyth Uni people, but this time it was old schoolfriends of the guy who owns the place). I may even have managed to spark an interest in BJJ for one of them, so hopefully she'll go check out the clubs I mentioned in Sunderland. Always keen to get a chance to evangelise about grappling!

On an entirely non-BJJ note, I also finally googled "Hasidic jews" as a result of the trip. That's because like me, they also seem to be in Aber every summer, with large groups congregating on the beach. I'm still not quite sure why Hasidic jews apparently love Aberystwyth so much, but at least I know a little more about their customs thanks to good old Wikipedia.

Getting back to class at Combat Athletics, I decided to wear a gi tonight, as I'd responded to a guys email that I wouldn't mind doing some gi sparring. Handily, both he and another chap brought a gi: I ended up being partnered with the other guy. Technically this is still a nogi class, as Rich teaches without a gi, but then he has been saying repeatedly over the last couple of weeks that people should feel free to bring a gi along.

Rich started off by having everyone do some pummelling exercises. Interestingly, that wasn't just from standing, as is normal. Rich also had us do the same thing from our knees, from combat base, side control, guard and half guard. The purpose was to emphasise the importance of establishing underhooks, as well as other useful principles, like tucking your head in half guard.

That is where we stayed, for a half guard sweep. First, get your underhook and curl in close to their body. Reach with your free arm to grab the foot of the leg you haven't trapped in your half-guard. Your other arm will shift from over their back to grab that same foot, meaning that you'll also be reaching around their other leg.

From here, you can pull their foot in towards you and bridge to get the sweep. Rich demonstrated how you could bridge in either direction, so it depends on how your partner resists. Whichever side they choose to base out, go the opposite way with your bridge.

The next sweep from half guard was for when you've failed to get the underhook. Instead, they've flattened you out, establishing their own underhook to lock up your head and arm. Start by partially unwrapping your triangled legs, but still maintaining control by having a leg over the back of their knee. The other foot will push down on their lower leg, straightening it out, then clamp down to make sure its stuck.

On the side opposite to the one on which you've trapped their leg, put your same side hand on their hip. You can now use that to make a little space, digging your outside foot under their knee to get into half-butterfly. Lift them up enough to extricate your other leg (easier said than done, so not sure if I was doing it right), moving into full butterfly, then sweep them over, pushing off with your hand and leg.

Rich mentioned here that you don't necessarily want to then move straight into mount. That's because you lose control of their arms: instead, Rich advised bringing your knee through into their side, pulling up on the arms. This made more sense once he showed the next technique, when your positions are reversed.

For this half guard pass, they have their head tucked in. As a result you can't cross-face them, so instead drive your shoulder into their shoulder, flattening them out. Shift your weight so that you can look back towards their knees, then bring the foot of your trapped leg up close to their bum.

This provides you with an opportunity to push their locked legs off your knee. Again, that may be easier said than done: Rich's method was to shove in bursts, gradually knocking their legs free. Either way, as soon as your knee is clear (you don't need to get the whole leg out), you can drop it to the mat.

At this point, you could attempt to move to mount, but in keeping with the previous technique, you're instead going to bring your knee across their body so you can get it into their side. Your other leg bases out, while you control their arms. One of their arms is under yours, so you pull up on the elbow. The other is on top: this time, you'll grab around the shoulder, yank in to secure it, while also moving your elbow across to dig into their chest.

From here, you can go for a kimura. That knee you have into their side with move up towards their head. This is especially useful if they get the arm on that side slightly free, bringing their elbow down, as you can now use your knee to block it. Step over their head, then using the control you already have on the other arm, clamp it to your chest and figure-four, ready for the kimura.

It was then time for some specific sparring, from half-guard as you'd expect. I wasn't too good at moving past on top, and underneath I also didn't quite accomplish my aims. I was looking to recover full guard, but my partner was able to keep on just managing to readjust before I could fully adjust.

At one point I also found myself close to taking the back, but he still had an arm around my head. I got overly focused on the back, so continued attempting to establish hooks: eventually, he moved through to side control. What I should have done, as Rich (who was observing) noted, was go to my knees. That would have been a far better position to then drive and move to the back or side: I really need to think about going to the knees, as from every position its something I forget.

Incidentally, this is also exactly the kind of situation where the Gracie Combatives material on escaping headlocks becomes applicable. So although scarf hold may be much more common (because its a far better controlling position), headlocks do happen, even in a BJJ class.

Finally, we switched partners for free sparring: as the person I was rolling with didn't have a gi, I changed my jacket for a t-shirt. As has been the case recently, I was looking for triangles, attempting to set up some kind of control on the head and arms so I could then shift into position. Again, Gracie Combatives could come in handy here. Rener and Ryron have a useful nogi method of moving into the triangle, beginning from stage one of their punch block series. I'll have to take another look at that and try to use it next time.

Eventually my partner passed into my half-guard, also managing to trap one of my arms against me, looking like he was about to go for an arm triangle. However, I still had plenty of space to breathe, so instead he ended up just squashing my neck. That's where we stayed until time ran out.

I've said it before, but I think this is an instance where I'm breaking my own cardinal rule and allowing pride to dictate my actions. It isn't comfortable having your neck squished like that, but its bearable, meaning that you can think to yourself "yeah, if I wiggle just a bit more, I'll be out. No way I'm tapping to this, its not even a proper submission."

While its more than possible to simply lie there and wait, it would be much more sensible to tap and start again. Nobody is learning anything in that position, and my neck is definitely too precious to sacrifice on the altar of ego. Given how often I happily say this to other people, I really must follow my own advice.

So what I probably should do when that happens again is ask "are you going for a choke or a neck crank?" If they say the latter, I should immediately tap so we can restart and do something more productive. Of course, that is still giving way to pride a little, in that I can then tell myself that neck cranks are generally illegal in competition (though of course that doesn't necessarily apply to nogi), but it at least lets them know that if they are going for a choke, they need to adjust rather than simply keep on squeezing.

I should be training again on Thursday, presuming my neck isn't too stiff. As I type this on Wednesday morning, it feels ok, so we'll see. I'm having another instance of deciding to get up and type rather than lie awake in the early morning, so made an update to my BJJ Beginner FAQ too (specifically, adding in something about 10th Planet, as I keep seeing beginners asking about it on forums). Same thing happened when I originally composed that article: early mornings are clearly a good time for me to babble on my blog. ;)

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