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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

15 October 2009

15/10/2009 - BJJ

Class #252

RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK - 15/10/2009

Now it turns out I won't be teaching that seminar, as there was a whole one person booked. I guess Michael Donaghy isn't as popular as the organiser was hoping, which is a shame. I would have enjoyed both the teaching experience, and the chance to explore a poet I haven't read much in the past. Ah well: I still have another one to teach next month, for Sexual Health Week at Warwick Uni. Unlike Donaghy, that one is directly related to my interests, so looking forward to it.

For class tonight, I knew it was all about the guard this week. So, I sought out a few videos to try and refine what I know about guard passing. First up was a clip by Michael Jen, from one of his various instructionals. Lots of interesting points on opening the legs from the knees, such as turning your hands slightly outwards rather than completely straightening your arms, and also driving the ridge of your palm into their rib cage.

Jen also talks about humping your lower back to pop the ankles open, and emphasises the principle of never putting your head in front of your hands. To that end, when you're initially getting into position, you should first bring your knee out, rather than shove your knee into their butt.

That's because you may well have to raise up and move forward if you shove the knee in without first bringing the other knee out to the side. Your partner can then knock you off balance.

The second video featured Braulio, covering closed guard and passing. This time, I found the other side of the equation more interesting, as Braulio showed how you can keep shifting your hips square on to mess up their passing attempt.

He also had an interesting option for when they stand up: with a grip on their sleeve, you bring your hips to their other leg. Brace your same side arm against their other leg and pull them towards you. You've blocked both of their avenues for stepping to catch to balance, so they end up falling forwards.

All of that was immediately applicable to tonight's class. Kev showed us two basic ways to open the guard, both from standing and kneeling, then two passes from combat base.

The kneeling guard break began in the classic posture. Back straight, one hand gripping both collars, the other back by their hip. Slide one knee out to the side, then place the other knee right into their tailbone. You'll now pressure backwards with your arms until you can pop open the hips to open the guard, moving into combat base.

Alternately, you can use a standing guard break. This time, you have a hold of their sleeve and their hip. On the sleeve side, step your leg up: you have control of their arm, so can prevent them hooking your leg and going for a sweep. Stand up, keeping the other leg back so they can't hook that one (if they do, you may need to sit back down again). Finally, use your free arm to push their same side leg off your hip, then settle down into combat base.

If you want to pass over the leg closest to your raise knee, then Kev suggested using the leg pin I've seen a few times before. This is the one I've used most often in the past, although my guard passing is absolutely terrible, so I do it in a very sloppy fashion.

Should you instead want to pass over the leg opposite to your raised knee, you have another guard pass open to you (and incidentally, this is also something I've seen Michael Jen demonstrate, although he does it slightly differently). Begin by pinning that opposite leg with the shin of your raised leg, making sure you keep it trapped.

Use your arm on the other side to hook around their armpit, so that you can use your upper body to pin their torso, preventing them from taking your back. Your free leg will walk over, enabling you to then slide your knee through, bringing your hips to the floor. Readjust and switch into side control.

Kev is very approachable as an instructor, which combined with the comparatively small class size makes it easy to ask him questions. His response exemplifies the biggest weakness of tapes, which is that they can't correct errors and gear techniques to specific body types.

During specific sparring, I had been focusing on getting that grasp on the ribcage Jen talks about. However, I was attempting that against someone well over six foot, so unsurprisingly his legs were far too long for that to have any effect. As Kev said, what I needed to do was shift my grip further back, grabbing the top of the trousers, or even further up on the leg (Jen does mention this, but I'd forgotten that important detail).

Kev also spoke about how you want to make a really wide gap between your knees, rather than trying to shift back lots or even leaning forward to try and increase the leverage from your arms. You want to create an angle, rather than staying square on: if you stay square, its easy for your partner to break your posture.

Finally, Kev had some handy advice about trapping their arm underneath their back, which I've seen a few people do (and had done to me, which proved very effective). During sparring, I had no idea how to do this, so was trying to bait my partner into giving me both their arm and space by snatching at it after I stood up.

Kev's suggestion was much better and more effective. You have a grasp on their bicep and manoeuvre the arm down. Place your head next to it, using that as a wedge. To get their arm under their back, either raise up a leg to make some space underneath them and feed their sleeve to your other hand, or you can be more cunning.

If you raise your leg up, the person on the bottom is likely to try and hook it with their hand. As soon as they do that, sit back down, trapping their arm in the process. You can now shove your head against it, then proceed to bring it under their back.

That wasn't something I was going to be able to easily practice in nogi, due to the lack of sleeves. Indeed, I wasn't going to be able to practice most of the techniques I'm interested in due to that lack of grips, not to mention I was a little wary of the almost complete lack of other blue belts. So, I decided against the hour of nogi sparring tonight (such shameless wimping out would no doubt be frowned upon at Carlson's ;p), as I already had lots to think about after Kev's excellent advice.


  1. What's your favorite way to try and pass guard from starting out (assuming that you're starting from the ground and not doing take-downs)?

  2. My favourite way? I clam up in guard, elbows to my knees, staying low, then defend chokes and submissions until either they get bored, tired or leave me enough to space through a triangle/armbar etc attempt.

    Like I said, my guard passing is terrible: I'm definitely not the person to give advice on that. ;p

  3. haha, that's ok. I'm horrible at it too. The higher belts smile a lot while I'm trying to figure out how to pass their guard. ;)