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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

27 October 2009

27/10/2009 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #255

RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK - 27/10/2009

Yesterday marked three years since I first walked into a BJJ school for my introductory class. I've tried to avoid modifying that post since (in case people hadn't noticed, I'm constantly reworking my posts, especially reviews), though I couldn't resist adding a video and a picture some time during 2008. I have just stuck in a bunch of links, but other than that, I'll be restraining myself.

Anyway, three years ago, I was still actively involved in my previous martial art, Zhuan Shu Kuan. I'd barely done any grappling (but still tried to heel hook somebody in June 2006, apparently: totally don't remember that, so was very surprised to come across that post while reading through some old notes. I guess we were all idiot noobs at some point!) and had taken a long time to get interested in groundwork.

I was finally convinced after doing lots of reading at Bullshido, in particular the king of all internet threads and Ben, a guy who still posts there as Asriel (he trains at that Farringdon location I mentioned in the old post). Reading through some old PMs, I'd forgotten how he'd been an important factor in my decision to start at RGA, so I owe him some retrospective thanks. ;)

Since then, I've managed to keep training on a relatively consistent basis, though never especially frequent: at most, its four classes a week, normally more like two. More to my surprise, I've been steadily blogging every lesson ever since: I never expected writing a blog to be so enjoyable. Its brought many advantages since I began doing it seriously in September 2005, and has hugely enhanced my training experience.

If you haven't yet seen Leslie's new article up on BJJ Grrl, go check it out now. Aside from the great writing and advice, I enjoyed seeing the massive number of comments. One of the major advantages of blogging, which sites like BJJ Grrl exemplify, is the sense of community sharing your experiences can foster. BJJ is already known for the manner in which it builds close ties quickly, due to training, sweating and learning together over weeks, months and years. That same sensation extends to the online world: BJJ really brings people together. So, if you're reading this and haven't yet started your own blog, I hope BJJ Grrl inspires you to start!

Speaking of inspiration, I've been thinking about trying something new on this blog for a while now, and those musing articles by BJJ Grrl have motivated me to give it a go. Most of my posts are "we did this, then we did this, I did this in sparring, should have done this." That's really useful for me, but I doubt its especially exciting to read. I don't intend to ever stop doing that (because it definitely helps me focus my training), but I want to try writing something a little more thoughtful on BJJ in general. I'll put up the first of those later this week, and see how the experiment goes.

Getting back to the advanced class, Kev continued with working off (and against) the lockdown. He began by demonstrating a kimura from half guard, off the same passing sequence he'd shown in the beginners class. This time, once you've got the stage where you're grabbing their knee, they attempt to remove your grasp by gripping that same hand.

This is a mistake on their part, but first you need to secure good base. Switch your shin off their leg, instead putting the knee to their side and spreading your legs for balance. Next, remove the arm you were using to cross-face them for the shoulder pressure, instead bringing it under their arm. You can now release your grip on the knee and switch to securing a figure four hold on their arm.

Bring that arm to the ground, then base off your head. This will enable your to raise your hips and straighten your legs, so that you can walk your outside leg over their head, then use that leg to hook their neck. Finally, roll over your other shoulder, taking your partner with you (with that leg in place, you can add further leverage by pressing on their neck as you roll).

This puts you in a great position to finish the kimura. Even if they've grabbed their belt or gi, that hold you have with your leg combined with the figure four grip is really strong. You should be able to break their grip and apply the submission without too much trouble.

For the person on the bottom, Kev ran through a triangle from half guard, which reminded me a little of the techniques from Demian Maia's triangle DVD on Science of Jiu Jitsu. Start by stepping a leg out so you can shrimp to create some space. Get your outside knee into their chest, then lean your torso back, so you're more linear.

You also need to make sure they don't cross-face you, or this technique won't function too well. Use your near arm to 'paw' their bicep, preventing them bringing it to your head. When you've made space, you can shift your grip to their wrist, like Maia does in the picture on the right. You should now have enough space to bring your previously trapped leg through, bringing it all the way out and past their arm.

Immediately lock your ankles around them, after which you can proceed to get the triangle (usual steps of securing head control, clearing their arm, locking your legs in position then adjusting your angle). Don't get greedy and try to jump straight into a triangle as soon as your leg is clear: they're likely to posture up, meaning your legs will never get in place. Its better to lock your ankles first, so you have a strong controlling position, then finish the triangle.

This time my partner for specific sparring was Kev himself: one of the nice things about the advanced class, at least today, is that it was quite small, so I was able to ask Kev loads of questions (I always try to do that anyway, following my own advice on asking questions, but its obviously easier when there aren't many other people there).

I was unsurprisingly unable to pass his half guard, mainly because I couldn't find a way to flatten him out. He immediately got up on his side and secured an underhook, so while I could get a whizzer for some control, I struggled to swim my arm under for my own underhook. Again, this emphasises the massive importance of shoulder pressure: the one time I did manage to get my shoulder vaguely in place, I was far closer to passing than before (naturally still got swept, but it was less immediate).

Later, he had me in a kimura. I was able to manoeuvre myself into a position where I could resist, but it felt like I was mainly just bracing myself against the submission instead of using good technique. This is something I've been pondering recently, as it seems like I might be more productive simply tapping and restarting in those situations.

Kev's advice when I asked him if I should continue to strain or just restart was, firstly, that it depends on if you're safe from injury. If they aren't in the process of dislocating your shoulder, and you're with a controlled senior belt rather than a big, powerful beginner, you will have enough time to tap if you're definitely caught.

Secondly, Kev said that one of the marks of a senior belt is that when they get a good position – such as the kimura he had on me – they don't give it up, trying hard to finish. Similarly, a mark of a senior belt is that they're harder to submit. So, if you can get into a defensive posture that gives you some breathing room, that's good. You now have time to think, what do I need to do to escape from here?

Next time you're in that same position, you'll be able to draw on your experience and react quicker. Even if you didn't get out the first time, the more you're in that position and the more you understand what's happening, the better your chances of escape will be.

Free sparring was with Callum, where I kept ending up under side control. I played around with using the reverse triangle position to help me escape, and also tried out escapes from north south. That didn't work out too good, as Callum spun to an armbar, but it did teach me something about the benefits of instinctive reactions. I like to be able to pause and think, but that time, I knew he was going for the armbar. I also knew there was an escape I could do from here. The problem was, I thought about it rather than just did it, so was tapping before I could even attempt to get free.

At other times, I was trying lots of triangles from the guard. People are slipping out of these too easily, so I'm definitely doing something wrong. I get head control, but they still seem to be able to get through some gap I'm leaving with my legs. It could be I need to be tighter, raise my hips more, get better control of the arm, or simply improve my grasp on their head.

However, I'm glad that I'm at least finding myself approaching triangles more often at the moment: finishing would be nice, but its more important to work out the kinks in my technique for getting there.


  1. Congrats on 3 years! And thanks for the blog! I enjoy reading it!

  2. Your move-by-move training log is your USP, no one really does it better and reading is like being in class...really. OK I speed read through some of the longer entries, but mostly I read them all through.
    Thoughtful philosophical notes would be a sweet addition. I especially like your non-pumped up approach to training, eg when you talk about not liking to hurt partners etc. This is a refreshing view and one I personally follow myself, maybe it is a smaller lightweight BJJer thing.
    Anyway, happy anniversary.

  3. Oo, go for it! I'd love to what topics you would address in more pages/articles. Besides, it was your own FAQ/history/techniques/etc pages that got me started on my own. Full circle. :P

  4. Congratulations on three years!

  5. Thanks guys!

    First article is ready, so I'll be putting that up on Friday (probably tinker with it some more before then). :)