BJJ School, (BJJ), Felipe Souza, Battersea, UK - 09/12/2009
When Felipe taught at RGA, I was vaguely aware that he did some charitable work with children, teaching them BJJ. I also remember a guy coming to RGA with a group of kids through that charity: it seemed a worthwhile cause, and a cool way to use BJJ to give back to the community. It is something Felipe's instructor, Leão Teixeira, has been running in Brazil with great success for many years now. Hopefully it's a concept that can spread not just here to the UK, but to the US and beyond as well.
A couple of months ago, Seymour from Meerkatsu reminded me that there was now a UK branch of Teixeira's charity, as Seymour had done an interview with Felipe. It's called Future Champions UK, and following Seymour's link, I realised that this was not only a cause I could get behind, but I've currently got lots of spare time I could use to help them.
After various emails and phone calls with the person responsible for the administrative side of things, Farah, she decided that it would be helpful if I came down to meet her and the other people involved with Future Champions. She was also keen that I took a look at the work they do. Unfortunately Farah has been feeling a bit ill recently, but Felipe was available for a meeting, along with the main guy involved in teaching the kids, Jamie (that same guy I had seen back at RGA a few years ago).
That also meant I got the chance to train in the Wednesday mixed class at Felipe's club, the simply named Brazilian Jiu Jitsu School. I've never trained there before, so that made for an interesting experience, as well as being a great way to meet up with an old BJJ friend (Felipe was my first BJJ instructor).
Felipe's judo background is very clear, as after a typical warm-up of running round the room and shrimping, everybody did a hundred throws. I'm more used to doing about ten or twenty at most, so this was a heftier workout than normal.
In terms of technique, Felipe was brief and to the point. He began with a simple guard break, similar to the cross-grip and stand method, but with the same side arm. Secure a grip on both collars as usual, then grab their same side sleeve and pull that arm across.
Step your foot to the hip on that side, maintaining good upright posture, then stand. Let go of the collar grip as you do so, instead pulling up on the arm. Push their other leg off your hip with your other hand, ready to pass.
The next drilling section set the tone for the class. Felipe said that once you've opened the guard, you can use whatever passing method you want to move through into side control. Essentially, it was an opportunity to practice what you already know, refining technique rather than being taught something specific to practice.
A similar pattern followed when Felipe drilled spider guard. If you are the person on the bottom for the previous technique, you could grab their sleeve as they grab yours, then sit up to grab the other. Felipe then showed how from there you can adjust into spider guard, swimming your feet around to press on their bicep. You can also shift one or both feet to their hips, as well as hooking inside their leg (this is especially useful if they try to move to the side, as you're then attached to them and will automatically swivel to face them.
We practiced that for a while with our partner offering resistance (Felipe stated it should be around fifty percent), without actually completing a pass. The idea was to let the person on the bottom work. This became more complex when Felipe said you could add in sweeps and submissions (but still no passes). It also reminded me how pretty much the only thing I know from spider guard is to hip up into a triangle, so that's what I did. When it came to my training partner's turn, he soon showed just how many things I could be trying, and should (at least one basic sweep, if nothing else).
My specific sparring from guard with training partner Antony didn't get very far. I was looking for the twisting guard break again, and this time didn't make the mistake of just shoving my arm out there for the double collar grip. Instead, I made certain to pin the hip first with my same side hand, pressing into the belt.
However, I wasn't able to get the stand and twist too well, partially because I think I need to review the technique. I tried both hips, but wasn't get the motion properly, and I also think my posture could be much better. I had more luck than normal with Kev's suggested follow up, which involves sitting on their arm as they try to hook your leg. While I almost managed to reach under their back a couple of times to grab that sleeve, I wasn't quite quick enough.
I also had a brief attempt at Roy Dean's guard break, where you press into their biceps, head into their stomach, then pop up, doing a second jump to get your knee into their tailbone. As ever, I struggle to make enough distance, because I'm already too far forward with my arms to get my knee in place. Again, posture issues, as well as where to grip.
Free sparring was with Eamonn, one of several brown belts present (there was also another black belt and a few purples). In keeping with most senior belts, he took on a coaching role for the spar, rather than just the opportunity to smash me. He had lots of handy tips both during and after the roll, three of which especially stuck in my head.
First, when they're trying to pass from half guard, you want to block their upper body somehow. I've been tending to put my arm over their head in an effort to keep them tight, but that merely leaves me wide open for shoulder pressure. Eamonn advised instead to get an arm into the throat, preventing them crushing down with their shoulder. Alternatively, an underhook on the side opposite the shoulder they want to drive through.
Second, I was getting my butterfly hook in on the leg in butterfly guard, but not doing anything with it. Eamonn talked me through a sweep, telling me to secure the other arm and then go for the technique. I'm tending to just sit there rather than do anything with the position, a part of my long-standing problem with being too passive overall.
Third, again a very old problem, is the way I tend to just flop under side control, mount, knee-on-belly etc, rather than being proactive in escaping as soon as there is space. I'm too comfortable with lying there and waiting, which isn't a good habit. Partially it is also my worry over expending energy, which is something I need to come to terms with: jiu jitsu unfortunately isn't magic, so it does require a bit of effort as well as leverage and technique.
Only downside was that I aggravated the slight leg injury I picked up yesterday, so probably won't make it to training at RGA High Wycombe tomorrow. Still, I may have missed that anyway, as my girlfriend is coming up for a visit.
After the session, I headed down with Jamie and Antony to the kids class they teach as part of Future Champions. Jamie is an inspiring teacher: from chatting to him, I could see how much he loved his work, and the enthusiasm was infectious. The results have also been impressive. Kids with behavioural problems were apparently present, but I can't say that was reflected in the disciplined set of children I watched train a couple of hours ago. They responded quickly to instruction, and I was especially surprised at the control and care evident in their sparring: I can think of many adult white belts who are nowhere near as considerate to their training partners. It is amazing what participating in a disciplined, physical activity like BJJ can accomplish.
The training went beyond the physical, as there were question and answer sessions at several points in the class. As there had recently been a grading, much of this was related to the purpose of the belt system. As adults, it is all too easy to forget that they can be much more than a mere piece of cloth. At Future Champions, the belt represents success at school, good behaviour both on and off the mats, respect for your parents, teachers and fellow pupils, along with a symbol of just how hard you've trained. It was great to see the children come up with these answers unprompted, exemplifying the Respect, Discipline and Responsibility ethos of Future Champions.
I'm very much looking forward to getting more involved with Future Champions, and I hope that some of the people reading this are interested in helping too. At the moment, a temporary Future Champions UK site can be found here, but there will shortly be a revamped version hitting the internet. Still, you should be able to get a good idea of what the charity does from the current version, and there is also a contact page (which is how I initially got in touch with Farah).
So, if you think you could lend a hand, please drop them a line! :D