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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

20 December 2009

20/12/2009 - End of Year Open Mat

Class #273

RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, UK - 20/12/2009

Great news for women BJJers in the UK (or indeed any women who make it over here): there is a female-specific BJJ training camp in the works. See here for further details, and join the Facebook group.

The snow has been heavy around here, at least by English standards, so I couldn't make it to training on Thursday, which was RGA Wycombe's last session. However, I knew there was an end of year open mat over at the Aylesbury location, so decided it was worth the cost of hopping on the train to make it. With my usual complete lack of a sense of direction, I ended up having to call Kev to find out where the hell it was: once you get to the Stocklake road, look for the brown sign pointing to indoor karting. The McLeod Academy is down that road.

In many ways it felt like a throwdown, with the same relaxed atmosphere. That is probably my favourite way to train, especially with the instructor present. I can chat about BJJ, get some pointers on techniques, and spar as much or as little as I want.

I began by rolling with Kev, which as usual was very defensive. I was trying to make sure I put my legs and knees in the way as much as possible, and also attempting to spin. After eventually tapping me with an armbar, I had a chat with Kev about the many, many holes in my game.

He suggested I should look into Robson Moura, as Kev feels Moura has an ideal game for small people like us. I have seen bits of that DVD (which I'll review at some point in the future), but came away feeling it was a little advanced for me. I still have enough trouble landing a basic armbar, let alone the complex gi-wraps Robson likes to use.

Nevertheless, as Kev said, that kind of thing can help your basics, presenting a different perspective to setting up the typical armbar. Kev also said that overhooks would be a good idea for me, which builds on the overhook grip I've been trying to use from guard. Kev noted that from that position, you need to shrimp out slightly to your side: I've been staying too flat after securing an overhook. I also need to make sure I pinch the elbow of my overhooking arm tight to my side.

Kev also suggested that I try the Shawn Williams guard, where you grab your leg. Unlike the 10th Planet JJ stuff, it has the major advantage of not being dependent on flexibility. I hadn't considered it before, so may have a look into this in order to play around with it. I'm hoping to go train at Hollywood BJJ if I ever make it out to the US for a training trip, so would be cool to have some questions for the man himself when I get there. ;)

My main goal for the open mat was to get in loads of drilling on the twisting guard break. This is something I've been working for a couple of months since Kev demonstrated it in class, so I was keen to take the opportunity to iron out some kinks. Kev directed me to a white belt who also wanted to work his guard passing, so after showing him the pass, we drilled it a bunch of times each, adding in some resistance later.

After a bit more drilling with a blue belt, I had a chance to work the break with Kev. This was immensely useful, as he pointed out some details I'd been missing. Before, I had thought it was really important to get a hand to their hip and stiff-arm all your weight on top of it. However, Kev said that you can start to slide that back as you stand up, putting the hand on their knee to push as you twist.

If you focus too much on pressing down on the hip, it can make for awkward posture, making it easier for them to pull you down. This also connects to the second point, which is the double-collar grip. Previously, I had been gripping as normal a bit below the chest, establishing that grip first. Due to the fact I kept either getting knocked forward or had my arm attacked, I thought perhaps I needed to get the hip locked down first.

However, Kev said that you do indeed establish that double collar grip first, you just hold lower down. Your elbow should be back, meaning that you aren't so at risk of getting your arm attacked, but you can still push your fist forward if they make a forceful effort to raise up their torso.

If they go for your arm as you're twisting and trying to break the guard, you may be able to go for what Kev called the Barbosa pass (it has loads of names: Wilson Reis pass, Sao Paulo pass, Roberto Tozi pass, ChimPass etc). This is especially true if they try to reach around your back. I'll have to look that pass over again: I was reminded of it recently because Jared Weiner demonstrates it on BJJ Spirits 6.

I finished off my training for 2009 with a white belt Kev said I should spar, as he was carrying a rib injury (I'm small and I like to think I'm also controlled, so always happy to spar with injured people, taking great care not to aggravate whatever they've hurt). He's still pretty new, which gave me a chance to play with armbars and triangles, but given the fact he only started recently and had that rib problem, submissions are pretty meaningless.

So, unless I can convince my girlfriend to do a bit more Gracie Combatives over the New Year (we'll be in Fishguard: on the very unlikely off-chance there are any BJJers around that part of Wales who fancy some training, feel free to drop me a line), that completes my time on the mat for this year. Roll on 2010, and merry xmas everyone: seeing as I won't be training, I should have an article or two up before the year ends.


  1. Mmm nice notes re small people jiu jitsu.
    I thought Fishguard was a joke of yours, but appears to be a real place. LOL!

  2. Heh - yep, really is a village in Wales. Still, not that strange a name, given that the UK boasts such places as Upper and Lower Slaughter in Gloucestershire, along with various towns that have an unfortunate double-meaning.

    Still, those aren't a patch on Wank in Germany, or Dildo in Canada. Must get their signs nicked by drunk Anglophone tourists all the time.

  3. Don't even get me started on funny/rude (to us) chinesey/japanesey names, but 'Kok' appears a lot in Hong Kong places, add you own amusing double entendre and you'll pretty much guarantee there's a real life version somewhere in Southern China/HK.
    Have a great Xmas and look forward to more excellent postings from you and all our brethren bloggers for 2010!!!!!

  4. Sounds like Kev is a great friend to have as a training partner! I love it when a more advanced partner takes time to critique my game. Good luck with your goals for 2010! Also, thanks for the link to the UK girls group!

  5. Yep - I feel very lucky to have an instructor like Kev, who is always willing to answer questions (and I ask a lot).

    That BJJ women's Facebook group has been growing rapidly, so hopefully there will be a bunch of events in the New Year. :D