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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

19 January 2010

19/01/2010 - BJJ (Beginner)

Class #277

RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK - 19/01/2010

Seymour over at wrote a great piece on BJJ blogging. If for some unfathomable reason he isn't already in your RSS reader, check it out here. This was originally intended for a magazine, but that is currently on hold: hopefully it will resurface at some point, as I'd love to see more articles like this.

I also wanted to mention a new blog by an old training partner of mine, Ben. Check it out here: he trains over at the RGA affiliate in Farringdon, but used to train with me at RGA HQ. He's also the guy at least partially responsible for getting me to RGA in the first place, thanks to his encouragement on Bullshido.

There was a minor revelation tonight, which makes for an interesting reflection on the current state of jiu jitsu. I had thought that the thirty minutes extra in the beginner class was for working takedowns. However, this has now changed. Instead, each beginner class is now to begin with work on the Gracie Barra fundamentals (so I'm guessing like the DVD), which means some 'self defence' stuff. Apparently, this is being brought in across Gracie Barra (its been at other GB schools for a long time, but I guess not all of them). I sometimes forget that the Roger Gracie Academy network is technically part of that family: after all, Roger always competes for GB.

I'm not a fan of training 'self defence', as that tends to mean repetitive, compliant drills largely divorced from reality: this is exactly the kind of thing a focus on 'aliveness' is supposed to prevent. However, like Kev said, there are occasionally useful aspects, like working on hip mobility and the like. The drill today was to push your partner on the floor, who will then do a technical stand-up. Their free foot is used to press against the front leg (if the other person has a foot forward), with your arm raised as normal to block strikes. That was followed by stepping in to get a clinch, then a basic hip throw.

Getting back to the ground, this week Kev is sticking with the guard. He began with what is probably the most basic submission available from the guard, a cross choke. However, while its basic, that doesn't mean it is easy to get: everyone is expecting it, and lots of people don't apply properly anyway, including me.

I find that even in drilling, I struggle to turn my hands inwards properly, normally only managing a slight turn. That could be because I gripping too deep, I'm not using my legs enough to pull them in, or something else. Kev suggested that I concentrate on bringing my thumbs together, and watching Kev, I should also be bringing my hands down slightly as I secure the submission. This kind of thing is exactly why I'll always try to attend fundamentals/basics/beginners classes, no matter what belt I reach.

After that, Kev moved on to two techniques which are also quite familiar, but I hardly ever try in sparring these days. It used to be that the scissor sweep was a go-to move for me, but I've fallen out of the habit. Having secured a grip on their same side sleeve and collar, Kev demonstrated it from when they put one leg up in preparation to pass, whereupon you shrimp and drop your now raised leg across their stomach. Press in with your shin and hook round their side with your instep.

Your other leg drops to their same side leg, which should still be kneeling on the floor. You want to chop this leg, but it is important you don't go too low: otherwise, they can just step over that leg and pass. So, you want to be chopping slightly above the floor, possibly even hooking behind their leg.

To finish the sweep, you want to lift them forward and up onto your raised knee, which will disrupt their base. You can now simultaneously chop at their leg and move across with your hook, 'scissoring' your legs, then roll through into mount.

If they don't step up with a leg, Kev showed how you could instead go for the closely related push sweep. Shrimp out to make space to get that shin into their stomach, setting up the technique as before. However, instead of chopping out their leg, you're going to put your same side foot on the inside of their same side knee. Push that out and back, breaking their base, then roll them with your other leg into mount.

Kev also had a point to make about your knee position. If you have your knee lower, underneath their arm, that gives you great leverage for the sweep. On the downside, it also means your partner could potentially bring their weight down on your legs, then initiate a pass.

The alternative is to put your knee high, towards their chest or even shoulder. This isn't such good leverage, but it is a lot more secure. As Kev put it, if you're going to be in that position for a while, this is safer, because your partner will find it tougher to get their weight in place to crush your legs to the mat.

With sparring, usual story on top. I think I'm focusing a bit too much on keeping their torso down, which means that I'll end up standing with crappy posture, which is all too easy to break. I'm also relying far too much on my arms. Instead of grabbing and shoving with a weak part of my body, I should be driving with my hips, using my legs, and trying to put them under pressure with my weight. Easier said than done, of course, but something I want to keep in mind for next time.

I had a play with wrapping the gi around a white belt's arms, though I'm not sure there is any point to doing so on top. I was thinking I could perhaps isolate an arm, making it easier to pass on the that side, but didn't help me much. Still, fun to occasionally try something random.

I also wasn't really going anywhere from the bottom, though I did make a concerted effort to open up and try to attack. That generally just meant I got passed repeatedly, but its the only way to practice offence. I'd like to go for the arm more, especially as almost everyone staggers the arms, so it makes sense to work out how to attack it, and/or break the grip.

My legs come into it much more on the bottom, especially as I've been using them to knock people off-balance as they attempt to stand. That works, but it also uses lots of energy, so it would be better if I could shift into some kind of attack rather than just returning them to where they were before.

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