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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

16 February 2010

16/02/10 - BJJ (Beginner)

Class #286
RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK - 16/02/2010

I'm thrilled to see that one of my favourite TV series in recent years, Last Man Standing, now has a female counterpart, Last Woman Standing. It's on iPlayer here, and showing on BBC 3 Tuesdays at 21:00, repeated on Sundays at 20:00. I'd never thought it would happen, as I'd assumed tribal culture was too patriarchal, so this was a pleasant surprise. The first one should appeal to BJJers, as it's wrestling in a Brazilian tribe. Awesome!

I also read a thought-provoking thread on The Underground recently, about Women's Self Defence. Several people who have taught women self defence classes relate their experiences, and what they think is the proper way to go about doing it. Just throwing out a subset of BJJ is frowned upon. So, I'd be interested to hear what people think, if they haven't seen that before.

Finally, worth mentioning that RGA Buckinghamshire is expanding. I train at the High Wycombe location, but there is also one in Aylesbury, and now a third in Bletchley. This will be running at the Total Dojo, The Concourse, Brunel Centre, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK2 2ES. Looking at the map, it isn't far from Bletchley Rail Station. BJJ sessions are on Wednesdays, from 20:15-21:45.

Fundamentals this week was based around standing guillotines. Start by wrapping up their neck if they leave it exposed when shooting in. With the forearm pressing into their throat, form a fist with that hand, then cup it with the other. Squeeze and lean back for the submission, dropping into guard if you need extra leverage.

I hadn't realised that it is illegal in competition (though Kev mentioned he was going to double check) if you apply that choke without feeding your 'cupping' arm through their same side armpit. Apparently, it is otherwise too much strain on the neck and spine. Howard and I were just applying guillotines as normal until Kev pointed out the rules issues, and I did indeed find at one point there was a fair bit of strain on the top of my spine.

The defence is to grab their choking arm with four fingers for breathing room, while your other arm reaches over their shoulder. Walk round, drop them to the floor, and land in side control. As they'll probably still have hold of your head, crush your shoulder into their face until they release the grip (you shouldn't be in danger of getting choked anymore, as the leverage isn't there).

Main techniques tonight were centred around the back mount. First of all, you have to get there, so Kev demonstrated taking the back when they're turtled up. You start behind them and slightly to the side, your hips low to stop them rolling out. Threaten their neck, with the aim of making them move their arms to defend. As soon as they do, slip your hands underneath and grab their gi lapels (though not too deep, as you can potentially get rolled).

You now move up higher on their body, bringing one knee next to theirs. Roll them over that knee, so they are facing the ceiling. If you haven't been able to immediately insert hooks, clamp your knees together, to stop them immediately spinning to your guard. Threaten their neck again, then insert your hooks as they move their arms to defend.

From here, you can execute a basic choke. You'll have one arm through their armpit, the other coming over their shoulder. Reaching to their nearest collar with your armpit hand, open up their gi, then feed the material to your shoulder hand, getting a deep grip. Your armpit hand now goes to their other collar and holds it. To finish the choke, pull slightly across with your shoulder hand and straight down with your armpit hand, also leaning back and pressing forward with your hips.

You can also roll to the side of your choking arm, as that will give you much more space to lean back, because you are no longer stopped by the floor. Make sure that you bring your shoulder arm elbow slightly back, as if you roll on top of it, you'll lock it in place and find it tough to get the leverage for the choke.

Specific sparring from turtle, I went to my usual 'safety position', with my elbows tucked up past my knees, hands by my neck. While that prevented chokes, it didn't stop Howard from slipping his hands in to grip my gi lapels. My main aim was to wait for an opportunity to move towards his legs and roll into guard. Sometimes that worked, securing half guard first, but sometimes I merely ended up under mount or side control.

I asked Kev about the ideal defensive position. He suggested that, from a sitting position, put your elbows on your hips, hands together, forming a triangle. Fold your torso over the top, resulting in a secure barrier against grips and hooks. However, it isn't a very active option, so better to be looking for the legs and a chance to spin to guard.

On top, I tend to struggle against the turtle. I went very slow, looking for an opening, but Howard wasn't leaving any space. So instead, I remained low on the hips to stop him rolling, then attempted to pull out his gi lapel. If I couldn't get my hand to grab the gi, I'd make it come to me. I'm not sure that was actually a good tactic, but it seemed to work, as eventually I had enough leverage to roll Howard and insert one hook. I ended up forcing my other foot into place, but it was rather sloppy. The round finished as I was working to secure a choke, though Howard wasn't far off from escaping my hooks.


  1. Great detail, but then again I've come to expect that from you :)

    About the turtle defence. The way I understand it, you initially held your hands by your face (palm to cheek/jaw).

    Try this: cross your wrists and keep the back of your hands close to your cheecks/jaw, using your palms to deflect hands approaching your lapels. This works when defending chokes from the back too.

    I think Saulo (in JJ Uni) takes it a step further by chosing a side in the turtle and keeping that side glued to the mat. That way, you only need to defend lapel attacks from one side. Defo worth playing around with.

    Let me know what you think.

  2. Yeah: the clamping my hands to my jaw/neck thing is something Aisling Daly showed me a couple of years ago in Belfast (perhaps you know her? Like you, she's an SBG purple belt).

    I hadn't thought of crossing them over, so that sounds like an interesting variation. Will definitely give it a go.