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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

02 March 2010

02/03/2010 - BJJ (Beginner)

Class #291
RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK - 02/03/2010

Pedro Sauer was recently promoted to 8th Degree by Relson Gracie, a considerable achievement. On the other hand, do the degrees/stripes beyond black belt really have any meaning, given the wild disparity in standards between the IBJJF, Gracie Academy and elsewhere? J-Sho makes some interesting points over on NHBGear, here.

Fundamentals started with how to pull guard, though Kev emphasised that it is becoming frowned upon (Rener and Ryron nevertheless include a variation on Gracie Combatives, as per the pic). However, he also mentioned that if you're up against a seasoned judoka, pulling guard probably isn't a bad idea, which is sensible advice. You start with a collar and sleeve grip. Pull on the sleeve to make them step, then put your same side foot on that hip. Swing around to the other side and drop. If they don't try to posture up, go for the armbar. If they do, lock in closed guard.

Next was escaping scarf hold, when they have their arm under your head rather than your far armpit. First, force your trapped elbow to the floor. Bring your other arm over their head, pressing into their neck. Support that hand with your other arm, to create a strong frame. Move your feet towards their head, until you can get a leg on their head. Lock it under your other leg.

Normally at this point, I would expect to roll up into a sort of technical mount, push on their neck to release my head, then go for a submission or just solidify the position. However, Kev had a different option. Keep your grip on their elbow, cupping it with your opposite hand. Slide the same side hand underneath and through, so that you can then lock it under your armpit, keeping your same side arm on the outside. Lean back, creating pressure on their isolated elbow for the submission.

Moving on to the main class, Kev just showed one technique, an armbar from the guard. Again, this proceeded as normal, until the finish. Instead of raising your hips for the submission, you keep them tight, clamping one hand over the elbow, the other by their wrist. Raise your hips slightly, then push that wrist towards their knee for the tap (making sure the elbow is correctly aligned for hyperextension, which you can check by looking where their thumb is pointing).

Sparring was from guard. I was looking for a high guard again, but Howard has a habit of getting his knee up when I try that, making things difficult. That meant I ended up playing with butterfly guard a fair bit, once again keeping jnp's 'ball' technique in mind, with my knees close to my chest.

I also took the opportunity to practice the Shawn Williams Guard, only to be almost immediately passed. I think I need to be tighter with my free foot, pressing against the hip. Moving into an attack quicker would help too, rather than looking to control and get my bearings.

Interestingly there was a purple belt in class tonight, who I think was called Chris: that belt looked pretty tattered, so he's clearly been doing this a good while. He did mention he had just had a year out due to a broken wrist, but was still far too experienced for me to accomplish anything much. He used the elbow dig pass on me: I didn't react in time to jump into a triangle, which is what I normally aim to do in response.

Passing Howard, I tried the twisting guard break repeatedly, but I'm still missing some key elements. Controlling the hips is a problem, so I need to review my notes, and hopefully get a chance to go over it again with Kev. Ideally I'd do a private lesson on guard passing, as it remains my weakest area by a huge margin.

Then again, I'm feeling much happier once I can make to top half guard. That generally only happens if they open their guard to attack, and I can slip my knee through. As long as I can get an underhook and flatten them out, I've been having relative success using shoulder pressure to pin their torso to the mat, then gradually free my knee and slide into mount. The tough part is getting them flat, and pummelling to make sure I maintain the underhook.

I also tried the twisting guard break on Chris: his response was to try and hook under my leg. That provides a chance to pull their arm under their back, but I couldn't manage to get hold of it before he realised and yanked it out of danger. Might need to raise them up more or something.

He eventually went for a triangle, and I thought I'd got free. However, he was able to suck my other arm in as I tried to initiate a pass. I tried to step over his head to release the pressure and move to side control, but he knocked me off balance, meaning I had no posture and was therefore completely exposed to the triangle.


  1. I think the only reason 'pulling guard' is frowned upon in sporting terms is because maybe it is a bit unadventurous and if it is in our interest to develop as jitsukas - then building the standup skills I guess have to be a part of that. In my view, that's fine for the dojo, but in competition, pulling guard is as valid as any other technique. No technique is superior to the other, only the one that works for you is the best.

    And unless you know your opponent beforehand, how do you know if the person you face on the tournament mat for the first time is a judoka? you expect me to try out my seionage that I have drilled maybe only a dozen times when the person in front of me might be a hardcore judo black belt? No way, I pull guard every time.

    For self defence however, of course pulling guard from standing is tactical silliness.

  2. I entirely agree: if and when I enter another competition, I will without any doubt pull guard. That's where I feel most comfortable, so I'd want to get there as swiftly as possible.

  3. Hey, thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. "He... was still far too experienced for me to accomplish anything much." I really felt that way when grappling a brown belt today. Is getting an underhook easy when in half mount?? I'm trying to imagine what it would look like to get into mount. Degrees in black belts just matters in organizations. I know a 6th dan who is a way better karateka in Goju-Ryu than a 8th dan in a different organization.

  4. I would say establishing that underhook when trying to pass the half guard is probably the most difficult part.

    It often involves a lot of pummeling: you'll get the underhook and try to get them flat, they'll slip out and under your arm, so that now they have the underhook, which forces you to raise up and slip back under their arm before they can start a sweep, etc.

    Once you have that underhook and have locked their back flat on the mat, things get easier.

    If a picture would help, it looks like this (from my Saulo DVD review).

  5. Thanks for the picture. What belt are you?

  6. Blue since Feb 2008, so still relatively new.