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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

18 March 2010

18/03/10 - BJJ (Beginner)

Class #296
RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK - 18/03/2010

I've already mentioned this at length on my Facebook, but for those of you not on there yet, I recommend you check out Georgette's thought-provoking post on the reasons why people blog, here. It has resulted in an intriguing discussion, also taking in the reasons why people compete.

To babble a bit about non-BJJ topics (if you don't care, skip straight to the training), I also wanted to mention three BBC series I've really enjoyed recently. First is Last Woman Standing, the third in the series (the first two, which I talked about early last year and back in 2007, featured all-male casts). Not as much wrestling as before, unfortunately, but still great stuff, augmented by the fact it was women, so less stupid machismo.

Second, BBC4 has been discussing the history of feminism in a program simply called Women. The first one was about the second wave, which inspired me to bolster my rather limited feminist library. While I've always referred to myself as a feminist, it's based on conviction rather than a grounding in the critical theory.

I've been meaning to delve into the main texts of feminism for a long time, as previously I'd only read The Female Eunuch (though I guess I've studied a bunch of relevant novels during my English BA, by authors like Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson and Virginia Woolf. Possibly could put Marion Zimmer Bradley in there too, as we did The Mists of Avalon for my favourite undergrad module, 'Arthurian Literature and its Legacy').

So, I've started reading The Second Sex, and also picked up some books by two of the people featured in the first program, Susan Brownmiller and Kate Millett. If anyone has further recommendations (e.g., Ann Oakley looked interesting, but I wasn't sure which of her books to get, and I liked the sound of Judith Butler from a seminar I attended a few years back, as it sounded like she had some stimulating ideas on gender identity), let me know.

Finally, I love music documentaries (and comparing musical taste: as ever, mine is fully laid out over at, and BBC4 has been showcasing some brilliant examples of the genre. First was Heavy Metal Britannia, which gave me some insight into a genre I've never been able to engage with, despite numerous efforts. I'm looking forward to the second, Prog Rock Britania, and especially the third, Synth Britannia (as that covers my favourites period of music, from the mid-70s through to the mid-80s).

Tonight's class started off with the companion technique to Tuesday, a pendulum sweep. This is much simpler than the flower sweep, because your opponent has already done much of the work for you by stepping up their knee. Secure their opposite arm, then hook your same side hand underneath their raised knee.

Kick your leg on that side right up into their armpit, driving through, so that they get knocked off balance. Continue the motion by lifting up behind their knee with your underhook, then finally use your other leg to chop low (as you don't want them to land on it). This should result in you ending up on top in mount, still with a hold of that leg.

You can also do this off the armbar, as Roy Dean demonstrates on Blue Belt Requirements. If they tuck their head, that's when you go for the sweep. Alternatively, you can still land that armbar, by not completing the sweep. Instead, you knock them off balance as before, but this time, sit up and get them into position for an armbar from the mount. It should be easier to finish from here than the guard, because they can't stack you (though make sure you stay tight, or they might be able to escape).

Last technique was a cross-guard sweep Kev first showed us back in January. I didn't say much about the follow-up guard pass in my previous post, so I'll do that now. Once you've knocked them down, you need to use the momentum to come up and move forward, still pulling on their sleeve. You also want to slide your inside knee over their leg, leaning your body towards them.

Having reached that position, switch their sleeve to your other hand, still pulling up. That leaves your first arm free to underhook their far armpit, further dropping your bodyweight on top of them, as well as immobilising their torso. From here, you can slide through into modified scarf hold (i.e., under the armpit rather than the head), and/or into side control.

One random thing to be aware of is that I kept getting my knee entangled inside Callum's gi when I did this, which made it difficult to pull up on his arm properly. If that happens, switch to grabbing their elbow, drop your bodyweight down, then move into side control. Shouldn't cause too many problems, but it caused me a bit of confusion during drilling.

Sparring was interesting, as it wasn't just guard passage, but guard passage without submissions. That meant I could concentrate fully on passing guard without having to worry about triangles, armbars and chokes, and then underneath just think about sweeps. On top, I jumped right to my feet the first few times, to have a play around, but that generally just resulted in getting swept quicker. Callum and I had a few scrambles, where I was trying to drive my hips forward and stack him (at one point, I ended up spinning him right round, but because he kept his knees in, it didn't help me pass).

I was still looking to pull their arm under their back, and still failing to secure a grip. I couldn't isolate the sleeve for a cross-grip either: perhaps I need to be more forceful with that, or put my hips into it? A couple of times I had the sleeve and started to stand, but Callum easily freed his arm.

Generally, I'm still being too reactive when trying to pass guard, especially on top. That means I'm chasing after them, rather than imposing some kind of strategy they have to defend. My only successful passing tactic remains forcing half guard, locking in a gable grip, then using shoulder pressure to pass. Unfortunately, that doesn't often work against the blues, as unlike white belts, they aren't going to let me slide my knee through that easily.

Underneath, I wanted to go to butterfly and try to sweep, as I'd been watching a video which emphasised pressing into their chest with your forehead, something I don't tend to do enough. However, my attempt to switch to butterfly from closed was rather sloppy, so Callum took advantage and passed. I did find myself with a belt grip over his back, but wasn't sure what to do with it. I thought I'd seen a choke after you grab their belt before, but checking back through my notes, I can only see a half guard sweep and a stack pass defence, so maybe not.

I also messed up a basic principle, which is pushing their head on the side they want to pass. Instead, I was shoving Callum's head on the other side, which simply helped him to pass. I need to remember that wherever their legs are going, that's the side of the head my hands need to be.

The other thing I kept trying was the flower sweep, as I had Callum in tight a few times (like on Tuesday). However, while I could grab the trouser leg, that was about as far as I got. I couldn't isolate his arm, or get in place to kick up into the armpit properly. Still, it is good to at least get into the habit of threatening something, rather than just lying there wondering what to do.

That's me done for this week, and I'll also miss all of next week, yet again due to a girlfriend visit. There are things more important to me than BJJ, despite what the sheer nerdy obsession of this blog might lead you to believe. ;p

As usual when I know I won't be training, I plan to put up a review/article or two in the meantime.


  1. Slidey,

    One point about a comment you made:

    "I also messed up a basic principle, which is pushing their head on the side they want to pass. Instead, I was shoving Callum's head on the other side, which simply helped him to pass. I need to remember that wherever their legs are going, that's the side of the head my hands need to be. "

    Check out Demian Maia's video's particularly his first series, first disk. He talks about "parallel line theory," and his point is that (presuming you're on the bottom) you want to keep yourself in line with your opponent - anytime he's perpendicular to you, it's generally bad (cross side, etc). So if he's passing to your right, you can put pressure on his head (on HIS right side of his head), keeping him away from your body, which then creates space, which then allows you to keep your legs in between the two of you. Just my thought. I think you've actually got it correct, there's just a piece missing. My 2 pence.

  2. Heh - well, he passed quite easily, so I'm thinking there was a rather large piece missing. ;)

    I'm relatively certain what Kev said is the same as Maia's 'head control theory' in Science of Jiu Jitsu, so perhaps my description was confusing (or just plain wrong).

    I probably explained it better in that Maia review I just linked:

    "In order to pass, Maia states they need to get their head across your body. Therefore you should aim to make sure their head remains on the same side they are trying to pass, pushing it with your hands. As long as you keep their head on that side, they'll never be able to complete the pass."