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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

21 April 2010

21/04/2010 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #306
Gracie Barra Birmingham, (BJJ), Rob Stevens, Birmingham, UK - 21/04/2010

I should probably try and sync up my bus from campus better with the train to Acocks Green, as there are mainly two options from Leamington Train Station: either the 17:28 or the 17:58. I finish work at 16:30, but only managed to get to Leamington for 17:30. There must be an earlier bus than that, even given the rush hour. Still, early days, as I'm still working out the best route.

Once I got the train, it was relatively easy. Even though the 17:58 was slightly delayed, I still got to Solihull at 18:27, in time to catch the 18:30 on to Acocks Green. Of course, it is worth noting that any delays to the Leamington train should probably carry over to the connecting service at Solihull, because it is on the same line. At least that's what I'm hoping!

Either way, I got to Acocks Green at 18:39, where it was a less than five minute walk to Gracie Barra Birmingham (even though I initially went the wrong way: if you see a sign for 'The Avenue', turn around and go in the other direction. In other words, out the station and turn right). Keep going until you see Station Road (shouldn't take long), then walk down that until you see a gym peeping out from between two shops. You can see it directly on Google Maps street view, so shouldn't be any problems finding it.

Once I'd paid my £60 to the desk (though it is direct debit, you pay the first month in cash, but it doesn't have to be immediate), the lesson started in a similar way to Monday. Again, it was running round the room with variations (knees up, heel up, sprints, sideways etc), interspersed with press-ups and star jumps. That was followed by shrimping, and a few other exercises I haven't done much before, like shrimping forwards, or another one where you grab the bottom of your partner's trousers, they walk forward and stop, then you drag yourself along the floor to get level again.

However, it was mercifully shorter than Monday, and also finished with some stretching. Rob then got into the technique, starting with a single leg takedown. You feint to get them to rock back on their heel, then drop forwards onto your front knee (you're in a mirror stance to your opponent). Grab low on their leg, your head inside, shoulder on the outside, underneath their knee. Drive forward and put them on the mat.

There are clearly plenty of EFN users at GB Brum, as not only does instructor Rob post there, but I had one person ask me if I was slideyfoot, while another mentioned they posted as Tom H. Perhaps unsurprising, as it is a huge club, with an impressive number of higher belts rolling on the mat: I think there were about three brown belts tonight, which apparently isn't even that impressive by GB Brum standards. Christian was saying that some nights, there are considerably more, alongside a fair few black belts too.

The groundwork selection was right up my street, beginning with a mount escape. That went straight into deep half guard, which isn't something I've seen much before (I know Jeff Glover has a popular DVD series on the topic, but I'd generally viewed deep half guard as a bit too advanced for me up until now). I really liked Rob's clear, detailed style of instruction, going over the technique several times, emphasising major points and never rushing through his descriptions.

You are stuck under mount. If they aren't already leaning forward, bridge to make them base out forwards. Brace your forearm across their torso, so that your hand is holding their opposite hip. Your same side hand grabs their pant leg, or ankle if you can't reach it. Drop your same side leg to the floor, knee pointing towards that trouser you've grabbed. The other knee is up, pressing into their back.

Bump them forward with that knee, then immediately shove that trapped leg over the knee you have on the floor, snatching half guard and pinching your knees together. You don't want to stop there, as now you bring both hands to that hip you were holding. Push up and come underneath their leg, slipping slightly down it as well.

You want to end up in deep half guard. This means that your shoulder is underneath their leg, while your head is by their hip and belt, clamped to the leg. You have one arm wrapped under and over, holding by the knee, while the other hand stays in tight to your body, or you could possibly hide it under their leg. Either way, you want to make sure they can't attack it for an underhook, an americana or something like that.

From here, you can now go for a deep half guard sweep. Walk your feet towards them (so moving in the direction of your head). When the moment is right, pendulum your legs back the other way, aiming to roll on top of that leg. Make sure that you hold the leg very tight, with arms that should now be wrapped under the knee.

If you don't, you'll be leaving yourself open for a triangle: an experienced grappler will be looking to pry your arm free in order to attack. Be patient, then using good timing (such as when they've strained away trying to break your grip in vain), move into a pass. Keep in mind the principle of either both arms in or both arms out, and also make sure that leg is controlled before your release the grip with your arms.

Sparring started with specific sparring from the mount, which was nice. I generally like to have a mixture between free and specific, as otherwise it can be difficult to work certain positions. The method wasn't quite king of the hill, but instead, everybody lined up and was counted off in groups of three. All the number ones would go on their backs, then after a while, all the number twos would do the same, finished with the threes.

I was a number one, so started on the bottom. To my surprise, I stayed there the whole time, which was a pleasant improvement on the kicking I got on Monday. I was generally just using the same leg drag to half guard, then shrimping to either get into closed guard or open guard. I didn't get a chance to use Rob's technique, but then that is going to take a while to add into my repertoire, not having used deep half guard before.

Of course, it tends to be easier to escape when specific sparring from mount rather than attack: things went much less well for me on top. I tried for my preferred low grapevine, but struggled to keep it: people were able to free their legs, dropping them flat, then quickly making space to escape. I did briefly manage to stop one guy bringing his long legs up and pulling me off mount, by staying low and scooting back to put him flat, but he managed it on the second attempt.

Free sparring followed, where I again had a roll with Christian. Unusually, this first one started from sparring, but both Christian and I were looking to pull guard: I dropped into half guard, then moved into open. Again, I wasn't able to initiate anything. If I had another private lesson, being proactive from open guard would probably be a good option, refining a few sweeps. We then moved through side control, knee on belly and at one point some kind of random reverse mount thing, during which time ran out. Entertaining stuff.

At one point, I was in Christian's guard, so was naturally keen to try out what I learned in Kev's private lesson on the twisting guard break. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite get into the position I wanted, as his guard was slightly open, and he had some control of my arms. I should have just gone for it and tried something, or perhaps attempted to step back immediately like Kev showed. Hopefully there will be some specific sparring from the guard at some point, which should provide some opportunity to practice.

Sparring got back to normal after that, starting from the knees. I took Kintanon's advice about being less lazy pulling guard, sliding forward straight into butterfly rather than just flopping backwards like on Monday. I was with a white belt, who stayed very tight, stopping me from getting the butterfly grips I wanted. I managed to catch an armbar as he stood up, but mainly due to surprise: he was waiting for it, but thought I'd take the other arm. I was pleased when I later moved into a triangle, saw I wasn't going to get it, and instead took the armbar from that position. That's a transition I need to do much more often.

Finally, I had a roll with Rob, who obviously had no issues controlling me. However, he was taking an instructor role, looking to see what I did in various positions. Very helpfully, he told me afterwards that I was making some mistakes with my elbows under side control, and then when class finished, gave me some excellent advice on exactly what he meant.

When somebody is on top of side control and they scoop up your far arm, you need to bump straight away and dig that elbow free. You can also use your leg and knee to help you, looking to brush their arm away, as if you're trying to connect your elbow to your hip. Like most people, I try to make sure I always keep the other arm by their hip, digging that elbow if they start to work it free, but I've never thought about digging the far arm too. Definitely something I want to keep in mind next time, which should be a big help to my defence.

Importantly, Rob finished with a warm-down, which I don't remember happening on Monday (perhaps the assumption there was that you'd do a stretch yourself). This time I took a shower at the gym, and they're pretty good: IIRC, you have a choice of about four, along a wall sharing a partition (rather than separate cubicles). It would be handy if there were some hooks to hang towels, but I may just have not noticed them.

I should be training again on Monday, but as my gf is up on the Tuesday, that may be it for next week. I'll see if I can make it for the 18:00 basics class too, but probably unlikely given the bus and train I need to catch first (unless I manage to get a lift with Alex again). Before that, there's a throwdown in Essex, this Saturday. Feel free to pop down, as the more the merrier! :D

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