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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

08 May 2010

08/05/2010 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #309
Gracie Barra Birmingham, (BJJ), Chiu Kwong Man, Birmingham, UK - 08/05/2010

I don't normally have a weekend free, but it was handy I did today, as I wasn't able to go to training on Monday. My normal pattern is shaping up to be Monday and Wednesday advanced gi from 19:00-20:30, or failing that, either a beginner class from 19:30-20:30 on Tuesday or the advanced gi class on Saturday from 13:30-15:00.

nogi essentials roy deanClass was taught by Braulio's first black belt, Chiu Kwong Man. He's been present at a few of the other classes I've attended, but this is the first time I've had a chance to see how he runs a class. Like Rob, Chiu moves into stand-up after the warm-up, starting with some light resistance grip fighting. After that, we were supposed to practice an entry into a takedown for several minutes.

As I doubt very much I would ever be able to take anyone down, I thought I'd try something with applications on the ground too, an arm drag. I never remember to try these, so it was useful to have a play with it. I was initially just holding the sleeve, pulling it towards me, then grabbing and yanking past their armpit on the tricep, based on what I remembered from Roy Dean's best release to date, No Gi Essentials. Roy suggests that drilling the armdrag from standing is a good way to learn principles which also apply to the ground, hence why I wanted to try it.

As I'm not confident with the technique, I asked Chiu for some arm drag advice. He suggested that from standing, it was possible to do the arm drag like I had been, but unlikely my opponent would give me that grip. It would be more typical that they establish a grip on my lapel, up near my neck. In that situation, the arm drag makes more sense on the other arm: if they maintain their grip and you get to their back, that just makes it easier to choke them.

Groundwork began with a transition from side control to mount. You secure a tight side control, with your arm under their head, reaching to grip their far shoulder. Your other arm will be over to that far side, going under their arm. Clear their elbow on the near side, then pull them in tight towards your knee, by dragging on their far shoulder. This should force their head to face away from you, and because you also have their elbow, it will be tough for them to turn.

That hand you have under their far arm is now going to walk up past their head. You want to get their arm up high, until you can use your head to press that arm into their face. This should provide sufficient distraction for you to slide your knee through to get into mount. You can also press on their hip with the sole of your foot to stretch them out, securing a better position against their arm with your head.

I got a little confused during the arm triangle from side control which followed, but from what I understood, from that previous position you bring the hand that walked up under their head. Your head wriggles against their arm as you bring your shoulder down (in the direction of their legs), still staying tight. The reason for this is that their arm is currently too high to be part of a choke: you need to get it lower, by their neck.

Once you've got it against their neck, you can slide off mount to the other side. This is where I had problems, as what you're supposed to do is keep that hand under their head, palm on the floor. The choke comes from wriggling down and getting the shoulder back, then creating pressure as you sprawl next to them. I found that difficult, so definitely need more practice.

Alternatively, you can go for a standard arm triangle position, using the hand under their head to grab your other bicep. You can then get into a rear naked choke position, pressing the bicep arm on their head to create the necessary pressure. I've also been taught in the past that you can grab your own head with the bicep arm, but Chiu recommended the RNC choke style grip.

Sparring started with Pete, my training partner for today: he's one of several blue belts I'm getting to know over the course of the last few weeks. I was keen to practice spider guard, having seen an interesting instructional by Braulio, but unfortunately I couldn't get into the position I wanted after pulling butterfly guard. Instead, I ended up under side control yet again. I need to be less obsessive about getting that perfect grip, and remember the basic foot-in-bicep option.

However, because I had my leg around that arm, I thought I might be able to move into a triangle. I spent a good chunk of the roll trying to wiggle into the right place, but couldn't get the angle (unsurprising, given being under side control is not a great place to try submissions). I had the arm between my legs and his head was low, so the triangle was the preferable option, but I was also looking out for an armbar, without any luck.

Naturally I was trying to escape too: I think I need to re-emphasise my previous habit of using the 'ball', where you get your knees tight to your chest. Possibly because I wasn't using that enough, I felt as if it was easier to pass my guard today.

Next up was Chiu: its always cool to roll with black belts, as they are pretty much guaranteed to give you good advice afterwards. Obviously I was getting tapped all over the place, mainly by the very techniques Chiu had just taught. Generally, I need to watch my arms and neck, though I was remembering to fight for that elbow by the neck as well as the hip, like Rob suggested after I rolled with him.

Chiu also noted that I need to be careful where I put my feet. I could see he was manoeuvring me into footlocks, looking to slip my foot under his arm, and managed to pop free a few times by pushing on his other hip. However, he still got the hold he wanted anyway, on the other foot, so a handy reminder that I must be vigilant about footlocks. While I don't use them myself, I am keen to improve my defences for when other people try them.

I might be training again tomorrow at Warwick Uni, because Adam from the judo club mentioned on Facebook that they have a nogi groundwork session at 17:00. Hopefully that will all work out, as it sounded intriguing, as much as I'm not overly keen on no gi.


  1. I have a lot more trouble practicing techniques standing up. I am just all around horrible with all things stand up. I think my problem stems from being afraid of hurting my knees (which have been bad since high school) while I'm maneuvering.

  2. Well, first off, I'm very impressed by your step-by-step written instructions. I can't follow what to do in words, I have to be shown and then experiment and then be shown again because I get stuck or twisted up.

    I don't pick up BJJ moves right off after I see them. I wish I did. There are some who can just look at a move once and then recreate it.

    I do like spider guard. I've been practicing it more lately. What I love about BJJ is that one small shift in technique makes everything else work. Really fantastic.

    You visited my blog way back when and I didn't see your comment until just now. Wanted to stop by and say hello :D

  3. @A.D. McClish: Yeah, I generally hate stand-up, so I very much liked the way Chiu said "but if like me you don't want to risk injury, pull guard as soon as you get grips." My kind of takedown philosophy. ;p

    Still, I did pop down to a judo class the day after, even if it was a semi-accidental foray into takedowns.

    thatgirlisfunny: Thanks! Yeah, I love the endless intricacy of BJJ. That complex interlocking series of techniques, tempered by full resistance, really sets it apart from most martial arts.

    I think I came across your blog during one of my "let's click on 'BJJ' in Google Profiles and see what happens" searches. ;)