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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 May 2010

18/05/2010 - BJJ (Basics)

Class #312
Gracie Barra Birmingham, (BJJ), Nathan Roberts, Birmingham, UK - 18/05/2010

I cleverly managed to leave my house keys at my gf's place in Bristol on Sunday, which meant I couldn't actually get into my flat until Tuesday. That also meant I couldn't get to my gi on Monday, so I shifted my schedule to the Tuesday beginner class instead. I'm very fortunate in that my gf is not only lovely, but rather more efficient than I am, so she quickly got those keys sent up to my office. Otherwise I probably would have had to write most of the training this week off.

Nathan began with some interesting drills, where the idea was to lie next to your partner in various configurations, such as head to toe or back to back on your side, then try to get to a dominant position on top as soon as Nathan shouted 'go!' Presumably the idea is to develop the ability to scramble, as well as not easily give up the mount/side control etc.

In terms of technique, tonight's session was a continuation of what Nathan taught last week. Having secured the mount, you could now go for a choke. They will most likely have their elbows in, hands crossed over, looking to defend their neck. Attack their top arm, pushing it down as if you're going for an Americana. If they don't defend then keep going, but most likely they will turn towards the arm you're attacking.

That helps defend against the Americana, but it also presents their collar to you. Reach in deep with your opposite hand, palm up. If you want to get deeper, wriggle your knuckles to work your way to their label. You can also pull up on their gi collar lower down with your other hand. Once you've established that grip, bring your free elbow around to the other side of their head, and grab behind their shoulder.

Next, scrape your forearm over their face. This can be very unpleasant, which should enable you to press your forearm into their neck. I get the impression Nathan doesn't subscribe to Saulo Ribeiro's "treat your training partner like your best friend" school of thought. Still, it is undeniably effective: my drilling partner, Sofia (or maybe Sophia, not sure on the spelling) made good use of her forearms and gi to really dig in, so that it was almost a relief when she started to apply the choke. There are going to be a lot of gi burned necks tomorrow!

I frequently have trouble getting the right position for cross chokes, so I was looking closely to identify the right position. Judging by that, you want to get the top of your wrists (so just under the bottom of your palm, on your thumb side) close to their earlobes. You then bring your elbows back (don't flare them), then twisting your hands so your palms face in the opposite direction, drag your collar hand back.

Another option is to go for the ezekiel choke, something I've wanted to get right for a good while now. One arm goes under their neck, then that hand grabs your free arm's sleeve. Pull that fabric tight into their neck. Your head is close to theirs, helping you to sneak your free hand through across their neck. You can now pull with your sleeve grip and chop with your other hand, as if you were attempting to decapitate your opponent.

If they try to bridge you off, then remember to use your head as a third arm, posting on your forehead. You can also attempt to ‘ride’ their bridge by lifting your hips, taking away their power. This is something Saulo talks about in his DVD, though possibly a little different, as he was raised up, rather than bending forward in the process of attacking with a choke.

Alternatively, you can make your free hand into a fist. Wriggle your knuckles into place, then again, press down with that hand while pulling your sleeve under their neck. In both cases, this choke is generally quite swift, whereas the earlier submission can be slow, and may require you hold it for a bit before it takes effect.

As I'm always getting my hand blocked when I try this, I asked Nathan for his advice. He suggested that if their focusing on blocking that hand, you might find you have an opportunity to scoop up under their elbow with your same side arm, launching a new submission attempt. In turn, that may act as enough of a distraction to get your hand through for the ezekiel. This is possibly what Kintanon has been advising I try, when he says you can switch from an ezekiel to an armbar.

Specific sparring was from mount, with four of us staying on the bottom for a round. I was in the first group, and found that I could generally get an elbow into their knee, and then shift to half guard. Sometimes it also enabled me to just make some space, whereupon I could bring a knee through and work into open guard. Still, it was all white belts, as the other two blues in the class were in the same group as me.

On top, I went with two white belts, beginning with my drilling partner. As I have a size advantage, I tried to stay as technical as possible, but I'm still dubious that the manner in which I shifted to an armbar would have worked against anybody bigger. Most likely I left a little bit of space when shifting my legs up, which was covered by that size difference.

It is rare that I'm bigger, but makes for a nice change. My next partner reversed that situation, as he definitely had a bit of size on me. However, I'm pleased that I was able to keep him on his back, maintaining a low grapevined mount. Reaching around to grab material on the opposite shoulder, as demonstrated by Rob a few lessons back, definitely helped. Of course, I didn't manage to launch any attacks, which is the important next step: position then submission.

There wasn't any free sparring this time, so that will wait until tomorrow's advanced lesson. Hopefully my neck won't be too sore: I'm definitely not looking forward to shaving in the morning!


  1. That scramble drill you talked about sounds like a lot of fun! I am always interested to hear about the different drills/bjj games that people play at other schools.

  2. Yeah, I'm interested in the differences between how instructors run their drills too, particularly as I'd love to teach at some point in the distant future. So, good to gather up ideas. :)

  3. Just have to say I really like your blog, and I have been reading it for the last few days, your in-depth reviews etc are great and you spend a lot of time going into detail, and I can tell you do it for the love of JJ.

    I am currently training GJJ in Bradford following the GC way of things, and have been reading the massive debates on bullshido about it, it makes for a very interesting read to say the least!

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Bil.

    Ah, so you're training with Sacha King then? I'd be interested to take a class there some day, as while I have several issues regarding the GC approach, it is nevertheless intriguing. If you haven't had a chance to look through it already (though if you've read that Bullshido thread, you've probably seen me babble before ;p), I have a massive long review of the Gracie Combatives DVD set here.

    I'm looking forward to later releases, as hopefully they'll be sticking it all on DVD (I seem to recall Rener saying that they planned to do so somewhere on the forums).

  5. yup I am training with Sacha, well I am sure Sacha would welcome you anytime. I have read your reviews of the GC dvds its very indepth and you break it down very well. I think its one of the best produced JJ instructional videos on the market.

    If you ever want an indepth chat about GJJ training under the GC curriculum then let me know.
    I had never done any JJ before training under Sacha, Im not fussed about becoming a black belt. There are a lot of people who cross train under with GJJ, there are a lot of Judo and traditional JJ guys that come to the classes. Obviously I can only comment on what I know and have experienced

    I love martial arts because of the discipline and cos it keeps me fit and if it helps me in other areas then brilliant, and its good for blowing off steam!

    im piedpiper on bullshido!

  6. I'm always up for an in-depth BJJ chat: drop me an email. :)