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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

01 June 2010

01/06/2010 - BJJ (Basics)

Class #315
Gracie Barra Birmingham, (BJJ), Kevin Webb, Birmingham, UK - 01/06/2010

Good post by my old training partner Ben, on dealing with the temptation to quit BJJ, here. If we're honest with ourselves, I think everyone in BJJ has at least considered the possibility of quitting at some point. That might be from a terrible competition performance, a really bad few days of class, or struggling with things outside of class. So, Ben's recent post is probably one everyone reading can sympathise with: check it out.

Speaking of old training partners, I also want to give a shout out to Dominique, who recently got her purple belt after a great performance at the SENI last weekend (to read more on that event, check out Meerkatsu's write-up, here, who also happens to be a current training partner of Dom's). She's the first person I ever rolled with in BJJ, so it's cool to hear she's doing so well. :)

Braulio was there tonight, although taking the no-gi session rather than the basics class I was attending. This isn't the first time I've ever seen him, because he used to pop down to Roger's to train with the black belts, but it is the first time I've seen him in his own club. So, hopefully I'll get the chance to experience a lesson with him at some point: should be interesting seeing how his teaching style compares both to his videos and to other instructors.

The basics class was taken by Kevin, which surprised me as I had thought Nathan always took them. It could be that the schedule has shifted now that Braulio is back, but either way, I really like Kev's classes, so I was looking forward to seeing how he runs a more junior level session.

As ever, Kev employed his trademark attention to detail, honing in on the essential details in such a way that they really stick in your head. Afterwards somebody mentioned to me that his day job is a PE teacher, which goes some way to explaining his impressive instruction. The focus tonight was passing the guard, but as Kev said, it wasn't so much about a particular technique as the principles that lead to success.

The scenario was that they are facing you, chest close to their knees, hands and arms inside their legs, feet on the floor. You're standing, and keeping your head low, you first need to get past their hands: for this situation, Kev just slapped them down. You then press one hand into their same side hip, the other just above their same side knee, pressing their same side leg to the floor. Make sure you do shove that leg to the floor: this helps disrupt their defensive posture.

It is also important to get the right hand position, as you need to make sure they can't slip that knee out, as otherwise they can block your pass and recover guard. Your hand is above their knee, on the top of the leg (so, the same side as the front of the kneecap, not the inner or outer thigh). Similarly, you need to stay aware of the other knee: if they try to bring it through, block it with the elbow of your other arm, which is pressing into their hip.

You don't want to dawdle in that position: in two large steps, keeping your weight into them all the time, move past their trapped knee and to their side. You are now past their legs, but this is the easy part. As Kev explained, after that is where you'll often run into trouble. They will probably block your pass with their arms (as you've prevented them using their legs).

This could be by putting both hands on your shoulder and straightening their arms. That can make it difficult to continue moving round. However, you can bring your hips and weight into play to work around their arms. Using the hand on their hip, press them flat on their back, leaning forward into that hip. As you drive their shoulders to the mat, it should become easier to keep moving around and cause their arms to move up towards their head.

There is now a large space between their arms and their leg (you'll have let go of the leg as you move towards their head, but still prevent them curling in due to that firm pressure on their hip). Drop your inner hip into this space, cutting in under their armpit, sliding right into scarf hold. Get right underneath that arm, so that when you switch your base again, you can move right into a tight side control.

A variation on that guard pass is if they don't push on your shoulder, but instead go lower on your arm, or get a hand into the hip you have nearest their head. That removes the option of cutting in under their arm, so instead, you'll bring your leg over the top, from the other direction.

As before, you keep pressure on their hip and move up towards their head. This time, however, you bring the leg nearest their head over their near arm, your knee pointing back towards their hips. That leg goes right over and straightens out, the other stretching out behind you, in a reverse scarf hold position. You're basically sitting on their arm.

Once again, due to that scarf hold, when you switch your base back, you'll get a tight side control. In this case, because you've slide over that arm with your leg, when you switch it back, that knocks the arm out of the way towards their head, so you automatically clear their elbow, slipping the leg right into their armpit.

Kev then got us to drill this with a little more resistance, to demonstrate some of the typical mistakes, a useful way of ironing out kinks. I found that I was being too gradual when moving round, so needed to take two big steps, rather than lots of little ones. More focus on pushing into that hip to flatten them out was also useful, and making sure I got their arms good and high towards their head before cutting in with either my hip under or leg over.

Class finished with free sparring, without the king of the hill specific sparring Nathan tends to do. I started with one of the two women present, Julie, looking to work that spider guard set-up from Braulio's video. I sort of got the position, but I don't think I swung my legs around enough or pulled the arm in sufficiently, as I ended up on the side rather than the triangle/armbar option I wanted.

During back mount, I wanted to try for Kev Capel's favoured bow and arrow choke. I got the grip around the neck and swivelled for the hold on the knee, but I don't think I was tight enough on the collar grip. I also didn't have my legs in the right position, getting one stuck underneath, which is a recurring problem I have from the back when attempting armbars and bow and arrows.

The next spar was with Kevin Webb, who mercilessly crushed me. That also exposed my side control defence weaknesses, as while I was able to get on my side and crunch up, I was leaving my arm vulnerable to attack. I also got caught in a few chokes, and one silly mistake, where started from the knees I ducked my head straight into a guillotine. As a general rule, I need to be more careful of my arms under side control, as I'm finding myself at risk of armbars far too often.

That contrasted with the completely different roll I had with somebody who was experiencing their first lesson. So, instead of being crushed, I could stay relaxed and try to be helpful, attempting to move into the same positions we had just drilled earlier so he could practice. In terms of technique, it was quite a lot to take in as a first lesson (especially principles like switching your base to scarf hold, which takes a bit of getting used to), so he did pretty well to remember as much as he did.

Finally, I finished up with Sofia, were again I was looking for that spider guard, and again ended up on the back instead. This time, I don't think I stretched my legs out enough, meaning that I didn't break their posture, and I also didn't have enough control over the arm I was looking to attack.

Should be training again tomorrow. If I do, that will be my first advanced class in a while, as I've had to miss the last few due to bank holidays and the like. Possibly with Braulio too, which would fun, though as there are so many top notch instructors at GB Brum, it is sure to be an excellent class whoever takes it.

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