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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

23 June 2010

23/06/2010 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #321
Gracie Barra Birmingham, (BJJ), Rob Stevens, Birmingham, UK - 23/06/2010

The bus was almost late again, but just made the train connection from Leamington in time. That’s going to be more difficult after the end of term, as buses change their times. So, I’ll be lucky to get the bus I need in time, which may make training a little awkward until term starts up again in October. So, hopefully that timing won’t work out as badly as I’m expecting, or I’ll be able to catch the bus from the other company (I’ve got a Stagecoach bus pass, but that runs out in August. So, I could then switch to Travel West Midlands, or whatever they’re called now) that does the route, presuming their times are any better.

I was very keen to make tonight, because I suspected that the crucial England versus Slovenia world cup game would mean attendance would be low. That tends to result in closer attention from the instructor, which was especially good today. Rob asked the people waiting before class started if there was anything we wanted to work on. As ‘the people waiting’ at that point consisted of me and Tom, I had a chance to request some escapes from modified scarf hold, which has been causing me problems for a while now.

More people turned up later, including Chris with a shiny new purple belt, so congrats to him: he got promoted about two weeks ago. Still, it was a fairly small class, and not many big guys there, which meant I had plenty of training partners around my size. After some drilling and work on takedowns, Rob moved into a detailed explanation of the technique, which had some cross-over with the escape Norby showed a little while ago.

To escape modified scarf hold you first need to free your trapped elbow. As Rob emphasised, this is often the hardest part. He suggested using your free hand to press firmly into their arm, creating a brace by straightening your limb. Bridge off both feet and shrimp. You may well need to do this multiple times to get the elbow loose, especially if your partner has good top control. You can also try grabbing around their elbow and pulling it towards you: mix and match to wiggle your arm free.

Once your arm is out, both your hands go to their lapel (the one nearest to you). Push that straight up and into their neck, straightening both your arms. Shrimp out, until you can wedge your near knee into their side. From there, you should have enough space to recover guard, or possibly even go for a submission if they leave their arm there (which is unlikely: people will probably move around, ending up in your open guard).

To drive this home, Rob then had us do specific sparring from that same modified scarf hold position. On top, I was looking to time my hip switch back and forth to side control, like yesterday. Of course, when your opponents aren’t white belts, this is much harder. It also reminded me to use north-south more often, and try to distract people by attacking their arm.

Underneath, I was looking to practice what we were just taught, but probably because everyone had just seen the scarf hold escape, people were tending to quickly switch to side control before I had much of a chance. Still, it did seem to help me get my knees in place quicker, and be more aware of my arm placement.

Free sparring was even more painful than usual, because unusually for England, it was hot and humid. I was sweating just standing around doing nothing, so once it got into the flow of sparring, everybody’s gi was soaked. As somebody mentioned, it makes you wonder how they manage in a climate like Brazil: I’m easily knackered at the best of times, so I can’t imagine how I’d cope training in those conditions every day

I went with five people, IIRC. Norby stayed very light, so was presumably looking to let me try things out. Nathan tapped me all over the place, but did mention that I was basically doing the right thing: however, I need to move from delaying the inevitable to a more proactive defence. I also need to watch out for footlocks, which I sometimes forget about because I avoid using them myself.

I was generally under side control, with the odd moment of scarf hold too. I looked to try Rob’s technique, but struggled to get myself into the straight arm position holding onto their lapel. I think I was probably failing to shrimp out properly, and perhaps going for it too late, when they were already switching their weight back to side control. Getting that transition from a scarf hold to a side control escape is something to keep in mind, and watching my arms don’t get harvested in the process.

I also found myself in top half guard a couple of times, on both occasions in an effort to drive through out of their attempt to take the back. I had trouble each time, but got closer than I normally do, as I tried to really focus on getting my weight into their neck and shoulder, and also yanking on their arm to stop them turning. My base could do with some work there, and I probably wasn’t being careful enough with my hips.

At the end of class it was announced that there would be a charity seminar at Victor’s new club in Mansfield. Brazil has been subject to some severe flooding recently, and many people have been put under great financial strain as a result, including people close to Braulio. So, if you’re willing to spend £30 and make it down to Gracie Barra Midlands, you’ll be rewarded with a top-notch seminar on Saturday 3rd July.


  1. Yup, hot humid and about the only time I can actually say that I need to wear one of my ultra lightweight gis.

    The transport issue must be a real pain. Have you thought about getting a moped or small car?
    I remember when I played a lot of tennis, my club was the complete other side of London. I would cycle from west London to docklands in the East, then after playing for three hours, I would cycle hom to North London. I have no idea how many miles it was but it was a bloody long evening all told.

  2. Heh - I'd have to get a license for either of those first. 60 (yep, six-o) driving lessons when I was 17, but I hated it so much I never took a test. ;p

  3. Just thought i'd let you know that I bought a Black Eagle Judo gi after reading your review of it.
    I haven't trained in it yet but it feels nice and light especially compared to my Blitz Olympian double weave so thanks.
    BTW are you still doing the odd Judo class or have you no time now?

  4. Cool - glad my review proved useful to you! :)

    At the moment, I'm a bit too busy to get in much judo. I'm also still not too keen on takedowns, but I aim to pop down to the Warwick Uni class again if and when I get some time.