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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

24 July 2010

24/07/2010 - BJJ (Advanced)

Class #326
Gracie Barra Birmingham, (BJJ), Chiu Kwong Man, Birmingham, UK – 24/07/2010

After about a month, I finally made it to another advanced class, as this weekend my gf isn’t around. She’s teaching a course next weekend, so I should be able to make a Saturday or Friday class, and I’ve got some time in lieu I can use to make classes in the two weeks after that. So, this should hopefully mark at least a month of normal training (which for me is twice a week). Should also give me time to polish off some reviews I’m doing for a periodical (nothing to do with BJJ, though: poetry).

That black eye didn’t happen either, which is good: instead, I’ve just got an angry red mark underneath the eye, which is presumably burst blood vessels or something. It looks unpleasant, but hasn’t caused me any pain up until now, so I’d hope that will just gradually fade. Having said that, the last time I had something similar, it took months and months to go away. Bleh.

Chiu kicked off with some work on breaking grips from standing. Interestingly, Dan from Warwick Judo (who I’ve met a few times now at various grapples at Warwick Uni) was there, and even more interestingly, Chiu drew on Dan’s judo experience to offer some more grip-breaking options. When I said hi to him later on, Dan mentioned he’s been practicing for his 1st Dan, which is cool: clearly he’s been working hard on his judo since I last saw him.

Chiu’s class followed up nicely on what Nathan taught earlier in the week, as after the stand-up, he went straight into attacks from scarf hold. There was a little more detail about getting to scarf hold, as usual from when they shove up into your neck. Chiu emphasised that you want to tuck your chin and use your shoulder, to strengthen the position of your neck. When they push up on your neck, take that opportunity to pull up on their near arm and switch your hips. From here, you can settle into a solid scarf hold, keeping your head low and a tight grasp on their arm.

Alternatively, you don’t have to settle into the classic scarf hold/kesa gatame, with one knee up and the other leg stretched out past their head. Instead, Chiu showed how after pulling up their arm, you switch your hips, but then immediately switch them again, bringing your knee right to their head. Your other leg goes straight back for balance, and it is essential that you clamp your arm in tight to trap their arm. An armbar from scarf hold is now within your grasp.

To further isolate their arm, you want to turn your knee towards their legs. Wrap your arm around your knee, still with the elbow in. The idea is that you don’t leave any space for them to pull their elbow free. This is going to depend on your opponent’s body type, as Chiu noted. With a big, powerful guy like Beton, who has thick, muscular arms, it is in a sense going to be easier to trap them, due their sheer girth (though naturally a strong person can generate more pulling force to free the arm).

A small, weedy person like me has scrawny arms, which means I find it easier to wriggle my arm free, due to the additional space. To prevent that arm slipping free, you simply drive your knee further forward and in, leaving no wiggle-room. Push on their head and step over (or as in Nathan’s version, push their face towards you), foot by their neck.

From here, if you’ve got their arm straightened out and their elbow in the right spot on your hip, you can bring your elbow back and thrust your hips forward for the tap. If it isn’t quite in the right spot, an alternative is to bring your head to the mat and knee down, then again thrust your hips forward and lengthen your body.

If that still isn’t working, other options remain available. There is Nathan’s pressing armbar from Tuesday, or you can drop back alongside them for an armbar. The key here is to stop them getting up by wrapping your arm around a leg. They may be able to raise their torso, and it feels as if they’re going to escape, but your weight and grip on the leg means they’re stuck. Lean back for the submission.

There was quite a bit of sparring today. I started off with my drilling partner Christian, who tends to be quite energetic. When we roll, I often find myself struggling to catch up as he quickly moves through to side control. This time, however, I was able to keep him in closed guard for a while, looking to get that orthodox collar and elbow grip. I wasn’t able to do a whole lot with it, especially as Christian had little trouble circling his head free.

I also tried to get the overhook, but I wasn’t in a proper closed guard at the time: he soon wriggled free. I was pleased to later get the handstand sweep, but rather less pleased that I completely failed to follow up by driving my hips forward into mount. Instead, I managed to hopelessly lose a dominant position, ending up under side control.

For a while now, I’ve been attempting to straight arm into their armpit when they have both arms over, and finally it seemed to work, though I think I was a bit sloppy. That meant I could eventually reverse through into side control and mount (after narrowly avoiding getting pulled back into half guard). I had his arm over, but messed up the arm triangle attempt, as I didn’t have the arm at all in the right position by his neck. I should have squirmed around with my shoulder to adjust.

I had a couple of rolls with a friendly white belt called John, who has been training for about three months. He’s a fairly beefy guy, but showed good control. Of course, that also meant that there were points were he could have smashed his way into a dominant position, particularly when he had his arms wrapped around my legs, so probably could have stacked and passed.

I played around with triangle attempts, trying to use my legs against his arms as much as possible, but on the few occasions I got into position, I couldn’t stop John wedging his other arm in and shrugging free of my legs. I attempted a quick switch to an armbar, but didn’t have the arm sufficiently isolated or controlled, so ended up back in guard. I did at least remember to try and get some head control, but failed to shoulder-walk back properly, or keep his posture broken and head sufficiently trapped.

Still, I was happy to get a scissor sweep, as it’s been a while: John came up on one knee while I had a grip on the collar and arm, setting up the technique. Nevertheless, as with Christian, I’m not doing enough with that grip after securing it. With both of them, I was half-heartedly flailing at chokes, but nowhere near the correct position. I guess it can function as a distraction, but I need to sharpen those choke attacks so they’re a genuine threat.

Dan rolled with me too, who is an even bigger guy than Jon, but again was nice enough not to simply crush me. We generally moved between guard and half guard. At one point I thought I was about to get squished in scarf hold (exactly where you don’t want to be with a judoka), but Dan was keeping things relatively light and flowing.

Chiu was my last sparring partner: naturally there isn’t much I can do against someone of that high a skill level, so I just tried to keep my knees close to my chest, as per jnp’s ‘ ball technique’ I mentioned in my last entry. I presume Chiu was looking to see what I did in open guard, which unfortunately for me wasn’t much. I flapped at his gi to get some kind of grip, but couldn’t maintain a hold of his legs. So, I soon found myself getting surfed by knee-on-belly, side control, mount, half guard etc. Good way to get plenty of practice on my defence, attempting to stay tight and spin out of danger (though I think Chiu was taking it fairly easy, and intentionally left some space).

When he dropped into combat base, I found I didn’t really know what to do. Normally I try to scoot forward into butterfly from the knees, but that didn’t lead anywhere in this situation. Roger’s sweep popped into my head, where you lock around combat base and lean to one side, but for that you need closed guard first (IIRC). So instead I spent the concluding part of the roll floating over Chiu as he put me wherever he wanted with his hooks (normally under side control or mount), before time ran out.

I should be in again on Tuesday, then probably Saturday again. I could do Friday, but Saturday gives me an extra half an hour, as it’s advanced rather than basics.


  1. Hope the eye heals up quickly. I like that armbar from the scarf hold position. I also like the one on the opposite side you can get when the person resists the first one. I actually get that one a lot more frequently than the one on the near side. Happy training this week!!

  2. Thanks!

    I've never got the armbar from scarf hold, but I do often try to step over the head and hook it with my leg, either for a triangle or just control (like the various links and pics here).

  3. All I can say is "Wow!" This blog is an amazing resource for BJJ folks! You have compiled an awesome array of BJJ resources and knowledge. Bravo! It's going to take me some time to get through all you have here, but I can't wait to look through it all and leave my thoughts.

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Angelo: coming from a black belt like yourself, that means a lot. :)

    If anyone hasn't checked out Angelo's blog yet, pop over to The Mental Dojo.