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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

17 August 2010

17/08/2010 - BJJ (Basics)

Class #333
Gracie Barra Birmingham, (BJJ), Nathan Roberts, Birmingham, UK – 17/08/2010

Class began with some unusual drills tonight, starting with a sort of ‘musical belts’: when Nathan said ‘go’, everyone had to rush to grab one of the belts in the middle of the room, of which there weren’t enough for everyone. Whoever was too slow was left doing burpees in the middle. I’ve never had the quickest reactions for that kind of thing, so naturally I found myself sweating rather than with a belt in hand.

The next drill still used the belts, but this time, we shoved them in the back of our own belts, to form a ‘tail’. The idea this time was to face your partner, and pull their tail free. First, you weren’t allowed to use any grips, which then came back in during the second round. Again, I was pretty terrible at this: my stand-up is crap, so I frequently found myself without a tail.

My left wrist was twinging a bit, but seemed to be holding up ok. That would be tested later, as the technique was again a De La Riva sweep (which I presume will be the case for long while, given the couple of months that were spent on side control and mount. The set-up was the same as before, starting with a grip on each of their sleeves and your feet in their hips. Swing one leg out, then swivelling your body, wrap it around their same side leg, hooking their inner thigh with your instep.

Once you’ve got that secure, let go of their same side sleeve and grab their heel, or alternatively low on their trouser leg (but not inside the cuff, as you’ll bust your fingers. It’s also illegal in competition, IIRC). With your free leg, push just above the knee of their other leg, while simultaneously rising to a sitting position, wrapping the arm that was on their heel around the back of their knee, feeding the sleeve you were holding with the other hand to the one now by their knee. You want to hug that knee in tight while also push straight out with the other leg: this will disrupt their posture.

Nathan stressed the importance of keeping that pressure on their leg, as if you leave any slack, they can step back and pass. It is also key to hug that knee while pushing the other leg, to immobilise them. Your other leg is on the floor, but ready to come up and pinch in towards them if they somehow get free of your arm.

Having broken their posture, you’re ready to sweep. Your pushing leg goes to the floor, while you drop your back towards the mat, spinning towards their far leg, reaching with your free arm. You are aiming to grip around the outside of their far leg: continue to maintain a tight hold on both their knee and their sleeve with the other arm.

Continue the momentum of your spin, trying to knock them over, yanking with the arm on the trapped knee. It will help if you keep their trapped knee tight to your chest: if that knee ends up on your stomach or armpit, they’ll be able to base, meaning you’ve basically just set them up for knee-on-belly.

Should they still base out even if you’ve done everything right (possible if they’re bigger than you), use the legs you have around their knee to disrupt their base and complete your roll. Either way, once you come up on top, you should be in a great position to pass the guard.

As ever, this works much better in drilling than against resistance. Specific sparring started with you already sat up, with an arm around the knee and your foot in place, pushing on their far leg. From here, you were supposed to try one of the sweeps we’d been learning over the past couple of weeks.

I failed miserably. Every time, my partner had no trouble at all either sitting down and passing, or getting my leg out of the way sitting on me. I was struggling to keep up decent pressure on their far leg, and also couldn’t seem to hold a secure grip on their knee. Of course, it is more difficult when your partner knows exactly what you’re about to do, but nevertheless, I clearly have a long way to go with De La Riva. On top, it was less difficult, as again, knowing what was coming generally meant you could recover your base and slide to the side for a pass (although I did still get swept once).

My first partner for free sparring was George, who is a couple of kilos lighter, but very strong for his size. However, he did leave a few gaps in side control, meaning I could slip in a knee, and I was normally able to snatch at half guard. I was also looking to wedge a knee or foot in the way whenever possible (though I need to be careful, as sometimes those extended grabs at half guard depend at least partially on flexible, which has resulted in a sore inner thigh a few times in the past).

The last spar was a chance to practice my half guard passing, as this time my partner was the one snatching at half guard, but I didn’t take the opportunity as much as I should have. I kept just putting my knee on the floor to try and slide into mount, or flop and look to see if I could slowly wriggle my leg free. I need to go review the half guard passes I’ve learned in the past, as I wasn’t being very technical.

Should be training again tomorrow, as I’ve got some more time in lieu to use from work. Then on Thursday I’m off to my annual Aberystwyth trip, which is something I always look forward to: it tends to be wet and rainy, but I love the landscape. Wales is definitely somewhere I’d like to live in the future, if the chance ever pops up (though my dream homes are still New Zealand or Canada: really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in both those countries. Spain would be cool too, if I ever get a handle on the language).

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