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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

26 October 2010

26/10/2010 - BJJ (Beginner)

Class #353
RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK - 26/10/2010

I didn’t make training last week, because I was off up north with my gf. Her best friend is getting married, which meant she had the dubious pleasure of spending many, many hours in Louth being fitted for a bridesmaid dress (apparently, here in the UK the correct term for best woman is indeed ‘chief bridesmaid’ rather than ‘Maid of Honour’, which I’m told is an American thing). On the way, we stopped off at Matlock in the Peak District, which not only had a lovely bed and breakfast at The Old Sunday School, but owners who could recommend the even more awesome pie night at The Thorn Tree pub (they have one every Wednesday). Very, very tasty, but also huge: next time, we’ll share a pie instead of tackling one each!

While there finally got to use our book of Peak District walks we bought years ago, heading off on the relatively short stroll from Birchover to Robin Hood’s Stride. On the way back, there was this brilliant place called Rowtor Rocks (there’s a turning near The Druid Inn), where the book tells me that some vicar in the 17th century decided to carve out passages, rooms and even armchairs from the rock. Lots of people trying to climb them, too: bouldering, I think it’s called?

The Ultimate Fighter also just stepped up a gear with a fantastic sixth episode. As ever, the careful editing is geared towards making you hate one team and love the other, but it nevertheless works. That has never been more true than in this episode, where it massively pays off. If you haven’t seen it already, try to avoid hearing the result and go check it out (decent grappling, GSP offering up lots of class, and even some words of wisdom from Camarillo). Should be available on either the TUF website or Sky Sports (which makes the annoying mistake of dubbing ‘UFC’ a sport rather than MMA), depending on where you live.

Class tonight began with a section from Gracie Barra Fundamentals, escaping scarf hold. This was specifically orthodox scarf hold rather than broken, meaning they are gripping under your head, rather than under your far armpit (which is tougher to escape). First you need to get the elbow of your trapped arm to the floor, after which your can bring your other hand over their head to create a frame, in combination with your now freed hand.

Shrimp out until you can bring your leg over their head: this may require several shrimping motions. Once your leg is in position, use that to roll them back. From here, you can either come up to side control, or look to attack their arm. The armbar Kev showed works by controlling their arm just above the crook of their elbow, giving you time to wrap your other arm over the top. Press down on their arm while raising your hips for the submission.

Getting into the class proper, this week is all going to be about half guard. Kev kicked off by running through the lockdown (like he did almost exactly a year ago today), but unlike last October, he didn’t then run through the full Eddie Bravo sequence, stopping after the ‘Jaws of Life’ and ‘whip up’. If you have Mastering the Rubber Guard, you can see the techniques from pages 54-59.

Instead, Kev finished with how to recover full guard from there, which I much prefer. You’re on your side with an underhook, so the first thing you want to do is block their arm from cross-facing: simply hook your hand over the wrist. Release your lockdown, using your outside leg as a base for your shrimp. Your inside leg will slip around the back of their knee, in order to maintain control (otherwise they can just move their leg over and pass).

Shrimp until you’re able to get that outside foot onto their same side hip. Push, then slide your other leg through to move back into full guard, or possibly butterfly guard. As you have that grip on their wrist, you could also try pushing that arm towards them, bringing your leg right through for a triangle.

If you’re on top, once you’ve released the lockdown (again, as Kev taught last year), you can move on to what Kev called the ‘switch pass’ from half guard. Reach over to bring your near arm to their far side and turn your body, so that you’re facing their legs. With your other hand, grab a firm hold of their knee: this is key to the technique. That grip will stop them bridging, and it will also enable you to quickly free your leg if they make a mistake.

Having got your arm over and secured the knee, wedge your free leg in front of their legs. Pull up on their knee with your grip until you can free your leg, then move into side control. Make sure you don’t let them get both arms around your knees, as otherwise they can reverse you. To avoid that, drive your hip back into their bottom arm, which will stop them linking their hands together.

Specific sparring was from half guard, and on top, I again struggled to get past Howard’s knee shield/z-guard. I could maintain control from the top, keeping my hips low and legs sprawled, but at best I’d manage a stalemate due to that knee. I tried grabbing his trouser leg, but didn’t have much luck squashing the knees together. As ever, something to work on.

Underneath, I was able to recover to butterfly a couple of times, but only for a moment: I swiftly got passed. I should go look over my notes on butterfly from GB Brum: one thing I definitely didn’t do and should have done is immediately try to secure an arm over the back and cinch the grip in tight. As I’ve got short, squat legs, butterfly remains something I’m keen to improve.

There were a few other times when I had a leg across his neck while the other was still by his legs, but again got easily passed. That’s another position I need to use more effectively: I need better head control, breaking of posture and using all my limbs rather than relying on the legs. I did manage some kind of sweep where I grabbed the arm, but as I’m not sure exactly how, that isn’t overly helpful. ;)

At the end of class, Kev called me up to receive a fourth stripe (also replacing the one that fell off) on my blue belt, which I wasn’t expecting: as ever, always nice to have the handshake and round of applause. I was just getting used to accidentally demoting myself to two stripes when one fell off at GB Brum, and hadn’t thought I'd get another stripe for several months. I guess the time at Birmingham counted, if RGA is still doing the ‘six months per stripe’ thing for blue belts?

Goes to show that there can be a massive gaping hole between four stripe blue and purple, as I don’t feel anywhere near that level yet (I can’t pass guard, can’t submit people, struggle to sweep, frequently hang out passively in side control...etc etc).


  1. Well done on the ole 4 stripe thing. Perilously close to purple belt now!
    Don't worry, I can't any of them things either LOL!

  2. Heh - yeah, I wonder if any of those stripes will fall off before I move to Bristol? ;p