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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a purple belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

05 January 2011

05/01/2011 - Gracie Barra Bristol

Class #372
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Nicolai 'Geeza' Holt, Bristol, UK - 05/01/2011

Some classic Roy Harris instructionals are getting re-released, thanks to Roy Dean (who is of course a Roy Harris black belt). On the RDA blog, he mentioned that there will be three titles bundled in the new offering, perhaps most notably BJJ Over 40. Considering how good Roy Dean's DVDs are, and the excellent Roy Harris segment on open guard from Dean's Seminars: Year One DVD, this looks set to be awesome.

My old instructor from RGA, Nic Gregoriades, has recently set up Roger Gracie Sydney over in Australia. He has also decided to release the material from what was to be a DVD on the net, for free: check out Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood for the videos (the rest of the site is great too, as Nic is not only a good teacher, but an accomplished writer as well).

The customary text message from Geeza said that tonight's class would cover a hopping takedown and more work on the turtle. The takedown looked like it could fit nicely with the previous option Geeza showed us, as it appears to use the same grip. Of course, I have absolutely no confidence with takedowns whatsoever, so could be talking out of my arse on that one.

It starts with the usual collar and elbow, except that you are really pushing on that collar, as if you were trying to punch their face while holding the gi. That means that your forearm acts as a brace, which makes it difficult for them to initiate a double-leg. Cross-step and swivel, then swing your leg back into theirs, lifting it up. Keeping your arms in tight and turning your head to the other side, hop into their sole standing leg until they fall. Note that this isn't about yanking them with your arms, which is what I was initially doing (though that does seem to work, it's not the same technique).

The first option from the turtle was a choke: Geeza mentioned that this is normally just known as the spinning choke, but also has the swisher title of 'Hurdado choke' (Hurtado? Named after some guy that uses it a lot, either way). You are facing their head, and they have just gone for a double leg. Stuff their takedown by bracing your arm against their shoulder, so that their shoulder is pressing into the crook of your elbow.

With that hand, get a palm up grip on their collar. Thread your other arm between their same side arm and head, so that the back of your hand slides past the back of their head. This should open up a space on that same side, where you will now put your head. Roll in the direction of that side, aiming to straighten your arm as you do so.

They will be rolled to their back, so that you are now lying in a straight line, head to head. You could finish the choke here, but it would be mainly force. To use leverage instead, walk your legs towards them so that you swivel perpendicular to their body. Their head should be on your lap. Once you've gone as far as you can, raise your hips for the tap.

We then went through the clock choke, which for some reason I couldn't get at all, even in the co-operative environment of drilling. I know I've got that choke to function before, so I'll have to review my notes from last time. This time you're at the side of their turtle. Insert a knee so they can't recover guard (if they try, you can just drive through for side control thanks to that knee), then reach through to grip their collar.

Your other arm is going to go for their same side wrist around the far side, but you need to be careful. As soon as you put your arm through, there is a chance they could grab it and roll you right over. This is a classic judo tactic, when they can also then submit you with waki-gatame. To avoid that, after you've reached through and grabbed their wrist, immediately use your weight and forward pressure to knock their shoulder on that side to the floor. This will make it much harder for them to roll.

The clock choke is now all set up. Walk your legs around towards (and if necessary, past) their head as if they were the arms of a clock. I think what I was doing wrong here was my weight distribution: either way, I’ll have to review my notes from previous lessons on the clock choke.

Sparring started early, with a round of guard passage right after the warm-up and before the techniques. I was with a white belt, so was looking to keep practicing my overhook attacks from guard. I'm still not getting the details on the basic choke right, which is something I really want to work: that needs to become a solid attack for me, so hopefully I'll get a chance to work it at RGA Aylesbury open mats. I'm also continuing to fail at the triangle, again because I'm not getting that leg by the neck into the right position or adjusting my angle, meaning that I struggle to close my triangle lock. Something else for the open mat.

Passing, I was looking to jam their hand into their hip and stand, but wasn't getting enough control to stop them simply freeing their hand. I did manage to take the back at one point, which was nice, but less good was the sloppy attempt at a pass that preceded it. Still, I'm at least trying to stand, which makes a change from my usual "bore them into opening their guard" strategy.

Free sparring was very relaxed, like yesterday. Also like yesterday, I wanted to work my open guard, using my legs to maintain the position and also see if I could set up offence from spider guard, De La Riva and whatever that one where you have a foot in the bicep is called. I was also pleased to land both of the half guard sweeps Nick Brooks taught at Mill Hill back in December, although I failed to follow up with the americana.

I did manage to get into mount, where much to my surprise I got an ezequiel to function properly. However, my partner was taking it pretty easy, and I also had the unfair advantage of a baggy judogi jacket (the Blitz Kokuba I reviewed recently: I finally sewed up the trousers, so wore them too for the first time since ripping them back in 2009). I may have also sat up too much when finishing the choke, which might have given them an opportunity to escape if they were going at a harder pace.

My last roll was with Geeza, who stayed even more relaxed than my previous partner. He was looking to work submission escapes: I'm definitely not the best person to practice that with, as if I get to dominant position I hardly ever actually move into a submission, let alone get one. That is particularly true of mount and technical mount, where we spent much of the roll: if I can't go for the ezequiel, I tend to gaze at their arms thinking how nice it would be to somehow remove them from a tight defensive position by their neck. Doesn't usually get past that stage, even though Geeza was actively leaving his arm open in several other positions to see if I would take it.

On a much, much more serious note, right after class I received the awful news that one of my good friends from university has been diagnosed with cancer. She's only my age (29), so that was a real shock. However, she was impressively upbeat about the whole thing in her email: hopefully the doctors will do a good job and she'll make a full recovery.

I've been studying cancer for the past couple of years for my writing (in the context of poetry), but this is the first time anybody I care about has had it. I wish all the very best to her family, as I can only imagine how tough this must be both for her and her loved ones, especially as she has a young daughter. Unlike me, she is religious, and therefore places value on prayers: hence why I thought I’d mention it on here, as I know there are a few religious people who read this blog.

I’m going to be unable to post again until the 10th, when I’ll finally be able to put up Chrissy’s new guest article.


  1. For some reason I can't ever remember how to do the clock choke in a live grapple. Grrrr!

  2. Psyched about the Roy Harris/Dean release. Thanks for the update.