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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 January 2011

23/01/2011 - RGA Aylesbury (Open Mat)

Class #375
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, UK - 23/01/2011

There are a bunch of cool people training at RGA Aylesbury, and tonight I finally had a chance to meet and chat to one in particular I'd been interested in talking to: Pete Griffiths. If you've read the FAQ, you may recognise the name, as he is the awesome guy who wrote this on EFN and this for Meg's blog (I'd forgotten he'd written that until he mentioned it: excellent piece, so that reminds me to update the FAQ entry).

The next session opened with shrimping around the mat, going backwards, side to side and forwards. Again, my leg wasn't up to that, so as during the warm-up of the first class, I stayed in a corner doing sit-ups and press-ups (I can rest my dodgy leg over the back of the one that works, which seems to avoid any strain on the injury).

An hour of drilling followed. Unfortunately, I couldn't take part in most of that too, as it involved throws, and then work from De La Riva and mount. The one from De La Riva was really cool, so despite not being able to practice it yet, I tried to take a few notes (though that's always more difficult to remember if you aren't actually drilling the technique yourself). It starts with a sort of back-step when attempting to pass De La Riva, putting you in top half guard, facing their legs.

Your leg is still stuck, which means you can lock it up, almost as if you were doing a lockdown from an unorthodox position. The next part is where drilling it myself would have made things clearer: move your torso to their far side and roll over your shoulder, dragging them with you, ending up on their back. That's probably difficult to visualise, but it is a bit like the cool transition Sean Roberts does here.

As it didn't use the legs so much, I was able to drill another of the techniques, an arm drag from guard. Specifically, this was from butterfly guard, which is important, as that helps when taking the back. The technique starts from their attempt to grip your grip, push your shoulder, grab your head etc. If they extend an arm, grab the sleeve with your same side hand and pull it towards you, followed by grabbing their tricep with your other hand and continuing the pulling motion.

This should knock them forward. You can now remove your hooking foot on the same side as their dragged arm, placing it away from their body instead. That means that you can then swing around to their back, using that hold on their triceps to help your spin. The hooking foot you leave behind now becomes your first hook for back mount.

Once we got to the open mat section itself, I was able to ask Kev for some pointers on the overhook guard choke I'd been drilling earlier. This is where that second option I mentioned earlier comes in, which is similar to the cross choke variation I described in that same post. Establish the overhook as before, but this time, make sure your initial grip on the collar is good and deep. This is difficult, as you are already overhooking their arm, which shortens your reach, and it is also where I've been having problems in sparring.

Still, if you can get that grip, move onto your side. Either grab behind their gi, their shoulder or get your thumb inside their collar. You can then bring that arm around as before, getting the elbow in tight to their chest. From here, you can complete the choke: it has the advantage over the looser variation that it isn't so easy for them to simply push on your elbow to block the submission. Kev also noted that a thick collar can make this harder to get too.

I drilled that with Sahid while everyone else was sparring, which proved useful. Even better, Sahid had another attack to add onto the position, which was similar to the americana from overhook guard Roy Dean demonstrates on Purple Belt Requirements. Dean describes it as an option for when your partner tries to free their arm the wrong way (if they remove it the right way, you're set up for an arm drag, as Dean shows).

Sahid has been trying this out recently, and he baits them to remove their arm that way. You loosen up slightly on the overhook, opening your guard and using your shin to create the necessary distance (and block them coming forward). They will probably take the opportunity to try and free their arm, which will give you just enough room to lock your arms and twist to the side. Sahid also noted that you need to be careful with this, as it comes on quick and some people are too stubborn to tap. So, be sure to use control. Apparently Frank Mir tried this is in a fight some time, so there is probably a video out there somewhere.

Taking a leaf out of Julia's excellent blog, I thought I'd finish with a question: what would you drill at an open mat?


  1. I'm terible, I never drill anything, ever. Open mat for me is just more sparring time. My reasoning? If I wanted to produce beautiful handwriting, I could either - practice writing endless reptitions of 'A', 'B', 'C' etc until it was perfect each time or just write tons of essays, most of which are rubbish but at least I'm writing.

    By the way, if by some fluke of time management of inspiratin I do ever create a scared critter artwork for you, it's only on the proviso that it be used to replace your background image and current header. My plan is to Meerkatsufy every BJJ blog that asks...eventually.

  2. I can see that reasoning (learn to swim by just getting in the water), but my perfect open mat would involve lots and lots of drilling on one or two moves (so I guess that would be learning to swim by practicing one stroke in the corner of the pool), then steadily increasing the resistance (moving into deeper water? Not quite sure where I'm going with this analogy. Ahem).

    My training partner would later add in the typical defences/attacks they'd use in that situation, then we'd keep upping the resistance until eventually we were effectively sparring, but from that specific technique.

    Just sparring for the whole open mat wouldn't be as useful for me. I only find it helpful when I've got something specific in mind to work.

  3. During rolling sessions, I try to develop a specific guard, pass, or sweep for say a month or more. When in open matt, I try to work the kinks out of my techniques. I'll drill slowly with a partner to see why they are not working. Then I will adjust my technique accordingly. I guess you could say that I use open mat as more of a skills lab.

  4. Yeah, that's how I would like to do it too. Problem is finding someone equally willing to spend that much time on drilling.

    Of course, free sparring is the best laboratory (again, with the right partner), but it helps to first have the prep of copious drilling.