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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

20 March 2011

20/03/2011 - RGA Aylesbury (Open Mat)

Class #382
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, UK - 20/03/2011

As I've probably mentioned before, I'm not a fan of leg locks. Though I'm aware not everyone agrees on this point, I think they're dangerous, mainly because it is possible to do serious damage before there is any pain. That scares me, both in terms of my own knees, and the potential injury I could do to someone else: even if I did everything right, I'd be worried they might try to spin the wrong way during their defence, or something along those lines.

However, as somebody said to me on Bullshido, it is important not to be completely ignorant of lower body submissions, for your own safety if nothing else. I definitely agree on that point, and now seems like a good time to start improving my ability to recognise and escape them. It isn't an area I've explored in any depth before, particularly as according to my blog, I've only been shown lower body submissions seven times in the last four and a bit years.

So, I mentioned to Kev that I thought I needed to improve my understanding (although he confirmed that there weren’t any new leg locks allowed at purple belt, just the same straight ankle lock you can do from white belt onwards). He suggested that I could start trying to attempt some leg locks in sparring: the reactions of my training partners will help me understand the defence.

Kev then quickly ran through the basic four submissions: straight ankle lock, toe hold, heel hook (illegal in IBJJF competitions, among other places) and kneebar. I won't write them up in depth, as I would need to go through them again to get the full details, but they all started from standing in your opponent's open guard. Hook your arm around, control their leg and drop back.

Kev started with the straight ankle lock (which attacks the Achilles tendon), then a toe hold if they roll (figure four their foot, then twist their big toe towards their bum), before showing a heel hook (their foot is in your armpit, with the heel sticking out: wrap your elbow under and turn. You'll notice in the picture, Roy Dean is just showing the motion, rather than actually applying the submission), then finally the kneebar (spin around their leg and drop alongside them, ready to drive your hips up into the leg while pulling back on the top).

This was just before the open mat started, which wasn't a typical open mat. Instead of drilling, Kev led competition training for those fighting in the British Open. That took up the red mats in one half of the room, while the blue mats were for everyone else to practice what they wanted (so, normal open mat). I stayed on the blue mats, as the competition training involved things like hopping around on one leg, plus lots of sparring.

A white belt on the blue mats asked about deep half guard, which isn't something I have a great deal of experience using, but I could at least show him the entry he wanted. However, I noted that as a white belt, most important thing is to get the basics down first, which in this case is how to defend under half guard, ideally looking to get back to full guard (handily he was at the Roger seminar, so had already seen some good half guard bottom fundamentals).

I couldn't spar, but I could do specific sparring from top half guard, particularly as I was just looking to maintain the position and give him some tips. The idea was to help him get used to defending underneath, taking particular note of how I was moving my weight around, controlling his head, blocking underhooks etc. Hopefully proved useful for him, and was certainly helpful for me: sparring like that didn't seem to cause my knee any problems.

Another pair of training partners were drilling a side control sequence of attacks on the far arm. I butted in at one point, because I noticed that when transitioning from the straight armbar to either the americana or the kimura, they could get more control with Roy Dean's lockflow. Hopefully jumping in to demonstrate wasn't too patronising, which is something I'll have to watch. Just because I'm a purple belt now doesn't give me free rein to interrupt everyone around me and correct what they're doing.

Finally I did a brief bit of drilling with Yas, firstly on an arm-wrap choke variation I'd seen on Abmar Barbosa's DVD, which I thought would interest her. That's because Yas has recently starred in her own mini-series on the Black Eagle BJJ Essentials videos, showing a sequence of attacks from the arm-wrap. The latest one was this sweep, having already shown an armbar and a triangle earlier. Kev is up next, as he is going to do three counters for the same Black Eagle series.

I also asked Yas about leg lock defence, as she's a regular competitor in both gi and nogi (you're a lot more likely to see leg locks in nogi, as there are less restrictions). That meant I had a chance to clarify some details on the leg locks Kev had shown me earlier, as well as get her thoughts on the defence she uses most often.

I've got some familiarity with escaping the straight ankle lock, as on the extremely rare occasions when people try to go for my legs, they'll attack the achilles. I'll aim to hop my hips over their leg, then grab their gi, sit-up and move forward. Sahid also reminded me about the 'Wellington boot' defence: basically, hold your foot as if you're wearing a boot. This makes it harder for them to complete the submission, giving you a bit of time to initiate your escape.

In terms of escaping the other leg attacks, Yas said she tended to try and kick her leg free by pushing on the back of theirs, demonstrating as I vaguely went through a toe hold and kneebar with her. I think I've tried that escape in the distant past too, though I can't remember exactly what kind of leg lock I was looking to defend. I look forward to having two working legs, as then I can start testing this out and shoring up my defences. Best thing to do would probably be some kind of master class with Nick Brooks at Mill Hill: when I've sparred him in the past, I tend to get leglocked all over the place.

Incidentally, it was cool to see a (very) brief feature on RGA Bucks on the GracieMag site, where there is a group pic of the Roger seminar. The club has popped up a couple of times, as it is a Gracie Magazine Associate.

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