06 March 2011

Roger Gracie Seminar

Seminar #6
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Roger Gracie, Aylesbury, UK - 06/03/2011

Before I talk about this seminar, I wanted to talk about another one: be sure to check out the charity women-only BJJ seminar being held by black belt Helen Currie on 3rd April from 13:00-15:00, here. No experience necessary, and the proceeds go towards fighting breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The fee is a tiny £5, and it will be held in Oldham at Stealth BJJ. Worthy cause, and you get to learn some awesome technique: what more could you want? :)

Continuing with the charity theme, shout out to all the grapplers from Martial Arts Planet in Kingston, Ontario (the names I managed to catch are Laura, Lex, the Hull family, Morgan and especially fellow blogger Ashley, which is where I heard about it in the first place). I spent most of yesterday watching their live stream of a twenty-four hour grapple-a-thon event they had, in support of The Ontario Lung Association. The recording of the live stream is still up, in several parts, here. If you'd like to fight lung disease by donating to the Ontario Lung Association, click here.

The seminar today (which incidentally was also in support of a charity, the Action for Brazil's Children Trust over in Brazil) is without any doubt the busiest class I've seen at the McLeod Academy, the home of RGA Bucks. The club has several locations: I used to be at the one in High Wycombe.

The name 'Roger Gracie' unsurprisingly gets people excited, so there were around sixty people from the club there, possibly more. I'm guessing sixty, as everyone gave a £10 donation to the Trust, and we ended up raising £607 in total. Either way, it was great to see several women among that sixty: with a high level female purple belt at the club (Yas, who recently recorded the below excellent video with Kev), I'm hopeful that the number of women will continue to grow.

I'm still taking it easy on my knee, so spent the warm-up doing sit-ups and press-ups rather than the usual jumping jacks and squats. However, it seemed to be relatively ok for the takedowns Roger taught (though we weren't actually bringing anyone to the mat, as there wasn't space). This begins from the grip break: you grip their sleeve on the top of their hand, and also underneath, making sure that there isn't any loose material. Step back and pull up at the same time.

Keeping one hand on the sleeve, transfer the other to their collar and pull them down to break their posture. Step outside their leg as you drop to take their leg, being sure to keep your head on the inside. Securing their leg with your arms, stand back up, then also trap the leg between your arms. From there, you can do for various takedowns, like the single leg, or indeed switch to a double leg.

The main technical instruction centred on the half guard. Roger taught a simple but very effective posture, which can help you either recover your full guard, take the back, or sweep. You need to get up on your side, with a same side underhook. It is also essential that you don't let them cross-face you, or they'll be able to drive forward and put you flat on your back.

So, keep tight and curled in, with your hand blocking their same side arm. For extra support, you can brace that hand with your head. Alternatively, you can simply put your hand on your head, with your forearm directly in front of your face. Curl in further towards them, ideally getting right by their leg. This will make it very difficult for them to fish your head free. Most likely, they will end up trying to drive their weight forward.

As soon as you feel that weight transfer, bring your underhooking arm up, in order to knock them off-balance, past your head. You can then come up on your elbow (same arm that is on your head). Don't bring your head out from underneath them yet, as you don't want to give them a chance to control it. From there, you may find you have space to slip your knee through to get back to full guard, or swing round to take the back.

A more experienced opponent will be wise to what you're doing, and as soon as you underhook, they will look to overhook that arm, establishing what's called a 'whizzer'. That now blocks you from taking the back, but it does present other opportunities. The technique is much the same as above, but this time you can't go to the back.

If they don't drive their weight forward, you can try to move out to all fours, from which you can try to attack (e.g., if you go for their far leg and perhaps get to side control). If they do drive their weight forward, swivel underneath, reaching your basing arm behind their leg. Continue the roll, and their momentum should enable you to bring them over your body, so that you move into top half guard.

That was it for technique, moving straight into specific sparring. Again, I sat this one out, though I did get to watch some good rounds of sparring: for example, Callum's nifty open guard, which has caused me problems many times. There were about four rounds of that, split by weight, followed by free sparring.

After Roger called time, everybody lined up, a tight squeeze with that many people. Kev announced that Roger was going to do some gradings (the main reason he'd popped down today), drawing out a clutch of crisp new blue belts from a box behind him. I didn't catch the name of everybody who was called up, but well done to all. Next, Kev started pulling out purple belts. Sahid was up first, a very well deserved promotion: he's been dominating the competition scene for a while now. He was followed by Callum, Howard and Matty Burn, along with Tom and Adill. Awesome to see that many new purple belts at RGA Bucks, so massive congratulations to those guys.

Roger hadn't finished yet, as Kev handed him another purple: it turns out that I was going to get one too. I have to admit it makes me a little nervous, as I still feel I have so many holes in my game. However, I trust my instructor's judgement, particularly as Kev has rolled with me many times. It is also obviously a privilege to have the belt tied around my waist by Roger Gracie, the most dominant champion in BJJ's history.

I look forward to finally getting back to sparring, which will now become an especially good test of how well I can control my ego! ;)

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  1. Slidey it is well deserved!

    I know you rarely talk about your own belt rank but as of late I wondered if you had been promoted to Purple belt due to your regularity of training (over the years).

    You contribute a lot to the BJJ community. I am glad you received it.

  2. Thanks! It was especially cool to get it at the same time as people I've trained with a lot in the past, like Callum and Howard.

  3. Congratulations on the promotion dude.

  4. Prediction: you will now wear loud coloured gis and an expensively embroidered belt. Oh sorry, that's me.
    Well done again. Proud of you!

  5. @billy1979red: Thanks!

    @Meerkatsu: Cheers - I'm planning on getting a ripstop for my 30th birthday, if that counts? Plain white with minor embroidery on one sleeve, though. ;)

    The belts were all Grab & Pull, interestingly. Seem quite nice, though I know sod all about belts. Unlike a certain someone who wrote a long article about them a while ago, and was indeed name-checked when the topic came up today... ;p

  6. Congrats on the Purple, Hombre!

  7. Excellent Job, like Meerkatsu said time to go get that red/metalic silver/camo gi

  8. Awesome!!! Congratulations!!!!! :)

  9. @CalfOfWar: Thanks John! Shame you didn't get to hear the audio on the grapple-a-thon: missed out on some awesome tunes! ;p

    @willwayland: Cheers! Think I'll leave the BJJ fashion statements to Meerkatsu, he carries them off a lot better than I could. ;)

    @SavageKitsune: Thanks! Looking forward to visiting all the bloggers out on the US some time, though that's just become slightly more scary with the new belt. Then again, won't be for a couple of years anyway. :)

  10. congrats slidey. Shame I didnt get to roll with you when I visited kevs and also a shame that i didnt end up spending as much time in aylesbury as I initially thought. You clearly have a very cerebral approach to the game and Im sure the belt is well deserved!

  11. cookster_328: Cheers Graham! Will have to roll next time. Hope your training is going well down at Matt Benyon's place. Oh, and congrats on becoming a father! Well, unless that isn't your first one. But still. :)

  12. @leslie: Thanks! I miss seeing all those comments on your awesome blog, so I look forward to when you turn them back on again. :D

  13. OMG! Congrats! I totally missed this post when it came out. Also thanks for mentioning all the BJJ people out there that came together to raise money for a good cause. Purple looks good on you.

  14. @Jodi: Thanks! Hopefully mentioning those seminars will get a few more women along to the Helen Currie event, and more money to fight cancer.

  15. Is "burying the lead" a phrase they use in England? Congratulations.

  16. @dokomoy: Thanks! I had to Google it either way, but yeah, I tend to try and avoid bigging myself up if I can at all avoid it. ;)

  17. Wow! This is great news, reported humbly as always. I almost missed it at the bottom of your post. Congratulations, or as we say in Latin, gratulationes!

  18. @Shark Girl: Thanks! I wish that I could memorise technique as successfully as those old Latin vocab tests. :)

  19. Congratulations, Slidey! From white belt to purple belt in a little over four years is quite an accomplishment and something to be proud of.

    And, yeah, you did bury the lead! When you earn a purple belt it's okay to shout to the world "I got my purple belt!"

  20. @Dolph: Thanks Dolph! You know me, I don't feel comfortable shouting about things, it feels arrogant. Or indeed shouting: always try to avoid raising my voice. ;)

  21. I know I'm late, but hey.... CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    Loved your write-up, too.

  22. @fenix: Cheers fenix! Katie from Skirt on the Mat got promoted recently too, which is cool. :)