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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

08 April 2011

08/04/2011 - De la Riva at Mill Hill

Class #385
RGA Mill Hill, (BJJ), Nick Brooks, Mill Hill, UK - 08/04/2011

I had intended to train in Bristol last week, but annoyingly I picked up some kind of virus. So, that ruled out BJJ, as I didn't want to pass that around the rest of the academy (it irritates me when people come in sniffling and coughing: if you know you're ill with something infectious, don't train!)

That meant I would have to wait until April to get back on the mats. For an upcoming issue of Jiu Jitsu Style, Nick Brooks generously arranged an interview with Ricardo de la Riva, who is visiting the UK for a couple of seminars. Even more generously, Nick also invited me down to train beforehand at the Mill Hill academy. Packing my dictaphone (or rather, my gf's dictaphone), I jumped on the train to London.

It has been almost three months since I hurt my knee, so I decided it was time to see if it could cope with a warm-up. The knee didn't complain during running round the room or shrimping, so it must be on the road to recovery. I'm still wary of sparring, but that's not a problem as long as I have sensible, considerate training partners.

Technique today was based around the flower sweep. Nick began with a straightforward method, beginning by grabbing both their sleeves. Release one of your grips and grab their same side trouser leg. Still on that side, kick your leg up into their armpit, aiming to break their posture and knock them diagonally forwards.

Continue pushing with your leg, pulling on their sleeve and lifting with that grip on their pant leg. That should enable you to roll through into mount. If they base out with a hand, you can take the opportunity to move into a triangle, bringing the leg on their basing side to curl around their head. Push them to the other side with that leg, then lock up the triangle.

You can also use different grips when you start. The orthodox version is to grab one sleeve (stopping their attempt to base out), then with your other hand, grab the opposite pant leg. However, you can also grab a sleeve, using your elbow and forearm to clamp down on their other wrist, trapping it in place (which again stops them using it to base out). On the same side as your grip, grab their pant leg, then proceed with the technique as before.

Finally, you can try a slightly different tactic from the same position. Establish your grips and go for the flower sweep. However, after you've kicked up into their armpit, you're going to swivel 180 degrees, then straighten that leg. At the same time, pull on their trouser leg straight backwards (rather than lifting up, as before).

This should flatten them out, so you end up alongside them, reaching over their body to immobilise their torso, ready to move into an omoplata. Normally, you would lean over to their opposite shoulder as if whispering in their ear to apply the submission. Nick showed a slightly different variation, where making sure your leg is over their shoulder, your head goes to their opposite hip instead. Twist your hips up for the shoulder lock.

Sparring was down to Nick, who like Kev pairs people up. As he knew about my knee, he started me off with a green belt. Children are useful if you've got an injury, as they're so light that it is unlikely they're going to power into some awkward movement that jars whatever joint you've hurt. It also meant I could stay very relaxed, leaving openings to see what he did, while also looking to concentrate purely on technique.

Next up was an entirely different prospect, the mighty Dan Strauss, fresh off his impressive victory at Submission 1000 (despite the fact that the tournament included several black and brown belts, purple belt Dan was able to win the whole thing). He took it easy on my knee, but given he is such a high level purple, that still meant he totally dominated me. I couldn't do anything except flop around defending.

No doubt if he'd been going full force, I would have spent the whole time tapping. However, as Dan was being nice, I mainly got a good work out due to all the spinning and twisting of my escape attempts. He also had some advice on escaping triangles, after he caught me with an americana from his guard.

I had been looking to create some kind of frame with my arm, as he had established a solid high mount and was in the process of locking in the triangle. I put my hand on my head as he rolled to guard in order to finish, hoping to wriggle my elbow back and slip my arm free. Instead, he simply twisted my arm to the side for a submission.

Dan suggested that instead, I should have grabbed his knee, driven it to the floor and then worked from there to get free. Alternatively, I could have tucked my chin to make some space, stand up, then use my knee to pry my head and arm free.

My training partner from the earlier drilling was next, Cho, a friendly white belt. Yet again, I went to the Xande open guard to avoid using my injured leg, which is mostly where we stayed (especially as, like everyone else, Cho was being careful of my left knee). Last up was a tall blue belt, who also stayed light. I got stuck in z-guard a few times, and was trying to push his knees together and to the mat. However, that mostly seemed to just present a chance for them to attack my neck, so I still need lots of work to get that pass right.

De la Riva was teaching a private at the time, before moving into a photoshoot with fellow blogger Meerkatsu, who trains at Mill Hill. It is always cool to meet internet friends in the real world: I've trained with Seymour a number of times now, but it's been a while. Once Seymour had finished off his camerawork, it was my turn to put that dictaphone to use.

Thanks to David Soares kindly acting as translator, I was able to have a forty minute chat with de la Riva (I checked on the capitalisation with the man himself, in case you've ever wondered how to write his surname). Our conversation should be popping up in Issue 3 of Jiu Jitsu Style, once I've typed it up and edited it down to the requisite length.

Clint was also there: I first met him last time I trained at Mill Hill. He is in the process of raising some money for charity, as part of the fight against cancer. Clint is planning to wear a bright pink gi, also sporting a fetching pink mohawk: if you'd like to sponsor him, check out his page.


  1. Your first roll with the Straussinator? Quite a crushing experience whenever I pair up with him!
    Good to see you at Mill Hill and hope you enjoyed the session. I so much prefer the daytime classes where you can pretty much hang around afterwards doing what you like before the late afternoon conditioning session and then late evening class beings.
    Glad you bagged yourself a good length of time with the legend.I believe this will be our first pic+word collab together. A nice one to partner up on. Can't wait to see the issue when it does go to print!

  2. Ah, true: hadn't thought of that. I've been at your photoshoots before, as you took pics at RGA High Wycombe and the Roy Dean seminar, but this will indeed be the first time we're working on the same thing. Which is cool. :D

    I may have rolled with Strauss back when he was a blue at RGA HQ, not sure though. I definitely got whooped by Agard there once.