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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

25 May 2011

25/05/2011 - GB Bristol

Class #399
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Nicolai 'Geeza' Holt, Bristol, UK - 25/05/2011

Good news for US fans of Jiu Jitsu Style: you can now buy the print version of the magazine through Budovideos. Also, Steve from Black Eagle recently attended his first class of BJJ and wrote it up here, which is excellent news. Steve has an interesting perspective, as he runs a martial arts company, including equipment for BJJ, especially gis (I have one of their judogi and a backpack, though they don't seem to make the latter anymore).

That means that he has been around the sport for a good while now, sponsoring athletes and competitions as well as consulting various practitioners in the process of creating equipment, but up until now he hadn't actually trained in the sport himself. I'm therefore very intrigued as to how his perspective will change as he develops first-hand understanding of BJJ: should become a fascinating blog. :)

Getting back to tonight's class, Geeza was running us through the x-guard, specifically some sweeps. Like last time I was at a Wednesday class, Geeza was able to draw upon his vast store of competition footage (as per his YouTube channel) to show us some examples of him successfully performing the techniques he was about to teach in a tournament. Really cool that he can do that, though I must remember to leave my glasses on the dividing wall: otherwise not that easy to see the image on the screen with my short-sightedness.

If you're not familiar with x-guard, it's called that due to the position of your feet. You are sideways, with your arm wrapped around the back of their leg, clamping their foot to your shoulder. Your opposite side leg then hooks around the back of their other leg. Finally, your remaining foot (so this is on the same side as your leg-hooking arm) hooks around the front of their far hip (so your feet are in an x shape), meaning that the knee of that leg is behind their arm-wrapped leg. In the likely event that description is confusing, see Stephan Kesting's pictures.

The first x guard sweep is the main one I'm familiar with from that position, having seen it a few times before. With your crossed feet, push their far leg away from you, to knock them off balance. Come up on your elbow, lifting the leg you've trapped by your shoulder. Make sure the knee of their trapped leg is pointing down.

You can also continue pushing on their far leg, by switching your foot to the side of their knee. Do a technical stand up, which means that you'll be raising their trapped leg into the air as you stand. From there, it should be fairly simple to take them down and pass, as they can't stand while you have their leg like that.

Geeza's second x guard sweep was slightly more complex. Again, you're going to push their leg slightly, but this time, you're also going to grab their nearest arm with your free hand. Push them in the direction they're facing, then as they fall, bring their trapped arm past their far leg, so they can't use it to post out. Roll with them as they fall, turning your hips, coming up in a sort of mount.

My training partner Kirsty gave me some useful tips here. Make sure to keep hold of both that sleeve you've grabbed and the leg you've hooked with your arm as you roll. Kick through with your foot as you come out on top. If you release a grip and don't kick through, you'll end up leaving too much space and probably get your back taken, or simply lose the pass.

The final x-guard attack was a method for taking the back, a bit like the one from de la Riva. It starts as before, but this time, bring your free hand behind the leg you've trapped, grabbing the wrist of your leg-wrapping arm. Push them forward slightly with your crossed feet to knock their balance off, then use your hands to shove their trapped leg to the other side of your head.

Unwrap your arm and grab their belt: keep the wrist of the second hand pressed into the back of their leg. Using that hold on the belt, you're now going to swivel directly behind them, so that you can hook the inside of their knees with both of your feet. Kick forward with your feet, then sit up to take the back.

Specific sparring was therefore from x guard, with the proviso that the person on top could not sit down, they had to stay standing. We were split into groups by weight and skill, which is something Geeza likes to do for safety: seems to work well, so I'll be looking to do that in my classes, when the 1-2-3 grouping isn't viable (or indeed combine the two options, but it would need to be a pretty big class for that to work).

I wasn't able to do all that much from underneath, though I did manage to sweep one guy by grabbing their leg and knocking them backwards. Not very technical, but still better than the vague flailing I fell into later, where I generally soon lost the x-guard and started wibbling about in various sloppy attempts at open guard. I had a good roll with Kirsty: IIRC, she's a judo black belt and has done a few years of MMA, so hopefully I'll get a chance to roll with her again. Always good to train with people around my weight, especially when they're experienced.

On top, I wasn't getting anywhere. My natural instinct would be to sit down, but forced to stand, I was generally just getting caught with the exact same sweep Geeza had shown earlier. They do a technical stand up, and I'm left hopping around on one leg. What I should have been doing, but only did once, was shove their foot down and try to pass from there. As ever, I hate standing up in guard, but something everybody has to get used to.

At present, there isn't a separate changing rooms for women, probably because Kirsty is currently the only woman training there. Hopefully that will change in the future: I'm pleased with how the female contingent at RGA Bucks has grown, I'm sure in large part due to Yas training there. Must be encouraging to have a friendly senior ranked female for any new women joining up.

Women at GB Bristol are temporarily getting changed upstairs in the ladies toilet, from what Kirsty said: as far as I'm aware, a proper female changing room is in the process of being built, as there are some showers being made ready upstairs too. I think she left her bag or something in the main changing room (which was fairly packed, as the class was relatively large tonight), as she briefly popped in to get something.

As soon as she'd left the changing room, somebody made an off-colour remark about what she might have been looking for. Given that this was in a men's locker room, that is perhaps to be expected, but nevertheless, training partners should be respected as training partners, on and off the mat. Sexism in particular is something that annoys me, hence why I've written stuff like this in the past.

Now, I'm sure nobody at the club would say anything sexist during class: very much to his credit, Geeza actively attempts to foster a respectful atmosphere, regularly speaking to the class about the ethos and principles he wants to institute. However, that comment in the locker room did make me wonder how I would react in the hypothetical situation of somebody making a crude sexist joke while I was teaching, or indeed a racist or homophobic comment.

In an ideal world, I'd immediately cut them down with a dazzlingly witty retort. Unfortunately, I'm not blessed with great wit, so I'd probably end up coming across as a stuffy headteacher instead (which would at least be better than saying nothing and letting it pass). Dolph related an incident he remembered regarding some mild homophobia, but I haven't seen much talk on the web about how instructors generally deal with bigotry during class (probably because it is rare: I can't think of any incidents during class in the years I've been training). It would be interesting to hear if people know of any, or have suggestions on what they would do.


  1. Off-color comments are something I've been thinking a lot about recently, especially after having seen it dealt with head on, with almost negative success. I'm beginning to think a softer approach may be more effective...this being jiu jitsu and all.

    The one I've addressed head-on was an anti-semetic joke from one of the kids. He told the joke and I turned, looked him in the face and said "come on man"...I knew he knew it was wrong. Immediately another one of the kids chimed in "yeah...c'mon man."

    I've heard heard racially based jokes directed against Blacks and being Black myself, I generally with a straight face just ask for an explanation. Haven't heard any in a while.

    Recently though, I've made a friend at the gym who's been using slurs against Latinos and gays and I'm not sure how I'm going to address this one. It's likely as simple as saying that that kind of language bothers me, but I've always had a distaste for that type of response.

  2. Yeah, that is just the kind of thing I'm worried about. If somebody is making jokes that I find offensive, how best to deal with them without coming across as self-righteous and therefore being ignored?

    Although like I said above, I think it is far better to at least say something, even if it isn't wholly effective, rather than letting bigoted comments slide.

    In my case, I'm hoping that the slightly authority I get from being an instructor might help (as it seems to have done since I made the above post: the guy in question sent an email apology).

    Also, if people are interested in the topic of dealing with inappropriate comments during BJJ class, there has been a good thread about it over on the Jiu Jitsu Forums, here.

  3. "I think it is far better to at least say something, even if it isn't wholly effective, rather than letting bigoted comments slide"