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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a purple belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

31 May 2011

31/05/2011 - Gracie Barra Bristol

Class #401
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Miles Pearson, Bristol, UK - 31/05/2011

A carpenter is coming at 8am tomorrow morning, which meant that tonight was going to be my first night spent sleeping at the new house. We don't have any curtains up yet, so that meant I'd have a natural alarm clock. We also don't have a bed, so I was using an air bed (which has a really, really loud electrical thing to blow it up: I felt too bad for the neighbours to actually wait for the damn thing to finish, so just made do with something half-inflated). Then of course there was the biggest drawback, which is that I wouldn't be able to see my gf in the evening, or wake up with her the next morning.

Despite those discomforts, there was still a big plus. Staying overnight meant that, at last, I didn't have to rush off to jump on a bike and cycle the forty minutes or so back to Downend. Instead, I only had a seven minute walk around the corner. So, I could finally stay a bit later to get in some more sparring, and even more valuable, pick Geeza's brain.

Before that, however, there was of course Miles' class. He takes a different approach to me, as the techniques are a little more complex, with a greater focus on submissions. Last time I popped down to a Tuesday, it was the gift wrap and various attacks. This week, Miles wanted to cover the crucifix position, followed again by a number of submissions.

First, you have to get there. To transition to the crucifix, Miles had us enter against them turtling. You're on their side, looking to dig your knee inside. Pull back on their collar to make a little space, then insert your near knee. With your other leg, step over their near arm, then drag it back over your other arm, triangling your legs.

Reach through with your far arm, to thread inside their far arm and grab their wrist. Bring that towards their body to stop them using it to post. Push off your feet, then roll over your shoulder, moving over their body. You should end up on your back, with them perpendicular to you. One of their arms will be trapped by your triangled legs, while you have the other wrapped. Secure it by bringing your hand to the back of your head, as if you were combing your hair.

From here, you can effect a choke. With your free arm, reach over for their far collar and get a deep grip. Twist your wrist up and raise your hips, in order to press into their neck for the choke. You're aiming to squeeze both sides of their neck here, so your arm needs to also be pressing into their neck. It is possible you can choke them by just pressing into their windpipe, but that's less efficient than cutting off their blood flow.

If they're sufficiently strong to break their arm free of your arm wrap, they will probably pull on their collar or otherwise remove your grip. You can still get a choke, by simply reaching a bit further, past their collar and to the shoulder. The point of your elbow should now be just under their chin. You'll probably need to roll towards them and onto your side to reach in deep enough.

Create a backstop by gable gripping your other hand (so, palm to palm). Also keep your head in close to theirs, as with a rear naked choke. If this was a rear naked choke, you'd finish by expanding your chest and squeezing. That isn't convenient from this position, so instead, roll away from them slightly to pull them up onto your hips to increase your leverage, then bridge.

Finally, you could go for a shoulder submission off a triangle. From the crucifix, press on the side of their head with your arm, so that you can step your leg over their head. Put that foot into their far armpit, then lock the triangle. It is unlikely you'll be able to actually submit them with just that, so it is more of a controlling hold. The submission will come from bringing your other arm over their near armpit, then bridging up and twisting to apply pressure to their shoulder.

Miles left plenty of time to fit in a good bit of free sparring. I started with Monica, who had been my drilling partner today: it was good to see her in class again, as that hopefully means she will become a regular. I look forward to the day we reach a critical mass of women at GB Bristol, so that other women are encouraged to join, especially once the women progress to higher ranks.

Monica mentioned yesterday she'd done a few months of BJJ in the past, which is possibly why it turned out her ability to maintain side control was pretty good. She was able to generate a decent bit of pressure, without leaving much space for me to escape. Good stuff. She also reacted well to my attempts to recover guard, quickly moving around to pass and re-establish side control.

I then went with Luke, who as always maintained a relaxed, technical pace. I was looking for the spider guard sweep again, without much luck. I can't remember how I got there, but at some point I ended up on top in north south looking for an attack. The opportunity to work on my offence is one of the nicest things about a relaxed roll, although on the other hand, I'm not sure if that means I'm taking advantage of somebody's kindness. I guess it depends on if you go nuts with the attack, rather than keeping it steady and gradual.

Geeza was up next, who made a quick point about side control maintenance before we got going (something he wanted to mention after my class a couple of weeks ago, but as usual I had to leave early). In short, it is important to be aware that you need different types of control for different types of escape: although you might block their guard recovery, that could open up an opportunity for them to go to their knees. You need to be aware of both.

The roll itself led on from that, as Geeza asked to start under side control so he could take a look at my game from top side control. Naturally he was taking it easy as a result, so I tried to move around to north south, seeing if I could isolate an arm (I tend to go for the kimura from north south). At another point, I went to the step-over triangle, then again looked to see if I could get hold of an arm. I wasn't able to isolate the non-triangled arm, so attempted to switch to pushing on the trapped arm instead, going for a bent armlock by bending it over my hips. Something I need to keep in mind, as I haven't tried it much from that triangle position.

Finally, I had a roll with Oli, seeing if I could go for the spider guard attack. I also wanted to keep in mind more basic open guard options, like the tripod sweep. For once, I remembered to switch to the sickle sweep if I couldn't get the tripod, but didn't drive my hips through properly. That meant I ended up in a crappy pseudo-mount, which was soon reversed, putting me back under guard.

Class finished, but because I could stay late, that meant I was able to hang around and chat, as well as get in some more sparring with Geeza. As with previous rolls, he tried to work my passing game, going to his back and inviting me to try and get past. Also as with previous rolls, I flopped to my back at the first opportunity, then played defence. This is a bad habit, which I find I particularly do with instructors who are looking to help my game. Rather counterproductive on my part.

Unsurprisingly, Geeza finished up with the sensible advice I've also had (among others) from Kev and Nick Brooks: my defence is ok, so now I need to really focus in on going for some kind of attack. My intention pretty much since I started has been to develop a good defence so that I can take risks with my offence. I’ll throw in a quote, in case anyone still hasn’t read the best thread ever (which you really, really should). This is what I’ve been aiming for:

JohnnyS: We had John Will teaching us on Monday which is always enlightening. Before class we (the brown belts and myself) had a private with John and he recommended we work on our defence. He said the number one way to work on your confidence is to work your defence. When you are certain that no-one can tap you, what do you have to fear? You can work any attack you want because if you stuff it up, you don't have to fear being caught in a bad position.


From what several instructors have said, I've shifted more towards the negative side of that mindset, which is clamming up to avoid being submitted, rather than going for a submission of my own. Rolling not to tap is only going to lead to stagnation. I've been trying to avoid doing that, but it definitely happens a lot with higher level sparring partners. Something I need to stop: perhaps if I keep saying it on my blog enough, it will finally sink into my thick skull. ;)

Geeza also had some good tips on the basic guard break he showed yesterday, which I made sure to ask him about as I've been having problems with it for so long. He emphasised controlling the hips by pressing all your weight through the hand you have pressed into their hip. To get the guard open, aim to slide your own hip bone down their shin, making yourself too broad for them to keep their guard closed.

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