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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

08 June 2011

08/06/2011 - Q & A at Gracie Barra Bristol

Class #403
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Nicolai 'Geeza' Holt, Bristol, UK - 08/06/2011

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Class tonight was a bit different, as this time, Geeza did something I haven't seen at many other schools (though I know Kev has done something like this in the past, along with Roy Dean at last year's seminar). Rather than presenting us with a technique, Geeza treated this lesson as a question and answer session, giving everybody present the chance to investigate some of the problems they've been having in their game.

As Geeza always sends out a text summarising the content of the class, I made sure to text my question in advance: I wanted to get some input on the ideal posture, pressure, distancing etc when you're facing somebody's open guard and looking to pass. Geeza had already gone through some good technique in terms of opening and passing closed guard earlier, so I was interested to hear his thoughts on dealing with open guard.

They are in open guard, perhaps with a grip on your sleeve, their legs keeping you at bay. This is a position where I frequently end up just staring at people, breathing a sigh of relief when I get passed and can start working my guard. As I've said so many times in the past, that needs to change. I've been given the tools by Kev, during a private lesson: the techniques Geeza taught acted as a very helpful reminder, with some additional emphases.

First, get your grips. Geeza mentioned he likes to grab a collar and a leg. As Kev advises, push down on their leg and do a big step over the top. From here, you then need to get an underhook on whichever side you aren't passing. Don't drop down immediately: they will often have an arm up to grab your collar, so swim under that. Once you've got the underhook, you can then drive forward, put your head on the passing side by their neck, then slide your knee over to pass.

Most likely they'll try to catch you in half-guard: if that happens, you're in a strong position, so just kick their top leg to pry your foot free (or as Saulo demonstrates, their bottom). If you aren't able to get that initial underhook, you can also underhook the other side instead, then switch your knees to that side (bringing your second knee under the leading knee). Finally, Geeza also mentioned how you can turn their hips away from the side your passing, which hinders their attempts to recover guard.

We drilled that for thirty seconds each, which was useful: progressive resistance is an enormously productive tool. This was the case with all the techniques tonight, rather than spending a long time drilling each one. That meant Geeza packed plenty into the class, but it was all stripped down to key principles, making it much easier to remember. Also, the remaining techniques were a lot simpler than the first.

Donal was up next in terms of asking questions, which turned out to be immediately beneficial to my efforts to focus on guard passing. It wasn't exactly a guard pass, but sort of, in a competition specific setting. The scenario was that both you and your opponent want to play a bottom game, so both pull guard. That leaves you playing footsie, so Donal wanted to know a good way to make sure you're the one who comes out on top.

Geeza's answer was very simple, but effective: grab the bottom of their trouser leg and stand up. With their leg in the air, they can't stand up, and you should get the advantage. It should also be a good place from which to begin a pass, netting you even more points. From my perspective, this was a handy starting point when sparring in class from the knees. Instead of pulling guard like normal, I could grab a trouser leg and try to work from on top.

The progressive resistance was again useful in testing that out, seeing what worked and what didn't. It did at points become a matter of reaction speed, but I'm sure there are technical nuances that can get involved with more experience. Luke also had a nifty defence, which was to instantly move into either spider or x-guard as soon as I stood with the leg. That's probably what I would try too, as it makes it hard for the person trying to passing to continue driving forward.

Lee, one of the white belts, asked the final two questions, about defending chokes and sweeps. Simple answer: for choke, first grip, look away to hide neck with hand on chest, then pull hand down and off. If they have both, wrap arm, and do a 'dog' motion, raising head and driving forward.

In terms of defending against a sweep, they are trying to turn your hips over, so that they can roll to the top position. To prevent them achieving their goal, simply turn your hips in the other direction, switching your base and sprawling. You can then keep moving around, in order to either take side control or the back, depending on what they do.

There was enough time for some free sparring: I started off with Oli. Instead of pulling guard like I normally do, I grabbed his leg instead and stood up. I sort of flopped into half guard, at some point getting into position for a bent armlock. Rather than trying to finish that, Geeza suggested I use it to pass, which is sensible advice. I'm not sure how I got there, but later I was in north south, looking for a kimura.

However, Oli was wise to that, so hid his arm by putting it between his legs and grabbing onto his gi. Instead of trying to wrench that free, I tried wriggling the foot I had on the far side into his armpit. My intention was to then kick through to establish the step over triangle, which would hopefully enable me to catch an arm somewhere.

Afterwards, both Geeza and Oli advised that I could have pulled on the trapped arm and made an attempt at the triangle. Good reminder, as I almost always don't bother trying to finish the triangle, as I assume I'm highly unlikely to finish it. Nevertheless, it is well worth at least giving it a go, rather than completely ignoring the opportunity and only using it for control.

Last spar was with Kirsty, which as I'd expected proved to be a good roll (given that she's my size and also has plenty of judo experience, with a couple of years doing MMA too). I wanted to test out some of the attacks I planned to teach tomorrow, particularly to isolate the difficulties: I'll go through that on Thursday. I also again tried to work the pass, getting to Geeza's recommended starting position, though I think Kirsty swept me at some point in the middle.

Geeza mentioned something interesting to me during class, which is that I'm now technically eligible for a red strip on my purple belt, given that I'm teaching. That sounds tempting, although I'm not sure I'd want to replace the belt I got from Roger. Then again, I could have a second belt for teaching. Something to think about, I guess: I suppose I could try unstitching the black strip and replacing it with a red one, but that sounds way beyond my sewing abilities. ;)

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