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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

31 July 2011

31/07/2011 - Gracie Barra Bristol Sparring

Class #411
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Nicolai 'Geeza' Holt, Bristol, UK - 31/07/2011

The wedding was great fun: looking forward to the pictures. Should be a few where I'm randomly walking around with a purse under both arms, as I was designated bag carrier for both the bride and the chief bridesmaid (the latter being my girlfriend).

Apologies to anyone who has had trouble accessing the site earlier this week, especially the BJJ Beginner FAQ. When I tried to make an update to the FAQ, it went haywire (looking like this, when it should look like this), so it sat there for about a day with a "back soon" message.

I was finally able to get the FAQ HTML to publish properly late on Tuesday, after repeated attempts. At first I thought it might be an issue with GoDaddy and my custom domain, but their support claims not. Meh. Still working on sorting that out, as I can't be sure the problem has gone away: HTML hasn't always rendered (if that's the right term?) the last few times I edited a post. We'll see if blogger support brings up anything, but the help system is a bit clunky so I doubt it.

Anyway, on to the sparring class today. I'm going to be teaching open guard passing next week, so I was keen to work on that as much as possible. This builds on what Geeza taught a while ago, which was the very handy but simple tip to grab their foot. Do that right after you bump knuckles, then you can start practicing your pass.

Working off that tip on grabbing the leg, I managed to get a pass. There is an x-guard sweep (pretty much the only one I ever remember) where you kick into their far leg and do a technical stand up to pass. I wasn't in x-guard, but I did have a grip on the bottom of their trousers, while they were leaning back with the leg outstretched. Doing a technical stand up in that situation, then thrusting their leg up high, seemed to work. I also made sure to bring my hips in close.

Before class, I looked through my guard passing bible, the Beneville book, in order to pick a few techniques I wanted to try. They all involved grabbing the knees. As frequently happens, I didn't get very far into the technique: the 'grabbing the knees' part proved hard enough that I could just work on that from the top.

Normally what happens is that when I try to pass open guard, I will either get swept, or I'll get to half guard. I'm happy with either, as both are useful for my lesson planning in future. If I get to half guard, I can practice passing from there: given the choice, that's my preferred place to pass. If I get put in guard, then I can concentrate on what they do to try and pass me.

When I got to half guard today, I was again reminded of the importance of a solid grip on their upper body. I like to get under their head, then grip the gi material by their shoulder or their collar. That makes for a solid control, although you need to watch their hips. Oli has a good trick of explosively wiggling to shift out from there, so you have to make sure you have something on the hips to keep them in place. I tried using my elbows to help with that, blocking a hip and/or an arm (to prevent them sliding up around my back or something like that).

Underneath during guard passing, I went with my earlier plan in order to try and work out the common reactions in open guard. I immediately opened my legs, then tried to get my sparring partner to attempt a pass. Judging by that (which I also did during free sparring later on), they will tend to grab a foot and try to shove it to the ground. They'll also often sit and insert their knee. Finally, they will grab inside the knees if they can.

I've been trying to go straight to grab the knees, which wasn't working out too well for me. So, grabbing a foot first and working from there may be beneficial. I'm also trying to keep in mind what Geeza said about keeping my distance, rather than attempting to drive in close. Sparring with him, I got to practice that some more.

While looking to get my grips, I noticed I was having trouble freeing my arm from his grips. His advice afterwards, which IIRC he has suggested before, is to use that to your advantage. If they have a strong grip on one side, then that's the side you should start to pass. Most likely they will then switch their grips, meaning you pass to that side instead.


  1. I was recently at a braulio seminar that looked at grabbing the foot first and dropping in the knees to secure their knee reaching over to grab their belt on gi on the far side and staying heavy. Aslong as they can't shift their hips back towards you, you have plenty of time. My explanation isnt so good, but it seemed to work quite well

  2. Sounds interesting. I'll be playing around with a few ideas before Thursday, and see what works best.

    Most likely I'll be staying basic, like the stuff on grip-breaking for passing the closed guard, but it would be good to isolate some useful postures.

    I have a couple in mind, but will be looking at a few more DVDs to supplement the kind of stuff I've been taught in the past. :)