Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Nicolai 'Geeza' Holt, Bristol, UK - 07/09/2011
As on Monday, I was again in two minds about heading to training due to that annoying sun burn, but then a gi arrived this morning (at the moment, I'm dealing with four requests to do a review, so that should mean several other packages arriving in the next few weeks). I like to provide a fast turn-around on reviews, so that immediately meant I wanted to give the gi its first test run that night. Should have the first of those reviews up in a couple of weeks.
In his text message before class, Geeza said tonight was going to be sacrifice throws, where you drop back on one knee, roll back looking over the shoulder on that side, lift them with your other leg and pop up in mount. However, as people were having trouble with it, he stopped at just the one technique.
The advantage of being an experienced instructor like Geeza is that you can switch your lesson plan with relative ease. Instead of continuing with takedowns, he then changed the lesson into another Q & A session: in my class I'd find that much tougher, as I wouldn't be confident I could properly answer any question. The first query put forward was a good one from Donal, about the best option if you're passing and have trapped both their legs to the mat, but you're being blocked. This prompted a cool bit of principle based teaching from Geeza, on the topic of guard passing.
The first principle is that to block a pass, you want to push their head in the direction they want to pass. Demian Maia explores that same principle, which he calls 'head control theory', in his DVD set. However, while pushing their head to the passing side helps block off one route, it makes it easier for the person on top to pass to the other side: they are already being rotated in that direction. If they quickly switch, it is difficult for the person being passed to quickly adjust and push the head the other way.
In a related principle (which I remember Geeza telling me early on, after he had easily blocked my passing attempts last year during one of our first spars), you should also pass to their strongest grip, using the grip like a hinge. The reason is that if you pass to the other side, you are going to get stuck, because whatever limb is trapped in that strong grip will be left behind. Instead, if they have a solid spider guard on your right and are also grabbing your right foot, pass around that point.
There wasn't a chance to drill it, perhaps due to time constraints. After a question from Arnaud about leglock options (which are pretty limited until brown belt, so that was a relatively easy question), it was straight into twenty minutes of sparring. That started with specific sparring from guard, where I was with a white belt who had just come back from an injury.
That would explain why I had an unusually successful time on top. Normally, as regular readers will know, I would be telling you I need to stand up, I have to stop being so passive, my passing went nowhere. Not this time: I found that immediately going to grab an arm (especially when they gripped me on that side) then standing worked well. This is what I've been meaning to do, but one of the few times I've actually been able to pull it off. From there, I was able to get a deep single underhook, reach to grab their collar and drive through.
I was also finding that going the other way worked a few times too, stepping over their other leg and pushing through to pass half guard. That was made easier by the fact I still had control of their leg, which makes it tough for them to lock a half guard. To my surprise, I even got the pass when you step back, drive their legs to the mat and move around. So that was nice, even though there were various mitigating factors like injury, time off, experience difference etc. I'll take what I can get when it comes to passing. ;)
Due to grabbing the arms, and initiating successful passes that way, it also made my partner more wary and less likely to attack. On the downside, I was still tending to lean forward too much when standing due to holding on to the collar grip unnecessarily. My hold on the sleeve could also do with some work, as it wasn't as solid as it should have been. Not to mention that when I tried to do the same single underhook pass on my next partner (we had now moved on to free sparring), a blue belt, it didn't work anywhere near as well.
I was able to push through to half guard again by switching to the other side, but they pulled off a nicely time sweep just as I thought I was passing, putting me underneath. We then spent the majority of the roll in my open and closed guard, where as ever I was looking to break their posture, control the head, and keep my legs in play at all times.
My last roll was with that same white belt again. He's a good bit stronger than me, so as I was getting pretty tired by that point, I pulled up on the leg to pass, got to half guard, drove through to low mount with grapevines and then just stayed there the whole roll. I went for the ezequiel repeatedly, but I'm making the same mistake of raising up too high. That gives them to opportunity to get their other arm in the way and block my chopping hand from getting to the other side of the neck. I need to remember to stay low and tight, blocking that defensive hand from scuppering the submission attempt.