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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

06 October 2011

06/10/2011 - Michael 'Big Mick' Wilson at Gracie Barra Bristol

Class #423
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Michael 'Big Mick' Wilson, Bristol, UK - 06/10/2011

Normally I would be teaching the Thursday class, but this week is a bit special. That's because this week, there is a top black belt training at Gracie Barra Bristol: Michael 'Big Mick' Wilson. I was therefore more than happy to give up my slot to him, especially as I thought I'd lost my chance to learn from Big Mick due to being away yesterday. Also, I stayed on my brother's floor last night after a five hour meeting I had to attend up near Leamington, so lack of sleep would probably have rather hampered my teaching. ;)

Instead, I could relax and be the student rather than the instructor. Big Mick's lesson got off to an excellent start, as I really like his approach to warm-ups. Rather than any running or press-ups, it was based entirely upon partner-exercises which were directly relevant to jiu jitsu. For example, pummelling in the clinch, bullfighter passes and a useful drill for working leg flexibility, hip movement and lower body dexterity all at the same time.

That third exercise begins by having your partner sat on their heels, with arms outstretched in front of them, held parallel. You then put your instep on the opposite arm, after which you rotate your hips so that the knee of that same leg points to the floor. Follow that up by swinging your other leg over the top, until the instep of that leg presses into the other arm, whereupon your repeat. Great drill.

Mick's lesson tonight looked into the efficacy of double sleeve control from guard. He described it as if your partner's hands are an opposing team's star players, while your hands are going to act as markers to take them out of the game (or to use Mick's choice of metaphor, taggers from Aussie rules football). If you keep hold of those sleeves, then even if they get all the way around your legs, you can still stop them passing. There is the possibility of a sweep too: using another metaphor, Mick described the person passing as a plane trying to touch down without landing gear, meaning they were liable to crash.

To drive that point home, he then had us do some specific sparring from that position. That brought up another feature of the lesson I liked, as Mick followed the system at Gracie Barra Birmingham. I've mentioned this before, but you have everyone line up, then count them off in groups of 1-2-3. The ones go down on their backs first and stay there, until time runs out and it's the turn of the twos, then finally the threes. That way, everybody gets a good chance to practice the position, instead of just the most skilled and/or athletic people (which is what happens in a typical king of the hill set-up).

The people on their backs started with that double sleeve control, so the aim was to see if you could use those grips to hold your partner at bay. I found it tough to pass (though my passing is crap, so that's not unusual), even when I managed to get into a good position. I managed to move round to north-south at one point, but due to that double sleeve control, I couldn't settle into a dominant position. I also found myself getting swept a few times, after trying my usual tactic of sitting on one leg to force half guard and pass from there.

Underneath things went better, but I wasn't very good at maintaining the double sleeve hold. Most of the time my fingers would fail me on at least one of the grips, meaning I went back to spider guard or looked to take the back. It required a slightly different mindset than normal, because the idea was to hold on as long as possible: most of the time, if somebody seems to have got to side control, I'd stop and restart. However, as the point this time was to see if those grips could rescue you from a worst case scenario, I tried to fight on unless they could establish firm control for a few seconds.

The first technique of the day was a triangle from spider guard, but different to Donal's version from Tuesday due to the grips. Rather than a spider guard with a lasso, this time you just had your knees pressed into the crook of their elbows. From there, you're looking to get one foot on the bicep, which means you can then kick through while simultaneously pulling their arms forward. That puts you into a good position to finish the triangle. Grab your shin, foot on the hip to readjust, then lock your legs and complete as usual.

Interestingly, both Oli and I had trouble completing the triangle on eachother. That's possibly because we both have small necks, so had to be careful to close off any possible gaps. Shifting the leg in closer helped, as did wriggling backwards to stretch them out. Mick went into more detail on the latter before moving on to the next technique, demonstrating how your opponent is much weaker if you can bring their head forward of their knees. For example, push on their hip with your foot while holding their arm to pull them out of posture, a bit like the Gracie Combatives 'giant-killer' variation.

Mick rounded things off with an omoplata from spider guard, again in the same position. This time, you kicked one leg up, until their elbow was slipping past your knee. You then immediately push on their wrist, so that their arm wraps behind your leg, enabling you to swivel. You want to get your foot by their head. Grab their trouser leg with your hand, then continue rotating until your foot is pointing forwards by their head. Kick them forward as you also pull with your trouser grip to flatten them out. You can then lock your legs for the omoplata, crawling up their back to bring on the shoulder submission.

There was enough time for a round of free sparring, where I again found myself looking for the back. I focused on breaking posture, then keeping them there with a high guard, wrapping behind the head and also seeing if the overhook was a possibility. I was looking to then sneak around the side and pop up onto their back. I often have a problem getting myself up from the side to the back, which was again the case here.

Eventually I managed to swivel round, but I think I need to use my bottom instep to hook around their far hip to help (I seem to remember being taught that a while ago, so need to go review my notes). Once I got on the back I wasn't very good at finishing the choke, but the main concern for now is working on back control. While I did land a RNC earlier during specific sparring, I made lots of mistakes, like leaving my arm vulnerable as I brought the second hand in, as well as leaving too much space.

Going from back mount to mount is another technique I'm not doing properly. I was able to shift to mount as I felt my back mount slipping, but not with sufficient control. They had little trouble readjusting and dropping me back into guard, so I need to work on securing that transition to prevent myself immediately losing the position. Something to play with when I come to teaching the back again.


  1. i've been having a lot of luck with my spider guard but i'm "too slow" with the triangle from spider if that makes sense

  2. If you mean you're telegraphing it, that's been my problem too. The important thing with attacks is learning how to chain them together, which is something I'm still pretty crap at. :)