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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

11 October 2011

11/10/2011 - Gracie Barra Bristol (Spider Guard)

Class #424
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Donal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 11/10/2011

Some people may remember I mentioned I was working on a new BJJ history project, as an extension of my Jiu Jitsu Style magazine articles about team history. I've now taken that a step further, so I'm trying to organise the data (which still isn't anywhere near complete, so please drop me a line if you can help on dates, team lineage, further historical sources, etc) in a sort of 'BJJ teams family tree', here.

Tonight was another fantastic class by Donal: I'm really enjoying his teaching style, and again there was an almost permanent smile on my face the whole lesson. He came up with more cool warm-ups, too, including the great open guard drill from last time, where you move around your partner using only your legs without putting your feet on the floor. Last time I kept things simple, but this time I was happily spinning around on my shoulders into inverted guard. I think it's the same drill Abmar Barbosa shows on his DVD set (which looks hilarious sped up).

When I trained at RGA HQ, I was often early, so got to watch Felipe Souza teach the kids class (he is the best teacher of kids I've ever seen: the only guy who comes close is his student and Future Champions head teacher, Jamie Hussein). The biggest difference was that a large chunk of those kids classes was devoted to games, bringing in learning by stealth.

The reason I mention this is that I got the same vibe from some of the cool stuff Donal brought into his warm-up. For example, he split the room into two groups, at either end of the mat. He then told us to spider walk towards each other (so, you're on your hands and feet, but facing the ceiling), then try and 'high five' as many people as you can. One important difference: you have to high five with the soles of your feet. Great way to work on your agility, getting used to using your feet like hands and of course decent cardio too, not to mention fun. ;)

Randomly, I also found that a passing drilling dredged up a memory of an old kung fu drill I used to do in Zhuan Shu Kuan. From what I remember of the history, backed up by Rod's trip to China, ZSK is supposed to be based on 'long fist' kung fu, which I guess is where the lunging stances come from. The drill I'm thinking of was a sort of diagonal punching thing.

You lean forward on one leg, keeping the other straight behind you, then punch out at an angle. Switch to the other leg, then punch the other way. The BJJ application is that you're passing the guard, having grabbed one of their trouser legs. Side step towards their head and punch with that grip simultaneously, to move their leg out of the way. The ZSK stance seemed to fit. Strange, as that's not something I ever thought I'd use again. ;)

Technique was still spider guard, which makes me very happy, as I've been trying to work on that for a good while now. Donal started off with a sweep, from when they are still on their knees. Starting with your feet on their hips, grab both sleeves and put one foot on their bicep. Push with your foot while also pulling their other sleeve forwards, so that your hand holding their sleeve is right by your head.

That should knock them off balance, as their arm is dragged forward on one side, while on their other you're pushing it right up. Keep on pushing with that foot into their bicep (remembering to curl your toes for extra grip), manoeuvring it over your opposite shoulder. When they're totally off-balance, use your free leg to chop into their same side leg, while continuing to pull on their sleeve and pushing with your bicep leg. From there, you should be able to roll into mount, similar to a scissor sweep.

If they manage to resist that and stay on their knees, they are still going to be off-balance, leaning right forward. That means it is a great time to transition to a triangle. Simply pull them arm even more forward as you slide your leg off their bicep and into their neck. Lock your legs by their head, also trapping the arm, then move into the triangle as normal.

As in Big Mick's lesson and the GB Brum method, we were split into groups of 1-2-3 for specific sparring, from spider guard. Interestingly, Donal used that to teach another technique, as before we started, he recapped what he said earlier about going deep with your lasso, hooking the foot around their back. This was for when they stand up: swing your leg out to one side in order to then swing it back to wrap over their arm, establishing your lasso spider guard.

Passing, I wasn't getting all that far, partly because I wanted to give the person on the bottom a chance to work, but mainly because my open guard passing is awful. I was able to work on the principle Geeza taught a while back, however, which is to use their strongest grip (in this case, the lasso wrapped around my arm) as a 'hinge' for your pass. I just kept trying to move around that leg, while gripping the other leg with my hand.

Underneath was fun, as I had a chance to start throwing in the various other sweeps I've been practicing. My favoured tripod sweep to sickle combination fits in nicely with spider guard, when they stand up: the sickle seemed to work better, for some reason. As you've already got such a deep control on their arm, that also seemed to help with coming straight up and into a dominant position, which is one of the things I often flail at with a normal tripod or sickle sweep.

Like last week, Donal also started free sparring with a round of flow rolling, though this time it was more jiu jitsu chess than what I'm used to (i.e., instead of just flowing through positions, you took it in turns with your partner). For free sparring proper, I had the usual relaxed roll with Luke. I was looking to go for an arm-wrap choke, but he was wise to that, so I couldn't bring the other elbow down across his chest while getting a grip on the collar.

I did somehow end up in mount later, where I aimed to use grapevines for control (or rather, Kev's tip on just crossing your feet underneath them), then working to either go for an ezequiel, scoop their elbow and walk my fingers up to loosen up an arm, or try and reach behind the head to grab the wrist for twisting arm control.

Having had a cool email exchange with a woman who recently started training BJJ in New Zealand, I'd been thinking about grapevines from mount earlier. She mentioned that in her class, someone had dissuaded her from using them, while her instructor went so far as to claim he could break her ankles if she put in grapevines. I've read elsewhere, somewhere on reddit, that grapevines are frowned upon in some schools.

I'm not sure why, as I use them all the time: it's something I taught earlier, in my maintaining mount lesson. Could be I've got a different definition of grapevines, or that I just haven't come across somebody who will punish me for putting in grapevines. Food for thought, though I take solace in the fact that top black belts like Demian Maia and Saulo Ribeiro both demonstrate grapevining on their instructional DVDs.

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