Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Donal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 15/11/2011
I finally got round to listening to Aesopian's excellent interview on new BJJ podcast, The Flow recently. If for some reason you don't know who Aesopian is, he is basically the Godfather of BJJ Blogging. I'm not sure if he was actually the first person to start typing systematically about BJJ training, but he was the first to do it really, really well. Without any doubt, Aesopian's blog was a big factor in inspiring my own.
Tonight, Donal shared an option for taking the back from half guard. They've flattened you out on your back, so you're exactly where you don't want to be. Start by swimming the arm you have by their head under their neck, circling your hand around. You can then brace your forearm into their throat, to prevent them driving their weight through their shoulder into your neck. Be aware that they may try to knock your arm sideways across your throat, so they can go for an arm triangle
You now want to get on your side. Kick your leg forwards to swing your body up. You can either have your knee by your elbow, to try and maintain that space, or you can stick your knee on their hip. As you pop up onto your side, slide in and sink right down, so that your ear is by their belly button. Switch your arm to grip around their back. Also turn your knee outwards to give yourself base. From there, go to their back.
If they overhook, clamp their arm in place, then yank it forwards (I think this is off Caio Terra's half guard DVD). Switch the sleeve of their arm to your other hand and push it to the mat. That means not only have you trapped their arm, you've also got additional base and you've created lots of space to being your ascent to the back.
In sparring, Donal as usual started off with specific sparring, splitting the class into groups of 1-2-3. I stayed on top, as my neck is still playing up: it becomes a problem if I get squished on the bottom, but I can avoid using it when I'm on top of mount, half guard, side control etc. However, it does limit me in half-guard, as I rely quite a lot on my head to maintain control. I like to shove it next to their head, then use that combined with shoulder pressure to pass. It is also handy for base, if they start trying to roll you over.
As I couldn't use my head, I instead had to rely on pressure from my hips and good grips with my arms. When grabbing under their head, I brought my hand all the way through and also gripped tightly onto their shoulder (or their armpit, if I could reach it). I also tried turning towards their legs, clamping my elbow to the far side and attempting to maximise hip pressure. Still, I definitely didn't feel anywhere near as secure as I normally do, so was getting rolled, particularly by the bigger guys.
In free sparring, I stuck with either smaller or controlled people, as I didn't want to mess up my neck again (with has happened twice in the last month or two, both times because I kept turtling against white belts who were staying active on top). This time, I stayed either in open guard, or I worked to get on top of either half guard, mount or side control. If I could get to a dominant position, I tried let them into the game a bit, as it isn't very helpful to just lie there.
Underneath was interesting, as on numerous occasions I had to stop myself rolling into the running escape or turtling. That means I was instead forced to stay on my back and use my knees and arms, trying to create a frame to then recover guard. If you can get your skeletal structure into the right alignment (e.g., framing your forearms or knees into their hips), that can be a useful start to guard recovery. Of course, much easier when people aren't going nuts, or if they're much less experienced than you.
A few people were going for footlocks too, which is unusual. Good practice for my defence on that front, which at the moment just consists of grabbing their gi and pulling them close to me, then driving forwards and stepping through. There is a free internal Gracie Barra Bristol submission only comp coming up on 3rd December (open to any Gracie Barra students, I think), so perhaps people are looking to improve their straight footlocks in preparation for that.