Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Donal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 22/11/2011
Building on what he taught a little while ago, tonight Donal was showing us a route to the back. So, to copy what I wrote previously, 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. Also, any time you extend your arm they may try and grab it for a keylock, so whenever possible aim to keep your elbows tight to your side, never leaving a limb flopping and vulnerable.
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.
The next step, which Donal added tonight, is to take the back. Grab their opposite lapel and pull it across their waist, clamping your elbow around their hip. You need to be careful when doing that, as if you reach in too far with your arm, they can reach back, hook your elbow and roll you. You also need to make sure you are curling your arm around their hip, rather than keeping it too high. The idea is to secure both their hips: one with your elbow, the other with the tension created by pulling their gi lapel tightly across.
Your other hand is going to grab the gi material behind their same side elbow. Straighten your arm, so that you are driving their arm into the mat using your skeletal structure rather than muscle power. You don't want them to be able to post with that hand, or they will be able to prevent your back take. Finally, move off to the side slightly, pulling on that trapped lapel. This should yank them along in your wake, enabling you to swivel them right into back mount.
Berry raised a good point during drilling, which is what to do if you're really struggling to make space to get your hand through. Donal had two main tips for making space under half guard. The first was very simple: wait. Normally, they will eventually make a move, which is when you can react by exploiting any space they leave as a result, getting the arm into their neck.
Alternatively, you can use the Demian Maia approach to escaping side control. Reach up with the arm you have by their head so that your bicep whacks into the side of their head. You want to use that to bump their head to the side, in order to create some space. Make sure that you're pressing towards the top of their head: if you're too low, then there won't be enough leverage (so, the same principle as with a muay thai clinch: you grab higher up behind their head, or you won't be able to pull their head down effectively).
During specific sparring, I'm still avoiding using my head due to that neck injury, so again stayed on top. Instead of my head, I therefore relied on controlling the far arm from top half guard instead, getting a deep underhook to scoop the arm right up. To help that control, I kept a firm grip on their far armpit or the back of their gi with my other hand. When the opportunity presented itself, I moved that other arm around their head, so that my elbow was braced against their skull. That seemed to result in a relatively firm hold, and also helped stop them slipping down to deep half.
However, it doesn't give me many options for passing, and I'm sure there is also some sweep or other they can do when I attempt that hold. Still, it is useful having something to work on despite my neck not working properly. I also want to practice the 'inverted half guard' pass (or at least that's what Beneville calls it), which I was first taught by Roger Gracie. I didn't get a chance tonight, but will see if I can give that a go tomorrow during half guard sparring.