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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

20 December 2011

20/12/2011 - Gracie Barra Bristol (Guard Retention)

Class #438
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 20/12/2011

For those who somehow missed it (it's been all over Facebook and the BJJ blogosphere), Aesopian's gi survey results are now out, here. Aesopian did a ton of work on this, which has really paid off: the result is a wealth of data which is set to get increasingly interesting. The most important point to take away is that there is very little difference between the top thirty-three brands: so, if someone is listed at #20, given the margin for error it is entirely possible that they could just as easily have been listed at #1.

Having said that, I was very pleased to see women-only brand Fenom come in at #19. It's a small company which has only been around a few years, and it's also the cheapest brand in the top 40 at $80. In the whole list, only Woldorf is cheaper at $72, but in Woldorf's case that is reflected in a low rating. Fenom, by contrast, is cheap but still high quality. If it wasn't for the Gracie Barra gis only rule at GB, I would be very tempted to buy a Fenom, despite not being a woman, as it is the only brand on the market which has a message I can support 100%. I wouldn't even mind the patches and embroidery. Might still buy one anyway, and just wear it when I train outside of GB. ;)


I was reminded of the advantages of living nearby the academy tonight, as when I got there, I realised I'd forgotten my gi trousers. However, despite there being only fifteen minutes until class, I could quickly jog back to my house, grab the trousers, then jog back and get changed, with a few minutes to spare before class started. :D

Dónal was covering guard retention tonight, with his usual awesome array of warm-up drills to work jiu jitsu mechanics. There was the baseball slide, butterfly sweep and an old favourite of mine I learned from Kev, the Saulo Ribeiro running escape recovery. Dónal also added a useful method of practicing how to recover guard when they try to get under your legs. For that guard retention drill, you have one foot on their hip. They are reaching under and lifting the other leg.

First, push off their hip with your foot, raising your own hips to make a small shrimping movement. That should give you the space to bring the knee of your underhooked leg outwards (this is important: if you move your knee inwards, they can shove your leg across and crush you), then circle your leg inside their arm. Switch the leg you just circled to their hip, then as they reach under the other leg, repeat.

If they've managed to get a bit deeper and are working towards double underhooks, make your legs heavy, driving your heels downwards. If they try to lift up on one side to start a pass, immediately reach through under their armpit with your same side arm. Gable grip your other hand (palm to palm), then pull their trapped shoulder to your chest. From there, you could shift into a reverse kimura or an omoplata.

Alternatively, you can move into a triangle. As their arm is now trapped, kick your leg free, bring it inside their arm and over their back. Lock your ankles together. This means they now have one arm in and one arm out, so you're ready to adjust to go for the triangle. If not, then you're still in a good position: armbars, wristlocks and omoplatas are all available to you.

Another option is to reverse them as they try to pass. Before they complete their move to side control, clamp your hand around the back of their arm, just above the elbow, with your thumb pointing down (a little reminiscent of that Braulio side control escape I can never get). Straight-arm, to stop them turning towards you. You're then going to quickly spin and reach your other arm under their body, grasping for their far knee. You can then drive through to side control. The other possibility is to spin to the back, though I found that a little more difficult.

Sparring was initially from the guard, where I was happy enough on the bottom, but still not getting too far on top. I attempted to control the knees and straight arm them into the floor as I moved round. That sort of worked on the first leg, but I wasn't sufficiently controlling the remaining leg, meaning they still had enough mobility with their leg and hips to create a barrier. Still, it's better than just staring at people's open guard, which I've done in the past. ;)

The main interesting thing for me was when I was escaping the back a few times. As I've mentioned before, I will frequently half-escape, then try to secure their arm under my armpit. My aim is to crawl up their arm, until I can trap their arm and turn. That has never worked well for me (except when I can get close enough to reach around their head), so I got some tips from Dónal afterwards. I think I've asked him about this previously, but probably forgot.

Anyway, Dónal's suggestion for escaping the back was to focus on their leg rather than their arm. Pop their hook off your leg with your opposite foot, then slide your hip over the side you've opened up. Next, presuming your neck is safe, grab under their leg on the non-open side, then shimmy down into deep half guard. I'm not used to doing that, but I'll be looking to try it next time, to see if it stops me getting stuck. Most likely will lead to getting choked a few times, but that's the only way to learn.


  1. I do like that Braulio side control sweep, Bascially involves me launching my opponents across me. Never considered using it to reverse the pass. Need to get the disjointedness out of my bottom game. Nice post as ever!

  2. It's not quite the same as the Braulio escape, but similar principle at work (in that you're stiff-arming into the back of their arm to prevent them turning).

    I have been trying that side control escape variation ever since I saw it on Braulio's video: maybe in a few years I'll finally get the damn thing to work for me. ;D