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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

01 May 2012

01/05/2012 - Gracie Barra Bristol (Choke from the Back)

Class #455
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 01/05/2012

Geeza has shifted the schedule around, so Dónal's class is now only one hour of gi, followed by another hour of nogi. I'm not at all fond of nogi, so for the moment I'll just be sticking with the gi class. I might give the nogi class another try in future, but I generally find nogi relies too much on physical attributes for my liking. However, that's probably because I haven't got anywhere near as much experience rolling without a gi: I'm still at least that thirty lesson total of nogi BJJ.

Dónal frequently comes up with innovative drills during his warm-up. Tonight, there was one I hadn't seen before where you start sat on your knees. Put your hands in front of your to hop into a crouch, then rise up and thrust your hips forward. Sprawl, go back to your knees, then repeat. It is a little bit like a burpee, but with more jiu jitsu relevance.

The technique was a choke from the back. It isn't something I'm likely to use, as it's a bit nasty in that it relies on pressing into their throat rather than closing off their arteries, but it's still good to know. As with leglocks, even if I don't want to use an attack myself, knowing how to do that attack at least means I should be better prepared to defend against it.

Start by getting a deep grip on their opposite collar. Put your head tightly on the collar side, then drive your shoulder into the back of their head. The combination of twisting your hand in the collar and that shoulder pressure should grind your forearm into their windpipe, resulting in lots of coughing and tapping. I experimented with my arm position, and found that the elbow of your choking arm can be either point first into the mat (uncomfortable and not very stable), lying on its side against the mat (comfortable but less effective), or you make a sort of right angle with your arm for support, which is what Dónal showed when I asked him.

That led into specific sparring. I was with one of the blue belts, who unfortunately has been experiencing some major issues with his asthma. That meant he was a little short of breath during the warm-up, so I was a bit concerned initially about sparring. However, he soon showed that in this particular situation, he was still more than capable of rolling. In fact, he surprised me with just how good his back control was. I really struggled to avoid his second hook coming in, whereas normally I can pop the hook off and begin my escape. Not this time.

When I finally did start to escape, I didn't pay enough attention to the deep grip he still had on my collar. As a result, I managed to choke myself while trying to turn to guard: I could feel it coming on, so tapped after a few moments to see if I could relieve the pressure. Previously I've been in the same situation with a white belt, but was able to slip free. Having to tap to it was a good reminder not to be complacent about defending your neck and especially not letting them secure or maintain a solid grip.

I was able to escape the second time without getting choked, because I was much more wary of the grip. Still, I was in a similar situation again, just with a slightly better barrier. That indicates I need to review how I'm escaping back mount, as I shouldn't be putting myself in danger of getting tapped when I turn to the guard. So, I should take a lesson from Roy Harris in that brown belt evaluation I watched last week: more active legs.

When I was on his back, my main aim was to maintain it, as that is what I taught last week and will be teaching this week as well. I just about managed that, although the first time round, I didn't stop him turning flat to his back properly so ended up in top half. Not a bad position, but much worse than being on their back. So, the second time I used my head to block that route, attempting to prevent him rolling out. I was also moving him from the centre back to my choking arm.

However, although that's the right idea, I was relying far too much on my arms. It is easy to tell when you're doing that, as after the roll your arms will be burning. I managed the hip extension to get my second hook in once, but had difficulty getting in a second time. Another reason my arms were sore is that at one point, I almost had a rear naked choke sunk in. I wasn't able to finish before the end of the round, so I assumed my arm wasn't quite on his neck. Asking him afterwards, it turns out that my arms weren't the problem. He was able to turn his hip to relieve the pressure because I didn't have good enough control with my legs. Again, more active legs! ;)

Free sparring therefore immediately became a more interesting prospect, as I basically couldn't use my arms. Fortunately both spars were with white belts, meaning I could be lazy and stay in a crunched up defensive position for most of the roll. Although I still have to be careful, as I'm pretty sure I might have been caught in a baseball bat choke from knee on belly if he'd been willing to drop his weight. I asked him about it earlier, and he was trying not to use strength, which is absolutely a laudable goal, but there is nothing wrong with steadily applying a technique using your bodyweight in a controlled fashion.

I also continue to be a bit crap at creating a decent frame when I'm getting back to guard from side control. Against the other white belt, about three of four times I moved to guard then immediately got passed again, because I wasn't properly blocking them from re-taking side control. I finally got to guard towards the end of the roll and established an overhook, but he was able to power out of it. Still, I should have capitalised and transitioned into an arm drag, something I would like to improve (my arm drag needs a great deal of improvement...)

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