Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Nic Gregoriades, Bristol, UK - 30/06/2012
Geeza regularly has events he calls a 'Big Class'. It is sort of like of seminar, in that Geeza brings someone in to teach, but within the normal parameters of a class, rather than the several hours you tend to get at a seminar. Either way, it's cool to get a different perspective. I don't make it out to many of them, as I'm normally busy at the weekend, but fortunately this Saturday I had time free.
Nic is somebody I met on my first day of jiu jitsu, back in 2006 when he was a brown belt. The last time I trained with him was during my last month at the Roger Gracie Academy HQ, in January 2009. Nic is an excellent teacher, so I was excited at the chance to be taught by him again. One of my main memories from when I was learning from him regularly is that he liked to throw in unusual warm-ups and cool-downs, like meditation. That hasn't changed in the three years since, as he had a whole bunch of drills I hadn't seen before.
The idea behind all of them was to open up the hips. I'm not sure I remembered it all properly, but the ones that stuck in my head were based around the 'shin box' position (handy term: it's what Nic calls the position where you have one leg bent in front of you, so that the sole of that foot touches the knee of your other leg, which is bent behind you). From there, move your knees up, so that you switch to being sat on the floor with both knees raised in front. Continue the motion, putting your knees on the mat in the other direction, returning to the shin box position but the opposite configuration. You can then bring your legs back to the starting position and repeat.
A slightly more difficult one (if you're inflexible: I'm lucky in that I seem to have always been relatively flexible, ever since I got into martial arts seriously in 1999) starts with one leg in front, as with the shin box, but the other leg goes straight backwards, on your toes. From there, swing the back leg around in a big circle, staying low throughout and not bending your leg. Keep the swing going until that leg is in front, pointing diagonally away from you. Curl that leg so it goes into a shin box, while the other leg goes straight backwards. You can then repeat, moving forward up the mat each time.
Techniques today were all based around the closed guard. Geeza mentioned that in his email about this class, which was another reason I was keen to attend. I'm a big believer in the basics, so the kind of instruction I most value includes variations and details on fundamental techniques I already know. That's exactly what I got from Nic's class, which was therefore awesome.
First, Nic had a little detail on breaking their posture. Generally, people will stagger their hands when in your guard, gripping your collars near your chest with a straight arm, while the other hangs back pressing into your hip. To collapse that straight arm can be a pain, but Nic taught us a reliable method.
Reach over with your same side arm, grabbing their opposite collar. Brace your elbow by the side of their elbow. Bring them forwards with your legs and collar grip as usual, but use your elbow to push into their elbow. As Nic described it, their elbow is the major hinge in that situation, so this should make it easy to bring them down into what Geeza calls the 'submission zone', wrapping up their head to keep them there.
That was followed by two techniques I've been failing to get in sparring for quite some time, which is why I was so pleased to see Nic teaching them. To begin, Nic demonstrated the two-on-one gripbreak, which I taught a while ago. The basic idea is to grab their opposite sleeve, then bring your other arm underneath theirs, in order to hold the wrist of your sleeve-gripping hand. You then shove upwards to break the grip. Nic added in a variation at that point: instead of going straight up, punch diagonally across with your sleeve-grip hand, in the direction your knuckles are pointing.
Another useful detail was getting to the armwrap, for an overhook guard sweep. After you've broken the grip and are pulling your sleeve grip behind your head, Nic suggested bringing the elbow of your wrist-grabbing arm up inside their arm. That helps avoid the confusion people often get into with this technique, as it makes a clear distinction. Yet another key detail Nic added was to reach up as far as you can with your overhooking arm, before reaching under their arm. You want their shoulder pressing into your Teres major first, which will give you maximum arm length for reaching under.
After you've reached under their arm to establish the overhook, grab their opposite collar (you could feed it with your other hand, if you can do so without losing control over their posture). Make sure you also pin the elbow of your gripping arm to your ribs, to clamp their arm in place. With your non-gripping hand, grasp the gi material by their shoulder, on the trapped-arm side. Wedge your wrist and forearm under their jaw. This is important, as you'll need it for the technique to work.
Having well and truly immobilised their upper body, you can now open your guard and turn your hip out towards the non-trapped arm side. Circle your leg on the non-trapped side around their knee in order to insert a butterfly hook. If you can't, then shrimp out until you can. Raise your jaw elbow up, to lift their head, then also elevate your butterfly hook. With your other leg, chop into their knee (like you would with a scissor sweep), rolling through into mount. Here's another old training partner of mine, Yas Wilson, showing a variation where you go the opposite way:
The next technique is something I was first shown by Ciaran at the Belfast Throwdown. He called it the 'windscreen wiper' sweep. I next saw it on Andre Anderson's closed guard DVD, where he called it the 'Rey Diogo sweep', after his instructor who used it extensively. John Will does something similar he dubs the 'bearhug ankle lift'. Nic's name for it was the 'Xande sweep', due to Xande having also used it regularly in competition.
Whatever the name (I think I'll stick with Ciaran's 'windscreen wiper sweep', as it's the most descriptive), it's a great sweep. I've been giving it a go since watching the Anderson DVD, but without much success. After having been shown the same technique by Nic, I think I've been having trouble because I've followed Anderson's preference on a particular detail, whereas the other option – which Nic showed in his demonstration - works better for me. Of course, Anderson shows both and says you should try both, but I've been wrongly fixated on just the one.
Before they can do that, put your same side foot by that other leg, keeping it tight so there is no room for them to wriggle. This is the detail I wasn't doing, because Anderson prefers to put his foot on the hip, but having tried both with Nic, I think foot on the floor works better for me than foot on the hip. Next, kick your foot on the trouser-grip side up into their armpit, aiming to curve their body away as you do (Nic used the image of a sickle, Ciaran prefers a windscreen wiper). To finish, kick forward with that leg, lifting the trouser, then roll through into mount.
We finished up with two rounds of sparring, from the closed guard. I was able to get a few passes from the top, though they felt a bit sloppy. Still, I'm pleased I managed to switch from one side to the other a couple of times, as that is a habit I've been trying to develop. Underneath, I was looking to take the back, combining that with a flower sweep if it didn't work. I wasn't wholly successful. Still got the sweep, but again it was sloppy, based more on reaction than anything I could easily replicate.
I also attempted to move into a scissor sweep, but as so often when I try that, I basically just gave them an opportunity to start a pass. I was able to recover with a kimura from under half guard, but again that was opportunistic and sloppy. I should soon have lots more time to work on guard stuff, as I think the theme is passing for the next fortnight.