Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 10/07/2012
We're in a passing fortnight at the moment, so I was interested to see what Dónal came up with this week. It turned out to be a particularly good lesson, due both to Dónal's teaching and some useful tips and feedback from training partners.
The focus of the lesson was the basic method for opening the guard from the knees, followed by a pass. Dónal as usual had several handy details: in BJJ terms, I like nothing better than a lesson with a different take on a basic technique with plenty of time allocated to drilling. Dónal started in the usual way by grabbing both collars, but then demonstrated how you can fold them over, twisting it in your hand. This makes their jacket much tighter and therefore gives them less room to move. Your other hand doesn't go into their hip. Instead, you can use a method that accounts for varying leg sizes: bring your elbow back until it is by their knee, then grip their trousers at whatever point that leaves your hand.
From there, it's the Saulo break of putting a knee in the tailbone, then pressing your back into their ankles to pop them open, or at least create plenty of tension. Either way, the idea is that you are then able to push their knee down and open the guard completely. If that doesn't work, Dónal had a particularly helpful tip: simply wriggle backwards. You may need to keep on dipping lower as you do, but that wriggle should eventually open even the most stubborn guard.
I'll need to play with the technique some more (especially how to deal with their reactions), but that simple advice looks like it could be gold. Now that the guard is open, you can move into what I call the leg pin pass, where you slide your leg over their shin, hooking with your instep. Do a big step with your other leg, then switch your legs to slide one under the other, settling into side control. If you're further back due to the wriggling, you can cut the opposite knee over instead.
Tony is still injured, so rather than sparring, we did some more drilling, which was awesome. That meant we could continue working on some of the interesting variations he likes to use with this guard break and pass combination. Once he's opened the guard, he goes right into combat base: due to his knee injury, putting that knee up is more comfortable.
However, Tony's combat base is quite different to the version I tend to use (which is good, as I don't use combat base much). I keep my legs relatively close together. Tony does the opposite, widening out his raised leg so that it presses into the crook of their knee. He then also grips around the front with his hand, so their leg is stretched out and they can't easily move to open guard. It's surprisingly effective. Make sure you brace your elbow inside your leg to maximise the strength of your frame.
From there, you can either move into the leg pin pass, or you are also ready to switch to the single underhook. Keep your unoccupied arm by the same side leg, the elbow back. Quite often when they find their leg pinned limb is blocked, they'll start to kick the other leg up onto your shoulder. If that starts to move, circle your free arm, rotating at the elbow, so that you acquire an underhook. From there, you can then move into the single underhook pass, or continue with the leg pin depending on how your opponent reacts.
Sparring was fairly brief as I only did the one round (having spent a round already drilling with Tony instead of sparring), but it was useful. Then sparring with Mike, had a chance to put that passing into action. Donal's tips on wriggling backwards while staying low was useful. I also tried to get into a position where I could switch between the underhook and leg pin. The main difficulty was controlling his upper body: I need to drive my shoulder and hip into their torso as soon as possible, rather than staying upright for too long and thereby giving them space.
Getting used to breaking their grips was another habit I'm trying to develop. I was doing it a bit, but kept forgetting to keep control of their sleeve once I had it, which I could then use to escape. There was some half guard too, staying low and heavy, looking for the americana. I managed to get the submission, but particularly with the americana, I'm never sure whether it was down to good technique or just force. Still, it remains by far my most successful attack, on the rare occasion I actually tap anybody.