Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Roger Gracie, Bristol, UK - 12/11/2012
I was a little uncertain about tonight, as that groin injury still hasn't quite gone away: hence why I haven't trained properly in well over a month. However, when I booked a place on this seminar a while back, I decided that at worst I'd have to skip the warm-up and sparring. Even if the injury hadn't gone, I could at least take part in the important bit, which is technique.
The class was large, given that it was Roger, but not as big as it could have been, due to a 40 person limit on attendance. I don't head along to that many seminars normally (although this is my fourth this year, so clearly I attend more than I used to), but as it was the man who gave me my purple belt last year, I didn't think it was one to miss. I hear he's quite good at BJJ too. ;p
Geeza has been trying to make this seminar happen for a long time now, because not only is Roger the greatest competitor of all time (Marcelo and Xande might disagree, but meh, I'm biased), GB Bristol is also affiliated to his academy (which is unusual: most Gracie Barra clubs in the UK are under Braulio, Victor or Lagarto).
Roger started off with a method for pulling guard. I didn't join in with either the basic or more advanced method, as unfortunately jumping up and wrapping my legs around somebody would make my injured groin very unhappy. Still, it was useful to learn the technique: Roger showed how after jumping up and getting guard, you could break their posture by pushing on their leg while pulling on the collar. If that isn't working, then pushing inside their knee should help collapse their base, as well as smoothly transition into an armbar.
That was followed by a back take, still in guard. This is similar to the one I taught a while ago. Begin with the standard two-on-one grip break, where Roger noted it is important to get the hand underneath right into their wrist, so there is no space. Punch upwards then shove their arm across, bringing them in with your legs. If you can, reach round and grab their arm, so they end up in a gift wrap, but most likely they won't let you have that arm. So, you'll probably end up hooking your hand around their side or into their armpit. Hip out, then come up on your elbow. From here, you can use the leg you have over their back to swivel around and insert your hooks, but my groin wasn't up to that motion.
Continuing with that grip break, you can also move into the armwrap or overhook guard. Roger added that when you break the grip and then have control of their sleeve, bring the elbow of your controlling arm towards your head as you shoot the other arm up inside (as a random point of interest, Roger wasn't inserting his thumb to create a pocket grip in the sleeves. Instead, he grabbed straight off with his four fingers: the thumb didn't appear to come into play at all). Keep dragging their sleeve so that it goes behind your head, meaning that you can now use your head to help trap it in place. From there you have the option of a choke, but most people are going to defend it by getting their free hand in the way.
In the likely event your choke is blocked, you can switch to a pressing armbar. This is reminiscent of the attack Levo showed at his seminar, except the grips are different due to the gi. Similar to Levo's technique, shrimp out and bring one leg up their back, your other knee clamping by their chest. You still have your arm wrapped around due to your earlier grip. Move your hips out slightly (as with Levo's option, pressing into their neck
Alternatively, there is the triangle from the overhook. If they block your choke, cover their blocking hand with your own to keep it in place. Bring your leg out from underneath that arm then jam it into their neck. Lock your feet and control their posture, by putting one or both arms around their head. At this point, Roger noted that a lot of people try to finish the triangle square on by yanking the head down and raising the hips, but that tends to be a crank rather than a choke.
Instead, it is better to create an angle, which in turn will help you get your leg across their neck rather than pointing diagonally across their upper back, then finish the triangle as normal. Interestingly, Roger also agrees with Ryan Hall that getting the arm across is not essential for a triangle. In fact, Roger feels that pulling the trapped arm all the way over their body can be detrimental, because it makes it easier for them to grab your leg and drive it to the floor, the starting point for a common triangle escape. Roger prefers to keep their elbow near your hip or stomach.
Thankfully for my injured groin, we then progressed to a side control to mount transition. Once again there were some intriguing points on a fundamental technique, which for me is infinitely better than some flashy sequence I've not seen before but will never use due to complexity. Roger commented on the numerous different leg positions, noting how sprawling your legs back will lower your weight and increase the pressure on them.
He compared that to bringing your knees in close, which takes the weight off. I was expecting him to recommend legs back, but he actually prefers keeping the knees in tight (which I'm a fan of myself, as it means there is much less space for them to manoeuvre). The reason is that he feels that having the knees in tight rather than sprawled back provides you with greater mobility, even if it is at the expense of less weight on top of them.
The key to attacking is separating their elbows from their body. If they can keep them tightly jammed to their sides with their arms crossed, it will be very difficult to initiate any kind of submission. In order to pry the elbows away from their body, you can try digging into their near armpit with your knee, but that is often hard to accomplish. More reliable is switching your base into a sort-of scarf hold, then thrusting your hips forward into their elbow until you can push it up in the air. At that point, you can switch your base back, meaning their elbow should now be stuck past your hip.
You're controlling their other arm by scooping under the elbow, looking to create an opening. If they try to push their forearm into your neck, that makes things easier. Position your chin by their wrist, then pinch that into your chest. This should help collapse their arm, meaning you can now brace your forehead against the floor.
That position breaks the general principle of not leaning too far forward in side control, but on the other hand you are fairly stable due to your knees on the near side and forehead on the far side. From there, bring your knee across their belt line. If necessary, remove your hand from under their head to help you twist their body as you slide into mount.
Finally, Roger went through his signature technique: the choke from mount. Or at least, a variation of that: technically it wasn't the choke from mount, but what Xande and Saulo call the 'double-attack'. Begin by sliding your knees further up, grabbing on their head to help pull yourself into position. However, Roger noted you should't go too far, or you will find it hard to get the space to attack their arms. Judging from his position (I was trying to put into practice John Will's precept of looking at what they're doing, not just listening to what they're saying), ideally you want your knees at their shoulder level.
Like the earlier offence from side control, this separates their elbows from their body and thereby weakens their defence. It is still a pain to get past the barrier of their arms, so Roger has a handy tip. Insert your hand, keeping the arm straight, then put your body weight behind it. You're lining up your torso behind your shoulder then leaning forward. When you get your elbow to your hip, you can switch to driving with your hip to get your hand deep into their collar.
Naturally once you have a hand committed to gripping their collar, they are going to try and bridge. To maintain your base, put your free hand on the opposite side. If they bridge in that direction, your hand will stop you going over. If they bridge in the other direction, simply move your hand. Most importantly, when they bridge, they are almost certainly going to create some room by their elbow. You can take advantage by swivelling your body, ready to go for the armbar.
Often when a major name comes down for a seminar, there are promotions. Given that there names don't come any more major than Roger Gracie, that meant a lot of promotions. There were various stripes given out, including me, along with lots of new blue belts. Diego is sadly leaving us for his native Brazil, but he goes back with a blue from Roger, which is a pretty cool leaving present. Most significant was that Liam finally got promoted to purple. To say it's been a long time coming would be an understatement. His blue belt is so faded it is almost white: that blue first went around Liam's waist before I started training! So, great to see him get a well-deserved purple from Roger himself.