Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 15/01/2013
last November was awesome, so I'm keen to get to the USA again. Hence why I've booked a trip to California in June. There won't be anywhere near as much BJJ as before (or as much as Julia's amazing trip a while back), because I'll have less time, but I'm still hoping to get in three or four sessions on the mat and hopefully a few interviews for Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine.
My plans aren't concrete, but I'm intending to pass through San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. In terms of training, I am definitely planning on Fabio Santos in San Diego, as both Dagney and Caleb train there. There are a couple of other bloggers there too, including one of my favourite writers, Chelsea, but I'm not hardcore enough to train at a mega-competitive gym like Atos. I'm a very mediocre, passive purple belt hobbyist. That's also why I'm a bit uncertain about checking out Kurt Osiander in San Francisco, but I really like his focus on the basics, so I may go for it anyway (although from all the stories about that gym, I'm slightly concerned they may literally kill me ;D).
It would be cool to meet up with Dave from the Jiu Jitsu Forums, if he is about: Julia had a chance to train with him during her tour. I would also love to train with Xande and Saulo in LA and San Diego respectively, but I'm not sure I'll get the time. Interviewing Saulo would be brilliant too, as he is one of my BJJ heroes (as is Xande: I have gotten a huge amount from the excellent instructional material the Ribeiro brothers have put out over the years), but I imagine he is a busy man. Still, worth a try.
Another possibility is the Gracie Academy in Torrance. I hadn't expected to be able to get there, as it isn't easy to reach without a car, but it may be possible to get a lift from a Facebook friend of mine, which would be very cool. Although I've certainly got criticisms of the Gracie Academy (particularly the online ranking system and the philosophical distinction they make between what they call 'sport' jiu jitsu and 'self defence' jiu jitsu), it is of immense historical importance to BJJ and the teaching standard is excellent.
I haven't made it to one of Dónal's classes since October, partly due to being in the USA over November but mainly because of the groin injury. That still hasn't gone away, but I feel comfortable enough in Dónal's class that I'm able to train around it. I don't yet feel that way about Geeza's advanced classes (mainly because I've almost never been to an advanced class at GB Bristol, so I don't know what they're like), which is why I haven't been to them, but I should be ok in the fundamentals classes (which Geeza has recently re-opened to non-white belts).
My trust in Dónal was more than rewarded by an excellent lesson tonight. He was careful to check I was ok repeatedly during the warm-up, making sure I didn't take part in anything that might aggravate my injury any further. I had to sit out a lot of it, as Dónal has a fondness for various drills that use pushing, kicking and twisting motions (which normally is a very good thing, but unfortunately I can't do them safely at the moment). I was able to take part in grip fighting, which was useful.
The technique tonight was passing the knee shield, also known as z-guard. It is a right pain to pass, so any techniques that help are welcome. Dónal's method covered a scenario where they have secured the knee shield, also grabbing your collar on the same side as the knee shield. Generally you'll want to break that grip, grasping with both hands underneath and thrusting up as you simultaneously jerk back to pop off the grip.
However, it isn't essential: you can still pass while they are gripping. Grab their shoulder, still on the knee shield side, while your other hand pins their other wrist to the mat. Pull that wrist out away from their body, so their arm is straight. At the same time, try and push on their shoulder on the knee shield side. You're trying to flatten them onto the mat.
The key to the technique is your trapped knee. You need to slide that over their leg, pushing your knee down by their hip. This will prevent their leg from following you, which also immobilises their hips. Once you have that knee in position and you've flattened them out, slide your knee backwards, pushing against their lower leg back as you do so. That should help free your knee.
Next, collapse your hips right onto their knee shield, staying on your toes, sprawling out your legs to maximise your weight. Pull up on their wrist, walking around to pass over their knee. You may find you want to walk your hips back into their knee once you clear it, if they are trying to follow you with that knee. From there you can shift into side control.
Be aware that you don't want them to take your back, so be careful of them trying to sneak their arm around. Driving your elbow by their hip should help block that. Pulling up on the arm should also make it difficult, as that will hinder their ability to turn their shoulders.
I got in a lot of drilling time on that technique, thanks to Dónal. While everyone else was sparring, he put me off in a corner with a selection of different people, saying I could drill whatever technique I wanted, but it had to be just one technique. That is totally fine by me: a lesson of focused drilling is pretty much my ideal lesson, and what I try to teach in my own lessons on Thursdays. Unsurprisingly, I continued drilling the same knee shield pass I had just been shown.
Dónal stayed around the area, offering up more and more tips (which I've incorporated into the description above: there wasn't that level of detail in the initial demonstration, but Dónal added it in while offering advice during my focused drilling bit later). It also made me think that this is probably a good time for me to get some private lessons from Dónal, given that I'm injured and I like his teaching style. I just need to find a time that fits into both our schedules, which may be difficult as he's in demand! ;D
One final thing Dónal mentioned is that I could try and move straight into a choke after the pass, setting it during the pass itself. As I start to move around while pulling up on the arm, Dónal suggested switching the hand that was gripping the shoulder to the opposite collar. Pushing that across, I can then feed it to my arm-pulling hand, securing a grip that could be used to go into a sliding choke, bow and arrow choke or various other options.
I rarely even consider the submission, as I am heavily focused on escaping and maintaining. It is good to keep them in mind, though submissions are still a low priority for me, as I think my passing needs a great deal of work, as do my back escapes and closed guard. It's frustrating I can't practice closed guard properly with my groin injury, but back escapes and passing should be viable if I take care.