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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

30 January 2013

30/01/2013 - Private Lesson with Dónal (Knee Cut Pass & Knee Shield Troubleshooting)

Class #484 - Private #002
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 30/01/2013

The last time I did a private lesson was with Kev Capel, a few years back. I hadn't been all that interested in doing more, as I wasn't sure I was at a level to really benefit from them properly. I'm still not sure I'm at that level, but I thought getting some private lessons from Dónal would be a good idea at the moment, given my injury is keeping me from training normally. It's also cool to get in more classes with Dónal generally, as I like his teaching style.

Privates at GB Bristol come in blocks of three, which you can split with other people, meaning it works out as fairly inexpensive. Dónal also likes to have more than one person there, as that makes it easier to demonstrate, drill and observe, but Steve wasn't able to make it today. Still, that has the advantage of a 100% focus on me, which is handy for a private lesson. ;)

When I first inquired about getting a private, Dónal made a point of asking me what I wanted to work. We then discussed it again at the start of the session. What I would really like to develop is my closed guard, but annoying me that's also exactly what I can't work with this groin injury. Instead, just like my previous private lesson with Kev three years ago, I went with another of my many weak areas: guard passing.

As I couldn't do closed guard with my injury, we went with open guard. I emphasised that I wanted something with as few moving parts as possible, so I could hone in on the minor details, rather than get confused by a huge mass of grips, spins and gymnastic moves. I also showed what Kev had taught me last time (or at least, what I remembered of it).

Dónal decided that the knee cut pass would fit well with my goals. This is the same pass I learned from Kev, but Dónal teaches it a little differently. When you initially step into their open guard, your shin should be behind their leg, not their tailbone. Grab low on their same side trouser leg with your shin hand, knuckles forward. Your other hand reaches high on their same side collar, pulling back towards you as much as possible. You want to curl their body, so their shoulders are off the ground. This makes it much harder for them to sweep you.

Drop into a relatively low crouch, legs apart for base. They will probably have a foot on your hip at this point, on the side where you're trying to get your shin behind their leg. Turn your leg inwards slightly, pressing into their foot, then swing the leg back and over, while simultaneously driving their leg diagonally backwards between your legs (just like Kev's version). The grip is important here: you're going to roll your knuckles down so that they are pressing into the shin, straightening your arm. This provides a firm control.

Next, you're going to cut across their thigh (still on the leg you just stuffed with your knuckle grip), using your opposite knee. As you do, also be sure to yank them towards that side with your collar grip, again to prevent sweeps. Drop in low, trying to secure an underhook, also keeping your head in tight. When you've pinned their leg with your shin, you can switch your grip from their leg to their arm and pull up.

From here you'll slide through as normal. To secure your position, walk your hips back before you settle (there is a good Mendes brother video on this), getting your hips underneath them to shove their legs out of the way. That's when you can then solidify your side control. Dónal recommends also jamming your elbow into their far hip to stop them turning away to turtle, then using pressure with your lower abdomen to stop them turning back towards you. That should mean they are now stuck.

After that we did some trouble shooting, which was cool as it fit in directly with the half guard knee shield passing we're been working a lot over the last few weeks. For example, the Jason Scully knee cut option I taught, which is the one I like the most so far. Dónal went with an even simpler option than the various techniques we've been drilling so far. If they manage to get a knee shield in the way, basically all you do is slide your trapped knee backwards, collapse on top of their knees, then walk up so you drive you hips into them. Put a knee on either side of their legs, then trap them in place with your weight by sinking your hips towards the mat. When they move, back step and take side control.

It sounds simple, but requires some sensitivity. I was having trouble getting it until Dónal showed me a great drill for developing that awareness of the right pressure, where you surf their knees from side to side, moving them with the insides of your own knees. Another point where I initially struggle was if when you collapse their knees your end up lying on your own arm. You need to pull that out, but avoid lifting up and giving your opponent space. Turn your hand, then pull directly back towards your elbow. There should be barely any lifting of your upper body.

I'm still not sure I've quite got that, as I kept finding myself trying to base off the other hand, my knees, my foot, my head and so on. You shouldn't need to base off anything else for this, just quickly and firmly pull your arm free then circle it round to control them. All in all, great stuff, which may become even greater when we have other people there next time for demonstrating and the like.

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