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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

25 June 2013

25/06/2013 - Teaching (Knee Shield Sweeps)

Teaching #111
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 25/06/2013

I'm now back from my California trip, ready to return to teaching. While I was away, I was interviewed in the Fightworks Podcast, which is pretty cool: I've listened to every single episode and it is by far my favourite podcast. I'm not really worthy of being on it, but still great to get the opportunity. If you want to hear me babble, go to the 35 minute mark here.

This is the longest break I've had since starting in 2011, as the most I've missed up until now is a fortnight. A few times while I was away I found myself in the knee shield, but couldn't quite remember all the details for finishing off the sweep. I therefore decided I wanted to review when I got back: for me, the best way to do that is to try and teach it. As before, I went with a combination I first learned from Nick Brooks, then later saw taught on the Caio Terra DVD.

Terra refers to it as the 'half guard scissor'. Nicks version is from the knee shield with your feet locked, which I personally find more difficult to use (as I always get my knee shoved to the ground), but may work well for those with longer legs, or who are simply better at this position. It could also just be a matter of angle.

As I've mentioned in the past, the reason you lock your feet is so they can't raise their trapped leg and pivot, bringing their lower leg through the gap between your feet. If you're using the Terra version, you'll still need to drop your knee so that it is across their stomach, as with a scissor sweep from guard. In either position, always aim to prevent them getting a cross-face, as otherwise they will have a very strong position to work from on top. Therefore you need to block that arm, either with one or both hands, using the 'paw' grip.

For Nick's sweep, grip the sleeve of the arm with which they want to cross-face you with your opposite arm (i.e., the arm that would be on top if you were blocking with both hands). Your other hand reaches under their same side leg, grabbing the bottom of their trousers (not inside the cuff though, as that is illegal). Alternatively, Terra grabs the outside of the knee. In both cases, it is to block them posting out with that leg.

Pull their sleeve across your body so they can't post out on their hand. If you're having trouble getting that arm, push them backwards a little first to lighten their arm, then pull it across to the other side. To finish, you want to do a scissor sweep motion, except that instead of chopping their knee with your leg, you're pulling it in with your arm. It also means you have both legs to lift and drive, rather than just one. Make sure you maintain the grips you have with your hands: this is key.

Also, don't get over-excited and try and jump right into side control. Instead, a great tip from Nick was to just roll your hips over, staying low and pressed into them the whole time, hip to hip. As you are still holding their leg, they can't re-lock their half guard. You can simply move your trapped leg backwards to stretch out their leg, then circle it free, moving into side control.

You also still have that grip on the sleeve, which sets you up immediately for an americana. You have a number of options to secure the figure four, depending on how you're holding that sleeve. One way is to control their arm with the other hand to then re-establish a better grip on the wrist with your first hand. Another is to roll your hand forward or backwards to change from the sleeve to the wrist. Or you could try pressing your head into their arm, and use that to hold it in place while you get the proper grips.

There is a handy follow-up if they shift their base to prevent the sweep, which Terra calls the back roll (I can't remember if Nick had a name for it, but 'back roll' is a rational choice). For example, you've gone for the scissor motion, but they have pushed forwards to stop you, making it hard to complete the sweep. However, in changing their weight distribution, they have opened up an alternative.

Open up their arm with the sleeve grip, so that they move perpendicular to your body, using your leg grip to help (you may find the knee grip easier for this one, but experiment). This also means you can shift your knee shield so that they are balanced on the shin.

If you get it right, they should feel fairly weightless. Pulling the sleeve grip out and pass their head should help. All you need to do now is roll backwards over your shoulder, still holding on to that sleeve grip. As before, you'll end up in side control with the americana ready to be applied.

Be careful of your head. Lift it a little off the ground and look in the direction their head is pointing. You obviously don't want to roll straight back over your head, or you're liable to hurt yourself. So, make sure it is out of the way and you instead roll over your shoulder, like when you do a basic backwards breakfall during drilling.

Teaching Notes: The teaching of this seemed to go fairly well, although there were various points where there could be room for variation. I'm not sure if it is essential to have your knee low, like Terra demonstrates. There is potentially also varied options for manipulating your sleeve grip. You could pull it across their body, shove it underneath them, or pull it out in the opposite direction, which sets you up for the second sweep. Similarly, you could try those variations with the back roll.

The back roll is more flashy than the kind of thing I would normally do and it is clearly more complicated than what people are used to. In progressive resistance, most people were continuing the drill the mechanics, which is fine, but it indicates this is a more advanced technique.

I'm a bit concerned about people cracking their necks as well, especially if there is a size difference. So, I'm going to continue teaching it for the moment (I should check out videos on the Shaolin sweep, which I meant to last time: IIRC that is either similar or yet another name for the back roll), but with an eye out for a less flashy and easier to understand technique.

I got in some sparring, which is fun, especially as I'm fairly comfortable in top half guard. I did the same thing every time: try to crush in close, get either an underhook or that behind the head grip, drop my weight, then gradually work to pass. With Henry, I varied that to go for an opposite side pass at one point, which functioned ok as I had the head control.

However, there is a size and strength difference, so I'm not sure how much was technique and how much pure force (not that I'm any kind of beefcake, but Henry is one of the few people at GB Bristol who are a good bit smaller than me).

Mike is always a challenge: today he was looking for the back take (not sure if it was a berimbolo, but then given my total disinterest in anything flashy, I probably won't know a bermimbolo if it walked up to me and delivered a firm slap to my face ;p). My counter was to focus on maintaining my position by his head, looking to get some kind of grip on his shoulders, back of his gi or head. I then worked my other arm into his near hip and tried to flatten him out.

That functioned nicely the first time he was going for the back, preventing him mid sweep. However, the second time he got much closer. Mike was behind me with his legs in place, but I still had a grip. I then spun around to the other side and switched to side control.

Here again I think size and force made a difference, as well as luck: if he had shoved me forwards with his legs, I reckon my back may have been vulnerable. I had a grip, but I can't be certain how useful that was. Also, I could feel my hand was slightly sore afterwards, which strongly indicates I was relying too much on the grip and holding it too hard.


  1. The back roll sweep you mention here is known pretty widely as the "Shaolin sweep" for Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro, who pulled it off in the Mundials a long time ago.

    (It's a Kesting video of Shaolin teaching that sweep)

    You don't have to worry about cracking necks - so long as you roll over the shoulder. It's the same motion as a backwards somersault and even a shoddy sweep attempt doesn't result in neck damage.

    1. Ha - cheers, it was you that mentioned the Shaolin sweep last time (and may have even linked the same video?) I'll be sure to actually watch it this time. ;)

    2. It might be my single most favorite "this is jiu jitsu" move ever. Getting the hand positioning timed perfectly with the knee bump in order to nearly effortlessly roll the opponent overhead is such a rush.

      That might explain me popping up twice with the same comments.