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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

13 August 2013

13/08/2013 - Teaching (Maintaining the Back)

Teaching #119
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 13/08/2013

The very awesome Aesopian has just started a podcast, here. If you're not aware of Aesopian, he's a black belt under Eduardo de Lima who is basically the Godfather of BJJ blogging. He's the person I looked up to when I started this blog, a respect that's only grown as he continues to produce excellent content. I received a preview of the podcast, so I already know it's a quality listen. The format is short answers to common BJJ questions, delivered with Aesopian's trademark solid advice coupled with wry humour. Go listen to it. Now. :)

It is common when on the back that you might find they manage to knock off one of your hooks, or perhaps you're struggling to establish that second hook. If that happens, in order to take the back fully, use what Marcelo Garcia calls the 'hip extension'. If they are blocking your second hook, cross your free foot over your hooking foot. Although crossing your feet if you had both hooks would be asking to get foot-locked, if you only have one hook, it means they can't properly apply pressure against your ankle. You can then thrust your hips forwards into them while simultaneously pulling back with your seat belt grip.

The result should be that your partner is bent around and stretched out, so that they can no longer connect their knee and elbow to block your foot. That's your chance to quickly insert a second hook, before they can recover their defensive position. When doing the hip extension, don't forget to keep control of their lower leg with your first hook. Otherwise they can just pop over and escape.

Another option to keep in mind is when they've managed to clear one of your hooks, or it's slipping and you want to replace it. You might find that you can put the cleared hook foot on the floor (still keeping your knee tight) and bridge, to roll them back to the other side and re-establish that hook. Be careful though, as they are obviously going to react if you release a hook: you'll need good timing and close control.

If you feel them starting to escape, you can use your foot on your underhook side (so, the side on which you arm is threaded under their armpit) to hook behind their same side knee. Lift that high in the air, then dump then back towards your overhook side. This is particularly useful if they are trying to get back to the centre, bridge and press their weight into you, in order to start wriggling their shoulders to the mat and begin their escape.

The last bit I wanted to add was a straightforward tip when they try to control your arm and pull it over your head. Pop up slightly, in order to have the base to pull your elbow back. That should severely reduce the leverage they can muster against your arm. For that and all of the above, there's a handy video from Marshal Carper (one of the co-authors on Marcelo Garcia's latest book), where he covers maintaining the back Marcelo-style.

My preference, if lifting the leg proves difficult and they get you onto the 'wrong' side, is simply switching arms. If you can't get your arm right into the neck, just grabbing whatever material you can was helpful too. That should provide you with some control, in terms of stopping them rolling away to try and escape. To get a really solid control, reach across for their far lapel and pull it across their body, for what is effectively a literal seat belt.

You can also try to maintain control of them largely with one hook, extending that hook across to their other leg. Hook under the far leg, while pressuring down with your upper leg to stymie the movement of their near leg. It also leaves my other leg free to do things like pushing down on top of their upper leg any time they attempt to wriggle out. Potentially that extended single hook could even lift their knee enough to reinsert your second hook if you want to put it back in.

Finally, to take yet another cue from Marcelo, even if you lose both hooks, don't give up on the seat belt. Sprawl behind them, then steadily walk your legs up: your aim is to put them in a seated position. From there, you can reinsert your hooks, either by putting them straight in or rolling them over your knee.

Teaching & Sparring Notes: The Marcelo material seemed to go down fairly well. I was initially unsure about the leg lift, as I don't use it effectively myself, but Mike did a great job using it against me in sparring. If it works well for him, it can work well for others, so definitely something I want to keep showing in class. The no hooks Marcelo recovery also got some approving noises, meaning I'll leave that in as well. I need to revisit arm protection by pulling elbow back, as I'm not sure if I missed some details.

The stuff I've been playing with, like the extended hook, may not be worth putting in next time, but I'll see what feedback is like. I saw a few people use the gi lapel control, like when Simon tried it on me, so that might be worth showing. However, more useful would be a simple turtle back take, perhaps the forward roll over their shoulder. I also forgot to mention the tip on tensing your non-choking side hamstring, so I'll try adding that in next time too.

Sparring was my chance to practice more escapes. I need to secure my position much better when I move to the side. I still get stuck just squirming on my side, I think because I'm not clearing their hook properly. That's particularly noticeable with someone tight like Mike, whose hooks I had real trouble knocking off.

When I did escape, it was sloppy and scrambly, such as the old last ditch pushing into armpits. Mike could have finished a bow and arrow, but was being nice and didn't squash my hand into my face. The second time, I remembered to pull on their elbow with both hands, but I left my arm vulnerable. Again, Mike was close to landing an armbar, which I only escaped because of force and scrambling. I grabbed his gi to stay close, until I could circle round and kneel on his chest. Better than not escaping, I suppose, but if it was largely force then that isn't going to be effective against anybody bigger or when I'm tired.

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