Hit Fit, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 03/09/2013
For the past two years, the person who I have seen as 'my' instructor is Dónal, so I was sad when changes to class schedules meant I couldn't train with him as often as before. That's also partly why I started doing privates with Dónal, to continue benefitting from his excellent teaching. Normally I would be teaching myself on Tuesday, but this week that has switched to Wednesday. I therefore immediately leapt on the opportunity to get to Dónal's Tuesday class, over at Hit Fit.
Sherdog). Mark also does lots of work with children: you can take a look at that over on KidsClubBristol.co.uk. Among his various qualifications and credentials (you can read more about those here), he's spent time training with my first MMA instructor, Kevin O'Hagan. Though in my case, that ended up being a handful of lessons, rather than the years Mark has spent refining his MMA skills. ;)
The class tonight was over in Bitton, from 20:00-21:00 (contact Mark for more info). The fully matted venue has enough space for about four or five pairs rolling and there looks to be plenty of parking outside. It was particularly good to see that there was an excellent gender balance, particularly by comparison to most other clubs: around 60% the people in attendance were female. Dónal kicked things off with his usual warm-up, feeding directly into the drills that made up the technical portion of class.
Tonight the focus was butterfly guard. Dónal introduced the concept with a drill where you hold your partner in butterfly, both hooks in, also underhooking their upper body. Rock back and lift them with your legs, then kick them forward as you return them to the floor, in order to sit back up in a good position.
That was followed by two drills for the person on top, which Dónal split into three parts. The simple version was to back step as they elevated you, in order to slip off to one side. That fit with one of the warm-up drills, where from a press-up type position, you kick your left leg over your right so that the sole of your left foot contacts the floor, still keeping your chest towards the floor as well. The same motion when suspended in butterfly guard can work as a pass.
Further refining that motion, Dónal then had us bring our hip slightly forward and knock their knees to the side as you do the backstep out of their butterfly guard. Knocking their knees away increases the efficacy of the pass, as they will have a harder time getting their leg in the way of your pass (with the first option, their knee will often remain pressed across your stomach).
Finally, Dónal then applied the same concept to a step earlier in the process, before they've started to elevate you. Reach over their back and secure a grip under their opposite shoulder. Step up your leg on the same side as the reaching arm, then use that knee to push their knees in the opposite direction. The idea here is to clamp their knees to the mat, pressuring through the side of their top knee. Replace that pressure with your hand, keeping the arm straight to use your skeletal structure rather than muscles (Dónal also turned his elbow, but I can't remember if it was outwards or inwards. I think outwards? He can correct me). You can then pass to side control or possibly take their back, depending on their reaction.
That was a good reminder that my butterfly guard is still pretty poor (as is my guard in general: I'll be looking for some more broad concepts and principles in my next private with Dónal). I can maintain, but my ability to follow through on some sweeps against any kind of resistance is woeful. I also completely forgot about the handy variation on a butterfly sweep from Saulo (essentially blocking their knee and driving forwards), which I taught last year. Butterfly is meant to be good for people with short, stocky legs, so I've been meaning to get better at it for ages.
I had more luck on top, presumably because Mark hasn't been training gi that long and I tend to pass using lots of gi grips. My go-to is still the knee cut, trying to combine that with the bullfighter if they push back into you with their legs. Mark also had that relaxed, technical approach that marks out a valuable training partner, despite his obvious strength advantage. That seemed to be a general vibe in the class, which no doubt is down to Dónal's trademark friendly approach interlaced with humour. I reckon the Irish accent helps too. ;)
I finished up with one of the women in class, who has only been training for a month: I therefore tried to work through some basic concepts on guard recovery (keeping your legs in front of them as a barrier, bracing your arm onto their hips and legs to enable shrimping, hooking with your feet, etc). Hopefully I didn't babble too much, as I sometimes worry I overload people with information in that situation. There is such a ridiculous amount to learn in BJJ that it's easy to splurge. That's one of the key things I'm trying to refine when I teach, with the intention of striking a balance between useful information, but not so much that students can't retain it.
I really enjoyed the class at Hit Fit: hopefully I'll have a chance to support it more in the future. If you're in the area, be sure to check it out, as Dónal is a brilliant teacher! :)