Hit Fit, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK - 09/01/2014
FINALLY back on the mats! It's been a month since I was last able to train, due to Hit Fit being closed over xmas and New Year: that's the longest I've been away from BJJ in a long time. Fortunately that shouldn't happen again, as over the next few months the timetable will be expanding due to new premises and some exciting developments I'll get into later this month. I'm hoping to be back to training at least twice a week, possibly more.
Tonight's class was focused on a specific but common situation, where both of you are on your knees, then they raise up onto one knee and try to initiate their pass. This could happen during a roll and it's also applicable to the usual starting position for BJJ sparring in class, which is both people on their knees or with one knee raised. I'm not sure it counts as a pass, a sweep or a takedown, given that both people are in a position to try this on each other, but I guess open guard pass would make the most sense.
They are on one knee. Push into their same side shoulder with your hand (you can grab if they have a gi: many of the people at Hit Fit haven't got one yet, but hopefully they will soon), then grab their same side ankle with your opposite hand. Pushing on their shoulder should make that leg light, making it easier to pull it towards you and up into the air. Continuing pushing on their shoulder, which should result in swivelling them, so that they end up perfectly placed for knee on belly. It's the same motion I know as the 'it's me!' pass Christina showed me years ago.
Dónal has a variation for knee on belly he likes to use at this point. Instead of using the knee closest to their body, use your far knee and angle in towards their legs. You'll probably find it helpful to lean as you do that, like you're doing the drill where you knee slide down the mat. Drive into their leg with that same knee, then bring your other knee behind their legs to push them out the way, dropping into a tight side control.
Finally, if when you initially grab/push on their shoulder they try to reach over your arm to establish their own grip, take the opportunity to arm drag to their back, then either secure the back, or block their knee with your hand and drive through into side control.
Specific sparring started by the same place as free sparring, with both of us on our knees. Interestingly, that meant that rather than one person automatically adopting top and bottom, both had the same specific sparring goal of getting to side control. One of the things I often struggle with in these neutral situations is that you're then seeing who will react more quickly to get the necessary grip etc. I am naturally passive and non-competitive, so I rare move first, which invariably puts me on my back.
Another unusual factor is that a lot of the people who currently train at Hit Fit do not have a gi, because they're still trying out BJJ. That means I have to use nogi grips, whereas they've got access to whatever grips they want due to my gi. The downside of that is I can't work on the techniques I'd like, given my game is heavily predicated on having grips. However, the upside is that I get some nogi practice, which is probably good for me even if I'm not keen on nogi. ;)
Lots of people were training with high intensity and plenty of strength, because most of them are still beginners. That means you have to weather the storm until they get tired. In specific sparring, the athleticism makes more of an impact because their is a smaller window. What ended up happening in most of my roles is that I'd grab behind their head and push into their arms and hips with my feet, waiting for them to overbalance or otherwise give me an opening to take the top position or their back.
It wasn't very technical on my part: my guard, especially my nogi guard, remains one of the weaker areas of my game. I can normally rely on a lasso spider guard style to hold aggressive beginners at bay, but that's rather less effective when they haven't got a sleeve to grab (but spider guard still works for distance control, as I found out today). It was yet another reminder that I need to improve my butterfly guard, so that I can start hitting the butterfly sweep smoothly. I got vaguely in position a few times but had no luck.
I tried to arm drag a few times as well, but I'm not following it up with that sit-up sweep variation Kev showed me in the private back in November, where you pull their sleeve/wrist towards your gripping side armpit (therefore controlling their posting arm) and then go for the sweep. I could really do with some open mat drilling time, which should be possible as Mark has added an hour of open mat after class. At the moment, everyone spars in that hour, but I'll see if anybody is up for drilling next time.
Both in specific and free sparring, I was getting squished up a lot due to my passivity. As a result I tried rolling through a few times, which sort of worked but does tend to put me in turtle, so an experienced person may well take my back. I don't like going inverted (especially when a much larger, strong person is above me: I've hurt my neck before in that position): my main tactic for guard retention relied on my legs, hip movement and wriggling back on my shoulders. The latter is something I should do more.
I also had a chance to roll with a visiting purple belt, which was cool. He smashed me, but in a technical way (e.g., I'm pretty sure he could have slammed on an americana/wristlock combo at one point if he wanted to, but instead he eased off as I spun my arm free). I was pretty tired at this point - my fitness has always been rubbish - so mostly fell back on the running escape. That eventually led to getting choked from the back, as often happens to me against superior sparring partners.
A quick light roll with Dónal to finish off, then it was time to head back home. Dónal kindly gave me a lift, letting me shove my folding bike in the back of his car. That was much appreciated, as my bike is a bit dodgy at the moment: I need to get the pedals fixed. I've been delaying, because I'm both lazy and nervous of shops where I have to ask for something rather than just pulling it off a shelf and paying at a counter (or even better, self-service checkout. Great invention and next best thing to shopping online!). ;)