Aces Jiu Jitsu Club, (BJJ), Austin, TX, USA - 22/04/2014
I trained with Mikal last time I was in Austin, back in 2012. At that time he was a purple belt at another club, occasionally teaching class and also regularly teaching kids. I had the chance to watch him teach kids during the previous trip and was impressed by his mixture of discipline (he has a military background) and humour. It was also obvious how much he cared about helping students progress.
Almost two years later and Mikal is a brown belt with his own club, launched in September of last year. Impressively, he already has a massive space with a hundred members, a wifi lounge and even a fully matted creche (there's a handy window for both baby and parents to see each other while training).
Like we do at Artemis BJJ, Mikal also has a theme for the month. For April that was leglocks, something I have avoided for most of my time in jiu jitsu. I have a vague idea of what a straight ankle lock is and I know to grab people and pull them in towards me as a defence if they grab my foot, but that's about it. Even more outside of my experience was he specific theme for this week: 50/50 guard.
Dónal would no doubt have been amused, as right before I left to fly out this year we were talking about my aversion to what might be called 'modern' jiu jitsu, for want of a better word. But meh, it's good to at least know how to avoid the position and escape it, even if I have no intention of getting into it myself.
First off was leglocks, with a drill switching between the straight ankle lock and the cross ankle lock. Presuming I understood it, the straght ankle lock involves putting their leg by your same side hip, bringing one arm under the achilles tendon, with the cutting part of your forearm (so, just below the wrist). Reach that hand to your chest, putting the other hand palm-down on top.
Mikal had a useful visual metaphor here, a hallmark of his teaching, likening it to a romantic gesture of holding your heart. That perfectly described the position. You'll also have your outside foot on their hip, the other under their other leg, squeezing your knee together. To finish, look up then thrust your hips slightly: Mikal calls this 'Megan Fox-ing', as she's known for looking over her shoulder and pouting.
The cross ankle lock is very similar, except that you pick up their ankle and pull it across your body, to your opposite hip. The rest of the technique is the same, wrapping up under the ankle, looking up and Megan Fox-ing.
Main technique for tonight was a 50/50 armbar, which was also a footlock escape. They have a straight ankle lock secured but not locked. Grab the elbow of the arm they have under your achilles. Pull that towards you and scoot forward, while also popping your hips around as if you were trying to take the back. Kick your trapped leg through, then triangle it with your other leg.
Next you want to pry their arm free. This has a bunch of options, but to keep it simple (the class was all white belts), reach inside and wriggle the arm out. With your opposite arm, grab on the side of the elbow (another image from Mikal here, saying it's where the joint would be if they were wearing plate armour), while your other hand reaches across to grab their opposite collar.
Pull them over and down towards your non-trapped leg, also yanking their arm in the other direction. Bring your non-trapped leg over their head, sliding your arm to their wrist. From here you can thrust up for the armbar, either using your hip as a leverage point or potentially your knee.
Before we got into technique Mikal and I had a flow roll, which largely consisted of me trying to avoid my feet getting entangled. He was going very light: otherwise he could have submitted me a number of times, such as the calf slicer he had at one point. We also filmed a quick technique video for his YouTube channel: I don't mind being on camera, but I declined the offer to also film myself teaching. That would need a lot more preparation on my part. ;)
Update Aug 2014: The video is now up, so you get to see some great techniques from Mikal, with lots of blinking and awkwardness from me. Hooray! ;)
Mikal also has an interesting variation on shrimping. Rather than pushing off a foot and pushing your hip out, Mikal steps his foot across, almost in a running escape type fashion. He then pushes off from that position for the shrimp. His reasoning is that this makes it harder for them to shove down on your knee to pass, because you're protecting one leg with the other.
After class we headed off to the park. Mikal's partner Marlana (who was responsible for the tasty meal we had back in 2012 and has since had a baby) recently came up with the cool idea of throwing some mats down on the grass to have a roll. It's a nifty advert, so I guess in future they'll have banners and the like to emphasise exactly why there are a bunch of people cuddling each other on some puzzle mats. ;)
That also meant I got to hang out and chat with some of the students, which was very cool. 'Mean' Marlene talked about her background in Mexico and aspirations as a fighter (she not only trains BJJ, but boxing and muay thai as well), while Lacey discused tattoos with me and her fantastic hair. Marlene and Dustin also very kindly drove me both to the park and to Georgette's office, in time for me to get a lift with her to the Gracie Humaita beginner's class.