Fabio Novaes BJJ, Stephanie McClish, Lakeland, FL, USA - 29/04/2014
My next stop after West Palm Beach was Lakeland, a few hours further north into Florida, where away from the beach it becomes rural. The reason I headed that way, as usual, was more cool bloggers, this time the McClish sisters. Allie picked me up from the train station in order to get me checked in at the AirBnB, then Stephanie drove me to Fabio Novaes Jiu Jitsu about an hour later.
I've followed both of their blogs for many years now, as well as reading both of them write about running a women's class. Allie started it off, a responsibility that has since passed to Stephanie. I already knew from seeing her at the Boca that she's a dedicated coach, so it was cool to experience one of her classes. Although it's a women's class, men have been invited along a number of times: I was one of two men there tonight.
Stephanie kicks off with a 'circuit training' style warm-up, with four stations in each corner of the mat. You start off with jumping jacks, then kimura sit ups (in other words, diagonal rather than square on with your knees), mountain climbers and finally using a Swiss ball to swivel onto your front then back again. I think it was two minutes every time, with two or three people at each station.
The topic for this month is half guard, as Stephanie noticed that some of her students were having issues with half guard at the Boca Open. To start off we did some specific sparring from half guard, keeping things fairly light. I was with the other guy in class, Patrick. Underneath, I did my terrified squirrl impression and clung on tightly to his leg, spending most of it in quarter-guard (so, clinging to the lower part of the leg). He basically had back control at the end, wriggling that second hook into place.
On top, I got swept a lot. I wasn't able to dig out any space for the underhook, reverting to that position where you are turned towards their legs. I could perhaps have used my head next to theirs for more control, clamping my elbow. Either way, Patrick was able to get underneath me every time and roll me over, so my base wasn't solid enough and my grips were poor. Good reminder that I should think more carefully about half guard passing! :)
Technique for tonight was a straight-forward half guard sweep. Assuming you don't have the underhook next, get up on your side and bring your top arm in front of their face, swivelling it to reach past their armpit. Use that to slide down towards their legs, reaching through their legs with your bottom arm. Link your hands together.
Stretch out their leg on that side with your own. Making sure you keep your inside leg over their calf (otherwise they can just step into mount), push off with your outside foot and roll them away from you, moving to the top position. Be careful of staying too close to their legs: if you leave your head and arm inside their legs, they can go for a triangle. Once you're on top, you should be able to move into side control, sliding past their leg.
The other option is almost exactly the same, except that you roll them the other way, over your body. This feels more natural, though like Patrick said, that could just be because of our jiu jitsu instincts. For somone who hasn't trained before, perhaps the other way would feel more intuitive. ;)
Class finished off with several rounds of sparring. I had a light roll with Stephanie, who is recovering from a knee injury. That prevents her from standing up to pass, which meant I wasn't going to the gi grips I've been playing with recently. At some point I got on top and tried for the spinning gi lapel choke, but I went for it too early, without having secured enough gi by her neck.
I had a few rolls with several of the other women in the class, who had good hip movement and plenty of energy. Maria pretty much had a rear naked choke locked on from a smooth transition, but I think her elbow wasn't quite by my chin, so I had enough space to squirm out.
Sparring with Patrick involved me getting choked. I was falling into the trap of going to the running escape then having my back taken. The first one was a rear naked choke (I think?), followed by a bow and arrow grip finished with his fre arm sliding behind my head. I remembered to pull on the elbow to escape one bow and arrow type attempt, but couldn't manage it the second time.
I also kept getting my arm trapped between his legs, I think because I was looking to go to deep half from mount. I need to keep in mind the primary rule for escaping the back: protect your neck! I'm getting complacent on that, which leads to being choked. ;)
I really liked the atmosphere at the women's class: everyone was very friendly and the rolls were at a good pace. As Artemis BJJ will soon be starting a womens class, I'm keen to glean any tips, especially given Stephanie's approach has been so successful. The number of women at the club has grown from 1 to over 20 since Allie and Stephanie started: if we can manage that at Artemis it would be awesome! :D