Artemis BJJ (PHNX Fitness), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 08/11/2014
Eight years ago today, I attended my first official class of BJJ (I did my intro class with Oli Geddes a few days before, so I alternate between thinking that's a good start and this). While updating my training spreadsheet just now, I also realised that I've been training in martial arts for twenty years. Well, I wasn't doing anything from '95 until I went to uni in '99, unless horse-riding counts as a martial art, so it's only technically twenty years. Anyone, I'm going to celebrate by trying to finally get into country music, for some reason. Like this: if you've got any pre-1993 country music recommendations in that vein, let me know. :)
In much more exciting "oh look, I've been training for quite a long time now" news, two brilliant bloggers have hit milestones. Firstly, the blogger I've long seen as essentially my American female counterpart in blog terms has finally gotten her purple belt. Congratulations Leslie from BJJ Grrl (who I at last met in person a few months ago), very well deserved! You can check out her thoughts on getting that promotion here and here, along with the two-part interview I did with her back in April, here. Secondly, MegJitsu is celebrating a decade of BJJ, starting here. :D
As Paul mentioned he wanted to work on the collar choke, I decided to go with that for drilling today. I started off with Roger's choke, based on the great lesson Sahid did a few years ago. I've seen this choke taught a few times over the years, including by Roger himself, but it isn't one I've had much success with myself. I'll land the ezequiel occasionally, that's about it.
Starting from high mount, keep low, your arm based out, putting your head on the same side to concentrate your weight. Remember to keep your feet tucked under their bum for control. Your other arm goes under their head, cross-facing, using your shoulder to turn their head towards your basing side. It should now be tough to bridge you off. It is also important that you are really tight with your chest, so that there is no space for them to slip an arm inside to defend their neck.
Grab their same side collar with your basing arm, or just the material by their shoulder. This isn't going to be involved in the choke, as at this stage, you are simply looking to yank the gi material to your basing side. That should take out any slack. The grip comes next, as you pull your arm out from behind their head, instead reaching through (raising up as little as possible) for that collar you've carefully prepared. Grasp with your four fingers, palm facing up. Your free hand can continue to cinch up their collar if it still isn't tight enough.
That's the part that felt a little weird. It commits my basic arm to pulling on something rather than basing, meaning I feel vulnerable to getting reverse as my other arm is still under their head. For me the more natural option is to drive my first grip in, while I still have the support of my basic arm. It is handy to open up that space with the basing arm, but I find I don't need to open up the space if I start low on their lapel and shove through from there.
So, to do that shove, if they are blocking with their arms, pull open their collar low on their lapel (or at least lower than their elbows. You don't want to get stuck trying to yank out the collar from directly underneath their tightly crossed arms). You can then slide your arm through. I had some great advice from Roger himself on this, in regards to getting extra leverage. Brace your own elbow against your hip. You can then wriggle forwards, driving your arm in front of you. Also form your hand into a wedge, as this will help cut past their blocking arms.
Either way, once you have the grip, lift them up towards you slightly, twisting your hand so that you create a small gap between their neck and collar. Into that gap, insert the thumb of your free hand, to establish your second grip. You can also drop your elbow to the other side, so that you're pressuring into their neck.
Slide that thumb behind their head to the other side of their neck. As you do, also move your head to the other side of their head. Next, bring the arm of your thumb grip to the other side of their head, 'shaving' close to their face. This is to set up the choke, putting your wrists on both sides of their neck.
Once you've got the thumb arm into position, so that both carotid arteries are blocked off, move your forehead to the floor directly above their head. Twist your wrists and drop your weight into them to finish the choke. Roy Dean provides a handy pointer here, which is to shift your hips forward slightly, still basing on your head. That will give you a little extra leverage, should you need it.
I also had a play with the cross choke variation from Michel Verhoeven. Insert your first hand. Establish a relatively tight grip, already beginning to twist your hand inwards (remember the butterfly thumbs!) and raising your partner towards you slightly. If you can't get past their defending hands, there is the nasty option of digging your thumb along the jawline. I'm not a big fan of that as I find it too brutal, so prefer Verhoeven's other suggestion. Bring your second arm around to the other side of their head, then 'shave' back across their face to position that arm by their neck. Grab a handful of gi by their shoulder, then drop your elbow so your forearm is over their throat. This second arm doesn't move after that point: the choke comes from twisting the first hand and drawing that first elbow back.
Paul was an excellent drilling partner as usual, enabling me to gradually build up the resistance from practicing the choke up into specific sparring. The two big difficulties for the cross choke are firstly getting your grips (the initial one isn't too hard, but that second one is tough) and secondly getting rolled. I can resist to an extent with my forehead and knee, but if they do that little Rickson head tilt, it makes things harder (so I made sure to show that to Paul, forcing me to be a lot more careful with my base). Getting enough of a grip to pull them up isn't always easy either. Worth working for though, as lifting up their head makes it far less difficult to insert a thumb and swing the arm around to the other side. The Verhoeven variation doesn't require that swing, but you still have to overcome their block on the other side.
I'm also trying to finally overcome my aversion to the armbar (because I worry about losing position). The advice from a cool visiting purple belt has been massively useful: when you get a figure-four, never let go. I've been putting that into practice to get the armbar from mount. If I can lock on a figure-four as well, I feel a lot more secure. It enables me to slide my knee through if I'm in a failed kimura position, slipping into the armbar. I couldn't remember Rafal's nifty grip break, but the simple 'kick their grip' option worked.
Underneath, I'm continuing to rely on the heel drag way too much, but unlike my over-reliance on the running escape under side control, the heel drag regularly gets me back in guard. It doesn't become a stalling position. Still, I am trying to use the upa more often, along with the bump to butterfly. Eventually I will run into somebody who can completely stuff the heel drag, so I need to other options.
Sparring with a purple belt, the same problems are cropping up for me. The biggest is that my open guard is way too easy to pass. I continually end up on one side of their body while they knee cut through the other side. I need to re-read my notes from that private lesson with Kev, as that's exactly what we covered. I'm not diving in for my preferred tripod/sickle sweep combo like I should be, so that would be a good start.