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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

22 December 2014

22/12/2014 - Artemis BJJ | Open Mat | Shoulder-to-Ear Clamp from Ryan Hall's 'Back Attacks'

Class #617
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 22/12/2014

I started off practicing one of the free stretches from Sebastian Broche's YogaForBJJ. I like the first one for the hip flexor, but I'm not as sure about the other two. I had trouble getting them right today, though they felt good when I did them at home with the video in front of me. Might just need some more reviewing. Chris also had a good tip on the first one, about tilting your hips to increase the stretch.

We went with back control for today's session. Just like my drilling on the guard over the last weeks, I wanted to focus on techniques using the arms. Once again, Ryan Hall proved to be a good source, this time his Back Attacks DVD. The great thing about that DVD is that like The Defensive Guard, it's focused on maintaining rather than spectacular acrobatics or convoluted positions. We started off with the classic seat belt, clamping your chest to their upper back with your head in tight.

The two bits Hall adds in are firstly gripping the first of your choking arm. His reasoning is that they will tend to try and pull your arm free, meaning that your choking arm can slide straight up (the same reasoning as John Will, IIRC). Personally, I found grabbing over the first didn't result in a secure lock (so I'm probably doing it wrong). I prefer Xande's palm to palm grip. There again you can twist straight up into the choke, while retaining that grip that at least feels more secure.

I found Hall's second addition easier to apply and much more to my liking. To really jam them in place, use the shoulder of your choking arm (so, the arm that is over their shoulder) and press it to their ear. This should also end up pushing their head forwards, something Hall recommends are being an effective way to put them out of alignment and therefore making it harder for them to bring any strength to bear. It's kind of like a cross face from side control, but from the back.

This grip felt awesome. I had excellent control over Chris, twisting him around when he tried to move. However, I must have been too tight and squeezing excessively, as I could feel that tell-tale soreness in my bicep afterwards. That also happens to me when I try and wrap up the head in closed guard: it ends up being a strength thing rather than a technique thing. Considering I'm a weedy small person, that's a very bad idea. So, good reminder for me to relax into that grip. ;)

We also tried Hall's dive into back control right off the pass, as they try to turn away. You immediately reach in for the seat belt, dropping into a scarf hold type position with your feet for base. It felt strong again when I did it, but it felt even stronger when Chris did it to me. Rather than clamping his chest to my upper back, he was pressing into my shoulder like you would from technical mount.

It turned out that this is exactly what Hall showed in the next video clipped I'd chopped from the DVD. I think the chest into back is when you're right behind, chest into shoulder when they're more on their side, but I need to watch the DVD more thoroughly. Chris also pushing off his toes for extra leverage, again like you would in side control.

We finished off with a quick bit of the same open guard drilling we did before, to practice those arm shields from The Defensive Guard. Those elbow blocks enabled me to sit up and move back into open guard, despite what seemed solid passing grips from Chris, who had his arms around both of my upper legs. I am also continuing to like the ankle pick sweep, but I'm not getting the loop choke. I probably need to commit to it, go for it more often and also set it up with something. E.g., make them lean forward more, perhaps in combination with that ankle pick sweep I keep doing.

On top, I managed to pass, but I was notably more out of breath than usual afterwards, so I think I was scrambling a lot and using force. Passing is generally going to be more tiring than guard, but if my approach is too tiring, I'm not going to be able to sustain that for very long. The handy thing about drilling so much guard is that I therefore also get a bunch of practice with passing. That would probably be a good thing to drill in a while. It also happens that Hall has a DVD set for that as well, so we can keep the 50/50 instructionals theme going. ;)


  1. That's a great post about your training methods. I also recently got in touch with and spoke with Sebastian Brosche regarding effective workouts related to BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu)... and he is a really great ambassador of the sport. I find warm-up and recovery exercises to be a huge facet to longevity in this sport -> BJJ; you can read that article/interview here:

    Keep up the great work! Ryan Hall is a beast! His 50/50 and back take principles are reknown. Oss.

  2. Interestingly, I got an email from him recently saying that apparently a whole bunch of people have headed to his site from the link I put up. Which is surprising, as it was such a brief mention on my above post, but cool either way. :)

    Unfortunately I just don't have the discipline to do yoga or whatever outside of BJJ. If it isn't in a BJJ warm-up/cool-down, I know from experience that I'll eventually forget and then stop doing it.

    If I ever achieve my dream of being able to support myself fully through BJJ teaching, then I definitely want to add in at least one day of strength and conditioning stuff. May never happen, but it's in the back of my mind. :D