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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 February 2015

21/02/2015 - Head Shave Challenge For GrappleThon | Artemis BJJ | Open Mat | Knee Shield

Class #629
Artemis BJJ (PHNX Fitness), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 21/02/2015

With two weeks to go until the GrappleThon, the team total is at a healthy £1,150. I've decided that in an effort to boost my fundraising and spice things up, I'm going to add in a little personal challenge.

If I reach my £500 target by 16:00 on the 2nd March, I will shave my head and my beloved sideburns that same day. I've never been without them all my adult life, but some things are more important than discotastic facial hair. Equality Now is one of those things: so, if you want to see me bald and sans mutton chops, then head over to my fundraising page to push up my total, here. ;)


It was all about the knee shield for me today, a position also known as z-guard. Using your knee, you can make it more difficult for your partner to move forwards against your half guard. It's also handy for creating distance, as well as nullifying the whizzer. If you use the leverage from your knee to square up your upper body by leaning back, that should help avoid the control they can generate with a whizzer.

For knee positioning, one option is to put it right on their hip, which means you can keep your feet locked. However, that also means you knee is quite low, so there is the disadvantage that they may be able to shove your knee to the mat and pass, particularly if you have the knee right across to the opposite hip (on the same side hip, there should be less danger). To stop that, you could put your knee up high into their chest, like Caio Terra. As ever, there are pros and cons, as putting your knee up high may open up a gap between your feet.

If you leave a gap between your feet, it is possible your partner may then be able to simply circle their lower leg around and free themselves. So, if you can't cross your feet, then clamp them together, to create a barrier to that leg-circling. Alternatively, clamp them onto your partner's leg, again to make sure there isn't a gap.

Drlling with Simon, I played with both versions. Xande has some nice tweaks from BJJ Library on the standard knee-in-hip version, as he also comes up on his elbow (reminiscent of Ryan Hall's sitting guard approach, stiff arming into their collar bone too). For the back take from there, I think I prefer Caio's version where he kicks the knee out then uses the momentum to duck under the armpit. However, Xande's bodylock method (where after he gets the underhook, he scoots in and locks both his hands around their back) is also interesting, especially as it seems to naturally lead into some sweeps if you can off balance them. Then again, it's meant for nogi. Also, I think I need to look some more at the entry.

After that, I went with a combination I first learned from Nick Brooks, then later saw taught on the Caio Terra DVD. Terra refers to it as the 'half guard scissor'. Nicks version is from the knee shield with your feet locked, which I personally find more difficult to use (as I always get my knee shoved to the ground), but may work well for those with longer legs, or who are simply better at this position. It could also just be a matter of angle.

Like I said, the reason you lock your feet is so they can't raise their trapped leg and pivot, bringing their lower leg through the gap between your feet. If you're using the Terra version, you'll still need to drop your knee so that it is across their stomach, as with a scissor sweep from guard. In either position, stay aware of the cross face. You can frame under your knee to help maintain distance, making it hard for them to bring their body down to go for the cross-face. With Xande's sitting guard style version, the stiff arm helps block them closing the distance.

For Nick's sweep, grip the sleeve of the arm with which they want to cross-face you with your opposite arm (i.e., the arm that would be on top if you were blocking with both hands). Your other hand reaches under their same side leg, grabbing the bottom of their trousers (not inside the cuff though, as that is illegal). Alternatively, Terra grabs the outside of the knee. In both cases, it is to block them posting out with that leg.

Pull their sleeve across your body so they can't post out on their hand. If you're having trouble getting that arm, push them backwards a little first to lighten their arm, then pull it across to the other side. To finish, you want to do a scissor sweep motion, except that instead of chopping their knee with your leg, you're pulling it in with your arm. It also means you have both legs to lift and drive, rather than just one. Make sure you maintain the grips you have with your hands: this is key.

I've been having trouble with that knee shield scissor sweep over the last couple of weeks. Bizarrely, it seemed to work better when I switched the grips to what feels counter-intuitive: grabbing their sleeve with my bottom hand and their knee with the top hand. However, looking again at the Terra vid, he does definitely grip the way you would expect. I'll have a play at the Monday mini open mat to iron out the kinks.

Either way, don't get over-excited and try and jump right into side control. Instead, a great tip from Nick was to just roll your hips over, staying low and pressed into them the whole time, hip to hip. As you are still holding their leg, they can't re-lock their half guard. You can simply move your trapped leg backwards to stretch out their leg, then circle it free, moving into side control.

You also still have that grip on the sleeve, which sets you up immediately for an americana. You have a number of options to secure the figure four, depending on how you're holding that sleeve. One way is to control their arm with the other hand to then re-establish a better grip on the wrist with your first hand. Another is to roll your hand forward or backwards to change from the sleeve to the wrist. Or you could try pressing your head into their arm, and use that to hold it in place while you get the proper grips.

There is a handy follow-up if they shift their base to prevent the sweep, which Terra calls the back roll (I can't remember if Nick had a name for it, but 'back roll' is a rational choice). For example, you've gone for the scissor motion, but they have pushed forwards to stop you, making it hard to complete the sweep. However, in changing their weight distribution, they have opened up an alternative.

Open up their arm with the sleeve grip, so that they move perpendicular to your body, using your leg grip to help (you may find the knee grip easier for this one, but experiment). This also means you can shift your knee shield so that they are balanced on the shin.

If you get it right, they should feel fairly weightless. Pulling the sleeve grip out and pass their head should help. All you need to do now is roll backwards over your shoulder, still holding on to that sleeve grip. As before, you'll end up in side control with the americana ready to be applied.

Be careful of your head. Lift it a little off the ground and look in the direction their head is pointing. You obviously don't want to roll straight back over your head, or you're liable to hurt yourself. So, make sure it is out of the way and you instead roll over your shoulder, like when you do a basic backwards breakfall during drilling.

I also went through some passing, with my favourite, Jason Scully's staple pass: I'll be teaching that one next Thursday. Pinning the bottom leg is good, but pinning the top leg over it is even better. Sprawling is important to make this work, leaving no space. I learned a good bit doing progressive resistance with Paul, who wanted to work on his knee shield pass. Analysing how I was able to escape. Any space, I found even a tiny space was enough to wriggle something in the way. I'm wondering if there is a way to get what Dave Jacobs calls a supine twist going in there, as that would help.

Finally, I continued playing with half guard. I'm still not comfortable with the waiter sweep, but the Homer sweep still works well. I would like to teach this stuff at some point, but I'll see how things go during the next half guard month.

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