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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a brown belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2022 Can Sönmez

04 August 2022

03/08/2022 - Teaching | Half guard | Basic maintaining & back take

Teaching #Evening
Artemis BJJ (7 Easton Rd), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 03/08/2022

Short Version:
  • Wrap one leg behind theirs, putting your shin behind the knee of your outside leg
  • Use that 'kickstand' to get on your side, blocking their crossface with either a 'paw' or facepalm
  • Drive your elbow to their armpit, rotating your arm around their back
  • Fire that arm into their armpit and kick to scoot down, shucking their arm
  • Come up on your elbow and knee, bring your leg over, then secure the back with a seatbelt grip

Full Version: In half guard, your first concern is to stop them flattening you out and starting their pass. They are generally going to want to establish an underhook on their trapped leg side, using the other arm to control under your head. In many ways, it is a similar position to standard side control. That will enable them to crush you to the mat, then exert lots of shoulder pressure to kill your mobility. Many of the same attacks from side control can also be viable from here, like an americana.



Naturally, you don't want them to reach that dominant position. Your goal is to get up on your side, with your own underhook around their back, on your trapped leg side. That is one of the main fights you'll have in half guard, so it is essential that you get used to working for that underhook.

If you can get the underhook, that accomplishes two things. First, it prevents them crushing their chest into yours, which would help them flatten you out. Second, it means you can press into their armpit to help disrupt their base, as well as help you get up onto your side. You can use your knee knocking into their bum at the same time to help with this too, as that should bump them forward.



For your leg positioning, the standard half guard is to have the inside leg wrapped around with your foot on the outside. Your other leg triangles over your ankle. This provides you with what SBG refer to as a 'kickstand': that outside leg is useful for bridging and general leverage. It's harder for them to flatten you out if you can resist with that kickstand structure.

After you've controlled a leg, got the underhook and onto your side, you want to block their arms. Almost a decade ago, Indrek Reiland put together an awesome video (made even more awesome by being free) about the fundamentals of half guard. The main principle I use from Reiland is what he calls the 'paw'.

By that, he means hooking your hand around their bicep, just above the elbow. You aren't gripping with your thumb: this is just a block, to prevent them getting a cross-face. Reiland emphasises that preventing that cross-face is the main principle. Therefore, if you can feel they are about to remove your paw by swimming their arm around, bring your underhooking hand through to replace your first paw with a second: this is what Reiland calls the 'double-paw' (as he says in the video, it's an approach he learned from SBG black belt John Frankl).

Similarly, if they manage to underhook your underhook, bring that arm over for a double-paw (this is also applicable from the start, if you're framing against their neck), then work to recover your underhook. Keep in mind with the double-paw that you need to make sure you don't leave space under your elbow. Otherwise, as Reiland demonstrates, they can they go for a brabo choke. Get the elbow of your top double-pawing arm to their nearest armpit, as that makes it easier to circle your arm around to their back.



To take the back, fire your underhooking arm up into their armpit. You're trying to knock them forwards, while simultaneously scooting your body down towards their legs. At that point, pull your 'paw' arm back, so that you can base on that elbow, swiftly pushing up onto the hand. That should give you the balance to reach around to their lat with what was your underhooking arm. For further control, swing your leg over their back too. Establish a hook by digging your heel inside their knee. Finally, get a seatbelt grip (one arm under their armpit, the other over their shoulder, locking your hands together) and roll towards your non-hooking foot for standard back control.

To help with the back take, it is a good idea to tweak out their leg before you swivel up. Your outside leg steps over and drags their leg out. This disrupts their base, making it much easier to go to their back. It can also lead to the easier to control back position where you have brought them down to the mat, rather than leaping onto their turtle (which feels inherently less stable).
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Teaching Notes: Fairly happy with this at the moment. I think it is of use mentioning you can generate extra momentum with that kick, but that it isn't always necessary. Also worth noting that knee shield makes a big difference, but that we'll cover that in a future lesson as it's important to learn the basics first.

25 July 2022

25/07/2022 - Teaching | Open Guard | Leg squash and leg weave passing

Teaching #Evening
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK -25/07/2022

If you are passing nogi, you don't have the joy of gi grips to help you secure position. Instead, put your hands on the middle of their shins, driving them into their body. If they aren't blocking against their knees and framing with their arms, you want to drive their knees right into them, your bodyweight positioned over the top to pin them. Be careful of your posture: you need to get enough weight through your arms to pin their legs, but not be too far forward (they might be able to flip you) or too far back (your weight will shift off them).

Move off at an angle, then step your leg in deep, shin against the back of their knee, trying to push their leg towards the floor with your hand (off that same grip you had originally). Turn your inside knee inwards. You've got your body over the top of their other leg, attempting to put your weight into the side of that leg.

By driving their leg across towards their other leg, they will tend to push back: it's common for people to give you the opposite reaction to whatever you're doing (i.e., you pull, they push). If they push back, use that momentum to move into a knee slide. You follow where they are pushing, bringing your shin over their thigh, your knee on the ground. Your other leg steps out for base.

It is important to try and avoid their knee coming in, as you don't want to deal with the knee shield if you don't have to. In order to prevent it, circle your hand that is gripping to instead go to the hip, making sure your arm maintains a block on their leg attempting to sneak inside. You can then go to the underhook. Your knee that is on the ground pushes straight back, hip to the mat, then turn to side control.

If they don't push back, you can collapse your weight over the top of both of their legs, walking your way up into mount. A more complex option is the leg weave pass. Having moved their legs across, so the top leg is squished on top of their other leg, keep your weight on there, posting your outside leg for base. The knee of your other leg drives between their top and bottom leg, so that your knee is on the ground and pinning their bottom thigh with your shin.

You have various options to complete the pass. My preference would be to hook their top leg with my outside leg, getting my shin behind it and doing a big step (handy tip from Kenny Polmans in relation to a different pass, but it applies in lots of situations). Replace the pressure of your body with your hand on their top leg, then move around behind. ____________________

Teaching Notes: Do I need both versions? Just the squash is probably enough, especially as it is way simpler than the leg weave. Though yeah, the leg weave gives better precision and control, so still worth teaching. But maybe in a separate class, perhaps as part of some other sequence? With grip breaks, something like that?

I also forgot to film myself freeing the leg, when they grab an ankle. NEXT TIME DO A VID! It is way easier if you are pressing down on the legs, as then you lift their butt off the ground, meaning you can simply kick across to free your leg from the grip.

20 July 2022

20/07/2022 - Teaching | NoGi | Pasing open guard, knee slide

Teaching #Evening
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK -20/07/2022

If you are passing nogi, you don't have the joy of gi grips to help you secure position. Instead, put your hands on the middle of their shins, driving them into their body. Move off at an angle, then step your leg in deep, shin against the back of their knee, trying to get their leg towards the floor. Turn your inside knee inwards. You've got your body over the top of their other leg, attempting to put your weight into the side of that leg.

By driving their leg across towards their other leg, they will tend to push back: it's common for people to give you the opposite reaction to whatever you're doing (i.e., you pull, they push). If they push back, use that momentum to move into a knee slide. You follow where they are pushing, bringing your shin over their thigh, your knee on the ground. Your other leg steps out for base.

It is important to try and avoid their knee coming in, as you don't want to deal with the knee shield if you don't have to. In order to prevent it, circle your hand that is gripping to instead go to the hip, making sure your arm maintains a block on their leg attempting to sneak inside. You can then go to the underhook. Your knee that is on the ground pushes straight back, hip to the mat, then turn to side control.

If they don't push back, you can collapse your weight over the top of both of their legs, walking your way up into mount.
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Teaching Notes: The Grapplers Guide videos from JT Torres on nogi passing are really handy, well taught too. Next time, I want to be more precise about how you put your weight to the side of their knee, also if it is possible that pushing with the arm can work ok too. It fits well with what I already know for knee cut, providing a different entry. The squash pass over the thigh fits in here nicely, but probably best saved for a separate class.

Also, the first vid in JT Torres' series is specifically against people self-framing into their legs, so most of that doesn't apply if they simply have their legs in the air. With that, you can drive their knees towards them, which makes everything a lot easier as they have less opportunity to get some kind of guard going.