29/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #207

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK – 29/12/2008Advanced

Over Christmas, I enjoyed myself geeking out over the online archive of Black Belt Magazine, hosted on Google Books. Specifically, I made a spreadsheet, trying to list all the BJJ-related articles from their first appearance in a 1988 issue of the magazine, up until Rickson Gracie discontinued his ‘No Holds Barred’ column in 1999. The archive itself is fairly comprehensive, but there are a few issues not included, some months are mixed up, and occasionally an issue will have a chunk missing. Still, makes for a fascinating look at the early history of BJJ in the US: I’m hoping my Black Belt spreadsheet can act as an index for fellow history fans.

Today the Academy was open for a sparring session from 13:00-14:30, so I decided to take the opportunity to get in one last bit of training before the end of the year. Roger kicked off with specific sparring, starting with guard passage. I couldn’t get past Liam’s guard, spending pretty much the whole time pondering how to free my sleeve from his grip. That tight hold meant he could keep my arm pulled across my body, so in order to get into position to free myself, I put up my same side leg. I also kept shifting my knees in close so that Liam couldn’t make space to go for a sweep, or perhaps a submission.

So, I managed to present a defence, but nothing more than that. I find it hard to extricate myself from grips, particularly when I know the other person is stronger than me (almost always the case), so need to develop some technical methods of removing their hold, as well as improve my ability to prevent them getting a good grip in the first place.

Side control was up next, this time my partner being Rico, a stocky white belt (about my height, but 15kg heavier). He had no trouble flinging me off when I was on top, though he was trying to avoid just using power moves. The main reason was that I kept putting too much weight forward, rather than staying on his chest. Always useful to try side control against a big guy for that reason: you become very aware of your mistakes.

Underneath, it was the same pattern as normal, as I stayed relaxed and looked to go to half guard or slip my knee under. Didn’t get very far, so if I recall correctly, just moved around in a circle. Again, I need to be more proactive, particularly in terms of getting to my knees, and I also have to watch my forearm under their neck. I was trying to make sure I tucked the elbow into his armpit to stop my arm being so vulnerable to submission, but not sure it worked. Could be he just held off going for the Americana due to the size difference.

Finally, I did specific mount sparring with Nick Brooks. Naturally he could have escaped any time he wanted on the bottom, or submitted on top, but instead offered lots of helpful advice, waiting to see how I reacted to what he was doing. Main important thing to keep in mind is to squeeze my knees and feet: Nick mentioned I was leaving too much space, so he could get his elbow in. Also, I should be aiming to move forward, getting up under their armpits.

For free sparring, I just waited to see who wanted to roll. First person to ask was a powerful purple belt, who I think is called Darren (but had something else written on his gi, though he might have been borrowing it). He went really easy on me, noting when I could go for a submission, and letting me try for armbars. Even when he let me isolate his arm and get into position, still a simple matter for him to escape. I continue to be a fish out of water when I’m staring at a submission opportunity, even when my training partner is literally telling me what to do in order to secure it.

Next was a tall purple belt I’ve rolled with before, called Lex. He’s still carrying an injury, which I assume is why he approached me: because I’m small, people with busted up shoulders/backs/legs etc are often keen to go with someone unlikely to aggravate injuries. After getting me into position to choke, he mentioned I should be turning in the other direction. I had in the mind the “face the same way as their fist” principle, but clearly that can’t be applied to every situation. He had my collar pressing into my neck, so as he advised, in that case it is better to turn the other way, raise their elbow to make space, then turn back and try to escape.

The general principle of using elbows and knees is something I tried to implement today, which was of some help with my next spar, against Lubo. I managed to land on my fingers at one point, making an unpleasant cracking noise, but seems ok: the little finger is still sore, but as its only slightly painful, should be fine in a few days. Lubo danced around on my back, then worked for a choke for the rest of the spar. I attempted to triangle my legs around one of his limbs and then turn into him, using my elbow to block his efforts at getting in a second hook. Didn’t quite work, but did appear to hold off the choke. I squirmed around until the end of the spar, and as ever, I’m not sure if I was defending well, or Lubo simply didn’t slam on the choke because he’s bigger.

Finally, I rolled with another larger training partner, a blue belt called Johannes. He was definitely taking it easy, letting me work underneath with my half guard and open guard. I’m continuing to try and get a two on one grip on their sleeve then push on the hips, which is working out better than my previous habit of attempting to wrap up their legs. I still need to bend them in half properly, and it might also be good to switch to spider guard occasionally to further try and off-balance them.

In half guard, I wanted to get a high overhook on the arm, so I could try and go to their back. I got the high overhook, but couldn’t switch to the back properly. My balance is lacking, as is my weight distribution. I did manage to get back to full guard a few times, although not always closed: Johannes kept trapping my leg. It wasn’t in too bad a position across his stomach, but as he was squishing it tightly between his torso and legs, I couldn’t pull it free to go back to closed guard.

Not sure when I’ll next be training, but I’d guess January 6th or the day after. That’s when I’ll be meeting my solicitor to go over the redundancy package (legal requirement to get a third party to run you through it before it can all be signed off), and can then presumably train in the evening.


22/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced), Evening

Class #206

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK – 22/12/2008Advanced

I’d forgotten just how much Dutch painting the National Gallery displays, so that made for an enjoyable continuation of the Amsterdam trip. As ever picked up the audio guide, both touring round the various Vermeers, Rembrandts and Avercamps, along with revisiting old favourites of mine, like Hobbema’s ‘The Avenue at Middleharnis’. Rooms 16-17a, 21-29 and 31, in case anyone else wants to do the same (though I didn’t have quite enough time to really indulge in Room 29, which is dedicated to Peter Paul Rubens, or Anthony Van Dyck in Room 31. Belgium etc tends to be grouped together with the Netherlands, as at the time it was all the Low Countries, IIRC, before splitting over religious differences).

Back to BJJ for the evening class, where this time Nick G went over some fine details on the triangle from guard. He emphasised curling your toes back as well as your feet to tense up your calves (and thereby tighten your choke), pulling the head down, squeezing your knees together, and bringing your shoulders to your knees rather than raising your hips. That confused me a bit, as I thought raising the hips was an integral part of the triangle, but I think Nick’s point was that pushes them away and gives them a chance to posture up. Not entirely certain, however: maybe he’ll go through it on his blog in the future?

The other detail Nick added was countering the common defence to a triangle, where they grab your knee with both hands, drive it to the mat, then try to force open your legs using their bodyweight. If they attempt to grab your knee, grab it yourself with your other hand, then lay your same side hand on the mat. This is going to provide you with some traction, as you now need to switch your hips. By doing so, your training partner has lost that opportunity to escape, and is in a far worse position.

Guard passing with Adam was in my usual defensive mode, and got a bit circular. He kept going for either an armbar or cross-choke, and I kept shifting my knees to prevent him making sufficient space for the former, or bringing my arms over and pushing his away for the latter. What I should have done was try to stand up and pass. I was looking for a chance to try the Saulo guard break, but couldn’t settle into position: standing up would have been more productive.

Free sparring started with Roberto. I was keen to give Jude’s half-guard sweeps a try, so immediately pulled half-guard, but unfortunately forgot about getting onto my side. Roberto had me squashed underneath him, so I couldn’t grab his sleeve cuff. Also, that is a follow-up to when the first sweep doesn’t work, so I should have tried that one first. Instead, I lay there trying to work out what hand went where, then eventually worked back to full guard, not being able to establish position for the sweep, or indeed remember the technique properly.

Last spar was with Zaf, but as often happens (to my benefit), it was more Zaf offering me tips. First he commented that if I want to try the Saulo guard break, I need to twist my hips, so they’re facing diagonally rather than square on. That should make me it harder to sweep me. Secondly, if I’m in the mount and attempting to use my head as a third hand, I need to put my free hand and forehead on the same side. Previously, I’d been putting my head on the other side, which doesn’t sufficiently help with balance, meaning I still get reversed.

That wraps up this year of BJJ, unless I’m both near London later in the month and the Academy is actually open. Nice to see Adam get his blue belt at the end of the session: hadn’t realised that like me, he also has a Turkish background (or to be more specific, Turkish Cypriot in his case), which is always cool. Now I can sit back, eat lots of mince pies and generally be enormously unhealthy. Merry Christmas! 😀

22/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #205

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 22/12/2008Advanced

Slightly strange start to the class, in that a bunch of us wandered outside in our gis to go move some mats. Mix up on where they were supposed to be by the workmen, possibly, but not entirely sure. I’ve not made it down to a Monday class before, but I’m guessing that isn’t normally the case. 😉

Main thing today was half guard sweeps. For both, you need to get up on your side: if they manage to put you flat on your back, you won’t be able to execute the sweep. Start by disengaging your half guard, pushing on their leg and then bringing your outside knee into their chest. To stop them pressing you out flat, you can also use your other leg, bringing the inside knee up to block their weight coming forward.

Get a high underhook, right up under their armpit, knocking them forward. With your other hand, open their gi, then feed the trailing fabric round to the underhooking hand. You can now force their head to the floor, which establishes the position for your sweep.

Swivel round toward their leg: this time, you do want to go flat on your back. Your inside leg comes up, rocking them forward. Using this momentum, you’re aiming to bring them over with your foot.

I found the technique rather complex and got confused, so I’m doubtful I remembered it correctly, particularly as this was the first of two classes. The second half guard sweep felt simpler. It starts off the same, but this time, they avoid your underhook, bringing their arm over yours. Take advantage and grab the sleeve cuff of that arm, pulling it down to the floor.

With your other arm, reach over their back and grab their belt, or a handful of gi material (if the belt has come loose). Shuffle back, then bring your outside foot in, establishing a hook (so, sort of half-butterfly guard). Your other leg stays between their legs: kick this through in order to generate the momentum to sweep them to your side, coming up into side control.

During guard passage, I started on my back, but was faced with one of the biggest people in the academy, Mike. Still, I found that I was able to briefly hold him off by using my knees after he stood up. Even though he eventually crushed through, it did make me think I should use my knees more often to block.

I was planning on doing the evening class later on, and also wanted to leave plenty of time for going round the National Gallery, so had intended to go shower before sparring. In the end, I decided to do one round, with Liam. That proved to be a good idea, as I managed to apply several sweeps. The Tran side control escape worked once again: that one is all about timing, though if your partner is especially quick moving from side control to mount, its going to be difficult to effect.

I think I also got some kind of random half-guard sweep, using hooks, and then later on, I grabbed onto a foot without having anything specific in mind. I can remember being shown a sweep a while back, along with what Eddie Bravo calls the ‘old school’, but the only part I remembered was holding the foot. Either way, it worked, but that’s not too helpful if I’m not sure why. Will have to check through the blog, and also have another look at the basic half-guard section of Mastering the Rubber Guard (which is the only section I’ve paid much attention to up until now).

On top, I was working to trap the knee when passing, after Liam opened his guard. I got through to half-guard once or twice, but found it tough to get around Liam’s legs. I need to put my weight down better, and also control their hips, as otherwise it’s a simple matter for my training partners to shift away as I try to pass.

20/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #204

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK – 20/12/2008Advanced

Not having a job means more time for training! So, sparring class tonight, which I’ll hopefully follow with doubling up on Monday. That will also give me the chance to either go take another look round the National Gallery, or perhaps check out the exhibition at the Royal Academy. I’m intending to do the afternoon class followed by the evening session, which leaves me a good chunk of time to indulge in some great art.

My first roll tonight was with Christina, where I was trying to remember to watch my trailing arm. Arm placement under side control came up again, with Christina advising to avoid putting the forearm under the neck (having just applied an Americana after I did so). Wedging the forearm underneath is my standard defensive position under side control, but clearly I’m not doing it right if I’m leaving that arm open. From what I remember of Kevin’s advice from a while back, I think my problem is that I’m not tucking my elbow under their armpit, meaning it is more vulnerable to submission.

Tran offered similar advice when I asked him where he puts his arm under side control, also saying that you should it to make space then quickly slip the arm through, so you can turn to your knees. I hardly ever turn to my knees, as I’m far too used to staying on my back. That probably is part of the reason why I so frequently find myself struggling under knee-on-belly, against both Christina and Tran. I’m continuing to attempt to use my elbow to shrimp out, but need to come up more on my side.

Dominique was at the academy too tonight, so I was keen to get in a roll with her. I managed to sweep from under half guard, though as ever I’m not sure if weight difference had something to do with that. Whether or not it did, I still had trouble passing half-guard, again attempting the one where you swing your free leg over, but I don’t think I’m trapping their head sufficiently, or putting them flat enough on their back. I did eventually squeeze past, but mainly because Dom was already knackered from a tough spar with Christina.

The fourth spar was with Lubo, who I also haven’t seen for a fair while. He normally trains at Mill Hill, but several of the people from there were in attendance tonight. He repeatedly choked me out on top of half-guard, and also kept catching me with the exact same entry and sweep when we started from the knees. I’m crappy at guard passing closed guard, but even worse against open guard.

That was driven home in my final spar with Jude. I was pretty clueless in trying to get past his legs, especially when he also secured a grip on my sleeve. I spent the rest of the spar flung around by his legs, and then repeatedly put in various collar chokes. He was taking it easy, so gave me a chance to escape, but even when I laboriously worked my way free, I immediately got caught in another. Also, as with all my sparring today, I’m being too flat on my back when on the bottom.

Maurição announced that Jude would be leaving the main academy to head up the instruction at RGA’s new Kilburn location. Jude has taught me most often out of the many black belts at RGA, so it will be sad to see him go. Of course, I’ll be going myself next month: my hope is that I’ll have found a new job in the Midlands by February, but if not, I might look into training with an RGA affiliate.

Chatting to Dominique, Mill Hill might be a good option, as there is the possibility of paying per lesson rather than a monthly fee, which would be handy now that I have considerably less disposable income. Shall have to look into it if I’m still near London in two months.

After class, a bunch of us headed off to a meal organised by Christina at Bodean’s, not too far from the academy. Good food and reasonable prices (along with awesome company, of course!), plus the service was really good. The manager kept coming up to check we were ok, and seemed both friendly and personable. Was also cool to see Oli D again, who now trains with Ben at the Farringdon class: he’s one of the first people I met back when he used to train at RGA.

18/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #203

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 18/12/2008Advanced

Some technical details on the osoto gari tonight, with a useful follow-up. Pull them in and up, step your foot across – not in the middle of their legs – then step your other foot behind, dipping slightly in preparation for the throw. If they anticipate and step their leg around to prevent the trip, you can now simply switch to step behind their other leg, moving your head to the other side of their’s, then trip them that way. I had problems getting my left foot close enough that I could step over effectively, so that’s something I need to think about next time.

Groundwork consisted of two butterfly guard passes. The first was relatively straight forward. Grab their gi and straighten your arm, making space: you don’t want to be close, as that makes you vulnerable to a sweep at this point. With your other hand, grab their opposite gi pant leg and pull downwards. You’re steadily attempting to isolate one side of their body, completing the act by raising your same side knee.

Press that knee into their side of their upper thigh, twisting into them and keeping your weight down. Your grip on the back of their gi should also help keep them squashed into the floor. Finally, bring your rear leg over, switching your base, and slide up into side control.

The next pass was rather more complex. This time, grab their sleeve with your same side hand, moving your elbow in close to their body. Your other hand with thread under their leg, grabbing their opposite knee, pushing it to the floor. On the same side, bring your head next to theirs and press into their face with your skull. That should make it difficult for them to initiate an escape.

Get your knee in between their legs, bringing it up tight. Your other knee is going to replace the elbow of the same side arm which is gripping their sleeve: pull up on the sleeve and slide the knee into place. This should enable you to then bring your other leg through, moving straight into mount.

I found it difficult to maintain a firm grasp on the knee, and I also need to press my weight down more, as ever. Christina also noted that arching your back can help to add pressure, as demonstrated by a nearby purple belt.

Guard passage was split by belt, perhaps indicative of things to come with the new system of three class levels rather than just two. I started with a fellow blue belt, and to my surprise, my defensive approach actually paid off for once. I simply waited, readjusting my base and blocking his choke attempts, also shifting my knees to prevent him from sweeping or getting into an armbar position. This went on for quite some time, and eventually he left me enough space to slip through into half-guard, until I could squirm my leg free for mount.

However, I think he must have been quite tired by this point, as he’d been sparring for a while, whereas this was my first roll. It is also possible he was used to taking advantage of more aggressive training partners, so rather than my technique being better today, he just wasn’t capitalising as most people swiftly do when I try to stay defensive.

Similarly Gary looked kinda tired, and as he is a big guy, went easy on me. I was looking for the omoplata again, seeing as I was squashed in guard anyway, but to no avail. I also tried to keep in mind the advice yesterday about controlling the head, but Gary has more than enough power to make that a difficult proposition. He eventually gave up from fatigue, as far as I can tell, as I definitely didn’t have any kind of submission going.

I kicked off free sparring with Christina, and as ever soon found myself under side control, then knee-on-belly, then she caught an arm as I flailed around trying to curl up defensively. This happens all the time: I really, really need to watch that trailing arm, and develop better defence against knee on belly.

Next was Adam, one of the white belts, which was fairly even. I went to half-guard, concentrating on recovering full guard as usual. I need to work harder to get up on my side, as I keep ending on flat on my back, which is a bad place to be. I did eventually get to closed guard, and then later to mount due to Adam overbalancing (I think that was after we’d gone back to half-guard, but can’t quite remember).

My ability to hold mount is poor, so after looking for an armbar and then trying to step up for the triangle, I was rolled back into guard. Mount remains a weak position for me, though I’m trying to implement Roger’s handy tip about using your head as a third hand, which almost helped me get the back, but not quite.

Finally, I finished up rolling with Christina again, where much the same thing as before happened. Must keep those elbows in tight, and work on getting to my knees rather than always looking for half-guard. I very pointlessly locked on half-guard while Christina was attacking my arm: the half-guard did absolutely nothing to stop her locking in the armbar, so I should have been aiming to turn to my knees instead.

Chatting to Bruno afterwards, he mentioned that there is apparently going to be a class in Oxford, along with the numerous other RGA locations opening up around London. As I won’t have a job to go to after tomorrow, and its christmas so my girlfriend is away, I can make Saturday training. I’m also hoping to double up on Monday, which will mean I make my goal of at least eight classes a month.

Tonight also marks the last time I’ll be writing up a class on this particular laptop. It’s a KPMG laptop, so will be returning to the office for good tomorrow. I should be able to borrow a relative’s computer afterwards, but I’m looking to buy a new laptop as soon as possible (talking to Christina made me think about Macs, which I’ve never used before. The reliability and lack of viruses is very tempting, but I’d be worried about compatibility. I have lots of random programs I like to use, like Amiga emulators, DOSBox, Mediaplayer Classic and CDisplay: not sure if any of those work on a Mac, but will have to look into it). It will feel very strange not to have a laptop of my own after heavily relying on them for the past four years.

17/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #202

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK – 17/12/2008Advanced

The redundancy has been pretty much confirmed, so barring something very unexpected, I’ll be without a job as of Friday. That also means I’ll have to leave RGA, but I do have a plan that should mean I can at least keep training there through January. After that, even if I’m still in London, I won’t be able to afford it anymore: the eventual plan is to find a permanent position either near Warwick Uni, in Coventry or in Birmingham.

I feel a lot happier about it than I did last week, thanks to my girlfriend (who, as ever, has been wonderfully supportive) and the relaxing trip we took to Amsterdam. Worries over jobs and the future kept me awake and probably contributed to a cold, so I didn’t do any training since the 4th, but renewed and refreshed I was looking forward to tonight.

Guard passage was interesting, as I was with Ted, who I haven’t rolled with before. I think he’s around my size, if stronger (I’m almost always weaker than my partner). I had a go at the loop choke, but didn’t have sufficient control of his head, and also looked for omoplatas, but again failed to get position. Its unusual that I get the chance to work submissions, so something I’d like to work more often, though I’m still very keen to improve my defence.

I managed a sweep from half guard into mount too, which was fun, but rather random, as I lifted Ted the other direction to my usual attempt at sweeping from half guard (which is grabbing the arm opposite to the trapped leg and pulling it over). Not entirely sure how it happened, which therefore isn’t going to help my technique a great deal.

On top, I again attempted the Saulo Ribeiro guard break, which didn’t have too much success. I really need to watch it when defending the armbar, as several times now I’ve pulled out the wrong arm and given my partner a triangle. Ted didn’t punish me for the mistake as much as I thought he would, given that I eventually worked free and passed, but it’s a dangerous habit to get into. I also need to crush my weight down when going for the stack pass, which I’m still not doing properly.

Roger gave us an insight into breaking posture in guard, with the kind of useful advice on fundamentals you’d expect from the king of effective basics. First, he emphasised the importance of breaking their grips: don’t let them secure a hold, particularly with a straight arm pressing into you. If they can get that solidly locked into you, it sets them up well to stand and try to pass. So, pull your collars apart, figure four their wrist and yank it away, working all the time to prevent their grips.

Second, having moved their arm out of the way and knocked them off balance, try and get an arm around their head. This will make it difficult for them to posture up and stabilise their base. You can grip your other hand, or on their collar, but make sure its tight: if they manage to push up on your chest and break the grip, swim your other arm through and pull their head down with that instead.

Third, you want to start working for an armbar from guard. You’ve broken their posture and got them in close, so now try and get a grip on their arm. You could try this when they attempt to push up on your chest, as to do so they’ll have to bring their arm into range of your own limbs. If you can’t get the arm, then you can always try and get a deep grip inside their collar instead, to work for a choke.

Either way, climb your legs up their back, furthering tightening your control over their upper body. For the armbar, you’ll need to swivel by pushing off their hip, then get your leg over their head. They might try to stand up from here, but if you still have that hold on their head, standing up isn’t going to help them much. You’ll be in perfect position to swivel, hook the leg with your arm and bring your leg over for the armbar.

Another essential detail Roger pointed out was keeping your knees together. Squeeze them between their legs, allowing no room to get their arm free. This will be of immeasurable benefit in launching your offence, opening them up to armbars and chokes. If you’ve got a really solid grip around their head, you may even be able to take their back by popping up onto your elbow.

Specific sparring from that position followed (one person could only go for the armbars, the other had to break open the guard), having done some drilling with light resistance. I struggled to keep Ted’s head down: he kept managing to free it from my grip and lean back, and I in turn couldn’t bring him back down easily. When I did, it felt like the reason was mainly force rather than technique, which is no use to me. I simply not strong enough to fall back on muscle, so I have to keep everything technical.

Nick gave me a tip at this point, as I was finding that Ted kept standing up in my guard with good posture, putting me in a position where I was at a loss how to get the armbar (normally I’d bail to open guard and try to sweep, but that wasn’t an option in this particular specific spar). Nick advised that I should try to drag the head down, as that will make it far tougher for them to remain standing. Easier said than done, but gave me something to work towards.

Free sparring followed, where again I went with Ted. This time I was using open guard and half-guard, which has become a trend for me. I concentrated on pushing on the hips and pulling on their sleeves, then moving into full guard or spider guard if they went back to their knees or crouched. I was still seeing if the omoplata was an option, couldn’t get it, but did somehow end up going for the belly-down armbar.

I was in a good position, with a grip on the arm and my legs in place, but couldn’t seem to get Ted’s arm free, or control his body. I stuck with it as he tried to escape, finding myself in another good position, still attacking the arm as he went to his back. Again, I couldn’t finish, but at least managed to move into mount. I think the problem is that I’m not using my legs enough, squeezing my knees or putting my weight down.

I also failed to use the myriad of techniques Roger and others have shown us in the past for getting their arm free (e.g., making a semi-circle towards their head, or Nick’s version when your shin presses into their face). Still, like earlier, it was nice to get a chance to practice my offence, given that I’m normally always defending.

Finally, I had a shorter roll with Bruno, who in his typically laid back way broke through all my defences and could have submitted me several times over. I found it hard to make room under his side control, and also couldn’t shift away from his knee-on-belly. Handy reminder to never face away on my side too, as that was just asking to be armbarred.

Roger closed up the lesson with some big news about the academy. He has bought the building next door, so the mat space is going to double again, providing room for a load more classes. As of next year, there will be beginner, intermediate and advanced, with white belts in the first, blue belts in the second, and purples upwards in the third. Real shame that I’ll be leaving next month, amidst all the excitement, but with my job gone, there is no good reason to stay in London (particularly when the alternative is the long-dreamed of prospect of finally living with my girlfriend the whole week up in the Midlands, rather than bouncing up and down the country in an endless cycle of train journeys).

04/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #201

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie & Nick Gregoriades, London, UK – 04/12/2008Advanced

Just in time for Christmas, there’s a stock clearance of old Black Eagle BJJ gis: £25 rather than £60, which is a hefty discount. As it’s a stock clearance, that means it is only the less common sizes, which at present (I’m guessing these are liable to disappear, but hopefully not before I’ve put this post up) means 150cm (£20: all the rest are £25), 160cm, 190cm and 200cm. So, if you’re below or above average height – about 174cm for the UK, I think – you’re in luck.

Speaking of money, looks like I may well have to tighten my belt after this month, as its possible the credit crunch is going to mean I’m made redundant. Had a meeting about it today, where they said how I was on the ‘at risk’ list, but I’m guessing its just a way of trying to soften the blow. Best case scenario is that I either keep my job or get redeployed somewhere else in the company, but it makes sense to prepare for the worst. I have a small amount of savings, which would help a little, but as BJJ is one of my big expenses, that will mean I have to quit training at RGA. Obviously I don’t want to, but it would be stupid to pay £100 a month if I’m unemployed.

Anyway, I’ll at least be training the rest of this month, as I’ve already paid. If all else fails, I’ll have judo at Warwick Uni to fall back on, but there are also possibilities in Birmingham and Cov once I find a new job. Shall have to see how things go: hopefully I’ll either keep my job, or be able to find a new one quickly. I’d imagine I won’t stay in London if I do get laid off, which will be a wrench as I really like training at RGA, and will miss all the great training partners I’ve had over the past two years.

So, training was especially welcome tonight to take my mind off things. Nick took the first part of class, running us through the warm-up, then some specific sparring. First it was guard passage, where I began with Joanna, who I haven’t trained with in several months. Underneath, I was trying to work my open guard, pushing her hips away with my feet while simultaneously pulling her sleeve in with arms. I felt I managed to get that importance bend at the waist better than usual, though I wasn’t able to shift into the hook sweep.

I also didn’t get the handstand sweep the first time round, but was able to land it the second time. The deciding factor appeared to be that it came after a series of other sweep attempts, and I’d also vaguely looked for the armbar, but wasn’t anywhere near getting her into position. Varying my attacks makes sense, so I should try it more often.

On top, I wasn’t really getting anywhere. I kept on trying to get the guard break from that same Saulo Ribeiro clip I mentioned yesterday, but couldn’t manage to open up anybody’s legs with it. I can get my knee in and leg up, but then don’t seem to be able to circle round and use my back to prise their legs apart: something to work on, as the only way to get better is keep on trying it.

Roger took over to teach a guard pass, which was handy given my earlier problems. You first need to get one of their legs in between yours: as Nick mentioned during drilling (he was extremely helpful when he saw I was having problems with the technique), for guard passing you don’t want either both of their legs inside or outside of yours.

In attempting to prevent a guard pass, they will probably put their knee up: otherwise you can move over that leg. This pass assumes they do so, upon which you reach around with your same side arm and grab their belt, pulling in tightly and crushing your weight down. Your other arm presses down the knee between your legs, straightening your arm and using your weight to trap it to the floor and step your knee over.

Now that you have both knees by the one leg, pressing your weight down, the main obstacle to your pass is their foot. Keeping maximum pressure with your shoulders on their knee, raise up your hips and quickly move over their foot. It is essential to keep the shoulder pressure, or they’ll be able to swivel and perhaps recover their guard or escape. To finish, move round, maintaining your weight down onto them all the way, until you can slip through into side control.

Sparred from that position with Roberto, where I wasn’t too successful on top, though I think I managed to squeeze past once or twice (rather sloppily, just driving forward: I tried the guard pass we’d just been shown, but I need more practice with it). Underneath I felt more comfortable, getting a few sweeps, but that was mainly because Roberto was keeping his weight relatively high and occasionally leaning to one side, so I was able to take advantage with my legs.

In free sparring I was with Roberto again, and spent lots of time in half-guard, trying to get around to the other side of his body. I got the arm-sweep once, but after working fruitlessly for the kimura from top half guard, I found myself right back underneath, unable to finish the submission. Later on I crawled round to his back after he left an opening, but there wasn’t enough time to finish a choke (though I doubt I would have got it anyway, as I don’t think it was tight enough).

Finished up with Joanna, after watching her spar with Maurição. He gave out a useful tip on guard passing, in relation to the ankle grab sweep. When you stand, keep your knees close their body. This is because if they then drop their hips to try for the ankle grab sweep, you’ll be ready, and can squeeze their knees together with your own. That then means you can twist to the side and move around their legs, getting your guard pass underway.

As before I was trying open guard sweeps, as well as half-guard. I managed to get on top from a reversal, but as in guard passage, I couldn’t get any further, unable to prise Joanna’s grip apart. She eventually got to my back and started working for a choke, but I had my legs triangled around hers, which proved enough of a barrier to build my defence. Time ran out before we reached a conclusion, so I’m not sure whether she would have eventually choke me anyway, or if I was in position to spin back to top.

I’ll be training again on Tuesday before my trip to Amsterdam, which is a bit less pleasant now that I can’t spend as freely as I might due to the job worries. The meeting with my boss tomorrow should clarify things, so I’ll know whether there’s a realistic chance of keeping my job, as well as the relative size of the redundancy package if there isn’t. Have to hope it will be enough to cover job hunting, which is going to be tough as I’ll be looking for well-paid part-time work due to writing commitments.