24/03/2013 – Leverage Submission Grappling Fundamentals 03 (Turtle & Back Mount)

Seminar #012
Leicester Shootfighters, (Submission Grappling), Nathan ‘Levo’ Leverton, Leicester, UK – 24/03/2013

My initial entry into Leverage Submission Grappling, a nogi system being codified by veteran UK instructor Nathan Leverton, was last year, with my team mate Steve from Gracie Barra Bristol. Steve kindly gave me a lift in 2012, but this time he wasn’t able to go. I decided to take the opportunity to do some more CouchSurfing by coming up on the train the day before, as I had such a good experience in Dallas.

[I’m going to ramble a bit about CouchSurfing now, so if you don’t care, scroll past the next three paragraphs ;D]

If you’re not familiar with CouchSurfing, it is a social media website which people use to meet up and stay with each other. While that sounds rather bizarre to a lot of people, particularly those who do not spend much time on the internet, it’s a process that works very well in practice. There are checks in place, such as a system of references and vouching to warn others if anybody turns out to be dodgy. Leicester was my second time staying with somebody, which I’m also hoping to do when I head over to the US later in the year.

My host this time was Dani, who very handily is only about a mile away from Leicester Shootfighters. After cycling over (the Google Navigation thing on my phone is fortunately quite thorough, so my total lack of a sense of direction didn’t matter), it didn’t take me long to work out the right house: flags from around the world were peeping out from behind the window. Dani has travelled to a LOT of countries! 馃槈 She and her housemate Justyna greeted me with a big bottle of Becks and a tasty spaghetti meal.

Another CouchSurfer, Sara, was also there: just like in Dallas, there is a vibrant CouchSurfing community in Leicester. We headed out to a local shisha bar, followed by some excellent cheesy music at Hakamou (it was a bit full for dancing, unfortunately, though I could still have a good wiggle). While there we met two cool Canadian students (randomly, it turns out that Pete was well aware of BJJ, as he did some MMA and JKD back in Alberta), who Sara invited back to her flat where we all had a good chat until 4am. Slightly later than I was intending to get to bed, but Dani and Justyna are so hilariously entertaining that I was laughing too much to care. It’s impossible to not have a good time with those two, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again before the next LSG seminar. Thanks for the great night out, CouchSurfers of Leicester! ;D

There has been heavy snow this weekend, which prevented a few attendees from coming along to the seminar. Then again, that does have the positive outcome of more personal attention from Leverton, which is a good thing from a student perspective. As with LSG 04, LSG 03 kicked off with an introduction. Leverton handed out a sheet detailing the techniques to be taught today, again aiming to cover it all off within five hours.

The seminar proper began with around two hours on turtle top position. I rarely go anywhere near turtle, so although many of the techniques looked familiar, I can’t think of the last time I used any of them in sparring. My main interest for this seminar was the back mount portion, but I knew that some focus on the turtle would be good for me, given I don’t seem to use it much these days. Particularly in regards to turtle, there was a key difference between LSG 03 and LSG 04: wrestling. As LSG 04 was on the guard, the predominant influence was jiu jitsu, but for the turtle, wrestling provides an excellent base.

Leverton’s first technique was defending against the person in turtle trying to grab your legs, as they will often be looking for a takedown. The simplest method of blocking that attack is to sprawl. Whether they have grabbed one or both of your legs, start by grabbing behind their armpit, the other hand going on their head (not their neck: aim for the end of the lever where they’re weaker). Push their head towards the mat and then sprawl back. It’s important you then square up.

When sprawling, you want to make sure you aren’t jumping backwards, as that gives them the opportunity to complete their takedown. Instead, thrust your hips into them then slide down. The aim is to create a wedge with your body that means their forward momentum is dissipated. You can then establish a front headlock, shifting your head-hand to wrap around and grip their chin. Drive the point of your same side shoulder into the base of their neck, right where it meets their back. Similarly to the sprawl, this blocks them moving forwards.

Your other hand clamps onto their triceps, then slides down towards their elbow. Come up on your toes, getting your ear into their armpit on the triceps-gripping side. Lower your chin-grip side knee slightly, then pull back on their arm. From there you can go behind, with two main options. The meaner version seemed to be ‘snapping’ them (a term I’ve heard in regards to takedowns, but don’t really understand in technical detail because I never work takedowns. Ever), driving with your shoulder first then dragging their arm back. The goal is to get them extended, so that it is difficult for them to react as you move around behind.

The nicer option is moving the arm on their chin to the other side of their head. The back of your hand is on their shoulder, while your arm is still pressed against their head. From there, move around. Leverton suggested this as a good option for when the person turtling is mainly trying to stay tight, rather than making any aggressive actions like a wrestler would. It therefore sounds like it could be a good option in the context of BJJ.

The standard way of maintaining control on top of turtle, or at least the option I’m familiar with, is sprawling out the legs connecting your hips. This is a bit like what Leverton called the ‘side ride’, which he noted was good for strikes (he should know, given he has a long history of training successful MMA fighters). Leverton prefers a different position, where he uses his forearms to create initial hooks before replacing them with his legs. Crouched directly behind them, brace your forearms into their hips (but not your elbows, or they can try to control them) and squeeze your knees into them.

This is just a transitional position, so don’t stay there long. You aren’t sprawled back from here because that is space they can move into. From here, twist around to one side. On one side, your forearm stays in as a hook on their hip. Leave a leg behind on that side too, still tight to their body. Your remaining arm reaches for their arm on the other side, joined by your other knee.

If there is space, you can just replace your forearm with your leg to insert your hooks. Note that for the second hook, you will have to turn your body before you can insert it, or you’ll find the motion awkward. Most likely they won’t let you do that and will stay tight. In that situation, Leverton suggested trying a tilt to back mount, with two options. At this point there was a degree of jiu jitsu influence again, as Leverton described these techniques as the ‘Maia’ and ‘Marcelo’ back takes respectively.

For the Maia, you’re shifting diagonally into their bottom corner. Move your body backwards slightly, diagonally behind you and away from them on the arm-gripping side. Leave a small space, then pull them into that space. That will roll them over the knee you had on the arm-gripping side, ideally straight into back mount. You’ll also want to establish a harness/seat-belt grip, with an arm over the shoulder and the other under the armpit.

By contrast, the Marcelo shifts forwards into their top corner. This is more difficult, as it feels like there are more parts to the motion. Start by jamming the knee on their arm-gripping side into the gap between their thigh and their arm (if they are tight there won’t be much space, but digging your knee in should open it up). Sliding over their shoulder, drop onto your own shoulder, pushing off your leg to roll them onto you. A common mistake is to just leap over and hope your body weight will be enough to roll them, which almost certainly won’t be the case: you need to be pushing off the mat with your leg. During that roll, pinch your knees around their leg to stop them walking through and escaping.

Next, swing the leg you have underneath around their leg to get your hook. You then want to bring your second hook in, which they may block. If they do, you still have one hook, which allows you to use Marcelo Garcia’s ‘hip extension’. Lock your feet together, then pull them towards you with your seat-belt grip and thrust your hips into their back. That should stretch them out, giving you the space to secure your second hook.

After a short break, Leverton moved on to bottom turtle, which again was roughly two hours. I was initially nervous when I saw this was due to feature takedowns, as that was liable to exacerbate my groin injury, but fortunately the takedowns were from turtle and staying low, rather than a big lift and drop. The overarching theme for this section was making your turtle dangerous, rather than a purely defensive position.

The other major point was scooting backwards while in turtle. Bring one arm back at a time, to reduce your vulnerability. By moving backwards, this helps to extend your opponent and open up opportunities for attacking and escaping. That does mean you may mash your knees up drilling, as you’re sliding them back and forth on the mats (especially if you are just wearing shorts so the skin is exposed), but meh. Hopefully my awesome Pony Club Grappling Gear spats will arrive at some point: the Yang seems to have gotten stuck in transit from Australia a couple of months ago (possibly customs? Or just Royal Mail being rubbish, as they are frequently crap with getting stuff to the office).

Keep your knees wide for base, elbows inside, then defending your neck with your hands (either Aisling’s ‘Shirley Temple’ defence, or crossing your hands). You need to keep the person in front of you so that moving back becomes particularly effective. Leverton ran us through a quick drill, where the person on top just put their hands on your upper back while you were in turtle, the person on the bottom adjusting to stay facing them.

From here you can attack with a single leg, wrapping their leg and keeping your head on the inside, elbows tight, trying to bring their knee into your chest. This can be set up by backing away: even if they’re sprawled, they are going to have to come forward to stay on top. To finish the takedown, keep your inside hand locked behind their knee, grabbing their ankle with the other. Pull that out, then move around, put the leg between your knees and bump them with your shoulder.

This combines well with the double leg. Should you get the opportunity, grab both legs, bring your head outside, drive with your outside leg and move on top. In many ways this was similar to how I’ve been taught to complete the side control escape to your knees. A detail I wasn’t doing (or at least haven’t emphasised) is sliding your other knee in. Like Roy Dean’s takedown, Leverton pivots to the side rather than staying straight on, but wrapping both legs rather than using a knee block.

I’ve familiar with the peek out, which I know as a wrestler’s sit-out. Although when I say ‘familiar’, it isn’t something I use a lot because I’m lazy and don’t like to move very much. The situation is that they have made the mistake of wrapping arms by your hips. Base on an elbow and the opposite foot, then knock back their same side arm with your non-basing elbow.

Bring your non-basing foot through right across to the opposite corner, getting your head up, then spin behind them. Your inside hand stays by the leg in case they try to run behind. Also make sure you are putting your weight onto them when you bring your head through. If your weight is sat on the floor, the person on top can simply put their head on the floor, bring their leg over and mount.

I prefer the arm roll, which I think I first learned during my very brief stint of judo way back, as a set up for waki-gatame. Of course, a good grappler isn’t going to give you their arm like that, but it is still worth knowing. Same position, but this time you reach back and lock their arm. Look in the direction of the wrapped arm, then drop your same side shoulder to the mat and roll them onto their back. Turn towards their legs to come on top (if you turn towards their head, they can take your back).

The sit back to guard is another basic option I’m used to, but it turns out that I have been doing this wrong. This is not the same as trying to pull guard off a takedown attempt. As Leverton noted, jiu jitsu guys can get away with that as their opponents don’t normally know how to hold the top turtle position properly or perform a decent double or single leg, at least by comparison to a wrestler. Instead of pulling guard, you are sliding over your leg. Do not kick out your leg: just rock back into guard. Leverton came over several times to correct my positioning, so clearly I have some bad jiu jitsu habits to iron out.

Once I do, this could be very useful for escapes I use all the time, especially the running escape. Which is cool, as I’ve been struggling to finish that escape properly (as opposed to just stalling with the running escape) for ages. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can incorporate Leverton’s details, along with the scoot back Geraldine did the last time I taught the running escape. Although as you can see from the picture, the scenario is somewhat different, so perhaps it isn’t entirely relevant.

To perform a front headlock escape, there were two versions, early and late. If you can control that arm before they secure it around your neck (this therefore also applies to guillotines and the like when you’re in turtle). Grab their wrist and push it down to the floor, then run your head up the outside of their arm until your reach their shoulder.

If you’re late and they’ve managed to get a bit deeper, the focus will still be on that arm. Reach for the elbow of the arm they have by the neck and try to pull it down into your chest. Use the kind of motion as if you were climbing a rope, hand over hand. After you’ve secure it towards your chest, switch your knees and step around, reaching an arm around their back. This ends up looking a bit like an arm drag.

Leverton took the opportunity here to make some comments about what he called ‘sport jiu jitsu’. I know what he means, but it’s a term I dislike: I associate it with the marketing campaign to separate ‘self defence’ and ‘sport’ BJJ into two distinct styles, which I think is a false dichotomy: that came up again recently here and I also babble about it extensively here.

He basically said that currently in elite BJJ competition, you will see double-guard pulls where top jiu jitsu competitors fight to grab each other’s feet. That looks ridiculous even to an educated viewer. Leverton far prefers to get on top, smash with wrestling and look to submit. Given I’m assuming I was one of the few jiu jitsu people in the room, I kinda feel I have to respond. ;p

Not that I disagree with any of that: I don’t like the manner in which some competitors currently aim to play footsie either. I also have absolutely no interest in 50/50 and similarly over-complicated guards, aside from countering them with as simple a pass as possible. The main point I want to make – and I’m sure Leverton is fully aware of this – is that there are lots of people within jiu jitsu saying the same thing. For example, Xande Ribeiro, amongst the greatest competitors of all time and still active in major tournaments today. Speaking to Inside BJJ, Xande stated in #58:

Double guard pull? This is insane. You watch a match, and seven minutes is in the same position. […] You see fights, black belt fights, seven minutes in a position that is not an end, you know? There’s a beginning, there’s a middle, but no finish.

I even hear people say, “Well, what if you mount the guy for three minutes…” Yeah buddy, I’m mounted on you. That’s totally different. I am in a dominant position. But when you are in a position where the only thing that you can do is a toe hold, get an advantage, or maybe an armbar that some people do from there, that’s it. What else is in there? I didn’t go to a tournament to have someone fight for their life to wrap their legs around my leg and stay there for eight minutes.

I tell people, grab my fricking arm and pull my arm for ten minutes! Pull my neck for ten minutes! Do not pull my leg and wrap around it tight. That’s not the jiu jitsu I teach for my students. Double guard pull? What is this double guard pull? All of a sudden jiu jitsu is two guys fighting for the bottom? I don’t really appreciate it, it’s ugly, it’s bad.

People should be a little more proud and think “I’m a bad ass passer. I’m going to pass your legs, go around to your side, hold on to you and you’re going to suffer.” I think that should be more the mentality, not just a sweeping art. “Ok, I sweep you, then I stall and I get two advantages, then I sit my butt on the floor again.”

I wasn’t raised like that. I’m from a time when you could slam in jiu jitsu, you could reap the knee. People fought for the finish, points were just consequences of your work.


Back mount lasted around an hour, brought over from another seminar in the series that was overly long. Starting with the top, lower body control discussed hooking your feet inside. Bring your knees up higher to shorten the length of your legs, as this will provide less space for their escape. Tense the hamstring if they roll, following them over remaining stuck to their back.

Upper body control looked at the seat-belt grip, also known as the harness, which is the basic over the shoulder and under the armpit grip. Leverton prefers to cover his choking hand with his armpit hand: as I’ve discussed in the past, there are various opinions on the best option. Some instructors teach that covering with the armpit hand means you can go straight to the choke if they try to knock it off. Others prefer having the choking hand on top, so that you already have that immediate route to the neck.

The body triangle depends a lot on both your body type and that of your partner. In my case, I’m quite flexible, but there was no way I was locking my short legs around my partner, who was a fair bit bigger than me (even with Leverton’s handy tip about opening your hips by turning your toes downwards).

Next up was a few tips I recognised from Marcelo Garcia, as these are both techniques I’ve taught in the past and had success with in rolling, based off Marcelo Garcia’s material. Marshal Carper, who was among the co-authors for Garcia’s book, produced a handy video detailing the techniques in combination. First there is moving them from side to side with your legs, particularly if you have them on the choking side and they try to roll away, then secondly there is the ‘hip extension’ method for opening up space to insert your second hook (covered more briefly earlier in the seminar).

Leverton also examined the standard transition to full mount if you’re losing the back, which looked familiar to how I’ve seen it taught elsewhere (lock your heel to their far hip and swivel around), althrough I don’t normally grab the arm. That’s a useful detail to keep in mind.

Leverton then moved into two submissions (incidentally, it was cool that Leverton focused on controlling position rather than loads of submissions, in contrast to numerous other seminars). I have taught the rear naked choke a number of times, but was looking forward to Leverton’s version, hoping to learn some useful tweaks. Leverton did not disappoint, providing simple details that could make a huge difference. The most important distinction is the way he places his locking arm, so that it becomes more involved in the choke.

It is entirely possible most other instructors do this, but it is not something that I can remember being emphasised. Set-up the choke in the usual way, bringing your choking arm around their neck with your elbow under their chin and your body tight. The second arm locks up with the elbow in front of their shoulder, not behind. Both of your armpits are therefore resting on their shoulders.

That minor shift in position makes it a lot tighter, along with the considerable advantage of hiding both your wrists (which they now can’t grab). Leverton noted that while there are lots of ways of finishing off the choke, such as expanding your chest (which I like to do), you have your arms around their neck so squeeze those before anything else.

Leverton’s variation reminded me of the palm to palm lock Kesting does to walk his arm into position. It is also something I’ve seen on Demian Maia’s DVD, where you are essentially choking them with one arm. This is useful if for some reason you can’t get that second arm into place, though it is naturally not as strong a choke as when you can get both arms locked in for a true RNC.

If they tuck their chin, you can bring your arm over the head for a nasty Neil Adams style armbar from the back, which involves a vicious grip that is almost a bicep slicer. If for some reason you haven’t heard of Neil Adams, he has two Olympic silver medals in judo and is very, very good at armbarring people. When Adams tells you how to do an armbar, you should listen extremely closely. 馃槈

Grab their wrist, then reach your other arm over. Grab their wrist with that other hand, whereupon you can switch your first grip to your own wrist, securing a figure four grip. Drop to your shoulder, swinging around: as you do, bring your leg across their hips, swinging the other leg out. This spin should be the same kind of motion as when you spin for an armbar from guard (I’ve always sucked at armbars from guard, so wasn’t very fluid at this).

Hook the swinging leg over their head, so the back of your calf is pressing into their face/temple rather than their neck (for the same reason as a Thai clinch, because holding higher on the head is harder for them to resist than gripping by their neck.) Move your arm deeper, so that instead of grabbing your wrist, you’re now grabbing nearer your elbow. Curl your wrists up and you can also turn the hand nearer you elbow upwards.

Straighten your leg into their head as you apply pressure with your arms. Speaking from experience, this feels horrible. I would be tapping long before the actual armbar. If your opponent is tougher than me (which is highly likely), use that hold to unlock their hands (which they will normally clamp together to defend the armbar), then drop back for the submission.

You can briefly see Neil Adams himself use the grip in this video, which is from another seminar at Leicester Shootfighters:

Leverton’s demonstration of back mount escapes was quick by comparison to the rest of the seminar, beginning with some basic survival details, such as hand placement on the neck. Again, you can use the ‘Shirley Temple/Home Alone’ or the hands crossed over the neck. Elbow inside, knees up, keeping your abs tight. You can then move into the escape, which was a fairly standard drop to the side and shrimp.

It was essentially the same version Xande demonstrates on his DVD set. Leverton calls it the ‘scrape escape‘. Drop to your side, bringing your knee in, then lift and pop their knee off with your hip, just like Xande. Shrimp out pushing on their leg, ready to move into guard should they try to move on top, as people normally will attempt. If they’ve got a choke in the early stages, it is especially important to get your head and shoulders to the mat to reduce their efficacy.

You can also turn to your knees, using the same motion as if you’re escaping from under side control to your knees. This is useful for when they’ve locked their legs in a sort of ‘side-on back mount’, making it hard to complete the usual escape. If you can drop your elbow, then there is a chance you can thread one leg under the other, turning on the spot to come up in their guard. Leverton also mentioned escaping the body triangle using a similar motion to the scrap escape (personally I just step over their foot and bridge into their locked feet, as he demonstrated, but it as he said it’s good to keep practicing that scrape escape motion).

I realised at the end that I had been drilling with Jake from Fighting at Forty blog, which is a good site I’ve been reading recently. I love meeting fellow bloggers whose work I enjoy, which was therefore a cool way to end the seminar. I’m looking forward to making more of them, which will also mean I can get in some more CouchSurfing fun. All in all, great weekend, particularly as when I got home, I saw that the GrappleThon has now raised over 拢4000 for Rape Crisis! 馃榾


14/02/2012 – Gracie Barra Bristol (Knee-Slice & Armbar from the Back)

Class #446
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), D贸nal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 14/02/2012

As often on Tuesdays, I got in some extra drilling before class started. Today, Mike asked to work on refining his knee slice pass, as he’s been finding lots of people block it part of the way through by getting their knee in the way. We played around with that for a while, which is always fun (and useful for me too, because I get to work the flipside), then got some very handy tips from D贸nal when he later arrived.

Normally when you knee-slice pass, you grab their trousers a bit below the knee, shove one leg to the ground and step over, while your other arm stays inside their knee to block them bringing it across. From there, you try to slide the knee through and pass. However, often you might find there is enough of a gap for them to get their knee in, or perhaps they grab half guard, or otherwise get their feet in the way.

D贸nal suggested starting off from those same grips, but in a deep crouch. Then with the knee-blocking arm, he grips deeper, grabbing the same side collar. That means that there is much less of a gap for their knee, because your arm is now creating a barrier. You also want to hook their leg with your foot (I can’t remember which one, so will have to ask D贸nal), in order to stop them going for half guard. Your leg on the side to which you’re passing stays slightly bent, so you can push off and use that extra power to drive into them, which also increase the pressure.

The class itself featured an armbar from the back. I had assumed that would be the one I’m familiar with, where you get a figure four grip on the arm, bring your elbow over their head then move into the armbar. However, D贸nal’s entry was quite different. They have their arms crossed to protect their neck: one of those arms will be on top. That arm will also have a small space beind the crook of their elbow.

With your same side hand, reach into that crook, twisting your hand so you little finger is pointing towards the ceiling, your palm facing away from them. Punch that arm right through, in the direction of their opposite leg. Once your elbow is far enough, drag it back to your hip, scraping tight to their body as you do. Your same side knee can come into play here, bringing that next to your elbow to facilitate the scraping motion, until your elbow is on your own thigh and their arm is well and truly trapped. Note, you may need to scrape several times to attain that control.

Grab their trapped-arm side collar with your far hand, like you were setting up a bow and arrow choke. Step your choking-arm side foot to their same side hip, in order to help you swivel. Again like a bow and arrow choke, bring both your feet to that other side. Stay tight with your legs, so you don’t give them any space to turn towards you as you swivel, moving perpendicular to them. When you have sufficient control, you can let go of the collar and push on their head, bring your leg over then secure the armbar. If you need to, you can also curl the heel of the leg over their head into their neck, which should further assist your control.

The bow and arrow collar grip will make it hard for them to turn for an armbar escape. Another trick D贸nal showed is to pull out their lapel on the trapped arm side (most commonly you’ll do that before you trap the arm), then feed it across their body and under your own leg to your other side. Cinch it in firmly, creating a restraint across their waist. When you then go through the previous armbar technique, it should be even harder for them to make any room to escape.

In sparring, it was cool to have that new option for attacking the back. I’m not fond of going for the armbar as it isn’t so easy to recover position as with choke attacks, but having another way to mount an offence meant I could be more pro-active. That means you have more opportunities for getting a reaction, which in my case will probably be used to bait for the bow and arrow. Kev uses that choke to great success, so I’m keen to follow his example (as he’s a comparable size to me).

16/02/10 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #287
RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK – 16/02/2010

The passing of Valentine’s Day means that it is now two years since I got my blue belt, so I thought I’d take stock of my current progress. I still have many, many gaping holes in my game. I can’t break the guard unless they pretty much open it for me, and then only if I’m on my knees and therefore close enough to capitalise. If they manage to make any distance and I have to stand up in open guard, my passing is about as effective as a paraplegic catfish. I have no idea how to use knee-on-belly (I don’t think I’ve ever been on top in that position during non-specific sparring). I fail miserably at holding back mount, and the only people I ever submit at all are rank beginners.

On the plus side, I’m fairly happy with my defence (although my escapes from knee on belly and scarf hold still need plenty of work), and my guard is getting steadily better: my major goal from there continues to be stringing together some attacks. I also feel much more secure on top of side control and mount than I used to. My half guard passing has improved as well, thanks to better use of shoulder pressure, but that does mean I’m developing a bad habit of accepting half guard rather than properly passing.

Class continued with back attacks: unusually, Kev said he would be teaching escapes next week, whereas normally he combines them in one class. First technique was an armbar from the back. You’ve got back mount, but they’re doing a good job of blocking your choke attempts. So instead, slip your hand under their armpit and grab their same side wrist. Bring your other arm over their head, then secure a second grip on the same wrist. You want to be pulling their arm in tight the whole time, both to keep your position and to stop them making space to escape.

Switch your first hand to the wrist of your second, leaving you with a figure four on your partner’s arm. Step your hooks off to their opposite side of their body (as if you were about to move into a body triangle), shifting your legs up towards their head. Keep the pressure on their trapped arm to stop them turning into you and escaping. Finally, bring your leg over their head, break their grip (Kev’s option from last week works great) and drop back for the armbar.

The next option was an Ezequiel choke from the back. The set-up for this is fairly simple, as you just need a harness grip (one arm over their shoulder, the other through their armpit). Grip the shoulder arm sleeve with your armpit hand, then move your shoulder arm up and to the side, so that the gi material is pressing into their neck. Bring your shoulder arm around behind their head, then knife hand downwards on the other side of their neck. That should block off both arteries, resulting in a submission.

Sparring started in back mount, then went from there as normal. As Howard started on my back, I was defending the whole roll. I clamped my hands to the side of my neck, as per Aisling’s advice, then looked to remove one hook and trap it with my legs. I was able to do so, but because Howard kept a firm grip with the arm under my armpit, I struggled to turn towards him.

Once I did finally get free, Howard was trying to initiate an attack with his gi lapel. I got free, and found that I could then grab that dangling gi and use it myself. However, I’m never quite sure what to do with loose gi fabric, so just played around with putting it over his back, then seeing if I got get it through his legs to help with a sweep. I’m sure I’ve been shown a few techniques related to that, so will have to look through the blog.

Rolling with Kev was of course very one-sided, but gave me a chance to work in guard. Once again, I was looking to use jnp’s ‘ball’ principle, keeping my knees close to my chest, as well as principles from the Roy Harris seminar on Roy Dean’s DVD. He eventually caught me with an armbar, and after I asked about options for defence, he suggested that trying to get to his guard and stack him was a good strategy. You’re still stuck in an armbar, but you have gravity on your side: much better than being on your back.

I also sparred a white belt, which usually means I can practice my submissions (unless the white belt is bigger than me). While I landed a few, I still haven’t got into the combination mindset Roy Dean talks about on Purple Belt Requirements. I went for an armbar from the back, but just clung on to it, rather than thinking of the next move, so because I left too much space, he was able to work his way free.

I did at least get back to guard, where I had another opportunity to go for the arm, as he was pressing his forearm into my throat. I landed it this time, but it made me realise that earlier, should have been thinking about shifting into omoplatas and triangles. Even though I managed the armbar from guard, I wasn’t considering my next move if it failed. Going for mounted triangles and submitting with a kimura was fun, but I’m pretty sure somebody more experienced wouldn’t have let me lock that position on in the first place (as I basically just shoved his arm down and stepped over it).

Roy Dean Seminar: Day One

Seminar #2
Uplands School, (BJJ), Roy Dean, Poole, UK – 25/07/2009

Today is only the second time I’ve attended a BJJ seminar, the first having been with Victor Estima in Belfast. That day, Victor focused largely on one guard pass, adding details and getting in lots of drilling. Roy Dean has a very different style, running through a huge number of connected techniques. As he says, his goal is for the student to at least get one or two techniques that really fit into their game, so having that sheer number of techniques increases the likelihood of providing something specific for a diverse range of people.

This first day began with various single leg takedowns. Grip their same side collar and use your bodyweight to pull them down and off balance. Drop to your outside knee, moving around to the side of their same side leg, then hook that leg with your arm. Use your head to drive forward, getting to your feet, clamping their leg between your knees. Shove your shoulder on the inside of their leg while simultaneously stepping back, which should knock them to the ground.

Alternatively, once you are up with their leg between your knees, step back with your outside leg, dropping down so that you end up with a knee raised inside their guard. Still holding their collar (which you used to pull them down at the start), keep your elbow in, bring your knee across their leg and pass to the side, pulling up on their sleeve to settle into a controlling position.

Checking my notes, I’ve mentioned a heel hook here, so I must have meant from that position. You have one foot underneath their bum, the other over their leg. Scoot in closer towards them so that their leg bends, making it easier for you to wedge your hand and wrist under their heel. You can then twist that up for the submission.

Importantly, Roy mention that this technique was not for sparring, merely something for his students to be aware of. It is always essential for a safety warning whenever going over a very dangerous technique like a heel hook, particularly if you’re teaching white belts.

Roy then demonstrated some ‘what if’ scenarios for the single leg takedown. Again, you’re standing with their leg between yours, looking for the takedown. However, they have managed to circle their leg to the outside. You can still take them down: step in, sweep their standing leg, then in conjunction with your collar grip, drive them to the mat.

If they circle their leg to the inside, you need a different option. This time, you can move right into an Achilles lock. Bring your arm under their leg, pressing up in their Achilles tendon: your arm will be near their foot. Lift up the leg, then step forwards with your far leg. Block the foot of their standing leg with your near leg, driving in to take them to the mat.

After a short break, it was time for the second hour of the seminar. Roy began with a basic rear naked choke, in back mount with them sitting in front of you, feet hooking their inner thighs. Roy emphasised that it isn’t just the arms that make this submission. You also need to shrug your shoulder, further cutting off any space around their neck.

Aside from the usual grip, where you hold your bicep, brining a hand around the back of their head, Roy also showed a variation using fists. As ever, you get the arm around the neck, so your elbow is under their chin. Grab their shoulder with the hand of that arm.

Put the elbow of your other arm on that same shoulder, then bring the fist of that arm around to the back of their head. Instead of pressing with your palm, you press with the back of your fist.

Next up was a sliding choke Again in back mount with them sitting in front of you, get one arm under their armpit. Open up the nearest lapel, then feed it to your other arm, which you bring over their other shoulder. This should be a tight grip, with your hand curled.

The other hand, which is still under their armpit, now grips their other lapel lower down. You can now lean back, pulling down with that hand while twisting the other for the choke. In other words, you effectively straighten your arms out to create the pressure.

To create even greater pressure, remove one of your hooks and put it across their stomach. The way I tried to remember which leg to use was that the sole of your foot should be pointing the same way as the knuckles of your lower hand. Lean in the direction of the knee of that leg you have across the stomach, again straightening out the arms for the choke.

You can make it tighter still after removing the hook and establishing the leg across the stomach. Release your lower grip. sliding that hand along their arm until you reach their elbow. That gives you the space to then reach behind their head, setting up the choke.

Before you sink it, make the submission super-tight by swivelling your legs around, so that you are able to bring your free leg over their shoulder, locking your feet together. This is a very stable position to get the choke, with little room for escape.

If for whatever reason you aren’t able to get that choke on, switch to an armbar from the back. Keep swivelling your legs, push their head, then bring the leg over their head. You’re now in perfect position for an armbar.

Staying with chokes, we shifted positions. Instead of back mount, Roy showed us how to attack the turtle. Establish one hook on the near side with your foot, also hooking the same side arm with your own, coming underneath their armpit. Your free hand will reach over their far shoulder, gripping their collar.

Roll over your shoulder towards the unhooked side, locking in the other hook as you turn, aiming to use momentum to drop them right into the crook of your elbow. You can now go for a rear naked choke.

You can go for an armbar from the turtle with a similar set-up, with the key difference that this time, you don’t secure your second hook. Instead, you want to bring that leg all around, pushing their head, going straight into the armbar. If they try to turn towards you to escape the armbar, there is the option of a triangle too.

I would note here that you can get stuck under their arm as you attempt to move round for the armbar. If that happens, you can go for a choke instead.

Last one for the turtle was to get a hook, grip their collar, then grab under their thigh, on the far side. Roll over your shoulder again, but more perpendicular than before. You should hopefully end up with a collar to pull over the neck and a firm hold behind their knee, pulling their leg up. Pulling from this position will give you a bow and arrow choke.

The final technique for that second hour was from the previous position, a choke from rear mount with them sitting in front of you. For this particular technique, you don’t put in either hook, but instead grip one collar, then using the mechanics of a technical stand-up, bring your legs back and pull your partner towards you. To finish, twist into the grip, using the pressure of your shoulder to complete the choke.

Hour number three focused on how to attack from the knees. This is handy for sparring in class, as BJJ sparring commonly starts from the knees: Roy provided some option. It is also applicable beyond that, such as if you end up in a scramble, with both of you suddenly facing each other on your knees.

Roy kicked off with a throw. Grabbing their collar and elbow in the usual way, put your opposite foot by their near knee, to a point that about half your foot is directly next to the knee. Using your grips, pull them over that knee and to the mat, then move directly into knee-on-belly.

Alternately, you can armbar from the knees. As before, you are holding the collar and elbow. You also have one knee up, by their opposite hip. The other knee is on the floor: keeping it flat on the floor, slide that leg over towards their knee. You can now swivel, and then put the foot of the raised knee leg into their armpit. The other leg goes over their head, after which you can complete the submission.

Another option is that you are on your knees, but they want to pull guard, so they are waiting with one knee up, the other leg flat on the floor, knee pointing to the side. Attacking the leg with the raised knee, grab their heel with your opposite hand. With your free hand, grip their same side sleeve.

Next, pull their heel back and yank their sleeve (or wrist, if it is nogi) out. This should spin them and expose their side, leaving you plenty of room to go straight into knee-on-belly. Roy later referred to this as an ankle pick, a term I’ve heard related to wrestling, but never really understood before now. Its also what Christina called the “it’s me” position, which is how I’ll always remember it.

From knee on belly, there is often the option of the armbar: that is again the case here, as you’ve still go hold of their sleeve. So as before, bring your leg over their head, then drop for the armbar, making sure you keep your knees pinched and don’t land with your hips too far back.

Alternately, you can spin and catch the far armbar, if they try and push your knee off with their hand. Same technique as yesterday, reaching through the frame of their arm and swivelling into place for the armbar.

The technique portion drew to a close with numerous options from the armdrag. Starting position is and open guard, with your feet on their hips, but they are still on their knees. Hold their opposite sleeve (or wrist), then with your other hand, grab the knob of their elbow, gripping on the outside of their arm.

Pull with your arms and push with the feet, which gave Roy the opportunity to repeat a useful description of BJJ by his instructor, Roy Harris: BJJ is the art of pushing and pulling. Disengage your foot from the side where you aren’t holding their arm, then shift the grip you have on their sleeve or wrist to high under the same arm.

You can now pull them past you onto their knees. That disengaged foot is perfectly placed to become a hook, while you will establish an over-under grip with your hands (i.e., where one arm goes under their armpit, the other over their shoulder, then grip together). Potentially you could spin right to their back and get the other hook in on the far side.

However, if you can’t quite get that foot all the way over for a far hook, reach over with an arm to grasp their gi near their far lat muscle. With your other hand, reach under their same side arm and grip their wrist, pulling it inwards.

The hand you had on their lat will now move to block their same side hand, enabling you to roll them into back mount, where you can finish with a choke.

That ended the third hour, leaving a final fourth hour for open mat. My first spar was with Gareth, the big white belt from Friday. I was more proactive this time, managing to get on top and into mount. I’m remembering to switch to s-mount when people try to roll me over, which is good, but can’t finish the armbar from there. I had it in place, but wasn’t able to prise Gareth’s hands apart in order to properly extend the arm.

I also couldn’t get the ezequiel from mount, which I tried a few times, but was probably holding it wrong, and I also don’t think I created the right pressure by lifting an elbow. Attempting to finish it from guard after he rolled me was no more successful.

In guard, I continued to work for triangles, and continued to get stacked. I also always seem to have the wrong placement for the arm and leg when looking to switch, though that could just be another example of my failure to react immediately rather than pondering what to do next.

Roy interrupted us midway through, which was cool as I was looking forward to rolling with him. Sparring black belts is always awesome, particularly when they are able to carefully observe and break down your game like Roy. As usual, I was very defensive, protecting my neck, looking to go to half guard from side control and mount.

I’m still a bit flat, but Roy kindly said he thought my defence was pretty good, as I didn’t leave him much space, kept my neck safe and showed signs of using my legs as well as arms. I mentioned that while I’m content with how my defence is progressing, my guard passing and submissions remain awful.

That led to what was perhaps the most useful thing I learned all weekend, a guard break. As any regular reader knows, I have been trying to get the damn closed guard open ever since I started, without a great deal of success. Previously I’ve been trying to tailbone break, but generally get swept or stuck. I’ve also been attempting to trap and arm, stand, then step forward to their trapped arm, pushing on their other leg. There too I’m still lacking key details, as they often manage to grab the foot I have back anyway.

Roy’s suggestion was that I push up into their biceps with straight arms, taking them out of the equation. At the same time, bury your head into their stomach. That provides the stability to jump straight into a wide base with your legs. You then jump again, but this time in order to bring your knee into their tailbone. Sit down and use that knee to cut through their guard, opening the legs.

To pass, grab their collar and arm, dropping your raised knee to trap their leg with your shin. Bringing the elbow of your collar-gripping arm in, slide through, pulling up on their arm in order to secure a good side control or scarf hold. This is apparently on Purple Belt Requirements, Roy’s new DVD. There was more guard passing in store on day two, which proved to be just as heavy on technique.

That ended the seminar, but I was in for another surprise. Roy had two students with him, Glen and Rick, who you might recognise from their blue belt demonstrations up on Youtube. As well as acting as uke for Roy (along with Steve), Rick and Glen were in charge of filming the seminar and taking photos.

Update May 2011: Some of that footage has now been released on DVD, as part of The White Belt Bible. The section in question is a short documentary about the Roy Dean Academy trip to London, so also shows them going round the capital, Paul’s private lesson, and earlier rolling from Roy before I got there. If you’re wondering where yours truly pops up, there is about forty seconds of me from 08:02 onwards ;).]

Rick has an additional project in the works, which sounds fascinating: once its finished, it will be a BJJ documentary, with the central thread being Rick’s progress towards his purple belt demonstration this year, alongside lots of interview and competition footage from around the world. I’m assuming the video will be incorporated into that, but perhaps it is meant to be stand-alone.

Either way, I was pleased to be asked to take part in that, with a quick interview about my training, the blog, how I got into BJJ and the like (naturally much, much longer than forty seconds, but I like the quote Rick took: makes me sound coherent instead of rambling ;p). I could talk about BJJ for days, so relished the opportunity to let loose with a stream of enthusiastic, but hopefully coherent babble.

Back at Steve, Kirsty and Paul’s flat, I had a chance to look through Purple Belt Requirements with Steve. Looks brilliant, and very different from every other instructional DVD I’ve seen up until this point. Also useful to have a first viewing to get in mind some of the things I want to discuss when I come to review it in a few days.

Even better, I could ask Roy himself later that evening, as we all hit Bournemouth for some drinks. Talking with Roy and Rick (Glen stayed at home) was awesome, with lots of long conversations about BJJ, Roy’s DVD, Rick’s documentary, along with a whole load of other stuff.

Four hours of training followed by several more hours of talking with top BJJ black belts and their students: that’s a day that is going to be tough to beat. 馃榾

[Pics included by kind permission of Paul Laver]

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26/05/2009 – Nova For莽a

Class #225

Nova For莽a Epsom (BJJ), Ricardo Da Silva, Epsom, UK – 26/05/2009

Ricardo ran a tough warm-up today, or at least it was for me: reminiscent of the lessons Jude used to run back at RGA. Class also started earlier, as the mats were already down by the time I cycled in at 08:20, but finished the same time as usual.

First technique was an armbar from the back. You have one hook in, with your other leg based out behind you. The hand on the same side as the hook reaches through their armpit to their collar, while your other hand grips their other elbow. Note that you’re not directly on their back, as they could easily roll you off, but instead slightly to the side (useful tip from brown belt Tim, who was really helpful throughout the technical part of class).

On the side where you’re hooking, bring out your arm to base. The aim is to get them to try and grab that arm (which is why you’re holding the other elbow: if they reach with the opposite arm, it messes up the technique). You can now push down their head, then swing your rear leg up, putting the shin on the back of their head.

Next, swivel under their outstretched arm, simultaneously scooping with your free arm, trapping it in the crook of your elbow (make sure their arm is twisted as you do so, until their thumb points directly away from your body). Also keep turning the rest of your body, so that the leg which was on their head goes right under their arm, knee up. You should now have their arm squished between both your knees, at the same time controlling it with both of your arms. That puts you in perfect position to secure the armbar.

In the likely event that they try to roll forward to escape the technique, stay where you are. You can still finish from the same position, using your shin across their neck to keep them from sitting up.

Ricardo followed that with a sweep, which I think I’ve seen on an old Fabio Gurgel video. Begin by breaking their grip: Tim demonstrated how to do this properly. Both your hands are on top, bunching up the gi material, then you yank their arm up and towards your head.

You can now pull the arm past their body and immediately bring your own arm over their back, then spin on top. You’ll still have one foot by their hip, which you turn towards the floor as you move to their back.

Your free leg steps out, also basing with your arm for balance, while your other arm grips their same side elbow. To finish the sweep, push off with your free leg and pull their elbow in, rolling them into a variation of mount.

After some takedown sparring, where I fumbled as usual effectively waiting to be thrown, my first free spar was with Lindsey. Like last week, I was looking for triangles, but couldn’t quite secure the right control. I’m able to get my legs up and crossed, pulling their body in, but then they normally slip their arm free and posture up.

There were no rests today, so straight into the next spar, with a brown belt (Jared, I think?) This time I spent the whole spar trying to escape, mainly from knee-on-belly. I was able to squirm free on a few occasions, but I need to shrimp more, and also bring my knee to my elbow to stop them simply replacing the position. Eventually got caught in an armbar at the end, but presumably he was going easy, so could have secured something else earlier on.

Third spar was with a big, aggressive white belt, exactly the kind of person I tended to avoid at RGA. Its good to experience that kind of roll once in a while, though its not something I enjoy. After repeatedly posting on my face (legitimate technique, but again, not something I’m used to), he was able to lock on an Americana from side control. I worked my way free by turning towards the arm, but later he was able to lock it on again.

This time I was able to get on top in his guard, so I thought that would give me leverage to escape. I was wrong: he cranked it from his guard. I assume that you should be able to prevent that when you’re on top, but I didn’t want to risk my shoulder. In fact, probably should have tapped earlier, so we could restart and I could work some other position.

I also had the dubious pleasure of being stuffed into his armpit, where he was trying to smother my face. Getting my head squeezed wasn’t pleasant, but I still had enough room to breathe. Not exactly sure what he was going for, but probably needed to adjust something to secure the submission (maybe get his arm under my chin).

Finally, I rolled with Mark, who like last week was looking for chokes: another useful reminder to be more careful about protecting my neck! For my part, I was still looking for triangles, but as with Lindsey, couldn’t stop them slipping out. It was a little more varied than just from guard this time, as I was also playing with the reverse triangle from under side control, as well as sort of jumping into a sloppy triangle from open guard.

I think the problem was that I failed to control the head, so their posture wasn’t properly broken. I should have been pressing down on the back of the head, then adjusting my legs from there to get into position. I also need to review my defences to the Americana, as I don’t think I’m doing that right either.

23/07/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #164

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK – 23/07/2008Advanced

I couldn’t get to sleep last Sunday, so decided to get up and be productive. As I do rather strange things for fun, that resulted in my new BJJ Beginner FAQ. I’d appreciate any feedback (e.g., further good questions you think should be on there, broken links, informative threads/articles I could add in for further reading etc). Still adding things to it, but just about got in all the questions I wanted (last one I can think of is cross-training, for which I mainly use my Bullshido.txt file, especially my usual ‘Welcome to Bullshido!’ post with the stuff about ‘if you’re interested in striking/ if you’re more interested in grappling’).

Also didn’t get to train yesterday, as my writing commitments has stepped up a gear (though I also got an extension, which is nice: the final deadline is now October 2010). That鈥檚 probably going to mean I’ll be spending most of my Tuesdays writing, at least until I feel I’ve got on top of it and have a solid chunk of the word count ready. If only it was as easy to pump out academic prose as it is to write several thousand word essays on a BJJ blog鈥

Nick G took class today, who brings something different to the table as an instructor. He runs one of the top BJJ blogs on the net, The Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood: the same thoughtful style is evident in his teaching. It felt very much like reading one of his posts when he began the drilling, as he discussed his theory that there are two main types of position in BJJ: set positions, like side control, guard etc, and the scramble, where neither person has settled into a controlling posture. As he mentioned, this is common in nogi, but not often the focus of a lesson when wearing the gi.

To help develop this ability to scramble, Nick had us do a drill where we were effectively sparring, but the whole point was to simply keep moving: no submissions and no grips. That meant I found myself rolling over to my back, swinging my legs over, spinning around underneath etc. I tend to be slow and steady in sparring, as I like to feel secure and then work from a comfortable position, so this was a useful exercise for me.

We then did the same thing again, but this time with the difference that one of us had their eyes closed. That meant I now had to feel for my partner so I could work out where they were going, not to mention the practical reason that class was stuffed so I didn’t want to slam into anyone. The ‘seeing’ partner basically ended up shepherding their training partner away from walls and other grappling pairs.

Technique tonight was an armbar from the back. I can imagine Nick G doing a good instructional video, as his method of demonstration was tailor-made for recording: methodical and clear, with several repetitions. We started from the back, with hooks in, your arms underneath theirs, while they defend against the choke. Your same side hand slips through their armpit to grab their same side wrist. Bring your other arm over the top to grip their wrist, then switch your hands. Your first hand now grabs the wrist of your other arm, meaning you’ve secured a figure-four hold.

Drop slightly towards their legs, shrimping out your legs. You are now in position to execute what Nick called the ‘stamp and clamp’. With your far leg, ‘stamp’ on their same side hip to stop them turning towards you (as they’ll be aiming to get back in your guard). Then bring your other leg across their waist, hooking across their hip: this is the ‘clamp’.

Your free leg goes over their head, pushing them back (make sure you’re holding them firmly with this leg, squeezing your knees together), while you push their arm up towards their head then down in a semi-circle. That should enable you to straighten out the limb and secure the armbar.

Specific sparring, unsurprisingly, was from the back. As I’ve mentioned before, this is easily my worst position. I find it very difficult to maintain any kind of control over my opponent when I’ve got their back, particularly with my legs. Back mount is supposed to be an incredibly dominant position, so I’m clearly doing something very wrong: however, I was trying to put into practice some tips I’d read on the Grapplers Guide (e.g., keeping your head low). I need to watch the video on back control from their too, as I don’t think I’ve done that yet.

While I lasted slightly longer than I have previously, both Liam and Christina gradually worked their way free, the normal process being that I lost a hook, they kept moving to the side, then spun into my guard. With Liam I had a vague attempt at going for the armbar we had learned in class, but didn’t manage to secure the stamp and clamp 鈥 I also went for the wrong side initially, which messed me up further. Still, reminds me I absolutely have to go for techniques we’ve learned in class more often when sparring.

The skin on the top joint of my fingers is still giving me trouble, so I’ve been taping it up recently. However, the specific sparring had dislodged all my tape, so I popped back to the changing room to reapply before my first free spar, with Christina. She has been working her guard a lot at the moment, which gave me a chance to try and implement some of the principles I’ve been failing to use in passing. Most importantly, that is standing up and driving my hips forward: I tried that tonight, but generally just put me in position to get swept over Christina (though I did at least manage to snatch half-guard as I was being swept a few times).

I also found that Nick’s flow drill from earlier had an impact on my escapes. I never normally try to get to my knees, but it felt natural to do so today after all the rolling over my back in the earlier drill. Could be a useful thing to try at home with my gf, as she sometimes complains about the pressure BJJ drilling puts on her muscles (e.g., when passing): not a problem with that flow drill.

Christina and I were a little delayed in starting, because I was taping up my fingers, so had an extended spar spilling over across the next round. I then went with Tran, although that ended up (much to my benefit) being a bit of instruction on the flower sweep. Tran does it a little differently than the Grapplers Guide video I’ve been watching.

Tran’s variation begins when your opponent is doing the usual stiff arm thing against your hips (as I mentioned that’s where I’ve been having trouble). Pull their head down, underhook one arm, bringing your other arm over the top. Grab your hands together palm to palm for a gable grip, keeping your opponent tight. You can then walk your legs up their back for a high guard.

Next, bring the arm that came over the top of the arm under their armpit, aiming to grab their opposite collar: you’ve now secured a firm overhook. With the same side foot, push off their same side hip to rotate (not shrimp, but literally bring your upper toward their opposite knee). You should get your other leg right up into their armpit.

Finally, grab their pant leg on your armpit leg side, then push your leg down while simultaneously lifting their leg up. If you’ve got the leverage right, you should be able to roll them straight into mount.

Zaf mentioned something which sounded very handy when he saw me taping up my finger. At first I thought he was joking, as he said I could do with some new skin. Turns out New Skin is actually a type of liquid plaster, so I’ll be sure to look into it: could be more effective 鈥 as well as more convenient 鈥 than my roll of zinc oxide tape.

Tomorrow Johannes should be popping down to RGA, so look forward to training with him again. No doubt the higher belts will also relish the chance to roll with a tough Swedish purple (I’m more interested in just seeing him again, and whether I’ve improved much since we last met at the first Belfast Throwdown. Looking forward to it. 馃檪