29/09/2009 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #245

RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK – 29/09/2009

As appears to be a theme for Tuesdays, the advanced class started with takedowns, focusing on the single leg. Kev then drew on his judo experience (he’s a black belt in that, along with his brown in BJJ), showing us a throw you can try if they’ve trapped your leg from the shoot, leaving you hopping around on one leg.

Its a variation of the sumi gaeshi sacrifice throw (lots of clips here). I don’t normally bother listing throws, but this one was interesting. Having gone for a single, they’ve trapped your leg, holding it with their arms and pinching it between their knees. First you need to find your balance: Kev mentioned that at some point in the future, he wanted to get us doing some drills for that.

Reach over their back and hook your hand into their far armpit (Kev used two fingers, so I’m not sure if its better to do that, or grab with the whole hand). Your other hand will grip their far sleeve. You also want to hook the inside of their leg with yours, before sitting down and dropping back, flipping them over, then coming on top to side control.

If you’re not careful, they may be able to turn into you after landing, so that you end up under side control instead. To prevent that from happening, you’ll need to make some adjustment before you throw. Move your head so that it is in pressing in front of their head: maintain that pressure all the way through the throw. That should stop them being able to turn into you, and also make it easier for you to switch straight into side control.

Continuing with side control, we worked the Brabo choke (which as Kev mentioned, has a lot of names: John Kavanagh apparently takes the mick out of this difficulty with nomenclature, calling it the ‘chokey choke’). Once you’ve cleared the elbow, move round to north south, making sure you don’t let them get that arm free.

Now that you have their arm squished against their head, slip your opposite hand under their head, reaching past their trapped arm. Grab your the bicep of your other hand (like you would for a RNC), then reach that arm over their stomach. Squeeze for the submission (again, like a RNC).

If they get their arm free when you try that, there is a variation available. Make sure their head is facing away from you (if not, push their chin with your knuckles). Slip your hand under their head as before, so that your bicep is pressing into their throat.

You can now either slide backwards for a crank, or get that hand right through. That will then allow you to again grab your other bicep and get that RNC type position, squeezing for the choke. This is especially good if you have skinny little arms, like me: otherwise, it may be tough to get the right pressure on the neck.

Sparring started from side control, but wasn’t specific: after that, you continued until somebody got a submission. Kevin does this quite a lot, and it like the way it cuts out that slightly pointless moment of staring at each other from the knees, where I inevitably pull guard.

Sparring with a tall white belt, I found myself in mount. As he was trying to wrap my arm, I swam through without thinking to re-establish my position. It then struck me that this is exactly what I’d been working with my girlfriend, who is still slowly making her way through Gracie Combatives. I then made a conscious effort to use the high and low swim, which functioned well in combination with some of the other parts of Rener’s lesson, like ‘anchor and base’, along with hooking both legs.

Just goes to show how good Rener and Ryron’s teaching is on that DVD. I haven’t been practicing any of it myself, but instead have been directing my girlfriend in her training, after watching the videos together. Nevertheless, it has clearly sunk in, as I was able to use it effectively tonight against somebody bigger.

With Rob, I soon found myself in the opposite situation, under his mount. This happens frequently against blue belts, so I’m clearly making the same mistake. However, it also gives me a chance to try the techniques from Saulo’s book, focusing on making a frame with the arms against their hip. I need to use that more, and as ever stop being so static.

I also got caught in that triangle position again where they don’t have the arm. This isn’t really a submission, but it hurts your neck. I’d learned my lesson from straining against this one when sparring Dan a while back, so just tapped. Much better to restart and do something more productive, instead of hurting myself to soothe my ego.

Finally I rolled with Howard, a blue belt I haven’t seen before, but seems both experienced and friendly. I was trying to think carefully about using my arms, legs and hips under side control: I often forget about my arms, as I’m being overly careful to avoid expending energy. They’re handy for wedging some space, and helped me escape a couple of times.

At one point, I even found myself set up for a triangle when spinning out of side control. It wasn’t a planned set up, I just happened to have my legs in the right place. Howard immediately postured and moved back, so it wouldn’t have gone anywhere even if time hadn’t run out, but still something to keep in mind. Roy Dean spins into triangles out of side control repeatedly on Blue Belt Requirements, so I should try it more often.

I’m stll getting crunched up in half guard, where I need to try bumping them with my knee more often, to break their posture. I’m also continuing to find myself under knee-on-belly, which I have to block more effectively. I’ve been trying Michael Jen’s defence, where he lifts their leg into half guard with the space between thumb and finger, but the arm feels vulnerable when stretched out like that.

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21/08/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #173

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 21/08/2008Advanced

I had a light roll with Oli M (I think his surname starts with an M: anyway, the Oli who isn’t the recently promoted purple belt with a penchant for Eddie Bravo stuff), which was a good way to pass some time before the lesson started. As ever I got there early, so when Oli suggested a bit of rolling, seemed like another good opportunity to work on relaxing. Flowed around through various positions, until I bowed out. Ten minutes, maybe? I can never go very long, even when its not full-on. Also had a chance to try the foot-in-armpit escape from a mounted triangle, though as we were going light, doesn’t really count.

Tonight was all about the half-guard. Jude started with a choke from half-guard (top). You begin with one arm around their head, the other by their back, linking your hands in a gable grip (palm-to-palm), while they have an underhook. First, bring your top arm back, grab their lapel and pull out as much gi as you can. Drag that over to their head, feeding the fabric to the hand you have by their neck. You’ll need to stay tight throughout: using your chin by their shoulder is one way of adding some extra control.

Next, slide your top arm underneath their underhook, then get that hand right past their head: Jude advised that you’ll be far enough when you can see your own fingers. If you’re having trouble pushing your hand through, then you can use your other arm to pull their head back, and/or move your knee further out towards their head. Once you’re there, switch the gi you’re holding to the hand you’ve worked through.

Maintaining a firm grip with the gi hand (their gi should be up by their armpit due to having been wrapped round, to which they’ll also have the discomfort of their arm trapped tightly against your body), hold the back of their gi with your other hand. To finish, bring the forearm by that hand around and into their neck, then squeeze for the choke.

From the same position, you can also execute a half guard pass. Though you’ve established your grips, they manage to defend. So instead of the choke, your going to transfer your lower hand to their same side sleeve and pull up, while the elbow of your other arm will press into their chest. Use that pressure to get your knee free of their legs, slide it forwards, then switch your hips to move into side control.

Last technique was a brabo choke. This one is a little simpler, as it doesn’t involve any gi wrapping, and is therefore also applicable to nogi. As before, they have an underhook. Reach through with your top arm as before, but this time you’re just trying to get your hand as far through as possible, rather than straining the grab a lapel.

Instead, you’re going to grasp around the crook of your other arm, the hand of which will then grip them by the shoulder. Squeeze, trying to bring your lower arm upwards, simultaneously pressing forward with your chest to complete the submission. If you’re having trouble finishing, use the pressure to get your knee through, then step over them, moving into a sort of mount position. That should enable you to apply greater leverage.

Specific sparring was, naturally, from half guard. My partner was Paxton, who is good at getting his knee through when underneath, so I had a hard time stopping him escaping. I tried using additional pressure, getting a tight grip and then wrapping his legs with my own, but that seemed merely to delay the inevitable: the only thing I accomplished through that approach was using up more energy.

Underneath, I found I couldn’t get my knee through. Paxton was blocking it effectively with his knee: not sure if I could have somehow made more space in the other direction, but I think that was blocked off by his shoulder. I also tried using my legs more offensively, trying to stay tight but releasing the half guard and pushing, which was unsurprisingly a little risky. Sort of worked at one point, as I was able to recover guard, but not reliable just yet.

Free sparring kicked off with a purple belt, Javid. He took it easy on me, taking the opportunity to give out some useful advice rather than simply crushing me. As with yesterday, good reminder on keeping the arms tight under side control, particularly when they’re trying to choke you from the top: Javid said that as soon as someone grabs your collar, get your elbows in position to block the choke attempt. I can’t think of many people who try to choke me from side control, so was handy to be put in that situation. He also mention going to your knees from underneath, which is still something I don’t do anything like as often as I should. Too reliant on either recovering guard or snatching half-guard.

Finally, rolled with Paxton, where we ended up back in half-guard. I did eventually manage to get a sweep, lifting him over my head, but I think that might have happened because we were getting near another pair sparring, so Paxton may well have eased off in readiness to move out of the way.

Something else sparring brought up was that I really need to make better use of all of my limbs, rather than just arms or legs in isolation. I’ve mentioned that before, so was trying to keep the principle in mind tonight. In particular I should be making more use of my legs, pushing against my partner to make space for escapes, as well as in open guard.

Forgot my towel, which was annoying, as I don’t like to delay my shower: hygiene is super-important when there are risks like staph, after all. Can shower when I get back to my sisters, but not pleasant feeling skanky on the train. Bleh.


31/01/2008 – BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #117

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 31/01/2008No-Gi

Unfortunately, my arm did indeed seize up the next morning after my last class. I think it was something muscular, as when I tried to raise my elbow I got a sharp stabbing pain along the outside of my upper arm. Training when feeling slightly under the weather is one thing, but there is no way I’m going to risk training with an injury.

That meant that I couldn’t train last Saturday, which was unfortunate as I’d arranged my advance ticket to Bristol around the beginner training session at 14:00. Not being able train left me waiting at home, after which I then got to Paddington early anyway because my lift was heading to London for around 2pm. Still, got some reading in before my 16:37 train, which is always good. No doubt if I had booked the train earlier, I wouldn’t have got injured and would now be complaining that I wish I’d left time to make the Saturday class. Sod’s law. 😉

Also had a play with Google Documents (which allows you to upload Word/Excel etc files), meaning you can get a sample of just how geekily I track my training here. Makes for an easy – if rather excessively detailed – answer to “what’s your training background?” The main file on my laptop is even worse. ;p

Finally made it back to an advanced class tonight, and was also hoping to double up, something I haven’t done since October. Still not sure whether I prefer to wear grappling shorts or gi trousers, but as I wanted to double tonight, that made the decision for me: makes for quicker change of clothes before training the second class if you’ve already got the bottom half on.

There was somebody taking an intro class I couldn’t recognise at first because I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but turned out it we’d met before, at the second Birmingham Throwdown. She’s thinking of joining up at RGA, which would be cool (as I frequently mention in this blog, I much prefer training with women, due to their size normally being close to mine, mature attitude and controlled approach to sparring), although as she mentioned she’s soon to go off to Thailand for a few months, I’m guessing that’s going to be delayed.

Tonight was heavily focused on the guillotine, with lots of variations. In fact, Jude was unusually varied in technical instruction, as normally we’ll just cover one or two, three at most: I think we went through at least five this time round. First was the basic guillotine from guard, which for no-gi, you grab the head, pull it down, then bring the other arm around the neck. Bring your legs up on their back to lock their upper body down. Grab your wrist, pulling the forearm into their neck. Finally, twist towards your knee, as if you were trying to touch it with your elbow.

If they happen to go for a single leg takedown but leave their neck exposed, you can again go for a guillotine variation. Get the guillotine grip on their neck (so one hand under, then grabbing your wrist to secure your forearm into their neck. I presume the one I’m more familiar with, where you grab your bicep and wrap them up, would work too. Or perhaps that’s not so effective in no-gi?). Fall back, bringing one instep into their hip (your knee of that leg therefore should be on the same side as their head, so your have to work it under their body). You other leg should come over the top, locking them into place. Then squeeze and twist your body as before.

Should they attempt to escape that by pressing their weight down and walking round, you can try to catch them in a brabo choke. I got a bit confused on this one, so will need to double check: IIRC, from the guillotine position above, push on their elbow and bring your hand right through. Grab your bicep, using your free hand to hold their side, then squeeze. I found it impossible to work my hand through, however, and tended to end up moving my partner over me and onto their back before I could secure it, which wasn’t the idea.

I then got to see another choke which was entirely new to me. Still from the single leg defence, cup their chin with your hand. Bring your other hand on top, and pull their head to the centre of your body. Press your chest into the back of their head, then sit-up, digging the edge of your hands into their neck. Combined with your chest, this should end up choking them. Will still work if they stand up, as you can simply follow them up and continue the squeeze.

Jude moved on to again work from defending the single leg, this time ending with a brabo choke variation. When they go for the single, sprawl back. Knock their elbow towards their other arm with your elbow, then with the same arm, reach up past their armpit. Spin to your back, then with that arm reach for your other bicep, getting into position for a brabo. You then roll them over your body, which should end up tightening the choke with their own body weight.

Again, I had trouble with this, and kept either knocking the wrong elbow, trying to grab my bicep too soon, not spinning to my back properly, ending up with my head on the wrong side, etc. I think I’ve been shown this before, back when Chris was still my regular no-gi training partner, so will have a look back through the blog to see if that sheds any light.

Technique over, it was time for sparring. My first partner was Jude, which is always great as he is (as you’d expect) very controlled, and offers lots of tips. He walked me through a guillotine, reminding me to walk my legs up a bit higher: apparently, in my closed guard I’ve been holding it too low. I also found myself frequently going to my back and trying to move into guard, which is something I’m a little too ready to do, as Oli mentioned last time we rolled. That tendency to want to go to my back often leads to people mounting or getting side control on me, especially in nogi where I haven’t got any handles to cling to.

Connor would do exactly that in my next spar. After fiddling about with open guard, failing to isolate a leg, get a foot into a knee and secure an ankle with my hand (I managed them separately, but not all at once, which led to a sloppy open guard on my part as they had a leg free), I soon found myself under Connor’s side control. That’s pretty much where I stayed, until Connor eventually worked his way to an arm triangle. I’m still not swimming my arm under and going to my knees, a side control escape I absolutely have to stop neglecting. I keep finding myself going for that same move to half-guard by trapping a leg, then getting kinda stuck when it doesn’t work. Must shift between several escapes instead of getting preoccupied with one.

Finally, I had a spar with Tran. He dropped to his back, meaning I had to try and go for the top position. As my top game is non-existent, that soon led to a reversal, though I managed to salvage half-guard (I think). Not that it meant anything: while normally I feel I at least have some space in half-guard, against Tran there was no room at all. He steadily progressed to mount, sucking up any space. His mount was completely solid, so it felt rather like fighting a cliff face as he inexorably moved to high mount. I kept bucking and trying to keep my arms in, eventually attempting to pop out the back by twisting to the side near his legs, but to no avail. I shoved an arm out at some point (my body now crammed up against Tran’s knees), falling straight into Tran’s armbar.

Still, was good to have such an unshakeable mount to work against, as after all, I want to work my escapes. Nothing like solid resistance to sharpen up your technique, even if its only small improvements.


20/09/2007 – BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #89

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 20/09/2007No-Gi

Hooray, finally made two classes tonight! I was a little confused by the technique, which I think was a Brabo choke, but will have to check that with someone more knowledgeable (by which I normally mean Oli). As they go for your leg, sprawl back until you break your grip, putting one arm into their neck, the other under an armpit. Move round their body, then switch the arm by the neck from the far to the near side. Grab their far elbow with your other arm, then also grab that same elbow with the neck arm. Pull it towards you and drive forward to put them on their side.

This is where I got a bit lost. If I recall Chris’ directions rightly, you switch your arms, so that the left arm is now slipping underneath their arm and their neck. That reaches right through (trying to get your elbow to their neck and shoulder deep inside) for your right bicep. Grip, then bring the hand of your right arm to their side. Bring the elbow of your right arm in towards you, crushing their neck and arm with the ensuing hold as well as with your shoulder. To complete the choke (which is effectively an arm triangle), move round their near side. Point to note here: can be a little awkward to tap from this position, so I’d suggest tapping on the person’s arm.

The other variation, which Chris tells me is an anaconda choke, a favourite of his, begins from when you’ve sprawled back. This time, push their near arm with your left arm, then bring your right arm all the way through. Grab your left bicep, and again touch their ribs. Now bring your head to the floor on your left side, then roll them over you, ending up in an arm triangle with them pointing behind you. As before, move round to their side to complete the choke.

I’m not too certain on that, though, so again will need to double check. Hopefully I’ve got those names right, as that at least means I can look for videos along with asking people like Oli: edits likely!

Sparring was productive, again managing to go with three people of varying builds and skill level. Things kicked off with Aika, who is about 10kg smaller but far more skilled. We ended up with me in side control, occasionally going to half guard, though I eventually freed myself both times. My problem in side control was that I couldn’t think of more than one way to pass: my mind blanked and I concentrated on getting my hip into her elbow to make space. She knew exactly what I was doing, so that ended up as a stalemate.

After yet another failed attempt on my part to mount, I found myself in Aika’s guard, where I tried to maintain posture, time running out not long after.

With Chris, I felt a lot more mobile than normal – the scary thing is Chris is now almost my weight, having previously outweighed me by close to 20kg! I’m sure he’ll be a monster in competition, as he still has plenty of muscle. I did go to half-guard a few times, but finally managed to sweep (although I think that was largely because Chris was focusing on trapping my leg). While I did end up on the side I wanted in half-guard, still couldn’t get to his back, and also had the usual trouble sweeping until he went for my leg.

In guard, I was surprised by a guillotine, so must remember to be watchful of that and not lean too far forward and ESPECIALLY not to the left or right. I did have Chris in a similar sort of triangle thing like Nathan last week, and he mentioned afterwards that I apparently had his arm in too. However, after squeezing for a bit, I let go: I’m not looking to get some random tap from a ridiculous position I end up in by chance, as that isn’t going to improve my technique. Nevertheless, as I’ve found myself with that hold a few times now, I’ll pay a bit more attention to the mechanics. I haven’t yet got anywhere near to the level I want with escapes, but it doesn’t hurt to occasionally think about submissions.

I finished up class with Christina, who again is stronger than me and around the same weight. I had a go at spinning round her legs to side control as I’ve seen others do, but quickly discovered an important aspect of that move: look where you’re going! On my second attempt, I left my back completely open to Christina, which she immediately took – after a brief struggle where I tried the RNC defence Oli showed me a while back, she sunk the choke. I was able to resist some of the sub attempts from guard, but mainly because, once again, sweat enabled me to slip free.


20/09/2007 – BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #89

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 20/09/2007No-Gi

Hooray, finally made two classes tonight! I was a little confused by the technique, which I think was a Brabo choke, but will have to check that with someone more knowledgeable (by which I normally mean Oli). As they go for your leg, sprawl back until you break your grip, putting one arm into their neck, the other under an armpit. Move round their body, then switch the arm by the neck from the far to the near side. Grab their far elbow with your other arm, then also grab that same elbow with the neck arm. Pull it towards you and drive forward to put them on their side.

This is where I got a bit lost. If I recall Chris’ directions rightly, you switch your arms, so that the left arm is now slipping underneath their arm and their neck. That reaches right through (trying to get your elbow to their neck and shoulder deep inside) for your right bicep. Grip, then bring the hand of your right arm to their side. Bring the elbow of your right arm in towards you, crushing their neck and arm with the ensuing hold as well as with your shoulder. To complete the choke (which is effectively an arm triangle), move round their near side. Point to note here: can be a little awkward to tap from this position, so I’d suggest tapping on the person’s arm.

The other variation, which Chris tells me is an anaconda choke, a favourite of his, begins from when you’ve sprawled back. This time, push their near arm with your left arm, then bring your right arm all the way through. Grab your left bicep, and again touch their ribs. Now bring your head to the floor on your left side, then roll them over you, ending up in an arm triangle with them pointing behind you. As before, move round to their side to complete the choke.

I’m not too certain on that, though, so again will need to double check. Hopefully I’ve got those names right, as that at least means I can look for videos along with asking people like Oli: edits likely!

Sparring was productive, again managing to go with three people of varying builds and skill level. Things kicked off with Aika, who is about 10kg smaller but far more skilled. We ended up with me in side control, occasionally going to half guard, though I eventually freed myself both times. My problem in side control was that I couldn’t think of more than one way to pass: my mind blanked and I concentrated on getting my hip into her elbow to make space. She knew exactly what I was doing, so that ended up as a stalemate.

After yet another failed attempt on my part to mount, I found myself in Aika’s guard, where I tried to maintain posture, time running out not long after.

With Chris, I felt a lot more mobile than normal – the scary thing is Chris is now almost my weight, having previously outweighed me by close to 20kg! I’m sure he’ll be a monster in competition, as he still has plenty of muscle. I did go to half-guard a few times, but finally managed to sweep (although I think that was largely because Chris was focusing on trapping my leg). While I did end up on the side I wanted in half-guard, still couldn’t get to his back, and also had the usual trouble sweeping until he went for my leg.

In guard, I was surprised by a guillotine, so must remember to be watchful of that and not lean too far forward and ESPECIALLY not to the left or right. I did have Chris in a similar sort of triangle thing like Nathan last week, and he mentioned afterwards that I apparently had his arm in too. However, after squeezing for a bit, I let go: I’m not looking to get some random tap from a ridiculous position I end up in by chance, as that isn’t going to improve my technique. Nevertheless, as I’ve found myself with that hold a few times now, I’ll pay a bit more attention to the mechanics. I haven’t yet got anywhere near to the level I want with escapes, but it doesn’t hurt to occasionally think about submissions.

I finished up class with Christina, who again is stronger than me and around the same weight. I had a go at spinning round her legs to side control as I’ve seen others do, but quickly discovered an important aspect of that move: look where you’re going! On my second attempt, I left my back completely open to Christina, which she immediately took – after a brief struggle where I tried the RNC defence Oli showed me a while back, she sunk the choke. I was able to resist some of the sub attempts from guard, but mainly because, once again, sweat enabled me to slip free.