18/04/2013 – No Gi (Turtle Escapes)

Class #499
Gracie Barra Bristol, (No-Gi), Miles Pearson, Bristol, UK – 18/04/2013

I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past that I’m not a big fan of nogi. Out of the 500 lessons of BJJ I’ve taken over the years, a mere 30 of them have been nogi. When I’ve gone to nogi, it has normally been because I had no choice as I couldn’t make any other class in the schedule. That’s exactly why I find myself in the GB Bristol nogi class: Thursdays and Tuesdays are still by far the best days for me to train, so as I now teach on Tuesdays, it looks like I’ll be taking off the gi on Thursdays.

This time, I do at least have a new element to make it interesting: Leverage Submission Grappling. I’ve been to two of Nathan ‘Levo’ Leverton’s seminars so far, which I will be using as a nogi syllabus to work through. Every time I train nogi, my main focus will be LSG techniques. Fortunately for me, tonight was straight out of the LSG playbook, with several techniques Levo taught back at the Leverage Grappling Seminar #03. Miles kicked off with the wrestler’s sit-out (which Levo calls the ‘peek out’). They are in front of you, with their arms past your armpits but not locked. 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.

Miles combined this with the arm roll, which applies when they lock their arms around you. Of course, a good grappler isn’t going to give you their arm like that when you’re in turtle, 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).

Miles finished off with defending the over-under. This is when you have a more knowledgeable opponent, who reaches under your neck with one arm and your armpit with the other. From there, they can move into chokes, so you don’t want to hang around. Miles said that some people advocate the usual sit-out, but that he finds it doesn’t work well for him. His preference is to drop to the mat, firmly gripping their arm, one leg back and the other curled up high.

That should mean you are now heavy because your centre of gravity is low, hopefully giving you time to work free of their grip. When drilling, Liam tested out some variations on the Peruvian neck tie (although I’ve heard of it, that was the first time I’d seen it in the flesh), which he thought might make that defence problematic, although trouble-shooting with Miles, the defence seemed sound.

I was nervous about sparring, as my groin injury decided to flare up again due to Tuesday (I didn’t restrict myself as much, which was a mistake), but it turned out ok. Specific sparring from turtle gave me the chance to try and shift into Levo’s front headlock position, but I was having trouble because we all had to start with that arm-wrapping grip. Although even if we hadn’t started there, I would still have run into difficulty: I’m not settling my shoulder into their upper back properly, meaning they can still move forward and take out my legs.

Underneath I also had problems, again partially due to the grip. Normally if I’m in turtle I would be trying very hard to prevent them getting any kind of grip, with my elbows in tight. What I should have done was practice the escapes we’d learned, but I got overly fixated in attempting some tips from LSG #03, particularly the point on always shifting backwards to make them follow you then go for a leg.

Moving into free sparring, I was reminded yet again just how little I know about nogi. I really struggle to get any sort of grip in guard: not having lots of gi to grab makes a massive difference. That meant that instead, I was grabbing the head and failing to get over and underhooks. Keeping them tight is another high priority, which I need to work on. I have been to Levo’s closed guard seminar, but would benefit from going again, along with his session on open guard.


I vaguely looked for deep half at one point, but as I don’t use that in gi either, I just ended up curled close to their legs. That curled up position featured heavily when I sparred Luke too, this time facing the other way, in the running escape survival posture. I could defend from there, but because I was squashed on the mat, I couldn’t do much else except work to block arms digging in. I was impressed by Luke’s control, as despite being a huge guy, he took it nice and easy, staying technical even though I’m sure he could have just picked me up and thrown me across the room. 馃槈


10/04/2013 – D贸nal Private: Windscreen Wiper & Sit-Up Sweep

Class #498 – Private #009
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), D贸nal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 10/04/2013

As ever with jiu jitsu, the sweep I worked on today has several names: Andre Anderson calls it the ‘Rey Diogo sweep’ after his instructor. I first learned the windscreen wiper sweep from Ciaran Toal in Belfast, so I sometimes refer to it as the ‘Ciaran sweep’. However, ‘windscreen wiper’ seems like the most descriptive term, which I therefore use most often.

D贸nal was pleased when I mentioned I’d like to study this technique in more depth, as it is one of his favourites. He had various modifications to the versions I’ve learned before, beginning with his grips. Anderson grabs the elbow and pushes in. D贸nal grabs the sleeve with his same side hand, grabbing just below their knee with the other hand. If you can’t get any material, pull your legs inwards to knock them towards you and take their weight off their legs. That should enable you to get a good handful of cloth by their knee.

You don’t just grip their sleeve with a typical pocket grip. Instead, D贸nal used a principle similar to the grip on the shin when doing the knee cut pass. Grab the cloth then turn your hand inwards, pressing your knuckles into the side of their forearm. Just like when they sit on their heels and make the trousers too tight to hold, by turning your hand in their sleeve becomes tight and restricts their movement. They can longer easily circle their hand around to break your hold.

Remember the advice from Anderson’s DVD about bringing your hips off the mat and closer to your partner. That way, they don’t have as much space for a guard pass: you’ve taken it away, so to even begin a guard pass they have to first create that space. On the sleeve grip side, put your foot on the mat by their leg, keeping it tight so there is no room for them to wriggle. Anderson prefers to put his foot on the hip, but as I found during the Nic Gregoriades ‘big class’ on this topic, I think foot on the floor works better for me than foot on the hip. You could go straight for the windscreen wiper from here, but D贸nal uses a combination instead: he starts off with a sit-up sweep.

For this initial technique, the sit-up is a bait. Angle your hips slightly towards your sleeve grip, then shove their arm into their other hip. Do the sit up sweep as normal, coming up diagonally towards the knee grip side and bumping into their hip. Their natural reaction will be to press forwards to prevent your sweep, which sets you up perfectly for the windscreen wiper. On the knee-grip side, kick your leg into their armpit, curling it around their back as you do. It’s important that this leg stays tight to them, right from the moment you do a sit-up: imagine that leg is an arm, which you’re using to hug them tightly.

You’ll drop back slightly too. In order to do the hip bump, you’ll have probably come up on your elbow. Don’t drop straight back down. Instead, angle off in the direction of your knee grip, moving the shoulder of your posting elbow across. Your leg should end up across their upper back, the foot near their opposite shoulder. Kick the leg forwards to knock them over, thrusting up with your knee grip arm, then roll them into mount.

Keep hold of their leg and sleeve, also extending the sleeve forwards. Holding the leg makes it hard for them to bridge, while holding the sleeve and straightening the arm could lead directly into a submission, such as an americana. To further help with that, slide your knee up on the sleeve grip side, so they can’t bring their elbow back to their side.

Keep in mind this is a combination: the option of completing the sit up sweep is also available, switching back and forth depending on where and how they resist. Sit-up diagonally, bumping with your hip, again shoving their arm into their other hip as you do. You also want to lock their arm in place with your sleeve grip side hip, pressing that into them.

If they don’t lean forwards to resist (if they did, you’d go to the windscreen wiper), they will most likely post their arm on the knee grip side behind them. Let go of their sleeve and instead reach slightly below the elbow of that posting arm. Push it forwards and hook it, then continue the sit-up sweep/hip bump motion.

Bring your knee up to trap their arm again, for submission opportunities. Also don’t let their other arm free: because you shoved it into their hip and clamped it in place at the other end with your hip, once you roll into mount it should be totally stuck underneath you. That means they can’t use it to defend, putting you in a great position to attack.


03/04/2013 – D贸nal Private: Escaping the Back Details

Class #497 – Private #008
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), D贸nal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 06/04/2013

There were three key details I want to take away from this private. First off, I can relax a bit on my defence: I don’t need to clamp my arms by my neck the entire time, as that also locks me in place. Secondly, the importance of getting your head under theirs. You can literally dig your head into place if their head is still in the way when your drop to your side. Finally, hook their top leg as you start to escape. That means you can both shift into deep half if necessary and block their attempts to turn.

For blocking the neck, the Saulo method is worth using, with a thumb in the opposite collar, the other free to defend. If you miss that, then there is the option of grabbing the elbow or gi sleeve and yanking it down. Bring your knee up on the choking arm side, heel closer to your bum. That leg is there for base, so angle your knee in slightly to prevent them turning you.

Push head their head across like last time, then drop to the open side. Wriggle your shoulders and spine onto the ground. As you start to escape, hook your leg on their top leg, so they can’t turn to side control. If possible, you can even step your foot right onto the ground to lock their legs in place.

If they have a grip and are going for a single collar choke as you try to escape, your first option is to peel it off with a free hand. Don’t let them sit up, or they can tighten up the choke: block that with your leg entangled in theirs. I find that if I can get my near arm under their head, pinching it between my shoulder and arm, I can retain enough control to start moving on top.

When you’ve got their leg hooked, the route to deep half opens up. If you do that, remember to so they can’t underhook, which is the first thing the person on top will look to get against deep half. Grip under their knee cap, using that to turn their leg slightly outward, spin to top and pass.

If you can’t push the head, drop to the side and use your foot to push off their opposite hook. Immediately start to slide free, keeping their leg hooked as before. That again gives you the option of either going to deep half or simply trying to keep them locked in place so you can work to go on top.

While doing light sparring this week, we got into some weird positions. At one point I was lying next to him, stepped my leg right over and locked into behind his knees. That prevented turning, then I could spin through into side control. Somewhat random, but fun to play with stuff like that and see what happens.


20/03/2013 – Jamie Teaches GB Fundamentals on Side Control Escape to the Knees

Class #496
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Jamie Horsman, Bristol, UK – 20/03/2013

I was looking forward to seeing what the new instructors would be like, which is the main cool part about Geeza being away. Jamie hasn’t taught before, so I also wanted to make sure I was there to support him. He started off with some self defence, as this was a Gracie Barra Fundamentals lesson, taking someone down when they headlock you then moving into an armbar.

The main technique was escaping to the knees from under side control. Jamie uses Geeza’s method (which presumably is the official GB method: I haven’t watched the DVDs for a while, so can’t remember how Feitosa does it). Under side control, cross your hands over your neck, to stop your opponent having much in the way of offensive opportunities. You’re then going to shift to the ‘knife and seashell’, which is another way of saying put a forearm into their neck, cupping their hip with the other hand (I prefer using the forearm on the hip too, but this is a viable alternative).

Bridge into them, then turn to your knees. Geeza and Jamie end up straight on rather than off to the side. Bring your knees up one by one, then go to turtle. Straight on is how I first learned it at RGA, though I find that when I do that I tend to have trouble avoiding them sprawling on me and stuffing the escape. Hence why I teach the Roy Dean method of coming up on the side instead, but that doesn’t mean straight on is any less viable, I just have trouble with it. 馃槈

Sparring was specific from side control. I’m relying too much on grips, which will end up burning out my hands if I’m not careful: I need to try and be less ‘grippy’ for want of a better word. Next time I’ll try just placing my hands there, cupping the shoulder, the armpit etc and see if that works ok.

I focused on digging out their near elbow, along with just maintaining position and staying heavy. With white belts, they tend to get frustrated and start bridging wildly, meaning they get tired, so you can just swing your leg over quickly to mount. However, that’s a bad habit, as swinging the leg over is risky: they could snatch half guard, or worse, time their bridge and come up in guard.

So, staying heavy was relatively effective, as I was generally able to hold position. Except with Nick. As normal, he rolled me immediately: the fact he’s 105kg to my 65 obviously makes a difference, but still, I need to focus on transitions with bigger guys. I’m always telling people when teaching that side control isn’t static, you need to keep moving, but this was a good reminder to do it more myself. 馃榾

Underneath was less succesful. I was able to escape a few times and I think I did ok at conserving my energy, but a number of times after bridging and getting my knee through, I found myself spinning around unable to stop them following me. I need to block them from doing that: perhaps controlling the arm, like I taught yesterday, or simply controlling the knee? Another instance where I don’t think I’m following my own advice properly!

I’m also not bridging enough, though that’s partly due to my groin injury. I gave the spin out escape a try, where you reach under their body, but that didn’t go too well. I also attempted the stiff arm without any success: I think I need to commit more, as I’m possibly giving up on it too early.

On my way off the mats at the end, I was amused by one of the kids watching. He stared straight at me and said “You’re the strongest!” Especially entertaining as I was standing next to Nick at the time, who quite clearly takes that title. Unless he meant it in the Brazilian sense, so was in fact telling me I’m using too much strength and my technique sucks? The wisdom of children… ;p


20/03/2013 – D贸nal Private: Escaping the Back

Class #495 – Private #007
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), D贸nal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 20/03/2013

For today’s lesson with D贸nal, I decided to move on from guard passing. The reason I started off with passing is that it has long been one of my major weak areas, which thanks to D贸nal now feels much stronger (or at least I have a clear route to take). My other current big weakness is the guard…but my injury won’t let me work on that. Therefore I plumped for yet another weak point for me, which is back escapes.

As ever, I was looking for simple and efficient, preferably building on what I already know. D贸nal came up with the perfect option, which is essentially a modified combination of what I’ve taught in the past, namely Xande’s variation where he falls to the side and the basic back bridge escape. Those modifications are important, as they make the escape much more effective.

Start off by immediately bringing your knee up on the choking arm side. In one quick motion, move your head forwards and simultaneously shove their head sideways (this is presuming they know what they are doing and have their head tight to yours for control). Look towards them, keeping your head and neck firm in order to stop them moving their head back into place. Push off your leg and bridge back, aiming to get your shoulders and spine to the mat. Angle your choking arm side knee towards the other side, to stop them dragging you back over to the choking arm side once you start escaping.

Due to your body slipping off to the side, they are probably going to try and come on top. To do that, they need to be able to turn their legs down and then away from you. Keep your legs in tight to block them: with your leg back, that forms an effective barrier to their efforts to turn. There are a couple of ways you can do that. The first one D贸nal showed was hooking their top leg (if they’re trying to turn on top, they’ll be on their side) with your near leg. Alternatively, step your near leg behind the knee of their bottom leg and pinch your own knees together.

With your near arm, grab their trousers by their top leg (either by the knee or a bit lower). When you have the opportunity, switch to grip with the other hand, which means you can bring your near elbow down past their body, on the inside. At this point, make sure you’ve got your outside knee angled towards them, for base like before. Shrimp away, get your near arm back, then turn straight into the leg squash pass position.

I ended up doing it a bit differently when we were drilling, as I like to get control of the shoulder and head. I diverged at the point after you switch your grip on their trousers. Instead of getting my elbow to the floor and turning, I preferred to either reach across their neck and grab the gi, or better, reach under their head, grip the far armpit then lock my shoulder into their head/shoulder.

Either way, I then shrimp away and turn to try and come on top. With your grip on the knee, stiff-arm so they can’t lock their half-guard (if they do lock their half guard, this puts you in the opposite side half guard pass position, so proceed from there). Free your leg and move into side control.

The other option is to go to deep half, then do the Homer Simpson sweep to come on top and pass. This starts off the same as before, but the difference is that when they try to come on top, they’ve been a bit more canny and locked their heel into your far hip. That is going to make it more difficult for you to reach the top position. Instead, shove that leg between yours (either bridge and push it in between, or kick your far leg and swivel it round to trap their leg).

Pinch your knees, also stepping your near leg behind their bottom knee. Alternatively, you can hookin your near leg around the back of their top knee. Shrimp away, then curl your near hand underneath their butt, leading with the back of your hand. Use that to bump them off balance, turning into deep half. Hold onto their knee and turn it outwards, run around with your legs (this is the ‘Homer Simpson’ part of the sweep), then spin to come on top (be careful they don’t underhook your arm, as that’s awkward) and pass. I’m not a fan of deep half as I put it in the category of “flashy stuff that is too complex for me”, but this is probably the most basic application, so something I’m willing to try.

When you come on top, you can go into a useful knee cut/single underhook pass position, which allows you to go for either pass depending on their reaction. I think that’s in the Gracie University stripe 1 lesson on passing, which I should take another look at (also reminds me I still haven’t reviewed the guard chapter I bought ages ago, so will have to get round to doing that at some point.

I headed straight over to Jamie’s lesson afterwards, which continued the side control escape theme from this week. There was a chance I’d get to practice the back escapes, but then last time Geeza taught a GB Fundamentals on side control escapes, you stopped specific sparring as soon as they were able to turn to their knees, so probably not.


13/03/2013 – Private: Passing Details

Class #494 – Private #006
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), D贸nal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 13/03/2013

Today’s lesson was a little different from the others, as it was less clearly focused. This time round, we mostly just did some very light specific sparring on passing to work out some potentially useful additional details. That makes sense, as we’ve done a fair bit of work on passing already, so a kind of review is useful at this point.

When I was trying to pass in previous lessons, I was having some trouble getting to the starting position, crouched low, grips on the leg and collar, pressuring forward. Lots of people were shoving back forcefully, though that did set me up nicely for the bullfighter pass instead (as D贸nal mentioned, higher belts are unlikely to fall into that trap). I should also remember to twist my leg inwards to make it harder for them to push it back. Another key point I’m still forgetting is to grab their collar and pull their shoulders off the floor. This is absolutely essential, as it makes it much tougher for them to sweep you.

The first of many useful tips related to when they pull your arm forwards. If you simply pull back, it will probably be hard because they’ve got a strong grip. Instead, turn your hand so your little finger and elbow are pointing down. That gives you a far stronger structure, so it should now become a lot easier to pull your arm back.

If you can’t get your arm as far back as you would like (e.g., if you want to get your hand back to push on their ankle), use your forearm instead. You can also trick them by manipulating the direction of their force, like you would when trying to clear the arm for a RNC. In the context of passing, you push forward to lift their foot up off your hip, they start pushing it down to counteract, whereupon you immediately switch and continue that push down.

You can then move into the strong passing position, shoving their leg under your thigh to put it out of commission. Similarly, when pushing their knee across your body you can use your forearm. This time it is a matter of efficiency. Pushing it with your hand is less powerful then using your whole forearm and twisting your body. That provides better leverage.

When you’re doing the leg squash pass, grip their gi collar with your free hand, don’t base it on the floor. Swing your leg up to keep the pressure on their thigh. That collar grip should be relatively low down on their lapel, because that means you can stop them turning away. Lock your elbow by their other hip: they are going to find it tough to turn from there. With the lapel grip, you can just reel them back in.

Yet another good tip relates to when they try for an underhook. They start to get their hand through for the underhook. Trap your elbow against their hip, pressing into their other hip with your own. This should lock the arm in place. Make sure you’re manoeuvring them flat onto their back, bringing your chest forward, to stop them shrimping away.

D贸nal had a little point on cross facing too. You can just bring your arm into the side of their face, lifting up your elbow. This will work even if you aren’t putting your hand on the ground. I’m teaching a class on top side control in a couple of weeks, so will see if I can add that detail in.

Something else to keep in mind: don’t focus too much on what you’re used to if there is an easier option. The example that came up today was when they have that grip on your arm and sit up. I tried to force half guard as usual to pass from there. However, it uses less energy to just go for the knee cut as usual: when I did it after D贸nal pointed this out, it felt like a very ‘D贸nal ‘ movement, fluid and natural. Cool!


12/03/2013 – Half Guard Passing with Liam

Class #493
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Liam Knapp, Bristol, UK – 12/03/2013

Even though my injury is gradually becoming less of a hindrance, as I can at least spar lightly with controlled smaller people, it continues to stop me joining in with the warm-up. That was particularly frustrating today, as Liam was doing some cool guard drills, such as sit-ups when they’ve stood up in your guard, followed by ‘monkey climbs’ around their back. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back into it properly in a few months (especially as I’ll be in California in June), but I’ll have to wait and see.

The first technique was a z guard pass, reliant on speed and timing. This combines well with the option D贸nal showed a while ago. As tends to be the case with z-guard/knee shield, you need to get that knee down. If it stays high they can control the distance and block your pass.

Having got their knee down, bring your trapped knee up and point it backwards, sliding to try and break their leg grip. Presuming that’s successful, post your nearest hand by their hips (they will probably be up on their side, so you can place your fist by their hip to block their motion that way). You’re also going to be pressing your weight down into their legs, sprawling your own legs back to maximise pressure. They will most likely try to frame with their arms. That’s your cue to spin around your posted fist, with the aim of harvesting one of their arms for a north-south kimura as you do.

The second half guard pass, for a more basic half guard, is more about pressure and grips than speed and timing. You’re in the usual top position, when you notice they are going for an underhook. Bring your opposite arm underneath their attempted underhooking arm, bringing your elbow back into their armpit. Grab a handful of gi material to lock your arm in place, adjusting your weight to stop them moving.

With your other hand, push their knee off yours, then pull it into your shin as you maintain pressure with your leg. The idea is to stop them re-securing a half guard lock higher up. Shrimp back until you have room to wedge your other knee next to your trapped knee. Keeping hold of their trouser leg, continue to shift back until you can free your leg, then transition to side control, being careful to block their hip so they can’t recover guard.

During my limited bit of sparring, I was looking for the Jason Scully style pass against z-guard/knee shield. I missed out some key details initially so that become a bit scrambly, but managed to get it more smoothly later on. I kept forgetting to bring the trapped knee through into their hip, which when done right enables you to settle your weight down onto their legs to put them out of commission. I was focusing too much on getting my head into their armpit and grabbing their leg.

It is really cool to have a breadth of instructors, as that means different perspectives, different technical preferences and indeed different sizes, which necessarily impacts both your game and the details you pick up from sparring. So, hopefully Liam will be able to teach more classes in the future. Geeza is away for a couple of weeks, which will mean several other people will also have the chance to teach. I’m away for a while myself, but should be able to make it to a few of those classes.