10/04/2013 – Dónal Private: Windscreen Wiper & Sit-Up Sweep

Class #498 – Private #009
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal 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.

Dónal 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. Dónal 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, Dónal 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 Dónal 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.


30/09/2012 – Leverage Submission Grappling Fundamentals 04 (Closed Guard)

Seminar #009
Leicester Shootfighters, (Submission Grappling), Nathan ‘Levo’ Leverton, Leicester, UK – 30/09/2012

I first began actively participating in online martial arts forums back in 2002, during my MA when I was still doing Zhuan Shu Kuan kung fu. I started off as part of the Tung-Fu message board, which had some cross-over with the much more influential SFUK: I think shortly before I joined, there had been some kind of troll influx from SFUK. After a few months, those trolls morphed into contributors, causing Tung-Fu to go from being a staunchly traditional martial arts forum to one relatively supportive of the then recent phenomenon of MMA (indeed, when we had a meet-up a year later, grappling taught by an MMA instructor was a major component of the day). I think it was around then I first encountered someone posting as ‘Levo’ online, a regular on SFUK.

That name popped up frequently over the years on various forums I frequented, either in person or as a reference, in places like Cyberkwoon, Bullshido and Martial Arts Planet. Almost always, Levo would be making some measured and intelligent argument about something in martial arts. I often found myself quoting him, like here, particularly in the days before I was seriously grappling myself. I often thought it would be cool to go train with this Levo guy, but never took the opportunity to head over to Leicester and check out his school.

It’s taken a decade, but I finally got round to it today. Levo is the internet handle of Nathan Leverton, a pioneer in UK grappling. Having spent well over a decade training numerous successful fighters in MMA, this year he’s decided to codify his experience into a system, ‘Leverage Submission Grappling‘. I heard about it earlier this year, so have been keeping an eye out on developments.

The reason it intrigued me back in January was mainly down to Leverton’s reputation. I expected that if he was creating a system, it would be technical, cerebral and for want of a better word, ‘grown-up’. That’s as opposed to something like 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu: though much of Eddie Bravo’s nogi system is viable if you are an experienced grappler with the requisite flexibility, I’m put off by the marketing approach and constant drug advocacy. Leverage Submission Grappling also has the advantage that it was advertised as fundamentals, which always perks my interest.

Today’s seminar is number four in a series of six proposed Leverage Submission Grappling seminars on fundamentals. The next one is on the 14th October (more information and booking details here), discussing side control, but I’ll be in Portugal. Seminar number five on open guard is the following Sunday, which I can’t make either, so I’m hoping I can make the one after that (which I should be able to, unless it is in November when I’m away in Texas).

Leverton’s instruction totally lived up to my expectations: intelligent, detailed and thorough. The breadth of his experience was immediately evident from his theoretical introduction, where he discussed how Leverage Submission Grappling draws on numerous grappling styles, from catch wrestling to judo to Brazilian jiu jitsu amongst others. It would be fascinating to chat with him at length about his background in martial arts, so hopefully I’ll get the chance to interview him some time, either for Jiu Jitsu Style or just for this website.

He started off with theory, running through a positional hierarchy in keeping with Brazilian jiu jitsu (i.e., the back, mount and side control are where you want to be, guard is neutral, whereas underneath side control, mount and the back are progressively worse). Of all the positions, guard was going to be the most influenced by jiu jitsu, given that BJJ is arguably the style which has developed that position the most.

First of all you need to know how to hold the guard properly. This might seem like a simple point, but as Leverton said, many people don’t use their legs as effectively as they could. Rather than letting your legs flop down so you’re resting on their thighs, you’ll achieve better control by gripping higher on their waist, pinching your knees.

Next you want to break their posture. As soon as they adjust a knee and start to rise, pull your knees into your chest to knock them off-balance. You also want to bounce your hips over if they start shifting their knee into the middle: I’m used to having a trouser leg to pull on to help with that, but the principle is the same in no-gi. Once you’ve broken their posture, clamp your heels down to help keep them there.

Most likely they will try and position their arms to maintain posture: in gi, that normally means one hand grabbing both collars and the other by your hip. In no-gi, there isn’t anything to grab, but they’ll still probably be pressing into your stomach or possibly your hips. Either way, you want to get those arms out of the way. Leverton went through the three basic options, which are swimming inside the arms and pushing them to the mat, then the opposite motion from outside, and finally the same elbow grab and pull I’m used to from the gi.

When you’ve brought them down, wrap up the head immediately with your arm. There are two main routes for securing that: first, you could underhook with your same side arm then link your hands, or secondly you can overhook. If you overhook, make sure you put your knee by your elbow to keep things tight. This concept of tightness was probably the overriding theme of the day, as you’ll see the further I get into this write-up.

Having established that grip around the head, Leverton moved into his first submission, a pressing armbar. For a fundamentals seminar it seemed fairly complex, but as Leverton explained, this technique also teaches several important principles that relate to various other techniques. Starting from your underhook, shift your arm from the head so that you’re instead gripping around their shoulder with both hands. Pull that in tight.

Open your guard and shift your hips out towards the trapped shoulder side. You’ll end up with one leg on top, the knee by their shoulder, while the rest of your leg curls down the middle of their back. Your other knee should clamp underneath the shoulder, pinning it in place. Next, you want to secure the end of their arm towards their wrist (‘stick theory’: to snap a stick across your knee, you hold it at both ends, not just one). To shift up the arm, you may need to push against their head with one hand to help your control.

Adjust your grip so you’re a little underneath their elbow, grabbing your own far shoulder. You want to be a bit past the point of where you’d apply the submission. If they pull their arm out slightly, you won’t lose the submission opportunity completely. Your other arm then moves up to join the first, so that both arms are crossed under their elbow and pulling into your chest.

Push your knees into them if you need to adjust that position on the elbow. Walk your shoulders back to stretch out the arm and lift your head up slightly, to create some space around their elbow. Finally, pull their elbow in towards that space you created by squeezing your arms and expanding your chest.

Leverton then progressed to the spinning armbar, which he noted was his preferred variation. According to Leverton, this is the judo approach and is more effective for nogi. The set up is to cup the inside of their elbow with your same side arm, elbow up. This is intentionally a loose grip, as you don’t want to tip them off that you’re about to go for the submission. Crunch your body so that less of your back is in contact with the floor, making it easier to spin.

Wedge the back of your hand under their same side leg, then open your guard. Kick both your legs up at the same time and spin, using your hand against their leg to help your rotation. Clamp your legs down, angling the leg by their head slightly outwards for control (so, a little like Adam Adshead’s tip on armbar control). Again, tightness is key, getting those knees squeezed on either side of the shoulder.

From here you can then sweep them into mount, which Leverton recommends: they can’t stack you from mount. Move your knees to the side to raise their bum in the air, then knock them forwards to go to a mounted armbar. Pinch your knees to raise their arm up, providing better leverage. Another handy tip is to pull their arm slightly off-centre, towards their legs. That makes it very hard for them to escape, even if you’re doing the Japanese armbar with the near leg tucked by their side rather than over their head.

The climbing armbar is more common to jiu jitsu and gi grappling, but as with the pressing armbar, it teaches you useful concepts, like climbing the legs. Control one arm at the wrist and elbow, putting your same side foot on the hip. Kick the other leg up into their armpit to bend them at the waist, swivelling to look at their ear. Bring your first leg over their head, then complete the armbar as before. That series of three techniques also revealed that my shoulder is worryingly tight: I was already close to tapping just from the set-up!

After a quick break (very useful for scribbling down some notes, or in my case speaking the main points I wanted to remember into my phone), Leverton moved on to the triangle choke. Ryan Hall’s name came up several times, which made sense as his instruction on the triangle is probably the best around at the moment (no doubt helped by the fact he has hundreds of competition wins via that submission).

Leverton discussed two set-ups, starting with the basic option Hall calls the ‘tap through triangle’. Grab their wrist and push that into their stomach (not the chest, as that’s a bit high, though there is a different set up where you push the arm right to their jaw). Open your guard and lift your legs over the top, then lock them in a ‘diamond’. A key detail is to then pull their head down, but into your belly button rather than your chest. It’s a simple point, but it made me realise that’s a big mistake I’ve been making up until now, and is probably why I get stacked so often.

If you can get straight to the triangle go for it, but if not, stick with a secure diamond rather than a sloppy half-locked triangle. From there, pull on your shin to lock up the triangle as normal, swivelling off to an angle if necessary. The second set-up was starting from an overhook, shifting your hips and bringing your knee through for a kick-through set-up, then finishing as before. Leverton includes the usual important advice about not pulling on your toes or locking over the toes, as that’s a good way to get injured.

Another useful point he mentioned on the triangle was to do with people tucking their chin into the ‘hole’ at the bottom of a loose triangle, meaning you can’t choke them. If that happens, simply twist their head so their chin is directed at your leg rather than that hole, meaning you can press your leg into their throat. This ‘hole’ may develop if you haven’t got their arm across: like Ryan Hall, Leverton also emphasises that you do not have to have the arm across the get the choke. If they bury their arm underneath your body, you can swim inside to pull the arm up into a pressing armbar position and either submit them with that or complete the choke.

After another break, it was time for the kimura, or as it is called in catch wrestling, the double wristlock. Leverton has trained with catch wrestling legend Billy Robinson, who has a somewhat negative view of jiu jitsu, especially the guard (you can get a flavour of that here). As a result, Robinson hates it when people call this lock the kimura.

The set-up was familiar, as you reach over the arm whenever they make the mistake of putting a hand on the mat. You can then lock up your figure four grip. There was a brief pause at this point to talk about grips. When going for the americana or kimura from the top position, you would use a thumbless grip, because if you use your thumb, that bends your wrist upwards. Without the thumb, you can keep your wrist and arm in alignment. However, from guard the grip with a thumb is fine, as there isn’t the same issue of your wrist being forced out of alignment.

Once you have that grip, shift your hips out as before, bringing them down to start attacking the arm. Push their arm a bit further than ninety degrees: as with the pressing armbar from earlier, you want to have some leeway in case they start to escape. A BJJ kimura is a little different from a catch double-wristlock, because the catch version brings their elbow higher, also using their own elbow to get counter-pressure. Leverton cited to famous example of Sakuraba versus Renzo in Pride 10, where Sakuraba was able to get an immense amount of control from the kimura due to that elbow positioning and counter-pressure.

The last submission was the guillotine. Leverton began with the standard variation, adding a little tip that as you bring your hand through, ‘hollow’ your chest to make it easy to cinch up. Once the hand and arm are in place, your chest returns to its normal position, which instantly tightens your hold and makes it tough for them to wriggle free.

A more effective variation is what Leverton referred to as the ‘Marcelotine’, named after Marcelo Garcia. I’ve vaguely heard of it before, but as I never use guillotines I hadn’t paid much attention. However, having now been shown it by a good instructor and drilled it, I’ll have to revisit that attack: definitely a powerful choke.

The difference with the Marcelotine is that firstly you grip is shallower. Insert your wrist by their jawline rather than deep into the throat. Grab your first hand with your second, gripping around the non-thumb side of your first hand. The elbow of your second hand is raised, bracing against their shoulder. To complete the choke, press on their shoulder with that elbow while you simultaneously twist your first hand back with your second, ideally right into the fleshy part just behind their chin.

Leverton then moved on to sweeps, starting with the high-percentage sit-up sweep, also known as the hip bump. This makes for a classic offensive combination with the kimura and guillotine. Rise up as you would for the kimura, except this time you push up off your other arm and reach right over their arm. Secure their tricep and whack them with your hip. This should cause them to fall off balance. Once you get your knee onto the mat, twist your upper body so that you’re effectively doing a take down.

The scissor sweep was going to follow, but Leverton decided that it just wasn’t effective enough in nogi, so skipped ahead to the basic double ankle grab sweep. As they stand up, maintain your grip on their head to keep their posture bent forwards. At the moment you let go and they try to reach an upright position, grab behind their ankles, open your guard and bring your knees together under their chest, then drive those knees into them. If they’re tall, you may need to push into their hips with your feet instead.

That should knock them over if they aren’t prepared for the sweep. Before they can react, come up on your hand, then bring your hips forward on that same side. It’s important you don’t try to move straight forward: your direction must be diagonal. Slide your knee on that side to the mat, keeping your hips low, also grabbing their head. From there, you could go to mount, s-mount, side control etc. It is an awkward position, so takes a bit of getting used to.

The last section was on closed guard from the top: in other words, passing. However, before you can pass, you need to be able to stay safe in the closed guard. First off, like Caio Terra says, you should be on your toes in order to drive forward. Leverton then showed the basic safety position, which I think I’ve seen in Saulo’s book. The idea is not only does this keep you safe, but it may frustrate them into opening without wasting much energy yourself or leaving opportunities for them to attack. Good tactic, a little similar to something Roy Harris does, except he stays a little higher.

In short, your head is buried into their chest, your elbows are clamped to their hips, which in turn are shielded by your knees. If they manage to overhook, rotate your arm out, if they underhook, turn your thumb up and pull straight back. Should they pop their hips over, block it with your elbow on that side then replace your knee. When they try to sit up, use your head to keep them down.

Similarly, if they sit up to the side, pummel your head back in to return them to their back. If they put a foot on your hip, kick that leg back, drop your hip to knock their leg off, then return to the safety position. Should they get frustrated at any point and open their legs, scoot straight backwards before they can re-close their guard and move into combat base, with a knee up in the middle.

If they don’t open their guard, then you can use a guard break from the knees. It’s reminiscent of Saulo’s DVD. Leverton mentioned he’d had trouble getting this to work for years: I’ve struggled with it too, so it was cool to get more details. Geeza taught a similar lesson on this position a while back. Geeza used the metaphor of cats and dogs as a guide for your back positioning. In that lesson, Geeza had us start on our hands and knees, starting in the ‘dog’ position: head raised, back curved down, chest up. From there shift into the ‘cat’, where you arch your back and dip your head slightly.

The application is posturing in somebody’s guard. Your back should be in the ‘cat’ position: Leverton called this ‘hunching your back’, which gets across the same idea. For nogi, brace both your hands against the bottom of their ribcage, with the hands turned outwards to avoid getting wristlocked. This uses skeletal structure (your straight arms, their ribcage) to prevent them from breaking your posture.

In order to open the guard, move one knee out to the side, then insert your other knee into their tailbone. Leverton emphasised that you must move your knee out first: if you just insert your knee, you don’t have any base. Your hand on that side will shift to their hip, making sure your shoulder is over the top to focus your weight into that hip. Once your knee is against their tailbone, move the other knee out even further, shifting your body towards that side to create an angle. Finally, hunch your back to pop their ankles open.

Alternatively, you can use a standing guard break. Trap an arm with both of your hands, pressing down firmly into their stomach, then raise your knee on that side. Bring your other knee in tight to their hip, so they can’t easily underhook that leg. Next put both your knees behind their bum and drag them towards you. If they try to raise up, sit backwards: this is uncomfortable and should stop their motion.

When you’ve secured that position, reach back with one arm and put your hand on your hip. Don’t dig your hand too deep, or they may be able to trap your arm against your side with their leg. Turn your body, using that twist to open their legs. You can also just push on their knee, depending how tight they’re gripping. Step backwards on the same side leg and open the guard, then immediately move into your guard passing posture.

Sadly I’m not going to be able to make the next two seminars on the 14th and 21st October, because that’s when I leave and return from Portugal. Hopefully the seminar on back mount will be a date I can make, as I’m really keen to get to that one (so, not the next weekend of October as that’s my mum’s birthday, or between 17th-30th November when I’m in Texas ;D). My back control is rubbish, so if I can learn how to keep it tight in nogi, that should help me tighten it up in gi too.

16/03/10 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #295
RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK – 16/03/2010

The monthly price is rising by £10 as of 1st April, from £40 to £50. That is still cheap, though I’ll miss the super-cheapness of the previous fee. However, Kev has managed to get a rather nifty perk through becoming a Gracie Magazine Associate Club (or something like that: can’t remember the official term). That means that everyone who pays by standing order will get a monthly copy of Gracie Mag as well, which is nice, especially as they cost around a fiver anyway. RGA Bucks will also occasionally get a mention in the mag, such as competition results, though it will be small and at the back. Still cool though.

Kev began tonight with what he called the Roger sweep, as apparently Roger has done this a lot in competition. It works best for people like him with long legs, so probably not something I’ll be trying often. It begins from when they go to combat base. Close guard around their raised knee, high enough that they can’t just push their knee through, but not so high that they can sit back into the space. Get a cross grip on their same side arm, then pull that across their away from their knee, removing their ability to post.

With your legs still closed, twist your knees down towards the floor on their trapped knee side. If that isn’t sufficiently breaking their balance, you can also try bringing your knees to your chest. This should pull their foot off the floor, making it harder for them to resist. Once they start to fall, put your hand back for base and come up on top.

You still have to deal with that knee, which will now either be underneath your stomach or to the side. If it is to the side, you can press down to lock it in place, then do a big backstep to swing over into side control. If it more under your stomach, you can push it directly behind you, popping through into mount.

Next up was the Flower sweep, which contrary to what I thought is slightly different from the pendulum sweep. I’ve seen those terms used interchangeably, but apparently the difference is with a pendulum sweep, your partner puts their knee up. With a flower sweep, you initiate yourself, by grabbing the lower part of their gi pants. Also secure a grip on their other elbow with your other arm. Put the same side foot on that side on their hip.

The most important part is kicking up with the leg on the side you’ve grabbed their trouser. That needs to be up high into their armpit, pushing right through. This is what you use to break their posture. To further knock them off balance, lift with your pant grip, then finally chop your other leg low (firstly, you don’t want them to land on it, and secondly, it adds to the momentum). You should end up in mount.

You can also move into a triangle, if you intentionally grip the ‘wrong’ elbow, on the same side as the trouser grip. When you go for the sweep, they’ll post out with their other arm (which is why you normally keep hold of it). However, while that blocks the sweep, it means you can now bring your leg over and lock on a triangle.

Free sparring began in guard, so again I was trying to pass Howard’s guard. As before I was looking to strip grips, but this time I had an opportunity to go for the double underhooks pass. I didn’t clamp around the legs properly, so Howard was able to scoot back. I focused too much on bringing my arm over and grabbing a collar, before having properly secured position. I briefly tried to readjust, grab the top of Howard’s trousers and flip him, but it was too late. I also doubt I have enough strength to manage that, though I’ve seen people do it on videos.

Against a white belt, things were easier, because he is smallest guy in class. Even I probably outweigh him by at least eight kg or so. That meant I wanted to make certain I wasn’t just using forced. I had a play with various submission attempts, starting with the Shawn Williams Guard and overhook from guard. As before, I wasn’t able to swivel into the omoplata like I wanted. I also couldn’t get a sufficiently tight grip for the choke from an overhook.

Eventually that resulted in a very sloppy sweep into mount, which I suspect was only possibly due to the weight difference. Dropping into my preferred low mount with grapevines, I had a go at the Ezequiel. He could see it coming, and prevented me from properly blocking off his carotoid with my gi sleeve. I switched back, then worked to technical mount, looking for more chokes. Again, he defended well, so I couldn’t work the grips I wanted. I could possibly have gone for an armbar, but I was hesitant as in that position, I thought he’d have too much room to escape. In retrospect, I probably should have gone for it anyway, after attempting those chokes for a while.

26/05/2009 – Nova Força

Class #225

Nova Força 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.

25/03/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #130

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 25/03/2008Advanced

The Cranach exhibition was of a high standard, as you’d expect from the Royal Academy (though I think this is merely my second or third visit: I’ve been to the Turkish one they had a while back, and possibly one other, but can’t remember). I read an article somewhere that had somebody in a controlling position at the National Gallery stating that the role of exhibitions shouldn’t be to simply run ‘greatest hits’ of famous artists, but rather to introduce people to new work. I’m not sure I agree: the vast majority of visitors don’t have the luxury of travelling to the numerous different galleries spread around the world that such exhibitions draw upon, so I’m perfectly happy with the ‘greatest hits’ model. Perhaps I’m wrong on the demographic. Either way: Cranach is worth your time, and the audio guide was excellent, just like last time.

That was followed up by a meal at The Big Easy with a bunch of people from RGA. I wouldn’t normally be able to make that, as its on a Friday, but this particular Easter Weekend I’ve staying at my sister’s, who is on holiday. So, great to have the opportunity to talk at greater length. I do a lot of chatting at the academy, but its rare that I get to attend a proper social event. Of course, I still managed to get lost beforehand, even after Christina gave me directions, but I was only thirty minutes late. 😉

Training with my gf continues to be a good way to drill the basics. That’s even more true since the past couple of weeks, as she has been wanting to go over the same thing, which is great for really working the fundamentals. So since , that means we’ve only covered recovering guard from side control, transition to mount from side, cross choke from mount and guard, defence against cross choke and the trap and roll escape from mount. This Monday I also showed her the basic armbar from guard (along with the escape) so we could start using that as a drill to warm-up.

Back to training tonight, this was the first Tuesday I’d made in some time, and only the second advanced Tuesday. Since my first, the class is now back to 1.5hrs: I think the Friday nogi might be only an hour, but not sure. Jude arrived back from Spain recently, so good to have him teaching again: though his tough warm-ups are often a bit painful for a wimp like me, I find his detailed teaching style very helpful. Both the techniques, finally, started from closed guard, which makes a nice change from the constant open guard work we’ve been doing with Gustavo (though conversely, its also important to see stuff from my weaker positions).

First, Jude showed us a sweep: no idea what the name is, so if anyone recognises it from the description, let me know! Grab their sleeve with both hands, one high and one low, then pull them down towards you, slipping your grip to their lower sleeve once they’re in close (can hold them there with your legs). Swivel to the side and with your other arm, grab their same side gi trousers, as low down as you can.

Pull their leg up to your head, also putting your opposite leg down, keeping it tight. Using the grip you have on their trousers, bring their leg up and roll them over into your mount. Note that you’ll need to maintain a good hold on their sleeve, as otherwise they can get their elbow to the floor and prevent the sweep.

The next technique was a triangle set-up starting from closed guard. You start with a cross-grip (grabbing their opposite sleeve), then with your other hand grab the fabric on their same side knee. Still on that same side, open your guard and bring your foot to their hip. Use that to shrimp out, bringing your other knee up under their arm on the inside (if you bring it up by the outside, they can wrap it with their arm and start to pass).

With the foot on their hip, push them backwards: this should stretch them out sufficiently that you can get your other foot into their bicep. Pull the sleeve you’re holding across their body as well as towards you, which then means you can slip the leg pressing into their bicep over the back of their neck. Finally, hook that ankle with your other leg and squeeze for the triangle.

Guard passage began with Tanvir, who has recently moved up to the advanced class. That’s good news for me, as he is around my size, perhaps even a little smaller. On top, I stayed in my usual defensive posture for much of the roll, though I did eventually force myself to stand up a few times. I shoved my hips forward like Christina often does against me (very successful: she frequently passes from there), but I couldn’t quite get the position.

At one point I did manage the sprawl pass when Tanvir opened his guard to go for an attack, but yet again it was fairly sloppy on my part. I need to think more about slipping down their legs and wrapping them up, as otherwise I’m leaving myself vulnerable for sweeps etc. When we restarted, I cunningly put myself in a triangle: I was in the armbar escape position, but I think had my arms mixed up, meaning that when I jerked out an armbar, I still had one left in. Not clever, but fortunately for me, Tanvir didn’t capitalise and I managed to escape. Still, good to be reminded of the very basics – always have either two arms in or two arms out!

Underneath I kept going for the kimura, but as before I could only get to the figure four grip, no further. I need to both work on getting that grip free, or alternately use it to set up a sweep. I think the problem I have with turning it into a sweep is that I don’t have my hips under my partner properly. Might also be worth switching to some other attack: even if the kimura isn’t available, I’m sure I should be able to do something with a solid figure four grip, just need to work out what.

Having had so much trouble with my open guard recently, I tried another tactic: don’t let them stand up. However, I think I was mainly using strength, as I grabbed onto a collar and pulled Tanvir down towards me, then attacked the arm to try for a kimura. I should use my legs more to do that, as I get the impression it was only having any effect because Tanvir is around my size. That means it’s a silly tactic, because it won’t work against anybody bigger than me. I also tried cinching on a guillotine, but while I could get one arm under, I couldn’t then get a good enough grip to pull it tight with the other arm.

My spar with Herman went almost exactly the same way, from what I remember, both on top and underneath. Again, Herman is around my size, so I was also able to pull him down towards me, attacking the arm for a kimura. At one point he stood straight up and I dangled off him. I didn’t want to let go and switch to open guard, so had a play around to see if I could bring him down from there. However, I probably should have taken it as an opportunity to work open guard some more, as I’ve still got the same unresolved problems from before. Time ran out before anything happened, but must remember next time somebody stands up completely to practice my open guard.

In free sparring, I began with Paxton, who showed me a triangle escape before we started. He had been rolling with Leo, who said that gripping around behind his back with the trapped arm wasn’t such a bad idea, to at least hold them off for a bit. However, the main escape was to grab the top of their knee with both hand, pull that to the floor, then drive through to escape.

We decided to go from guard, which he passed without too much trouble. I couldn’t quite get half-guard, having merely got a weak grip around his ankle instead of knee. I also attempted to get in the ‘paw’ (bent hand around the upper arm, bringing the wrist into it too), but I think my half-guard was too weak for it to be a viable position. It simply meant that Paxton made several attempts to throw an Americana on the arm, so I switched to a more defensive posture.

Once he eventually pushed through to mount, Paxton stayed tight. I had a foot trapped, so tried bumping and rolling a few times, but his arm was out of reach. Then I realised he was staying very tight on the other side, so quickly switched to that: having been used to defending the one side, I think that took him slightly by surprise, as I rolled back into his guard. Time ran out before we could go any further.

I finished up with Grant, who as ever squashed me without too much effort. I was having real trouble sliding my knee under, as well as chasing around his trailing leg to try and lock in half-guard. He was keeping his legs well away, and eventually went to full mount. I bucked away to stop him getting a good hold, but again couldn’t get my legs into position for half-guard. He got some kind of grip on my collar and wrapped up a limb with my gi, and I thought I was about to be choked. However, either he eased off, content he had the position and didn’t need to go for the choke, or it was looser than I thought: either way, I managed to slip out.

At the end of class, Grant finally got his blue, which has been long overdue. He’s been totally dominating me every time we rolled ever since I first sparred him, and observing his sparring with other people, he’s given a good account of himself against better opposition too. Despite being a fairly strong guy, he’s also quite technical, so it was good to see him get the promotion.