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.

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03/04/2013 – Dónal Private: Escaping the Back Details

Class #497 – Private #008
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal 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 – Dónal Private: Escaping the Back

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

For today’s lesson with Dónal, 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 Dónal 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. Dónal 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 Dónal 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), Dónal 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 Dónal 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.

Dónal 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 Dónal pointed this out, it felt like a very ‘Dónal ‘ movement, fluid and natural. Cool!


06/03/2013 – Private: From Knee Cut to Leg Squash Pass

Class #491 – Private #005
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 06/03/2013

Back to the knee cut, starting off with a review of what we learned last time as usual. Due to the switch to a v-grip on the ankle, I kept forgetting to drive into the leg and grab the collar, as I was thinking too much about the ankle positioning. Remember that if you do go for pushing the ankle, Dónal advised that you don’t want to push it too far across, as then it becomes geared towards one pass rather than leaving your options open. He therefore suggesting pushing it under the middle of the thigh.

The main point of today’s lesson was to add in another pass I can switch to if the knee cut is blocked. I’m sure it has a name, but I’m going to call it the leg squash pass, for reasons which will become clear. You’ve gone for the knee cut and started to slide over their leg, but they’ve prevented you moving forwards, perhaps by framing with their arms.

Grab the knee of the leg you’re trying to slide across (Dónal prefers to cup under the knee, but you can also grab the trouser material: the problem is that may move and give them room to adjust enough to establish spider guard or something like that). Lift and move it across to the opposite side. To do that effectively, you’ll need to turn your non-knee sliding foot so that the toes are pointing in the direction you want to move. Bend the knee and shift in that direction.

As you slide across, you’re going to break what is normally a cardinal rule of BJJ: putting your hands on the mat. This is for base, with one by their same side armpit, while your remaining hand posts on the other side. The intention is to end up sprawled on top of their legs. More specifically, your groin is by the back of their knees, ideally with the point of your hip pressing into the middle of their thigh. Although it feels counter-intuitive, don’t go up on your toes. Sink your weight through your hips into their legs, with your own legs draped on either side.

Almost certainly they are going to move, especially if you’re being mean and digging the point of your hip into the ‘dead leg’ point of their thigh. Once they do, backstep and pass around the other side. This feeds smoothly into mount, pulling their knees towards you and wrapping your leg behind their knees. If you like, you can also lock your legs as you wrap them, making the transition to mount particularly secure.

If they don’t move, then you could bring your lower leg back to hold their legs in place as you backstep. That has the disadvantage of slightly easing off the pressure, so Dónal suggests simply swinging that backstepping leg up, which keeps the weight through the point of your hip.

You don’t have to do that off a knee cut, of course, you can start with the leg squash. With the same grips as the knee cut, Dónal had a little detail in regards to the elbow of the arm you’re using to grab their collar and pull their shoulders off the mat. Bring that elbow over their knee, so you’re on the outside. This help you control it, meaning that you can slide across straight from there into the leg squash. As you’re not going for the knee cut, you’re doing this instead of lifting their knee up off the floor and pulling it across.

From there, I headed straight to Geeza’s class.


27/02/2013 – Private: More Knee Cut Pass

Class #489 – Private #004
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 27/02/2013

This time round, Liam joined in on the private. Dónal was finishing off another private when we arrived, which meant we had some time to drill the technique in advance. It was useful to get a chance to work it with a bit more resistance, especially with somebody more experienced like Liam. For the actual private, I wanted to continue with the knee cut pass, working on dealing with people who have longer legs (prompted by Miles the day before ;D).

We ran through the details from before: immediately squat down, like you’re a weightlifter preparing to get that bar up. Grip on the trousers by the shin, step in with the other leg and grab the collar, bringing their shoulders off the mat. Dónal emphasised again the importance of having that collar elbow inside your knee, to avoid them attacking with omoplatas and the like. The difference this time was when you come to shove that leg between yours after lifting your leg. They manage to keep their foot ‘sticky’, either because they’re just good at keeping that grip or they have long legs.

To deal with that (you can use the same technique if they’ve already managed to stretch you out), switch from the trouser grip to their ankle, using the ‘v’ of your fingers and thumb. Shove the leg down, then straight away return to your crouch and sit on their foot. Dónal called this the ‘gorilla’ pose. Ideally your want to sit on their toes, to reduce their lifting power. To reduce it even further, push their ankle to the side, so it is under your leg rather than your tail bone. If you can push their knee across in the same direction using your chest, so much the better.

At this point you can get back to the pass. You’re going to have to raise up slightly, but be careful you don’t raise too much. You don’t want them getting a leg back in: keep bracing their non-trapped leg with your elbow, blocking any efforts to bring the leg in. Move your foot to their tail bone, then drag them over to the side to continue the pass like before.

Dónal had some more details to emphasise here. If you like to go for the underhook and grip the back, as I do, use your elbow to initially open up the space. You already have a grip on their collar, so while maintaining that, you can put your elbow on their ribs. That should enable you to then pivot on your elbow as you circle your arm around for the underhook. If you try to just go for the underhook, you’re at risk of their arm reaching under first, which is a battle you don’t want to get into.

Don’t forget to pressure your head into their shoulder, as if you can flatten their shoulders to the mat you’ll again have a much easier time passing. If you want to underhook their other arm too, reach under it palm up. If you try going palm down, your anatomy won’t let you bring your elbow in as close, which results in a gap for them to exploit. Palm up, you can bring your elbow tight to their side leaving no space. Finish off with the same push back with your hips and adjustment into side control.


13/02/2013 – Dónal Private Lesson (Knee Cut Pass, Dealing with de la Riva)

Class #487 – Private #003
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 13/02/2013

This time round, Steve was there to share the private. That’s useful, as it means I can watch Dónal demonstrate the details on somebody else, and it is also handy for taking a video afterwards (last time it was static, balanced on a drum, this time I could move around and zoom in as necessary). The slight drawback is that you have less time on what you specifically want to work, as naturally the time needs to be divided equally, but that’s fine because you also pay less as a result. 🙂

We continued with the guard pass from last time, the knee cut pass. The first thing I wanted to cover was avoiding the triangle, as Matt slapped a fast submission on me when I visited the Chris Rees Academy and tried this pass recently. As I thought, I think the problem was reaching for the collar without having established a grip on the other leg. I also should be driving my leg into the back of their knee, and make sure my reaching arm stays inside my own knee.

Some other tips to remember on the basic knee cut (if you want to re-read the full details, see the write-up from last time) are first of all to immediately sink down into a crouch. You then also want to stop them stretching you out by pushing on your non-driving leg: to do that, simply twist it inwards, so they have less purchase for pushing. Once you’ve slipped through and are looking to flatten them out, drive your forehead into their shoulder to help get them flat on the mat.

The rest of the lesson was firstly bringing Steve up to speed on the details of the pass, then dealing with the de la Riva hook (that picture of Norby reminds me that they might sit up too, which we didn’t cover). My usual tactic is to simply flare my knee out to pop the hook off, but Dónal shared a more thorough strategy. If they just put in the hook without also grabbing your trouser cuff, start by getting your grips on their legs. Use the knuckle down grip as usual on the non-hooked leg, then control the inside of the knee on the hooking leg. Step the foot of your hooked leg forward, probably past their belt line (but it depends on the length of your legs and their legs). Make sure you aren’t bringing your other leg in, as that will thin your base and result in less stability.

Next, drive your knee forward. This will press your weight down into their foot and significantly reduce the efficacy of their de la Riva hook. From there, switch your hand from the inside of their knee to their collar, again getting that deep grip and pulling their shoulders off the mat. You can then progress with the pass as normal: they may well remove their hook on their own, due to the discomfort.

More likely they will also be grabbing your trouser cuff, which is more of a hindrance. However, you are still going to proceed with the pass as normal: the execution will end up being slightly different. When you’ve used the above method to nullify their hook, drag them across forcefully to the side with their collar, as you normally would. It is more important than usual if they have that grip, as yanking them may be enough to knock their hand off your trouser cuff.

If it isn’t, you’ll then collapse your weight into their top leg, driving your hip down. That additional weight and leverage is likely to break their grip. If they’re stubborn they may be able to hold it, but it is not going to be pleasant for them as you’re basically sitting on their hand. Once that grip is off, you can continue to slide through as before.

Next week, I think I might ask for some tips on spider guard. It’s unfortunate I can’t spar properly at the moment, as that would be the best way to work out what people tend to do when I try this pass, but hopefully I’ll be back into normal sparring soon. There has been some improvement with my groin injury, but it isn’t up to full on sparring from guard just yet.