Nova Força Epsom (BJJ), Ricardo Da Silva, Epsom, UK – 14/07/2009
Huge class this week, which has two main advantages from my perspective. First, a wider range of people to train with, including three women. Secondly, due to space considerations, you are guaranteed rests after rounds of sparring. Naturally its important to build your cardio and get used to applying technique while exhaustion (from a competitive viewpoint, at least), but I always appreciate the chance for a break.
That was especially true today, as the whole lesson was sparring. As the classes at Nova Força are longer than RGA, that means a lot of rolling, even though it kicked off with king of the hill. Ricardo is trying to get people ready for the Brighton Grab and Pull, in the pursuit of which he started with specific sparring.
We went through four or five variations, beginning with mount. I’m still awful at maintaining the top position, so probably spent no more than fifteen seconds or so over the course of three partners. Twice I made the same mistake, keeping my weight too far forward, so they were able to simply bring their legs up and push me past their head. The other time was the usual bridge and roll, as I failed to base properly: I was trying out hooking one of the legs to see how that would help me keep the mount, but still need plenty of work to do that properly.
I felt much more comfortable in half guard, especially as I had the rare opportunity to start on the bottom: normally I’m stuck with the top position in king of the hill. I’m guessing that my first training partner was fairly inexperienced, as he wasn’t wearing a gi (not that nogi is any less skilful, but this was a gi class).
My next partner spent most of the roll trying to pop my head off my neck. He was going for an arm triangle, but didn’t quite have the position. However, he happily went on squeezing anyway, which wasn’t much fun for my neck. In those situations, I don’t normally tap, as they’re just causing pain rather than applying a submission: no doubt there is a certain amount of ego involved too. So, given that I’m permanently paranoid about injury, it would probably be better to just tap: helping my training partners by only tapping to proper technique is considerably less important to me than my own health.
After half guard, Ricardo moved on to full guard. As ever, I’m terrible passing, and still too passive. One guy simply moved his legs up my hips and came forward to knock me down (which I vaguely remember from a Keith Owen video). I did try standing at one point, grabbing their arm on the side I was stepping forward, but they were still able to reach my other leg.
Following that was a more unusual option. Full guard again, but this time, you weren’t allowed to open your guard: as soon as your legs were opened, the spar was over and the other person stayed on. I wasn’t quite sure how that worked, however, as you were allowed to open your guard for sweeps and submissions. I guess just not using open guard? I’ll have to clarify next time.
Class finished with the opposite, so you weren’t allowed to close your guard. In addition, there was another interesting rule, where you couldn’t stay in any one position for more than five seconds. That effectively meant the roll became a sort of flow drill, especially as all four of my partners were fairly small and relaxed, like me.
I adjusted from mount and side control back to half guard most of the time, also trying to work a lot of open guard. There was a brief opportunity to work back mount against a beginner, transitioning to an armbar from the back, which was fun. Of course, I’d never get that against anyone experienced, but nevertheless always good to have a chance to play with techniques I rarely get.
I later had a good roll with a fellow blue belt, Andy. We matched up well, as he is about my size, has also been training roughly three years, and like me only gets to train once a week at the moment. I attempted to go for a north-south escape by wriggling out, then trying to swing my legs back over their shoulder for back mount. Instead, I ending up rolling underneath Andy, resulting in what I guess was a sort of inverted guard. I’ve no clue what to do in that position, so flopped back into open guard. So in effect the escape worked, but it was sloppy on my part, not to mention it wasn’t what I intended to do.
Next week, the scouts aren’t going to be using the room beforehand, so class will start on time at 20:15. I’ll have to remember to leave earlier: today I left at 19:50 and arrived at 20:25, so will aim to depart at 19:35 or so next time (not that I’ll be there next week, as I’m going to a seminar at the weekend).
Nova Força Epsom (BJJ), Tim Radcliffe, Epsom, UK – 07/07/2009
At long last, I’ll be heading to Turkey with my gf in a couple of months. I’ve been meaning to take her there since we started going out eight years ago, so very much overdue. Also given me the sufficient kick up the arse I need to finally try and brush up my rather terrible Turkish. Only downside is that the people I cycled past probably thought I was nuts, as I was loudly repeating Turkish from my language podcast on the way to and from training.
Tim went through two sweeps today, both of which I’ve seen before, but still can’t perform very well. The first standing sweep begins when they stand in your guard and try to open your legs. Grab their sleeves, slip down their body and open your guard. Once you get to their knees, squash them together with your legs, locking your feet. This needs to be quick, as normally they’ll put one leg back to begin passing, which prevents you trying this technique.
Using your sleeve grips, push their arms down and as far back as you can. This should put them off balance. You can now crunch your legs towards you and roll over one shoulder (as in the typical breakfalling drill). Keep pulling on the arms to end up in mount, aiming to end up near their hips.
I had some trouble getting this right. Locking the legs is straightforward, but I found pushing the arms back in combination with crunching your knees in and rolling over awkward. Aside from my general ineptitude, I also don’t like techniques where I feel I lack control, which is the case with this one: momentum is a big part of it.
On top of that, when I rolled back, I was ending up too far forward in mount, which in sparring would provide my partner with the option to escape out the back. That was because I wasn’t controlling the arms properly, or pushing on the sleeves as I rolled.
The next standing sweep is a variation on one of my favourites, the handstand sweep. This time when they stand up in your closed guard, you keep your legs locked around their waist. Grab a sleeve, then underhook their opposite foot with your arm. Drop your hips to their knees and twist: if their knees are closed, use your hips to dig your way between them.
Drive your hip against the knee of their trapped leg to knock them to the floor. Come up on top using the grip on their sleeve, with your legs in a hurdling position (i.e., one bent with the foot pointing back, the other straight, pointing diagonally away from their body). You’re now well placed to shift into a strong mount.
Simon had a tip on the grip here, demonstrating what he feels is the most powerful method. First, get your thumb under the sleeve. Twist that up, wrapping your fingers around the top, continuing to twist. You should end up with a pocket of gi material held by your four fingers, thumb gripping outside.
In free sparring I started with Tim, quickly getting into the usual thing pattern of escaping side control to guard repeatedly. As before, I was concentrating on staying on my side, shrimping, and also trying to get my forearm to my thigh in order to block knee on belly. Need to be quicker with that, and also keep in mind the option of going to knees from under side control.
After briefly rolling with a beginner, which resulted in me showing them how to escape side control (which surprisingly they don’t appear to have seen yet), I went with Simon. He’s always really good for tips, though he tends to go at a harder pace than the other senior belts I’ve rolled with at Nova Força.
First thing was that I need to press forward when in someone’s guard or I’ll simply get knocked over backwards. That’s especially true when starting from knees for sparring, as I’ll tend to be passive and wait to see what they’ll do.
Secondly, to defend the baseball bat choke (Simon said this was applicable to chokes in general too), I should press the elbow of their choking arm outwards, defending my neck with my other hand. As they need to close their elbows for the choke, that will give me room to turn towards them and shrimp out.
Finally, to escape mount I need to be proactive with my elbows. Rather than just staying tight and defensive, I have to really push on their legs and shrimp. Simon exposed the weakness in my defence by repeatedly moving into a mounted triangle, which is something that’s happened before with other people too. So, more activity on my part under mount!
Nova Força Epsom (BJJ), Tim Radcliffe, Epsom, UK – 30/06/2009
I’ve had a few weeks off due to a bunch of job interviews (none of which came to anything, unfortunately: just have to keep plugging away, like the massive horde of other people applying for the same jobs…), so good to get back on the mats. Ricardo is in Brazil at the moment, so instead class was taken by his top student, brown belt Tim (who incidentally won yet another MMA fight recently).
Tim kicked off with a gi choke. Start by pulling one side of their gi out of their belt (if its already loose, so much the better), then feed it around their back to your other hand. Shift your torso to that side, then change hands. This frees up your first hand to grip whatever material you can on the back of their gi, still on the same side (if you try to grip on the other side, your partner is likely to see it coming and defend). Finally, bring that arm over their head whilst maintaining your grip, then bring your wrists up for the choke.
Next, Tim demonstrated a basic loop choke. Grab their opposite collar, with a deep grip. Break their posture by pulling that collar towards you, while also pushing their head down and to the side with your other hand. Next, slide that other hand across the back of their head and under your own elbow, hooking with the back of your hand. Finally, raise the elbow of your collar-gripping arm for the submission.
Rowan Cunningham, who puts out the best free BJJ videos on the net (unfortunately not the most famous, as the Abhaya vids aren’t heavily publicised or flashy), has a typically excellent demonstration up on YouTube, where he calls it an ‘encircled collar choke’. I first saw this choke when Aesopian put up the Abhaya vids, probably on Bullshido somewhere:
Tim mentioned as he was walking around that you need to be quick with this, so its something to spring on your opponent if you have a collar grip but see they aren’t defending their neck. Even if you don’t get the choke, you’re likely to still manage a sweep, as in order to avoid getting submitted they’ll probably have to roll out. You can simply follow them and end up in mount.
Sparring today put me mostly under side control, which is good as I always like to try and improve my escapes from there. As per Saulo’s advice (both in his book and DVD), I was concentrating on keeping my head stuck to the floor to prevent the cross-face, while also blocking their arm with my hand.
While I did ok getting that far into Saulo’s ‘survival position’, I was rather less successful getting onto my side. I also wasn’t preventing the knee on belly too well, as usual, but I think I managed to use my elbow and knee as a barrier slightly better than last time. The difficulty is getting them properly locked together, with forearm to upper leg, rather than just touching elbow to knee.
From knee-on-belly, I also couldn’t avoid Mark’s choke, so must have done Simon’s defence wrong. I know you’re suppose to swim your arms in and turn towards them, but forgot which arm went where.
With one of the white belts, I managed to get to my knees from side control, but couldn’t then trap an arm in order to roll them. I was thinking about the wrestler’s sit-out too, but didn’t feel I had the space to get free: as their arm was ready to look for chokes, my neck felt exposed. In retrospect, I probably should have been less hesitant and just gone for something, as eventually I tried to spin to guard as they left some space, which merely landed me back under side control.
My last spar was against somebody fairly new, so I had a chance to play around with triangles. I’m still missing lots of important details, like proper head control, so even as a noobie they were able to slip out, but it was nice to confirm the ‘trigger’ position Ryan Hall talks about. Whenever somebody is trying to open your guard by driving their elbow into your thigh, you can open your guard and cause them to lean to one side. This leaves your partner vulnerable to the triangle, as you can now fling your leg over that arm and to their neck, locking your other leg in place.
Nova Força Epsom (BJJ), Ricardo Da Silva, Epsom, UK – 11/06/2009
Gf is away again this weekend, which therefore meant extra training. Class started with takedown sparring, like last time I made it to a Thursday: could mean that day is the session for throws. As usual I was terrible, staying super-passive and basically waiting to be slammed to the mat.
I definitely need to get in some more judo if I am to have any hope of being more than a throwing dummy, but at the same time judo is still a frighteningly injurious prospect. No big deal I guess, given that I don’t really care about competing, but would be good to develop a least a couple of takedowns and entries.
Technique tonight was on the triangle from the guard, good and basic. Ricardo was just showing how to get your legs in place rather than finishing the submission, from the classic set up of double wrist control. Push one arm back and immediately bring your hips up, whacking the same side leg to their neck, aiming to curl it round so you can lock your shin under the back of your other knee.
At the same time, you pull on the other arm and bring it across their body, ready to lock on the triangle. The next step would be to adjust your legs to eliminate any space, then raise your hips and pull down on their head for the submission.
A simple technique like that was ideal, as the friend I brought along tonight had never done any grappling before. He had some familiarity with the throws, but rolling around on the ground was completely new to him.
That made for a fun roll during free sparring, though of course I was mainly trying to be helpful, seeing as it was his first time. He’s a bit bigger than me, but there are so many things to learn that BJJers take for granted. For example, staying upright on your knees in the guard: I’ve noticed that often when I roll with somebody who hasn’t grappled that they’ll fall on their side, as they’re understandably unfamiliar with the principles of basic posture.
With everyone else, I was under either side control or knee on belly. Clearly I’m doing something very wrong which is constantly giving the knee on belly to my partners when I’m under side control. I’ve been trying to concentrate on getting to my side, but I also need to think about blocking the knee on belly. I could try being tighter, such as the old standard foot on the knee to reduce space, as well as bridge more often and more explosively.
I also managed to bust up my toe from a sweep, as one of my training partners caught a toe as they rolled me over. Later on my leg completely cramped up, as I was trying to recover guard. I was spinning on my back, reaching for their leg with my foot, but I couldn’t get any purchase. That meant I was scrabbling with the end of my foot, which merely resulted in the aforementioned cramp.
Last week Simon was advising me to turn into the choke from knee-on-belly in order to escape, which I tried to do tonight. Helped, but he still caught me with something else. Still a good principle to keep in mind, as part of the general concept of getting to your side when underneath.
Simon then provided some tips on escaping the baseball bat choke from knee-on-belly, but I’m not sure I’ve managed to remember them properly. I think the idea is to bring one arm through, bent at right angles, then use the other arm to push while turning into them. You can also try and get your knee in to make further space.
My friend enjoyed the class, especially the fitness side of things, so hopefully he’ll be able to pop back at some point (though he’s pretty busy the rest of the summer, so might well be a good while). Also rather nice to get a lift there and back: no late night cycling this week, which was a very refreshing change!
Nova Força Epsom (BJJ), Ricardo Da Silva, Epsom, UK – 09/06/2009
I was fortunate today in that I worked exclusively with the higher belts Tim, Theo and Simon, which always means loads of great advice (especially in a welcoming, friendly class like Nova Força), which I’ve added to the descriptions below.
Both techniques tonight were from butterfly guard, starting with what Ricardo referred to as a basic butterfly sweep. From butterfly guard, underhook with one arm and reach around the back (grabbing the belt if they’re wearing a gi), while the other hand grabs their same side arm, closing tight with the elbow to keep them close. From there, you want to shift slightly towards the underhook side.
To get the sweep, the foot you have under their thigh on the underhook side is going to serve as the leverage point to roll them over. However, you can’t lift them with just your leg: instead, you want to put your whole body into the motion. To do that, drop back, then kick your other leg out straight. That will provide you with a much stronger position to move your partner (Ricardo noted that you don’t have to kick out the leg, but he finds it helps to do so).
As you roll over on top, you want to make sure your shin moves to trap their leg on the underhook side, ready to initiate the pass. You also need to move your underhooking hand up to grab the back of their collar instead, or you’ll end up trapping your own arm. Bringing your head down next to their shoulder will help your base, meaning you should end up with a lot of pressure on your partner. Finally, pull up on their arm, then slide through into scarf hold.
If they manage to base out with their leg before you can complete the roll, it is still possible to sweep them, by going to x-guard. As soon as they post their leg, swivel your body towards that limb, using your arm to trap their foot against your head. Put your legs into the x-guard position (one foot under their thigh, the other foot on their hip, pressing with the top of your instep).
Next, you want to get the foot you’ve trapped off the floor, by pushing with your own feet on their leg. As soon as you feel their foot lose purchase on the ground, switch the hook you have under their thigh to their knee. Push to get them off-balance, then do a technical stand-up to get back to your feet, still holding their leg. Their base is now completely broken, so it should be a simple matter to take out their leg for the sweep.
Specific sparring was from the sweep position, where the person in butterfly already has the underhook and the arm trapped. My butterfly guard passing is just as terrible as all my other passing, so I didn’t get far: I tried wibbling around to get my balance, which without fail resulted in a sweep. I also thought I’d try moving a leg out and then back in to try and clear their hook, but that didn’t work any better. Clearly need to review butterfly passes: my passing in general, as always, has a very long way to go.
Just two free spars today, or more specifically, two and a half. I started with Simon, trying to keep in mind Tim’s advice about getting to my side when underneath. I tried defending against a choke from knee on belly by getting my hands in the way, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the submission. Simon advice that instead of relying on using my hands as a barrier, I should turn into the choke, which fits in with the general advice on getting to my side.
He was followed by Tim, where we started towards the end of one round then continued into the next. I spent pretty much the whole time trying to escape side control, again concentrating on getting to my side. That meant I was always looking to recover guard or half guard, wriggling a knee through to begin the recovery.
However, that is not the only option for escaping side control: I’m still tending to completely forget about going to my knees. Tim suggested I should be attempting that more often, which is also something Jude has advised in the past. Being on top is an alien world for me, so going to my knees and driving forward hardly ever even enters my mind: something I need to rectify.
My friend should be popping down to class on Thursday, which will mean not only do I get to introduce someone to BJJ, but I can also get a lift (as he’s nearby in Oxshott). Will be interesting to see what he thinks of the sport, particularly how it differs to the Kuk Sool Won he’s used to.
Nova Força Epsom (BJJ), Ricardo Da Silva, Epsom, UK – 02/06/2009
Class was absolutely packed, with a tough warm-up from Simon. There were also three women present, which was good to see. The two new joiners haven’t bought a gi yet, but I presume they plan to stay, as they’ve been to most of the classes I’ve attended so far.
Technique tonight was the guillotine, which while basic is nevertheless a fundamental move I certainly haven’t got down yet. The scenario presented was that you’ve got head control and they posture up. You follow them and go for a sit-up sweep, which they attempt to counter by pulling your arm and driving their weight forward.
In response, immediately scoot your hips back and bring one arm under their neck, reaching to clasp your other hand. Twist to side on which you’ve trapped their head, then I think move slightly up (though I keep getting that wrong: either way, you need to get the bone of your forearm pressed against their neck).
If they bring their legs up to resist, shrimp to the opposite side you’ve trapped their head. At the same time, use your legs to chop low on one side and high on the other: in other words, comparable to a flower sweep, taking them over diagonally. Continue holding the guillotine, which will mean they either tap as you roll them over, or if not, you’ll still end up in mount. Ricardo mentioned that in gi competition, you’d have to release the sub at that point (presumably because its potentially a neck crank, but I’m guessing there).
As the class was so huge, free sparring was split into two groups, with one sitting on the side. Rounds were only two minutes, so got through lots of sparring partners. However, that short space of time also meant that they generally followed the same pattern: I’d pull guard from the knees, but so badly that I’d instantly get passed to side control.
From there, I tried to stay on my side, but not all that successfully. My partner would then either transition to knee on belly, where I’d keep trying to shrimp away, or move to scarf hold. I need to review scarf hold escapes, as I’m definitely out of practice.
I was also trying keep my arms tight to my neck to defend against chokes, and my head close to the floor to avoid the cross face. Along with scarf hold, my north-south escape needs work too: I can’t remember the last time I was held in north-south, as people don’t seem to bother all that often. I aimed to wriggle out with the intention of then seeing if I could swing up onto their back, but didn’t get that far. Instead, managed to follow their legs and recover half-guard, as I think they were trying to move round for a choke or something at the same time.
The only spar that broke that pattern was with Lindsey, where I had another chance to keep working the triangle. As before, I need to deal with the arms, getting one in and one out in order to initiate the triangle. I was looking for an underhook too, but struggled to open up her arms sufficiently. Using my hips more might help, perhaps bridging up to make some space.
My left arm was still a bit sore from the previous week, so it will be good to give it a rest until next Tuesday. I’m also hoping to get that friend along to class I mentioned a while back, depending on if he’s busy or not. He’s in Oxshott, so getting a lift sounds handy too, as that saves me the cycle ride.
Nova Força Epsom (BJJ), Ricardo Da Silva, Epsom, UK – 30/05/2009
I noticed when I first checked out the Nova Força site that Ricardo has written a book (under the ‘our manual’ link on the left), along with the guy who owned the club’s previous location at Sleeping Storm. Didn’t give it much thought, but looking through the excerpt yesterday, it appears to have an interesting take on BJJ history. As I’m always looking for more sources for my history of BJJ post, may well pick this up. I meant to ask about it in training (in case Ricardo had some in stock and sold them cheaper than Amazon), so will try to remember next time. Not that there’s a rush, but would be a nice thing to buy before I leave (which at the latest will be August).
Technique today was based around the half butterfly position, which I’ve only heard of because of that thing Aesopian wrote about it a while back. Very helpfully, Ricardo taught in such a way that both partners are working, rather than just acting as a training dummy for the other, because he showed how to get to the half butterfly as well as how to pass.
Ricardo started with the transition from half guard to half butterfly, where your partner has an underhook. Bring your arm over and grab their belt, then making sure your other hook stays tight, step out your same side leg and shrimp. That should give you enough room to move your hips backs under and putting your free foot under their leg (coming inside their leg, not outside).
For the pass, bring your head to other side, gripping their opposite collar. You then drop your bodyweight out to the side, twisting your hip slightly outwards. That should help negate their hooking foot, meaning you can now put your own foot on top of their leg. Push to free your trapped leg, then keeping your hips down, pull up on their arm and you move through to scarf hold.
Next, Ricardo showed a half butterfly sweep. This time you’ve got an underhook on them rather than an overhook, which puts you in a far stronger position. Grab their other arm and pull it under their body, while simultaneously lifting them up and over with your hooking foot.
If you’re the one on top, in order to pass, you need to time it so that as soon as your leg leaves the floor, you immediately twist your hips to the side. This needs to be in one motion: Ricardo noted I was shimmying my hips the other way first, which is both unnecessary and means you miss the window of opportunity. Quickly put your weight onto them, leaning back towards their legs.
Don’t pause there, as they could still shrimp out and try to take your back: to prevent that, you need to use your elbow to dig into their armpit, establishing an underhook. From there, switch your hips and go to side control.
Ricardo is really good about walking round and correcting technique: he’s given me useful pointers every time I’ve been so far (which I’ve added to the technical descriptions). He went a step beyond that today, and managed to give me pointers on a technique from a previous lesson, which was awesome. That’s because he saw my blog, and noticed I’d written up the technique on the butterfly sweep from a short while ago incorrectly. I left out a important part where you push on their arm, rather than simply holding the gi, so will go change that now (hopefully I can find the right bit).
Specific sparring from that the half butterfly position, I was able to get a sweep on a white belt, though I think it was from being generally squirmy rather than the specific sweep we learned today. I later managed to pass the same guy twisting my hips when on top, but not on anyone else. Still too static on top of half guard, so as with all my passing (which is terrible from every guard variation), needs lots of work.
Free sparring started off with Tony, who I haven’t rolled with before. Apparently he has a reputation for being a bit uncontrolled: either way, stayed pretty relaxed with me, as I looked for triangles again, trying to get head control. I was also, as before, attempting to rotate on my shoulders and use my legs to keep them away in open guard.
Next was someone known as Tubes (easy to remember, as its written on his belt), who also went light. With him I was mostly trying to escape side control and knee on belly, spending a few brief spots in guard. Definitely need to time my bridging better, not to mention bridge more in general: I’m tending to wait for them to move and then shrimping, which is dangerously passive under knee-on-belly.
Rolled with Mark after that, where I finally managed to get some semblance of a standing pass going. He was grabbing one of my arms in guard, so I grabbed his and then stood up, stepping my foot forward on that side. However, he came up with me, which I’m not used to (as I normally I just get swept), so while I did open his guard, slammed my knee into the mat.
Kinda jarring, so went floppy for a little while to try and relieve the pain. After that, again looking for triangles, rotating on shoulders and using my legs. Playing around with reverse triangles under side control continues to be fun, but I’m not getting anywhere the right position.
I also need to be careful I don’t knee people in the face, as a lot of those techniques require flinging your legs around. That’s less of a problem if they’re standing, where I attempted to go to reverse De La Riva as per Saulo’s DVD. I’m feeling slightly more stable there than before, but very early stages, so landing a sweep off it will take loads more practice.
Continuing on the theme of sweeps, I had a go at getting into position for the spider guard technique Tim showed me a couple of days ago. I don’t yet have the timing or the set-up, but I quite often find myself with a shin in their stomach and one leg wrapped around their arm, so I’ll continue to work on it.
My final spar was with the aforementioned Tim, by which point I was completely knackered, but that doesn’t matter so much with higher belts. As there is such a skill gap between a brown and a blue belt, that means sparring with them is normally relaxed. Main thing Tim said afterwards was a basic but essential part of escapes: I’m being too flat, when I should be fighting to get on my side.
He also showed an interesting option for escaping knee on belly, as it contravenes the cardinal rule about not pushing their knee with your hand. You have to be quick, but IIRC (and I think I’m missing a lot of details here, but better to have some notes down rather than forget it completely), push, shrimp then go for a single leg. If they go for the usual armbar by bringing their arm through, pummel your hand back into position to stop them spinning for a submission.
Class is two hours on Saturday, so that covers off a decent weak of training, by my standards at least. My left arm is complaining about it (the cycling probably doesn’t help either, especially as I have to keep tensing it when bumping over potholes in the semi-dark), but should be recovered by Tuesday.