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!
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.
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.
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.
Class #484 – Private #002
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 30/01/2013
The last time I did a private lesson was with Kev Capel, a few years back. I hadn’t been all that interested in doing more, as I wasn’t sure I was at a level to really benefit from them properly. I’m still not sure I’m at that level, but I thought getting some private lessons from Dónal would be a good idea at the moment, given my injury is keeping me from training normally. It’s also cool to get in more classes with Dónal generally, as I like his teaching style.
Privates at GB Bristol come in blocks of three, which you can split with other people, meaning it works out as fairly inexpensive. Dónal also likes to have more than one person there, as that makes it easier to demonstrate, drill and observe, but Steve wasn’t able to make it today. Still, that has the advantage of a 100% focus on me, which is handy for a private lesson. 😉
When I first inquired about getting a private, Dónal made a point of asking me what I wanted to work. We then discussed it again at the start of the session. What I would really like to develop is my closed guard, but annoying me that’s also exactly what I can’t work with this groin injury. Instead, just like my previous private lesson with Kev three years ago, I went with another of my many weak areas: guard passing.
As I couldn’t do closed guard with my injury, we went with open guard. I emphasised that I wanted something with as few moving parts as possible, so I could hone in on the minor details, rather than get confused by a huge mass of grips, spins and gymnastic moves. I also showed what Kev had taught me last time (or at least, what I remembered of it).
Dónal decided that the knee cut pass would fit well with my goals. This is the same pass I learned from Kev, but Dónal teaches it a little differently. When you initially step into their open guard, your shin should be behind their leg, not their tailbone. Grab low on their same side trouser leg with your shin hand, knuckles forward. Your other hand reaches high on their same side collar, pulling back towards you as much as possible. You want to curl their body, so their shoulders are off the ground. This makes it much harder for them to sweep you.
Drop into a relatively low crouch, legs apart for base. They will probably have a foot on your hip at this point, on the side where you’re trying to get your shin behind their leg. Turn your leg inwards slightly, pressing into their foot, then swing the leg back and over, while simultaneously driving their leg diagonally backwards between your legs (just like Kev’s version). The grip is important here: you’re going to roll your knuckles down so that they are pressing into the shin, straightening your arm. This provides a firm control.
Next, you’re going to cut across their thigh (still on the leg you just stuffed with your knuckle grip), using your opposite knee. As you do, also be sure to yank them towards that side with your collar grip, again to prevent sweeps. Drop in low, trying to secure an underhook, also keeping your head in tight. When you’ve pinned their leg with your shin, you can switch your grip from their leg to their arm and pull up.
From here you’ll slide through as normal. To secure your position, walk your hips back before you settle (there is a good Mendes brother video on this), getting your hips underneath them to shove their legs out of the way. That’s when you can then solidify your side control. Dónal recommends also jamming your elbow into their far hip to stop them turning away to turtle, then using pressure with your lower abdomen to stop them turning back towards you. That should mean they are now stuck.
After that we did some trouble shooting, which was cool as it fit in directly with the half guard knee shield passing we’re been working a lot over the last few weeks. For example, the Jason Scully knee cut option I taught, which is the one I like the most so far. Dónal went with an even simpler option than the various techniques we’ve been drilling so far. If they manage to get a knee shield in the way, basically all you do is slide your trapped knee backwards, collapse on top of their knees, then walk up so you drive you hips into them. Put a knee on either side of their legs, then trap them in place with your weight by sinking your hips towards the mat. When they move, back step and take side control.
It sounds simple, but requires some sensitivity. I was having trouble getting it until Dónal showed me a great drill for developing that awareness of the right pressure, where you surf their knees from side to side, moving them with the insides of your own knees. Another point where I initially struggle was if when you collapse their knees your end up lying on your own arm. You need to pull that out, but avoid lifting up and giving your opponent space. Turn your hand, then pull directly back towards your elbow. There should be barely any lifting of your upper body.
I’m still not sure I’ve quite got that, as I kept finding myself trying to base off the other hand, my knees, my foot, my head and so on. You shouldn’t need to base off anything else for this, just quickly and firmly pull your arm free then circle it round to control them. All in all, great stuff, which may become even greater when we have other people there next time for demonstrating and the like.
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 15/01/2013
Going to Texas last November was awesome, so I’m keen to get to the USA again. Hence why I’ve booked a trip to California in June. There won’t be anywhere near as much BJJ as before (or as much as Julia’s amazing trip a while back), because I’ll have less time, but I’m still hoping to get in three or four sessions on the mat and hopefully a few interviews for Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine.
My plans aren’t concrete, but I’m intending to pass through San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. In terms of training, I am definitely planning on Fabio Santos in San Diego, as both Dagney and Caleb train there. There are a couple of other bloggers there too, including one of my favourite writers, Chelsea, but I’m not hardcore enough to train at a mega-competitive gym like Atos. I’m a very mediocre, passive purple belt hobbyist. That’s also why I’m a bit uncertain about checking out Kurt Osiander in San Francisco, but I really like his focus on the basics, so I may go for it anyway (although from all the stories about that gym, I’m slightly concerned they may literally kill me ;D).
It would be cool to meet up with Dave from the Jiu Jitsu Forums, if he is about: Julia had a chance to train with him during her tour. I would also love to train with Xande and Saulo in LA and San Diego respectively, but I’m not sure I’ll get the time. Interviewing Saulo would be brilliant too, as he is one of my BJJ heroes (as is Xande: I have gotten a huge amount from the excellent instructional material the Ribeiro brothers have put out over the years), but I imagine he is a busy man. Still, worth a try.
Another possibility is the Gracie Academy in Torrance. I hadn’t expected to be able to get there, as it isn’t easy to reach without a car, but it may be possible to get a lift from a Facebook friend of mine, which would be very cool. Although I’ve certainly got criticisms of the Gracie Academy (particularly the online ranking system and the philosophical distinction they make between what they call ‘sport’ jiu jitsu and ‘self defence’ jiu jitsu), it is of immense historical importance to BJJ and the teaching standard is excellent.
I haven’t made it to one of Dónal’s classes since October, partly due to being in the USA over November but mainly because of the groin injury. That still hasn’t gone away, but I feel comfortable enough in Dónal’s class that I’m able to train around it. I don’t yet feel that way about Geeza’s advanced classes (mainly because I’ve almost never been to an advanced class at GB Bristol, so I don’t know what they’re like), which is why I haven’t been to them, but I should be ok in the fundamentals classes (which Geeza has recently re-opened to non-white belts).
My trust in Dónal was more than rewarded by an excellent lesson tonight. He was careful to check I was ok repeatedly during the warm-up, making sure I didn’t take part in anything that might aggravate my injury any further. I had to sit out a lot of it, as Dónal has a fondness for various drills that use pushing, kicking and twisting motions (which normally is a very good thing, but unfortunately I can’t do them safely at the moment). I was able to take part in grip fighting, which was useful.
The technique tonight was passing the knee shield, also known as z-guard. It is a right pain to pass, so any techniques that help are welcome. Dónal’s method covered a scenario where they have secured the knee shield, also grabbing your collar on the same side as the knee shield. Generally you’ll want to break that grip, grasping with both hands underneath and thrusting up as you simultaneously jerk back to pop off the grip.
However, it isn’t essential: you can still pass while they are gripping. Grab their shoulder, still on the knee shield side, while your other hand pins their other wrist to the mat. Pull that wrist out away from their body, so their arm is straight. At the same time, try and push on their shoulder on the knee shield side. You’re trying to flatten them onto the mat.
The key to the technique is your trapped knee. You need to slide that over their leg, pushing your knee down by their hip. This will prevent their leg from following you, which also immobilises their hips. Once you have that knee in position and you’ve flattened them out, slide your knee backwards, pushing against their lower leg back as you do so. That should help free your knee.
Next, collapse your hips right onto their knee shield, staying on your toes, sprawling out your legs to maximise your weight. Pull up on their wrist, walking around to pass over their knee. You may find you want to walk your hips back into their knee once you clear it, if they are trying to follow you with that knee. From there you can shift into side control.
Be aware that you don’t want them to take your back, so be careful of them trying to sneak their arm around. Driving your elbow by their hip should help block that. Pulling up on the arm should also make it difficult, as that will hinder their ability to turn their shoulders.
I got in a lot of drilling time on that technique, thanks to Dónal. While everyone else was sparring, he put me off in a corner with a selection of different people, saying I could drill whatever technique I wanted, but it had to be just one technique. That is totally fine by me: a lesson of focused drilling is pretty much my ideal lesson, and what I try to teach in my own lessons on Thursdays. Unsurprisingly, I continued drilling the same knee shield pass I had just been shown.
Dónal stayed around the area, offering up more and more tips (which I’ve incorporated into the description above: there wasn’t that level of detail in the initial demonstration, but Dónal added it in while offering advice during my focused drilling bit later). It also made me think that this is probably a good time for me to get some private lessons from Dónal, given that I’m injured and I like his teaching style. I just need to find a time that fits into both our schedules, which may be difficult as he’s in demand! ;D
One final thing Dónal mentioned is that I could try and move straight into a choke after the pass, setting it during the pass itself. As I start to move around while pulling up on the arm, Dónal suggested switching the hand that was gripping the shoulder to the opposite collar. Pushing that across, I can then feed it to my arm-pulling hand, securing a grip that could be used to go into a sliding choke, bow and arrow choke or various other options.
I rarely even consider the submission, as I am heavily focused on escaping and maintaining. It is good to keep them in mind, though submissions are still a low priority for me, as I think my passing needs a great deal of work, as do my back escapes and closed guard. It’s frustrating I can’t practice closed guard properly with my groin injury, but back escapes and passing should be viable if I take care.
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK – 26/12/2012
My legs were still burning from the xmas eve drilling session, but as I have got in so little training this year, I wasn’t going to miss out. I was a little worried when Kev said it was going to be drills from standing, but we weren’t doing too much actual throwing, so my leg didn’t seem too unhappy.
After a warm-up based on something Martin Rooney does (with things like “dog urinating” posture with the leg), we moved into the drilling. It was the same format as xmas eve, with five rounds of a minute each, so ten minutes total. We began with uchikomi, working whatever entry into a throw we wanted. I went with the basic trip (can’t remember the judo term), where you grab collar and elbow, step through and kick out their leg, following through with your arms.
I’m not sure if it is better to punch the gi you’ve grabbed over their shoulder or pressing directly into their chest, in terms of leverage. But meh, I have no intention of doing any sparring from stand-up if I can avoid it, so as a non-competitor, not a big issue. 🙂
It also meant I could practice the takedown Rolles JR showed at his seminar in Houston, where you grab over the back, drop down then lifting their leg, drag them into side control. I’m sure I’m missing lots of details, but mainly I wanted to play with that over the back grip, where you then drop your elbow in front of the shoulder.
Next we did the throws, with some very light resistance. I decided to go for it and complete the technique, which may or may not prove to have been a good idea. I was only doing it on one side, to avoid pressure on my left abductor, but did feel a tiny twinge a few times. I also did a few seoi-nages, but that didn’t generate the same kind of twinge.
Third drill was guard pulling, which worried me even more, but fortunately it wasn’t jumping guard. Again there was some very light resistance, to keep the drill alive, so your partner blocks your attempts to get grips if you aren’t going for it properly. We then just dropped while pushing a foot into the hip. That didn’t aggravate my abductor, except for once where I think I must have swung the leg out too forcefully.
I got nervous yet again where we were lined up against the wall, but it wasn’t randori. With one person in the middle, everybody else did some grip fighting with them one after another, for ten seconds each. It proved to be a quite nice way of doing stand-up training but without the worries about injury. I again tried for the Rolles grip, but failed to use it to keep them at a distance. People were just gripping with their arm on the same side, which pretty much negated my control.
I asked Kev about it afterwards, to check if I was doing the grip right. I wasn’t. Kev demonstrated how you can either grab high on the collar and drop your elbow, which looked like what Rolles did: the difference is that Rolles is huge, so can grab over the back and still have enough length in his arms to drop the elbow.
Kev’s second variation on the takedown was interesting, where he grabs the collar, then braces the heel of his hand against their jawbone. That accomplishes a similar distancing effect to Rolles elbow drop, and having experienced Kev demonstrating it on him, definitely feels like it would be good control. Kev suggested combining that with a grip on the leg.
The reason for the trouser grip is that in a BJJ competition you would then automatically get takedown points if they tried to pull guard. You can also bring your leg across to hook their far leg, then drive through for the takedown (IIRC: my memory for takedowns is rather poor). One thing you need to watch out for when grabbing the leg is that they don’t drop back and put you in a triangle. As he explained, Kev once won a fight at a competition that way.
Class finished with some specific sparring from closed guard. I wasn’t able to do a whole lot, generally getting my back taken when I was on top and passed when on the bottom. Not being able to stand up properly was a hindrance on top, though I suspect things would not have gone all that differently even if I wasn’t injured. My guard, both on top and on the bottom, continues to be atrocious. Weirdly, I seem to have become a top player over the last year or two (though my top game isn’t all that much better).
I was trying the knee shield type thing on the bottom, but wasn’t doing a good job of blocking the pass. It is harder when you can’t easily bring one of your legs into play, but I still should have had better hip movement. It’s frustrating that I’m not going to be able to work on my guard much due to the injury, despite it being a major problem area at the moment. Meh. At least I can train around a groin strain, which is much, much better than being forced off the mats completely.