08/04/2011 – De la Riva at Mill Hill

Class #384
RGA Mill Hill, (BJJ), Nick Brooks, Mill Hill, UK – 08/04/2011

I had intended to train in Bristol last week, but annoyingly I picked up some kind of virus. So, that ruled out BJJ, as I didn’t want to pass that around the rest of the academy (it irritates me when people come in sniffling and coughing: if you know you’re ill with something infectious, don’t train!)

That meant I would have to wait until April to get back on the mats. For an upcoming issue of Jiu Jitsu Style, Nick Brooks generously arranged an interview with Ricardo de la Riva, who is visiting the UK for a couple of seminars. Even more generously, Nick also invited me down to train beforehand at the Mill Hill academy. Packing my dictaphone (or rather, my gf’s dictaphone), I jumped on the train to London.

It has been almost three months since I hurt my knee, so I decided it was time to see if it could cope with a warm-up. The knee didn’t complain during running round the room or shrimping, so it must be on the road to recovery. I’m still wary of sparring, but that’s not a problem as long as I have sensible, considerate training partners.

Technique today was based around the flower sweep. Nick began with a straightforward method, beginning by grabbing both their sleeves. Release one of your grips and grab their same side trouser leg. Still on that side, kick your leg up into their armpit, aiming to break their posture and knock them diagonally forwards.

Continue pushing with your leg, pulling on their sleeve and lifting with that grip on their pant leg. That should enable you to roll through into mount. If they base out with a hand, you can take the opportunity to move into a triangle, bringing the leg on their basing side to curl around their head. Push them to the other side with that leg, then lock up the triangle.

You can also use different grips when you start. The orthodox version is to grab one sleeve (stopping their attempt to base out), then with your other hand, grab the opposite pant leg. However, you can also grab a sleeve, using your elbow and forearm to clamp down on their other wrist, trapping it in place (which again stops them using it to base out). On the same side as your grip, grab their pant leg, then proceed with the technique as before.

Finally, you can try a slightly different tactic from the same position. Establish your grips and go for the flower sweep. However, after you’ve kicked up into their armpit, you’re going to swivel 180 degrees, then straighten that leg. At the same time, pull on their trouser leg straight backwards (rather than lifting up, as before).

This should flatten them out, so you end up alongside them, reaching over their body to immobilise their torso, ready to move into an omoplata. Normally, you would lean over to their opposite shoulder as if whispering in their ear to apply the submission. Nick showed a slightly different variation, where making sure your leg is over their shoulder, your head goes to their opposite hip instead. Twist your hips up for the shoulder lock.

Sparring was down to Nick, who like Kev pairs people up. As he knew about my knee, he started me off with a green belt. Children are useful if you’ve got an injury, as they’re so light that it is unlikely they’re going to power into some awkward movement that jars whatever joint you’ve hurt. It also meant I could stay very relaxed, leaving openings to see what he did, while also looking to concentrate purely on technique.

Next up was an entirely different prospect, the mighty Dan Strauss, fresh off his impressive victory at Submission 1000 (despite the fact that the tournament included several black and brown belts, purple belt Dan was able to win the whole thing). He took it easy on my knee, but given he is such a high level purple, that still meant he totally dominated me. I couldn’t do anything except flop around defending.

No doubt if he’d been going full force, I would have spent the whole time tapping. However, as Dan was being nice, I mainly got a good work out due to all the spinning and twisting of my escape attempts. He also had some advice on escaping triangles, after he caught me with an americana from his guard.

I had been looking to create some kind of frame with my arm, as he had established a solid high mount and was in the process of locking in the triangle. I put my hand on my head as he rolled to guard in order to finish, hoping to wriggle my elbow back and slip my arm free. Instead, he simply twisted my arm to the side for a submission.

Dan suggested that instead, I should have grabbed his knee, driven it to the floor and then worked from there to get free. Alternatively, I could have tucked my chin to make some space, stand up, then use my knee to pry my head and arm free.

My training partner from the earlier drilling was next, Cho, a friendly white belt. Yet again, I went to the Xande open guard to avoid using my injured leg, which is mostly where we stayed (especially as, like everyone else, Cho was being careful of my left knee). Last up was a tall blue belt, who also stayed light. I got stuck in z-guard a few times, and was trying to push his knees together and to the mat. However, that mostly seemed to just present a chance for them to attack my neck, so I still need lots of work to get that pass right.

De la Riva was teaching a private at the time, before moving into a photoshoot with fellow blogger Meerkatsu, who trains at Mill Hill. It is always cool to meet internet friends in the real world: I’ve trained with Seymour a number of times now, but it’s been a while. Once Seymour had finished off his camerawork, it was my turn to put that dictaphone to use.

Thanks to fellow PhD student David Soares kindly acting as translator, I was able to have a forty minute chat with de la Riva (I checked on the capitalisation with the man himself, in case you’ve ever wondered how to write his surname). Our conversation should be popping up in Issue 3 of Jiu Jitsu Style, once I’ve typed it up and edited it down to the requisite length.

Clint was also there: I first met him last time I trained at Mill Hill. He is in the process of raising some money for charity, as part of the fight against cancer. Clint is planning to wear a bright pink gi, also sporting a fetching pink mohawk: if you’d like to sponsor him, check out his page.

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08/04/2011 – De la Riva at Mill Hill

Class #385
RGA Mill Hill, (BJJ), Nick Brooks, Mill Hill, UK – 08/04/2011

I had intended to train in Bristol last week, but annoyingly I picked up some kind of virus. So, that ruled out BJJ, as I didn’t want to pass that around the rest of the academy (it irritates me when people come in sniffling and coughing: if you know you’re ill with something infectious, don’t train!)

That meant I would have to wait until April to get back on the mats. For an upcoming issue of Jiu Jitsu Style, Nick Brooks generously arranged an interview with Ricardo de la Riva, who is visiting the UK for a couple of seminars. Even more generously, Nick also invited me down to train beforehand at the Mill Hill academy. Packing my dictaphone (or rather, my gf’s dictaphone), I jumped on the train to London.

It has been almost three months since I hurt my knee, so I decided it was time to see if it could cope with a warm-up. The knee didn’t complain during running round the room or shrimping, so it must be on the road to recovery. I’m still wary of sparring, but that’s not a problem as long as I have sensible, considerate training partners.

Technique today was based around the flower sweep. Nick began with a straightforward method, beginning by grabbing both their sleeves. Release one of your grips and grab their same side trouser leg. Still on that side, kick your leg up into their armpit, aiming to break their posture and knock them diagonally forwards.

Continue pushing with your leg, pulling on their sleeve and lifting with that grip on their pant leg. That should enable you to roll through into mount. If they base out with a hand, you can take the opportunity to move into a triangle, bringing the leg on their basing side to curl around their head. Push them to the other side with that leg, then lock up the triangle.

You can also use different grips when you start. The orthodox version is to grab one sleeve (stopping their attempt to base out), then with your other hand, grab the opposite pant leg. However, you can also grab a sleeve, using your elbow and forearm to clamp down on their other wrist, trapping it in place (which again stops them using it to base out). On the same side as your grip, grab their pant leg, then proceed with the technique as before.

Finally, you can try a slightly different tactic from the same position. Establish your grips and go for the flower sweep. However, after you’ve kicked up into their armpit, you’re going to swivel 180 degrees, then straighten that leg. At the same time, pull on their trouser leg straight backwards (rather than lifting up, as before).

This should flatten them out, so you end up alongside them, reaching over their body to immobilise their torso, ready to move into an omoplata. Normally, you would lean over to their opposite shoulder as if whispering in their ear to apply the submission. Nick showed a slightly different variation, where making sure your leg is over their shoulder, your head goes to their opposite hip instead. Twist your hips up for the shoulder lock.

Sparring was down to Nick, who like Kev pairs people up. As he knew about my knee, he started me off with a green belt. Children are useful if you’ve got an injury, as they’re so light that it is unlikely they’re going to power into some awkward movement that jars whatever joint you’ve hurt. It also meant I could stay very relaxed, leaving openings to see what he did, while also looking to concentrate purely on technique.

Next up was an entirely different prospect, the mighty Dan Strauss, fresh off his impressive victory at Submission 1000 (despite the fact that the tournament included several black and brown belts, purple belt Dan was able to win the whole thing). He took it easy on my knee, but given he is such a high level purple, that still meant he totally dominated me. I couldn’t do anything except flop around defending.

No doubt if he’d been going full force, I would have spent the whole time tapping. However, as Dan was being nice, I mainly got a good work out due to all the spinning and twisting of my escape attempts. He also had some advice on escaping triangles, after he caught me with an americana from his guard.

I had been looking to create some kind of frame with my arm, as he had established a solid high mount and was in the process of locking in the triangle. I put my hand on my head as he rolled to guard in order to finish, hoping to wriggle my elbow back and slip my arm free. Instead, he simply twisted my arm to the side for a submission.

Dan suggested that instead, I should have grabbed his knee, driven it to the floor and then worked from there to get free. Alternatively, I could have tucked my chin to make some space, stand up, then use my knee to pry my head and arm free.

My training partner from the earlier drilling was next, Cho, a friendly white belt. Yet again, I went to the Xande open guard to avoid using my injured leg, which is mostly where we stayed (especially as, like everyone else, Cho was being careful of my left knee). Last up was a tall blue belt, who also stayed light. I got stuck in z-guard a few times, and was trying to push his knees together and to the mat. However, that mostly seemed to just present a chance for them to attack my neck, so I still need lots of work to get that pass right.

De la Riva was teaching a private at the time, before moving into a photoshoot with fellow blogger Meerkatsu, who trains at Mill Hill. It is always cool to meet internet friends in the real world: I’ve trained with Seymour a number of times now, but it’s been a while. Once Seymour had finished off his camerawork, it was my turn to put that dictaphone to use.

Thanks to David Soares kindly acting as translator, I was able to have a forty minute chat with de la Riva (I checked on the capitalisation with the man himself, in case you’ve ever wondered how to write his surname). Our conversation should be popping up in Issue 3 of Jiu Jitsu Style, once I’ve typed it up and edited it down to the requisite length.

Clint was also there: I first met him last time I trained at Mill Hill. He is in the process of raising some money for charity, as part of the fight against cancer. Clint is planning to wear a bright pink gi, also sporting a fetching pink mohawk: if you’d like to sponsor him, check out his page.


23/12/2010 – Mill Hill BJJ

Class #369
RGA Mill Hill, (BJJ), Nick Brooks, Mill Hill, UK – 23/12/2010

Kev has recently set up a blog for RGA Buckinghamshire (the place I train: I refer to it as RGA High Wycombe, because that’s the location I go to. The main club is in Aylesbury, with another branch in Bletchley). Check it out here. Kev is planning to keep it regularly updated with the latest news about RGA Bucks.

Due to the bad weather, Kev closed down for the Christmas break a few days early. So, I decided to take the opportunity to check out another RGA affiliate, in Mill Hill. Nick Brooks’ club is the first RGA affiliate, as far as I’m aware, which was later followed by Farringdon, Kilburn and the rest of the growing RGA family. I’ve trained with Nick before, having been taught by him a couple of times back when he was a purple belt, and also rolled with him (I remember getting footlocked. A lot.)

This was the first time I’d experienced a Nick Brooks class at his own school. It is relatively easy to get to: I hopped on the underground, going from Marylebone to Oxford Circus on the Bakerloo, then the Victoria line through to Kings Cross, and finally an overground train to Mill Hill Broadway. If you head out of the station, down the stairs and past the buses (bearing to your left), you will eventually turn onto a street called The Broadway.

Follow that round to the left until you hit Bunns Lane. Keep on going down that road (you’ll have to cross over a couple of times as the footpath appears and disappears) until you see a little industrial looking complex, with a music centre and a car wash. If you go in there and walk past the units with music blaring out of them, you’ll eventually see the distinctive Mill Hill logo, with two big tyres outside (presumably for the strength and conditioning sessions).

There was a pretty good turnout for the day before Christmas Eve, mostly white belts, but also a blue and a purple belt present too. Nick was very welcoming to both me and another guy who was visiting from Gracie Barra Essex. After getting changed upstairs in the lounge (bunch of sofas, heaters, a big TV, grappling magazines and a copy of The Gracie Way: you couldn’t ask for much more), it was time for class.

The warm-up was interesting, as Nick had us do what he called ‘jiu jitsu chess’. I’ve heard about that in the context of Hélio Gracie before, where the idea is to take it in turns getting into different positions. You don’t offer up any resistance, just let your partner test something out, then you respond from whatever position you end up in. Not something I’ve done before: essentially, it felt like the step before flow-rolling.

Nick then asked the class what they wanted to do, settling on the purple belt’s suggestion of practicing some half guard sweeps. The initial two were from a knee shield/z-guard, while the third switched to half butterfly. I particularly liked the last one, as that works from when you’re stuck under a dominant half guard.

The first half guard sweep begins in typical half guard, with the modification that you insert the knee of your outside leg into their hip. If you can, you want to get the shin across, but you also need to be able to lock your feet, or at least wrap your instep by your heel. If you leave your legs open, they can simply raise their trapped leg and pivot, bringing their lower leg through the gap between your feet.

Nick said that the far underhook was less of an issue than the cross-face, so having got onto your side with that knee braced against them, put both hands on their cross-facing arm to block their attempt to get their shoulder into your face. Get a strong grip on their sleeve with your top hand (which will therefore be a cross-grip, as that will be the opposite arm).

Your other hand reaches under their same side leg, grabbing the bottom of their trousers (not inside the cuff though, as that is illegal). Pull their sleeve and drive your knee into them, so that you’re basically doing a scissor sweep, but from half guard. It is integral to the technique that you don’t let go of those grips.

Also, don’t get over-excited and try and jump right into side control. Instead, you’re just going to roll your hips, staying low and pressed into them the whole time, hip to hip. As you are still holding their leg, they can’t re-lock their half guard. You can simply move your trapped leg backwards to stretch out their leg, then loop it around, moving into side control.

You also still have that grip on the sleeve, which sets you up immediately for an americana. You have a number of options to secure the figure four, depending on how you’re holding that sleeve. One way is to control their arm with the other hand to then re-establish a better grip on the wrist with your first hand. Another is to roll your hand forward or backwards to change from the sleeve to the wrist. Or you could try pressing your head into their arm, and use that to hold it in place while you get the proper grips.

That was followed by a variation on the same half guard sweep. This time, you’ve gone for the scissor motion, but they have moved their head in the opposite direction your knee shield is pointing, which shifts their base. You can no longer get the half guard scissor, but in changing their weight distribution, they have opened up an alternative.

Open up their arm with the sleeve grip, so that they move perpendicular to your body. This also means you can shift your knee shield so that they are balanced on the shin. If you get this right, they should feel fairly weightless. All you need to do now is roll backwards over your shoulder, still holding on to that sleeve grip. As before, you’ll end up in side control with the americana ready to be applied.

Finally, Nick demonstrated how even when you’ve messed up and are stuck underneath half guard, and they have a strong cross-face and far underhook, you can still get a sweep. Start by opening up their lapel with your free hand, on the opposite side to the leg you’ve trapped. Bring that gi material over their back and feed it to your other hand: this grip needs to be tight, so you want to work your hand as close to the armpit as you can.

Shrimp out towards the trapped side (you’ll have to release your locking leg to do this, so keep the inside leg heavy on their calf to stop them passing). You may need to do this a couple of times, until you can insert your outside foot under their inner thigh. This means you are now in half-butterfly.

With your free hand, pin the arm they have under your head to your skull: note that you want to avoid them bringing their knee up into your armpit, as that gives them better control. You can now lift with your butterfly hook, stepping in with your other leg if you need additional leverage (same as with the orthodox sweep from full butterfly guard).

Don’t get greedy and try to go straight to mount, as they will probably snatch half guard. Instead, as soon as your knee hits the mat, switch your hips so that your other legs swings over, putting you in side control. This is much safer. Of course, it is not a bad thing to get mount, but due to that high risk of getting caught in half, it makes more sense to go for side control in this situation.

Nick had everyone who wanted to spar line up against the wall, whereupon he matched us up. I started off with a white belt, which gave me a chance to work my offence. I played around with that same spider guard attack where you’re pressing into one arm with both feet, but didn’t quite get what I wanted, as I think my posture was a bit off: I was falling off to one side. I also went for a handstand sweep, although I think a higher belt would have punished me for my sloppy transition from there.

Next was the purple belt, which of course made for a tougher roll. It also meant I could test out the running escape again, which seemed to work fairly well in terms of defending myself, but not much more than that (though of course hard to know if they were taking it easy on me or something like that). I concentrated on preventing their arm from getting around my torso, or if they did, locking that up with the intention of using the space they want to attack in order to effect my escape (although we didn’t get that far: mostly just stayed in a ‘survival’ position, attempting to feel if there was any space opening up).

For the rest of the class, I went with Nick. As with Kev, he is so much better than me that he took it very easy, leaving openings to see what I’d do. Also as with Kev, that resulted in me mostly staring at him from open guard. I was trying to go for a couple of things, like the spider guard attack again, but got nowhere with that. I also wanted to try sitting guard, but couldn’t break his grips.

Again like Kev, he mentioned I wasn’t doing enough to break his grips, letting him get a dominant hold. However, what make Kev and Nick good instructors is that they don’t just say “be more assertive,” they add in plenty of technical pointers too. This time, they mostly came as a result of the next round of sparring, where upon being given the choice I asked to work on passing.

First important detail was thrusting my hips forward. However, that wasn’t as simple as I thought, as you don’t want to be able to see your feet. I was thrusting my hips, but with my feet splayed out, so that I wasn’t creating a convex shape with my body. You need to make sure you are really driving those hips forward, so that bend becomes pronounced.

Secondly, basic posture when looking to pass the De La Riva. Turn the foot of your hooked leg outwards, so that you can then drive your shin into the back of their leg. This will make it very difficult for them to maintain a hook. You can then continue your De La Riva pass, normally grabbing the other leg to start.

Third, for when you’re on the bottom in reverse De La Riva, grab the trouser leg rather than the ankle. If you grab the ankle, it is easier for them to kick their leg free, or drive through to collapse your knees and slide into side control. I think that also may have been happening with the purple belt, as I kept getting into quarter guard, holding him off for a moment, then getting stuck in either knee on belly or side control (the running escape seemed to come in handy for both).

Thanks again to Nick for his generosity, not only in having me down to train, but also because he spent a good thirty minutes or so sparring with me and providing lots of excellent advice. That wraps up this year’s training. My next session should be at Gracie Barra Bristol at the start of the next year: I’m currently intending to head along for the Sunday sparring session on the 2nd January 2011 (I would aim for Friday, but that’s New Year’s Eve, so I’ll most likely be deep in drunken conversation at a house party).


23/12/2010 – Mill Hill BJJ

Class #370
RGA Mill Hill, (BJJ), Nick Brooks, Mill Hill, UK – 23/12/2010

Kev has recently set up a blog for RGA Buckinghamshire (the place I train: I refer to it as RGA High Wycombe, because that’s the location I go to. The main club is in Aylesbury, with another branch in Bletchley). Check it out here. Kev is planning to keep it regularly updated with the latest news about RGA Bucks.

Due to the bad weather, Kev closed down for the Christmas break a few days early. So, I decided to take the opportunity to check out another RGA affiliate, in Mill Hill. Nick Brooks’ club is the first RGA affiliate, as far as I’m aware, which was later followed by Farringdon, Kilburn and the rest of the growing RGA family. I’ve trained with Nick before, having been taught by him a couple of times back when he was a purple belt, and also rolled with him (I remember getting footlocked. A lot.)

This was the first time I’d experienced a Nick Brooks class at his own school. It is relatively easy to get to: I hopped on the underground, going from Marylebone to Oxford Circus on the Bakerloo, then the Victoria line through to Kings Cross, and finally an overground train to Mill Hill Broadway. If you head out of the station, down the stairs and past the buses (bearing to your left), you will eventually turn onto a street called The Broadway.

Follow that round to the left until you hit Bunns Lane. Keep on going down that road (you’ll have to cross over a couple of times as the footpath appears and disappears) until you see a little industrial looking complex, with a music centre and a car wash. If you go in there and walk past the units with music blaring out of them, you’ll eventually see the distinctive Mill Hill logo, with two big tyres outside (presumably for the strength and conditioning sessions).

There was a pretty good turnout for the day before Christmas Eve, mostly white belts, but also a blue and a purple belt present too. Nick was very welcoming to both me and another guy who was visiting from Gracie Barra Essex. After getting changed upstairs in the lounge (bunch of sofas, heaters, a big TV, grappling magazines and a copy of The Gracie Way: you couldn’t ask for much more), it was time for class.

The warm-up was interesting, as Nick had us do what he called ‘jiu jitsu chess’. I’ve heard about that in the context of Hélio Gracie before, where the idea is to take it in turns getting into different positions. You don’t offer up any resistance, just let your partner test something out, then you respond from whatever position you end up in. Not something I’ve done before: essentially, it felt like the step before flow-rolling.

Nick then asked the class what they wanted to do, settling on the purple belt’s suggestion of practicing some half guard sweeps. The initial two were from a knee shield/z-guard, while the third switched to half butterfly. I particularly liked the last one, as that works from when you’re stuck under a dominant half guard.

The first half guard sweep begins in typical half guard, with the modification that you insert the knee of your outside leg into their hip. If you can, you want to get the shin across, but you also need to be able to lock your feet, or at least wrap your instep by your heel. If you leave your legs open, they can simply raise their trapped leg and pivot, bringing their lower leg through the gap between your feet.

Nick said that the far underhook was less of an issue than the cross-face, so having got onto your side with that knee braced against them, put both hands on their cross-facing arm to block their attempt to get their shoulder into your face. Get a strong grip on their sleeve with your top hand (which will therefore be a cross-grip, as that will be the opposite arm).

Your other hand reaches under their same side leg, grabbing the bottom of their trousers (not inside the cuff though, as that is illegal). Pull their sleeve and drive your knee into them, so that you’re basically doing a scissor sweep, but from half guard. It is integral to the technique that you don’t let go of those grips.

Also, don’t get over-excited and try and jump right into side control. Instead, you’re just going to roll your hips, staying low and pressed into them the whole time, hip to hip. As you are still holding their leg, they can’t re-lock their half guard. You can simply move your trapped leg backwards to stretch out their leg, then loop it around, moving into side control.

You also still have that grip on the sleeve, which sets you up immediately for an americana. You have a number of options to secure the figure four, depending on how you’re holding that sleeve. One way is to control their arm with the other hand to then re-establish a better grip on the wrist with your first hand. Another is to roll your hand forward or backwards to change from the sleeve to the wrist. Or you could try pressing your head into their arm, and use that to hold it in place while you get the proper grips.

That was followed by a variation on the same half guard sweep. This time, you’ve gone for the scissor motion, but they have moved their head in the opposite direction your knee shield is pointing, which shifts their base. You can no longer get the half guard scissor, but in changing their weight distribution, they have opened up an alternative.

Open up their arm with the sleeve grip, so that they move perpendicular to your body. This also means you can shift your knee shield so that they are balanced on the shin. If you get this right, they should feel fairly weightless. All you need to do now is roll backwards over your shoulder, still holding on to that sleeve grip. As before, you’ll end up in side control with the americana ready to be applied.

Finally, Nick demonstrated how even when you’ve messed up and are stuck underneath half guard, and they have a strong cross-face and far underhook, you can still get a sweep. Start by opening up their lapel with your free hand, on the opposite side to the leg you’ve trapped. Bring that gi material over their back and feed it to your other hand: this grip needs to be tight, so you want to work your hand as close to the armpit as you can.

Shrimp out towards the trapped side (you’ll have to release your locking leg to do this, so keep the inside leg heavy on their calf to stop them passing). You may need to do this a couple of times, until you can insert your outside foot under their inner thigh. This means you are now in half-butterfly.

With your free hand, pin the arm they have under your head to your skull: note that you want to avoid them bringing their knee up into your armpit, as that gives them better control. You can now lift with your butterfly hook, stepping in with your other leg if you need additional leverage (same as with the orthodox sweep from full butterfly guard).

Don’t get greedy and try to go straight to mount, as they will probably snatch half guard. Instead, as soon as your knee hits the mat, switch your hips so that your other legs swings over, putting you in side control. This is much safer. Of course, it is not a bad thing to get mount, but due to that high risk of getting caught in half, it makes more sense to go for side control in this situation.

Nick had everyone who wanted to spar line up against the wall, whereupon he matched us up. I started off with a white belt, which gave me a chance to work my offence. I played around with that same spider guard attack where you’re pressing into one arm with both feet, but didn’t quite get what I wanted, as I think my posture was a bit off: I was falling off to one side. I also went for a handstand sweep, although I think a higher belt would have punished me for my sloppy transition from there.

Next was the purple belt, which of course made for a tougher roll. It also meant I could test out the running escape again, which seemed to work fairly well in terms of defending myself, but not much more than that (though of course hard to know if they were taking it easy on me or something like that). I concentrated on preventing their arm from getting around my torso, or if they did, locking that up with the intention of using the space they want to attack in order to effect my escape (although we didn’t get that far: mostly just stayed in a ‘survival’ position, attempting to feel if there was any space opening up).

For the rest of the class, I went with Nick. As with Kev, he is so much better than me that he took it very easy, leaving openings to see what I’d do. Also as with Kev, that resulted in me mostly staring at him from open guard. I was trying to go for a couple of things, like the spider guard attack again, but got nowhere with that. I also wanted to try sitting guard, but couldn’t break his grips.

Again like Kev, he mentioned I wasn’t doing enough to break his grips, letting him get a dominant hold. However, what make Kev and Nick good instructors is that they don’t just say “be more assertive,” they add in plenty of technical pointers too. This time, they mostly came as a result of the next round of sparring, where upon being given the choice I asked to work on passing.

First important detail was thrusting my hips forward. However, that wasn’t as simple as I thought, as you don’t want to be able to see your feet. I was thrusting my hips, but with my feet splayed out, so that I wasn’t creating a convex shape with my body. You need to make sure you are really driving those hips forward, so that bend becomes pronounced.

Secondly, basic posture when looking to pass the De La Riva. Turn the foot of your hooked leg outwards, so that you can then drive your shin into the back of their leg. This will make it very difficult for them to maintain a hook. You can then continue your De La Riva pass, normally grabbing the other leg to start.

Third, for when you’re on the bottom in reverse De La Riva, grab the trouser leg rather than the ankle. If you grab the ankle, it is easier for them to kick their leg free, or drive through to collapse your knees and slide into side control. I think that also may have been happening with the purple belt, as I kept getting into quarter guard, holding him off for a moment, then getting stuck in either knee on belly or side control (the running escape seemed to come in handy for both).

Thanks again to Nick for his generosity, not only in having me down to train, but also because he spent a good thirty minutes or so sparring with me and providing lots of excellent advice. That wraps up this year’s training. My next session should be at Gracie Barra Bristol at the start of the next year: I’m currently intending to head along for the Sunday sparring session on the 2nd January 2011 (I would aim for Friday, but that’s New Year’s Eve, so I’ll most likely be deep in drunken conversation at a house party).


27/04/2009 – BJJ (RGA Kilburn)

Class #222

Roger Gracie Academy Kilburn (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 27/04/2009Beginner

Almost forgot to mention: there is a throwdown in Farnborough this Sunday, with a nominal £5 mat fee. So, if anybody fancies meeting up for a roll, now’s your chance. Would be great to see people, if there’s anyone reading this blog who can make it down to spar (or just drill: I normally spend a good chunk of throwdowns drilling stuff I’ve not had a chance to practice much in class). Full details on Jadon’s Bullshido thread.

This will be my last week training at Kilburn, so I plan to train Monday and Wednesday (tomorrow I’ve got some work I need to get sorted). I’ll be sad to leave, as its been a great few months continuing to learn from Jude. Hopefully I’ll get back to London at some point in the future, but no idea when that will be, especially as my gf hates the idea of living in the capital (expensive, dangerous, commuting on the Tube is horrible, etc).

During guard passage, I was having a play with the triangle, thought my set-ups remain terrible and my execution sufficiently sloppy that I can never secure the submission. With my first training partner, a white belt called Ben, I had my legs up and crossed, but didn’t underhook the leg, so he could happily stand up with me sitting by his head. Fortunately he’s one of the more sensible white belts, so didn’t Rampage-slam me, instead carefully kneeling back down.

Similarly with Rodrigo, I again couldn’t lock the triangle properly. I got a bit further this time, having managed to get into position with my legs secured by his head and arm through, but still couldn’t finish. Of course he’s much bigger than me, but there was clearly something wrong with my mechanics given how easily he escaped.

Finally, I went with Rich, but was thinking too much about trying out the reverse De La Riva I’d wanted to attempt last lesson. What I should have been concentrating on instead was making sure I pushed his hips away with my legs as soon as my guard was open, as otherwise its a simple matter for him to pass.

Jude then went through the same underhook cross choke and triangle combination from last week, then moved on to a triangle from spider guard. From closed guard, you uncross your legs and put your feet on their hips. Grab their sleeves, then shrimp out to make enough space for your foot onto their same side bicep. The other foot stays on their hip.

You’re now going to pull them in, kicking the foot on their bicep through to instead go over the back of their neck. You can now bring your other leg up for the triangle position, keeping their other arm by your chest and inside your leg.

That’s what I should have been doing when sparring Rodrigo and Ben earlier, so its handy to see the set-up. I also think I may be too bunched up, meaning I’m already half-stacked, whereas I should be scooting back and swivelling for better leverage. I’m keen to improve submissions that use my legs rather than my arms, given that my arms are puny (not that my legs are much better, but still much stronger than my upper body).

In free sparring I ended up against Ben twice. The first time I spent most of it in an Americana, but fortunately for me, Ben was trying to apply it with one of his arms still under my head. I felt fairly safe, as he didn’t have the leverage from there, but a good reminder to be more careful with my arm when I’m under half guard or side control. I made sure to tell him, so I doubt I’ll get off that lightly if there’s a next time. 😉

Our second spar was the other way round, where instead I was in top half-guard for much of the time. I was looking for the kimura, but couldn’t get into position. I then saw a possible opportunity for that whizzer armbar I saw Saulo do on his DVD, but again I didn’t quite get in the proper place. Still, as I often find myself with a whizzer in top half guard, its something I’d like to try again.

Same thing happened with Rich, with the difference that it happened right at the end of the spar. Previously, he’d got me into high mount yet again, and I’d also been under side control for a while. As he was passing I threw my legs up by his legs, but while I was able to triangle them, I don’t think I had anything so soon let go. Like always, basics must remain the focus: I definitely need to follow my own advice on that in guard, making sure I’m using my legs a lot more to off-balance and break posture.


22/04/2009 – BJJ (RGA Kilburn)

Class #221

Roger Gracie Academy Kilburn (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 22/04/2009Beginner

There wasn’t a lot of technique today, just the half-guard choke from yesterday. Sparring started with guard passage, where I had the interesting experience of rolling with somebody smaller than me, which doesn’t happen often. As ever, I spent most of my time on the bottom in half guard, aiming to shrimp in order to recover full guard.

I’m trying to rely less on having my legs closed all the time, instead just hooking their outside leg and using that as a base to shrimp. Got back to full guard a few times that way, but as my partner wasn’t locking my upper body, that was probably less difficult than it would normally be.

My next partner was a high level blue belt, who is always really helpful. This time, they gave me various tips based on what they’ve observed from rolling with me, which is awesome: I don’t think anyone has done that for me before.

Main thing was to react to what they were doing, rather than have something in mind that I then constantly look to apply. Related to that, I need to use my legs a lot more when in guard, pulling them in, and also pushing them away once my guard is opened.

Finally for guard passage, I went with the teenager again, so this time I was the one giving advice. As with most people who are still fairly new, that was largely related to not leaving space when on top, using your hips and making sure that you trap the leg all the way through the knee pin pass. She was repeatedly easing the pressure midway through her passing, which meant my knee was free. Its something I do too: that’s one of the great things about helping others, as it helps you realise your mistakes in turn.

Free sparring was up next, where I return to spar with the blue belt from earlier. That proved to be a continuation of guard passage, as they urged me to react to their positioning. For example, when they’re crouched in front of you without good base, simply push them over with your legs and pop up to mount. I’m prone to staying on my back and waiting, rather than seizing opportunities like that.

Class finished with another spar with the teenager, after which I got a load of useful advice from the blue belt. I’d said I was having trouble with passing the spider guard, so they showed me three ways of passing, depending on what the leg is doing.

If its completely straight – a mistake – your hand circles underneath to break the grip, then you drive your hips into the leg and slide down to side control. If its bent, you again circle your arm to break the grip, then bring your same side knee into the back of their leg. Use that to press down and trap the limb, after which you can initiate your pass.

Finally, there was a reminder of Jude’s pass, where you get both hands on the leg, yank up, then slide your knee into their ribs. Very helpful to have a reminder on all of those, so now I just need to make sure I remember to try them when I’m caught in spider guard.


21/04/2009 – BJJ (RGA Kilburn)

Class #220

Roger Gracie Academy Kilburn (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 21/04/2009Beginner

Opening technique tonight was a cross choke from half guard, when they’re in the process of passing. You have a grip on their collar, but then they get past one of your legs. The choke is still an option, so switch to half guard, then put your other thumb under the back of their collar. Swivel to their knee, looping your arm over their head as you do now. Move back to the centre and squeeze for the submission.

I mentioned yesterday that I was having trouble getting into a good controlling position from guard. Luckily for me, that is exactly what followed: awesome!

Jude started by demonstrating how to remove their grip when they’ve grabbed your gi. There are numerous options, the simplest of which is to grab the end of their sleeve, fingers on top, then put your thumbs under their wrist. You could also use a pistol grip (grasping a handful of their gi in your fist). Either way, drive straight up to remove their hand.

Alternatively, you can figure-four their wrist, by putting one hand on top, then feeding your other hand underneath and grabbing your own wrist. Again, push up from here.

Two traditional ways to get rid of that grip are to hold your own collars and pull them apart (if they are grasping both your collars with one hand), or a more complicated process. That begins by grabbing their sleeve again with your opposite hand, then bringing your other arm underneath. Reach right through with that arm, aiming to prise off their grip that way.

Now that the arm is loose, Jude’s next technique can come into play, a variation on the cross choke from guard. First of all, you need to get an overhook on their arm. As soon as you remove their grip, pull their arm down to your armpit and also bring your knees back (don’t just rely on your arms to get them in close).

You can now bring your arm over theirs, then reach underneath and through to grab their far collar. With your free hand, grip the back of their collar, then bring your arm past their face. Bring the forearm against their throat, then complete the choke.

Best of all, you can follow this technique up with another, the triangle. If they realise what you’re doing after your first grip, its likely they will defend by putting their free hand against the side of their face. While that blocks the cross-choke, the position of their arm means you can now push their elbow back, then bring your same side leg over their head.

Make sure you get that leg past their arm: if they still have their hand on your leg, they may be able to defend the submission. Once the leg is in place, bring your other leg up and lock (just cross your ankles: don’t worry about triangling your legs yet). As soon as its secure, you can let go with your hands, then raise your hips. This will bring their arm up, making it easier to push it across their body.

Now you can get into position for the triangle. Grab the shin you have across their neck to hold them in place, then put your other foot on their hip. Swivel until you have the right angle to bring your free leg over your other shin, then lock on the triangle. Squeeze for the submission, pulling down on your shin if you need extra leverage.

Class is thirty minutes shorter on Tuesday, so there wasn’t quite so much sparring. However, I did get in three free spars, the first and last with the same blue belt. I was mostly looking to play with reverse De La Riva, as I’d seen Saulo recommend it as a holding position in both his DVD and book. Didn’t get as much of a chance to practice as I’d hoped, because my partner stayed low rather than standing up, but still helpful to work out the grips.

In between those two rolls, I had a relaxed spar with a teenager that was there: because I’m the smallest person in class, I offered to train with her. I tried to give some helpful tips, mainly on keeping her hips down when on top, and also walked her through the knee pin pass. Hopefully it was of some use to her: certainly of use to me, as I always relish the opportunity to practice teaching (not only would I love to teach BJJ some day, but its also a skill I’m looking to develop generally for my career options too).