26/01/2009 – BJJ (Intermediate) – Last Class at RGA!

Class #210

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Gustavo Dos Santos Pires, London, UK – 26/01/2009Intermediate

As you can probably gather from the lack of posts, I decided to concentrate on interview preparation since my last class on the 12th. As I’ll be busy Wednesday, that means tonight is going to be my last class at RGA, at least for the moment (might well return to London to work some time in the future).

Bullshido has had an interesting new addition, in the form of Mark Tripp. While he registered back in 2005, Tripp only just starting posting this month, and has already shared a bunch of great stories from his many years of experience:

Mark Tripp’s Background
Tokyo Police Aikido
The ‘KI’ Master
Choked Out by Gene LeBell
Gene LeBell’s Advice On Respecting the Tap
The Seagal Incident
Chuck Norris ‘Kills’ Gene LeBell
The Silat Challenge
Practical Joke

Well worth checking out the threads those posts came from, particularly if you’re keen on grappling.

Getting back to tonight’s final class at RGA, which was also the first time I’ve been taught by Gustavo for a while. As usual, he showed us some open guard sweeps, from a sort of spider guard position. One foot is pressed into their same side bicep, while that side hand is gripping their opposite collar. Your other hand is holding their same side sleeve, while the foot on that side goes against their hip.

Starting with them standing up in this position, Gustavo demonstrated how you can pull them into two basic submissions. First, you can drag them into a triangle, by yanking on the sleeve, raising your hips and flinging your legs into the triangle. Alternately, if they twist, you can shift the foot on the bicep to slide under their armpit, pull on their sleeve and bring your other leg over their head for the armbar.

Gustavo then showed us two sweeps, for when they have their knee raised up to block armbars and triangles. For the first sweep, take the foot you have on their hip and instead weave it under their thigh and hook with your instep (so, sort of De La Riva position). Pull on their sleeve, this time bringing their arm out, then back under their own leg (Paxton described it as a ‘looping punch’ motion). You can now use that momentum to shove them over, ending up in side control.

Finally, you could instead switch your grips, so that instead of holding their lapel, grab their sleeve with both hands. Then straighten out the leg by their raised knee, so that its lying alongside them. Switch the hand nearest that leg from their sleeve to their same side heel.

Now swing your other leg all the way over past their head, so that you are facing away from them on all fours, but still maintaining a grip on both their sleeve and their heel. Again straighten out the leg nearest theirs, then pulling on their heel, continue your roll, knocking them over your own leg and shifting around to side control (you could also try and go straight through into mount, but their knee may be in the way. If that’s the case, follow your momentum to go through to side control).

I had trouble stripping Paxton’s grips in specific sparring from the closed guard, as his hands were glued to my hips. I only managed to do anything much when he made a mistake, and the same was true on top. At one point he tried to switch from a triangle to an armbar and I squeezed past, and on another occasion I think he was going for some sort of sweep, but there was enough force that I could bounce right over into side control.

In free sparring, I began with Melissa, who was stopping over in London on her way to the European Championships in Portugal at the weekend. She wanted to start from standing, presumably to prepare for that competition. After a bit of wibbling round, I eventually pulled guard, then spent most of my time squirming to get into half guard. Melissa loves going for chokes, so I also found myself constantly defending against that too. I’m still being too complacent, shoving an arm in between when she went for the cross choke. That did give me enough leverage to shift my hips over and get into a position where I could push back against the choke with my legs and get breathing room, but its a bad tactic. I should instead be trying to prevent the choke altogether, rather than just delay it: anyone stronger than me is liable to still get the choke despite my weedy arm-wedge.

For my last ever spar at RGA, I didn’t want to pick just anybody, and therefore waited for Paxton. He’s been a great training partner ever since he started at RGA, a few months after me, so it was satisfying way to finish my time at the academy.

I managed to roll him over from side control to come out on top, but with the important caveat that whereas I’d just sat out two rounds, Paxton had been rolling. Had we both been equally knackered, I doubt I could have reversed him like that. Similarly, I escaped from several choke attempts from mount, knee-on-chest and the back through repeated bridging, but that is much easier when you’re fresh.

I had a go at the ‘running man’ escape from side control Saulo demonstrates, but did it wrong so basically just gave up my back. I’d earlier also tried Damian Maia’s side control escape, where instead of pressing a forearm into the neck, he wraps his arm over their head. I’d be wary of getting submitted that way, but had some success with Melissa using Maia’s technique.

Not entirely sure where I’ll be training next week, but should hopefully be able to sort something out. I’d like to return to RGA some day, if I ever find myself working in London again, but we shall see. Would be very cool to head back and see all my old training partners flying up the belts. 😀


12/01/2009 – BJJ (Intermediate)

Class #209

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Maurição Gomes, London, UK – 12/01/2009Intermediate

Tonight was concentrated on guard passing, which continues to be my worst area. Maurição stuck with the basics, beginning with a straightforward standing guard pass. Post your hands on their chest, spring up to your feet, also grabbing one of their sleeves. Push their knee on the other side off your hip, bouncing to help dislodge their hold.

Once that limb is loose, immediately clamp their knee to the floor, bringing your own knee over the top to pin their leg. Swing your other leg behind you, then put your nearest hand by their hip, in order to block them. Shift your first leg under the other, staying sprawled out: don’t bring your knees up to their side yet, as that gives them a window of opportunity to get their knee through and escape.

If they put up resistance when you try the leg pin pass – e.g., block your knee, shrimp onto their side etc – then you can switch to a different guard pass. Get your same side arm under their leg, grabbing their opposite collar (palm down, so your fingers are on top). From this position, you can either move around past that trapped leg, shifting your hips and keeping the pressure on to slip through, or try moving round the other side.

Specific sparring with Justin was rather one-sided, as he had no problems at all either passing my guard or sweeping me. I attempted the hook sweep as usual, though need to be careful I’m not too exuberant when disengaging closed guard: I ended up flinging myself right off and Justin simply used gravity to go straight to side control.

I tried my favoured (but almost always ineffectual) kneeling guard break, but wasn’t able to open up Justin’s guard. Nick G stepped in at this point, noting that its difficult to keep control of their hips with that technique, especially if they have a size advantage. He suggested I should instead be trying to stand more often, and also briefly demonstrated another kneeling option. Your posture stays low, grabbing the gi material on their sides, after which you gradually work your knee through: Nick noted that you have to be very wary of chokes when doing that.

Next up was side control, this time with Liam. Again, on top I was being flung off or reversed with ease: I kept overbalancing, and I’m still not mobile enough in transitioning. I had a go at the knee-on-chest Maurição showed us last week, but not getting that knee in right yet. I’ll keep practicing, as I’m keen to establish an option that doesn’t require you to get their elbow clear first, along with the typical pass which does.

Underneath I was more comfortable, shifting around and following Liam to prevent the pass, but nothing more than that. I was simply holding him off rather than getting near to escaping. That continued into free sparring, which unfortunately today was a continuous line-up rather than picking our own partners. I spent almost the whole of that thirty minutes in half-guard, which was ok if my partner wasn’t too big, but I got smashed when trying that against the beefy Polish guys.

In the midst of that smashing, the second of the Poles was looking for a guillotining, but ended up face cranking me instead. I didn’t want to tap to that, as its not going to help him against anyone his size or bigger so bad habit to get into, but on the other hand, I probably should have just saved myself some pain and restarted. Eventually slipped out, but my face and neck were a little sore at the end of class.

Most useful tip was when I went with Nick. He disdainfully looked at my “flop on the floor” approach to sparring from the knees, advising me that I have to ensure I establish some grips, even if I’m planning to pull guard. I also need to prevent my partner from getting grips: I’m way too complacent when going from knees, as I pretty much assume I’m going to be defending for the majority of the spar, so don’t pay much attention to their opening grips. Something to rectify.

Finally, Nick also had some advice for the mounted triangle. He let me get to mount in order to see what I’d do, but noted that once I’d got a leg under their head, I was raising up my other leg in order to lock on the triangle. That’s a mistake, as it gives your partner the chance to escape: you should keep your hips down and weight low all the way through the technique. So instead of lifting your leg to try and get it around your foot, pull your ankle back enough that you can slot it into place behind your other knee.

Should be training again on Wednesday, but I have some preparation to do for a job interview next week, so may stay at home in order to work some more on that. Depends how far I get tomorrow night.

07/01/2009 – BJJ (Intermediate)

Class #208

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK – 07/01/2009Intermediate

The classes have now been split into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. White belts start with the Beginner class, then on getting their third stripe they can progress to Intermediate. Once they get their blue belt, they can only train in the Intermediate, until they get their third stripe on that new belt. Then they can move into Advanced, to which they’re restricted once they get to purple.

That means that several of my favourite training partners are now, understandably, training in Advanced rather than the new Intermediate session, like Christina, Helen and Tran (the latter two who, as purple belts, couldn’t train in Intermediate anyway). Still, plenty of good people left, like Paxton, Tanvir, Anne and Indra, all of whom were there today.

Paxton gave me several good tips on throws, which I think he heard from Bruno. On the seoi-nage, grip a lapel with your same side hand. Use your grip to pull across to put your partner off balance, then twist into them, bringing your free arm underneath theirs, then lifting them in the usual way (remembering to use your bicep to hold them and not your shoulder, or they may be able to choke you).

Also, on the tai-otoshi, make sure you really pull and push with your arms: I keep making the mistake of forgetting to use my arms sufficiently, which goes for various other techniques too. It will be good to get in some more judo, as that will help lots with the ‘kuzushi’ part of things, learning how to properly unbalance an opponent and enter into throws. Shall have to see how my schedule works out, once I find a new job.

Specific sparring from side control raised the familiar problem of being unable to clear their elbow. I was trying to get my other knee underneath to scoop their arm out of the way, but couldn’t quite manage it. I switched to north-south instead, as its better than a stalemate, aiming for the reverse scarf hold transition Iain showed us in judo a while back. I was able to get my elbow into one of their armpits, but failed to remember how the rest of the technique went. Underneath, I was mostly just stuck under knee-on-belly for a while.

The focus on knee-on-chest tonight was therefore rather useful: I’ve never used it, as I’ve always felt way too unstable and easily moved. I feel much more comfortable in side control or in scarf control. Best of all, not only was Nick there to teach the correct positioning, we were also lucky to have a man present who is famous for his knee-on-chest, Maurição.

To transition from side control to knee-on-chest, you first need to clear their elbow. Use your knee to do this (the leg furthest from their head), then switch your hips back to trap their arm. Grab the collar behind their head with one hand, with the other should be pressed into their far hip, both hands attempting to push firmly towards the floor.

From there, push off with your arms and pop your knee onto their chest (Nick mentioned that while the position is often called knee-on-belly, knee-on-chest is more accurate, as pressure on the chest is a lot more effective than pressure on the belly). The knee should be pointing towards their far shoulder, keeping your toes off the floor to maximise the amount of weight on your partner. Your other leg should be stretched out, making sure that it isn’t easy for them to grab it.

Keep your hips as low as possible, meaning you end up sitting on them, but with your bum off to the side of their body. To further add to their discomfort, the arm that is gripping their collar can be used to press into their face, making it difficult for them to turn their head.

At this point, Maurição stepped in with a great tip. Even if you can’t clear their elbow, you can still transition to knee-on-chest. Bring the knee nearest their face right up to their head. Grip their collar and hip as before, and again push up and bring your knee to their chest. Though they have an elbow in the way, you will simply shove past it, bringing your knee outwards in a small arc as you do so. I’m always having trouble getting past that elbow, so this should be very useful for me.

To finish, Nick then showed us an armbar from knee-on-chest. Having got your knee in place, the natural reaction of your partner is often to push on that knee with their hand. It’s painful, so shoving with the hand is the immediate response to get rid of all that pressure. However, this also frequently means that there will now be a gap by their elbow.

You can take advantage of this by feeding your hand through (on the inside). Wrap your hand around the back of their bicep and pull in tight with your arm. That should now mean you can squash their arm against your shoulder (I also wondered if a gooseneck wristlock might be an option at that point, given the angle of the wrist: Roy Dean shows a bunch on his DVD, though I don’t remember them being from this position). Push down on their face and step your leg over their head.

Having trapped their arm, you can now spin all the way to the other side to go for an armbar. Nick noted that at this point, many people make the mistake of not spinning far enough, so lose the armbar. To prevent that, grab their trouser leg to help pull yourself round: you want to be facing the opposite wall, making a complete spin. Finally, drop back and go for the armbar, squeezing your knees together.

Technique was so in-depth today (always a good thing, in my opinion: the more detail on technique the better), sparring was cut a little shorter. As I normally only do two or three, that wasn’t much of a concern for me, just meant less resting time. I started off with Tanvir, who has recently come back from a knee injury. I was looking to go for the hook sweep again, but still not properly bending my partners at the waist properly.

When I could see I was losing control of Tanvir’s leg, I secured a De La Riva hook instead. That did indeed give me better control, but I then didn’t know what to do with it: should take another look at sweeps from there. I made sure not to do the same thing on the other leg, as especially because I’m not as familiar with De La Riva as half-guard, I didn’t want to do something random and exacerbate the knee problem.

With Indra, I was again looking for the hook sweep. Got a bit closer this time, but as against Tanvir, I wasn’t getting the necessary bend. Indra was able to push with her knees and break my control, getting back to a sitting position. I tried going for an armbar instead, but as usual with my submission attempts, left way too much space so she spun out. I at least ended up with a sloppy side control rather than losing control altogether, but had time run out I imagine Indra could have escaped from that too.

In half-guard I was finding the lockdown useful again, in terms of preventing Indra from getting into a good position to pass. I aimed to push her leg back to disrupt her base, then try to shrimp to the other side, press on her other knee with my arm and hopefully make enough space to get a knee through for closed guard. Worked twice, I think, but I should be using my arms more and being careful not to end up flat on my back.

At the end of class, lots of gradings, which is in keeping with the various new belts I saw earlier that night. Jason is now a purple belt, and I saw a new brown belt too, so most likely others I missed. It was mainly stripes in the Intermediate class, with one new blue belt. Indra, Anne and I all got another stripe, which puts me on two. Always pleasant to get a promotion of any sort, but as its time based, I’m not sure what it will mean when I train somewhere else, as I will have to leave RGA at the end of January. Hopefully I can shift to one of the affiliates (such as Jude’s new place in Kilburn), but that all depends on cost and how long I’m in London.

29/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #207

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK – 29/12/2008Advanced

Over Christmas, I enjoyed myself geeking out over the online archive of Black Belt Magazine, hosted on Google Books. Specifically, I made a spreadsheet, trying to list all the BJJ-related articles from their first appearance in a 1988 issue of the magazine, up until Rickson Gracie discontinued his ‘No Holds Barred’ column in 1999. The archive itself is fairly comprehensive, but there are a few issues not included, some months are mixed up, and occasionally an issue will have a chunk missing. Still, makes for a fascinating look at the early history of BJJ in the US: I’m hoping my Black Belt spreadsheet can act as an index for fellow history fans.

Today the Academy was open for a sparring session from 13:00-14:30, so I decided to take the opportunity to get in one last bit of training before the end of the year. Roger kicked off with specific sparring, starting with guard passage. I couldn’t get past Liam’s guard, spending pretty much the whole time pondering how to free my sleeve from his grip. That tight hold meant he could keep my arm pulled across my body, so in order to get into position to free myself, I put up my same side leg. I also kept shifting my knees in close so that Liam couldn’t make space to go for a sweep, or perhaps a submission.

So, I managed to present a defence, but nothing more than that. I find it hard to extricate myself from grips, particularly when I know the other person is stronger than me (almost always the case), so need to develop some technical methods of removing their hold, as well as improve my ability to prevent them getting a good grip in the first place.

Side control was up next, this time my partner being Rico, a stocky white belt (about my height, but 15kg heavier). He had no trouble flinging me off when I was on top, though he was trying to avoid just using power moves. The main reason was that I kept putting too much weight forward, rather than staying on his chest. Always useful to try side control against a big guy for that reason: you become very aware of your mistakes.

Underneath, it was the same pattern as normal, as I stayed relaxed and looked to go to half guard or slip my knee under. Didn’t get very far, so if I recall correctly, just moved around in a circle. Again, I need to be more proactive, particularly in terms of getting to my knees, and I also have to watch my forearm under their neck. I was trying to make sure I tucked the elbow into his armpit to stop my arm being so vulnerable to submission, but not sure it worked. Could be he just held off going for the Americana due to the size difference.

Finally, I did specific mount sparring with Nick Brooks. Naturally he could have escaped any time he wanted on the bottom, or submitted on top, but instead offered lots of helpful advice, waiting to see how I reacted to what he was doing. Main important thing to keep in mind is to squeeze my knees and feet: Nick mentioned I was leaving too much space, so he could get his elbow in. Also, I should be aiming to move forward, getting up under their armpits.

For free sparring, I just waited to see who wanted to roll. First person to ask was a powerful purple belt, who I think is called Darren (but had something else written on his gi, though he might have been borrowing it). He went really easy on me, noting when I could go for a submission, and letting me try for armbars. Even when he let me isolate his arm and get into position, still a simple matter for him to escape. I continue to be a fish out of water when I’m staring at a submission opportunity, even when my training partner is literally telling me what to do in order to secure it.

Next was a tall purple belt I’ve rolled with before, called Lex. He’s still carrying an injury, which I assume is why he approached me: because I’m small, people with busted up shoulders/backs/legs etc are often keen to go with someone unlikely to aggravate injuries. After getting me into position to choke, he mentioned I should be turning in the other direction. I had in the mind the “face the same way as their fist” principle, but clearly that can’t be applied to every situation. He had my collar pressing into my neck, so as he advised, in that case it is better to turn the other way, raise their elbow to make space, then turn back and try to escape.

The general principle of using elbows and knees is something I tried to implement today, which was of some help with my next spar, against Lubo. I managed to land on my fingers at one point, making an unpleasant cracking noise, but seems ok: the little finger is still sore, but as its only slightly painful, should be fine in a few days. Lubo danced around on my back, then worked for a choke for the rest of the spar. I attempted to triangle my legs around one of his limbs and then turn into him, using my elbow to block his efforts at getting in a second hook. Didn’t quite work, but did appear to hold off the choke. I squirmed around until the end of the spar, and as ever, I’m not sure if I was defending well, or Lubo simply didn’t slam on the choke because he’s bigger.

Finally, I rolled with another larger training partner, a blue belt called Johannes. He was definitely taking it easy, letting me work underneath with my half guard and open guard. I’m continuing to try and get a two on one grip on their sleeve then push on the hips, which is working out better than my previous habit of attempting to wrap up their legs. I still need to bend them in half properly, and it might also be good to switch to spider guard occasionally to further try and off-balance them.

In half guard, I wanted to get a high overhook on the arm, so I could try and go to their back. I got the high overhook, but couldn’t switch to the back properly. My balance is lacking, as is my weight distribution. I did manage to get back to full guard a few times, although not always closed: Johannes kept trapping my leg. It wasn’t in too bad a position across his stomach, but as he was squishing it tightly between his torso and legs, I couldn’t pull it free to go back to closed guard.

Not sure when I’ll next be training, but I’d guess January 6th or the day after. That’s when I’ll be meeting my solicitor to go over the redundancy package (legal requirement to get a third party to run you through it before it can all be signed off), and can then presumably train in the evening.

22/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced), Evening

Class #206

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK – 22/12/2008Advanced

I’d forgotten just how much Dutch painting the National Gallery displays, so that made for an enjoyable continuation of the Amsterdam trip. As ever picked up the audio guide, both touring round the various Vermeers, Rembrandts and Avercamps, along with revisiting old favourites of mine, like Hobbema’s ‘The Avenue at Middleharnis’. Rooms 16-17a, 21-29 and 31, in case anyone else wants to do the same (though I didn’t have quite enough time to really indulge in Room 29, which is dedicated to Peter Paul Rubens, or Anthony Van Dyck in Room 31. Belgium etc tends to be grouped together with the Netherlands, as at the time it was all the Low Countries, IIRC, before splitting over religious differences).

Back to BJJ for the evening class, where this time Nick G went over some fine details on the triangle from guard. He emphasised curling your toes back as well as your feet to tense up your calves (and thereby tighten your choke), pulling the head down, squeezing your knees together, and bringing your shoulders to your knees rather than raising your hips. That confused me a bit, as I thought raising the hips was an integral part of the triangle, but I think Nick’s point was that pushes them away and gives them a chance to posture up. Not entirely certain, however: maybe he’ll go through it on his blog in the future?

The other detail Nick added was countering the common defence to a triangle, where they grab your knee with both hands, drive it to the mat, then try to force open your legs using their bodyweight. If they attempt to grab your knee, grab it yourself with your other hand, then lay your same side hand on the mat. This is going to provide you with some traction, as you now need to switch your hips. By doing so, your training partner has lost that opportunity to escape, and is in a far worse position.

Guard passing with Adam was in my usual defensive mode, and got a bit circular. He kept going for either an armbar or cross-choke, and I kept shifting my knees to prevent him making sufficient space for the former, or bringing my arms over and pushing his away for the latter. What I should have done was try to stand up and pass. I was looking for a chance to try the Saulo guard break, but couldn’t settle into position: standing up would have been more productive.

Free sparring started with Roberto. I was keen to give Jude’s half-guard sweeps a try, so immediately pulled half-guard, but unfortunately forgot about getting onto my side. Roberto had me squashed underneath him, so I couldn’t grab his sleeve cuff. Also, that is a follow-up to when the first sweep doesn’t work, so I should have tried that one first. Instead, I lay there trying to work out what hand went where, then eventually worked back to full guard, not being able to establish position for the sweep, or indeed remember the technique properly.

Last spar was with Zaf, but as often happens (to my benefit), it was more Zaf offering me tips. First he commented that if I want to try the Saulo guard break, I need to twist my hips, so they’re facing diagonally rather than square on. That should make me it harder to sweep me. Secondly, if I’m in the mount and attempting to use my head as a third hand, I need to put my free hand and forehead on the same side. Previously, I’d been putting my head on the other side, which doesn’t sufficiently help with balance, meaning I still get reversed.

That wraps up this year of BJJ, unless I’m both near London later in the month and the Academy is actually open. Nice to see Adam get his blue belt at the end of the session: hadn’t realised that like me, he also has a Turkish background (or to be more specific, Turkish Cypriot in his case), which is always cool. Now I can sit back, eat lots of mince pies and generally be enormously unhealthy. Merry Christmas! 😀

22/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #205

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 22/12/2008Advanced

Slightly strange start to the class, in that a bunch of us wandered outside in our gis to go move some mats. Mix up on where they were supposed to be by the workmen, possibly, but not entirely sure. I’ve not made it down to a Monday class before, but I’m guessing that isn’t normally the case. 😉

Main thing today was half guard sweeps. For both, you need to get up on your side: if they manage to put you flat on your back, you won’t be able to execute the sweep. Start by disengaging your half guard, pushing on their leg and then bringing your outside knee into their chest. To stop them pressing you out flat, you can also use your other leg, bringing the inside knee up to block their weight coming forward.

Get a high underhook, right up under their armpit, knocking them forward. With your other hand, open their gi, then feed the trailing fabric round to the underhooking hand. You can now force their head to the floor, which establishes the position for your sweep.

Swivel round toward their leg: this time, you do want to go flat on your back. Your inside leg comes up, rocking them forward. Using this momentum, you’re aiming to bring them over with your foot.

I found the technique rather complex and got confused, so I’m doubtful I remembered it correctly, particularly as this was the first of two classes. The second half guard sweep felt simpler. It starts off the same, but this time, they avoid your underhook, bringing their arm over yours. Take advantage and grab the sleeve cuff of that arm, pulling it down to the floor.

With your other arm, reach over their back and grab their belt, or a handful of gi material (if the belt has come loose). Shuffle back, then bring your outside foot in, establishing a hook (so, sort of half-butterfly guard). Your other leg stays between their legs: kick this through in order to generate the momentum to sweep them to your side, coming up into side control.

During guard passage, I started on my back, but was faced with one of the biggest people in the academy, Mike. Still, I found that I was able to briefly hold him off by using my knees after he stood up. Even though he eventually crushed through, it did make me think I should use my knees more often to block.

I was planning on doing the evening class later on, and also wanted to leave plenty of time for going round the National Gallery, so had intended to go shower before sparring. In the end, I decided to do one round, with Liam. That proved to be a good idea, as I managed to apply several sweeps. The Tran side control escape worked once again: that one is all about timing, though if your partner is especially quick moving from side control to mount, its going to be difficult to effect.

I think I also got some kind of random half-guard sweep, using hooks, and then later on, I grabbed onto a foot without having anything specific in mind. I can remember being shown a sweep a while back, along with what Eddie Bravo calls the ‘old school’, but the only part I remembered was holding the foot. Either way, it worked, but that’s not too helpful if I’m not sure why. Will have to check through the blog, and also have another look at the basic half-guard section of Mastering the Rubber Guard (which is the only section I’ve paid much attention to up until now).

On top, I was working to trap the knee when passing, after Liam opened his guard. I got through to half-guard once or twice, but found it tough to get around Liam’s legs. I need to put my weight down better, and also control their hips, as otherwise it’s a simple matter for my training partners to shift away as I try to pass.

20/12/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #204

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK – 20/12/2008Advanced

Not having a job means more time for training! So, sparring class tonight, which I’ll hopefully follow with doubling up on Monday. That will also give me the chance to either go take another look round the National Gallery, or perhaps check out the exhibition at the Royal Academy. I’m intending to do the afternoon class followed by the evening session, which leaves me a good chunk of time to indulge in some great art.

My first roll tonight was with Christina, where I was trying to remember to watch my trailing arm. Arm placement under side control came up again, with Christina advising to avoid putting the forearm under the neck (having just applied an Americana after I did so). Wedging the forearm underneath is my standard defensive position under side control, but clearly I’m not doing it right if I’m leaving that arm open. From what I remember of Kevin’s advice from a while back, I think my problem is that I’m not tucking my elbow under their armpit, meaning it is more vulnerable to submission.

Tran offered similar advice when I asked him where he puts his arm under side control, also saying that you should it to make space then quickly slip the arm through, so you can turn to your knees. I hardly ever turn to my knees, as I’m far too used to staying on my back. That probably is part of the reason why I so frequently find myself struggling under knee-on-belly, against both Christina and Tran. I’m continuing to attempt to use my elbow to shrimp out, but need to come up more on my side.

Dominique was at the academy too tonight, so I was keen to get in a roll with her. I managed to sweep from under half guard, though as ever I’m not sure if weight difference had something to do with that. Whether or not it did, I still had trouble passing half-guard, again attempting the one where you swing your free leg over, but I don’t think I’m trapping their head sufficiently, or putting them flat enough on their back. I did eventually squeeze past, but mainly because Dom was already knackered from a tough spar with Christina.

The fourth spar was with Lubo, who I also haven’t seen for a fair while. He normally trains at Mill Hill, but several of the people from there were in attendance tonight. He repeatedly choked me out on top of half-guard, and also kept catching me with the exact same entry and sweep when we started from the knees. I’m crappy at guard passing closed guard, but even worse against open guard.

That was driven home in my final spar with Jude. I was pretty clueless in trying to get past his legs, especially when he also secured a grip on my sleeve. I spent the rest of the spar flung around by his legs, and then repeatedly put in various collar chokes. He was taking it easy, so gave me a chance to escape, but even when I laboriously worked my way free, I immediately got caught in another. Also, as with all my sparring today, I’m being too flat on my back when on the bottom.

Maurição announced that Jude would be leaving the main academy to head up the instruction at RGA’s new Kilburn location. Jude has taught me most often out of the many black belts at RGA, so it will be sad to see him go. Of course, I’ll be going myself next month: my hope is that I’ll have found a new job in the Midlands by February, but if not, I might look into training with an RGA affiliate.

Chatting to Dominique, Mill Hill might be a good option, as there is the possibility of paying per lesson rather than a monthly fee, which would be handy now that I have considerably less disposable income. Shall have to look into it if I’m still near London in two months.

After class, a bunch of us headed off to a meal organised by Christina at Bodean’s, not too far from the academy. Good food and reasonable prices (along with awesome company, of course!), plus the service was really good. The manager kept coming up to check we were ok, and seemed both friendly and personable. Was also cool to see Oli D again, who now trains with Ben at the Farringdon class: he’s one of the first people I met back when he used to train at RGA.