24/03/2013 – Leverage Submission Grappling Fundamentals 03 (Turtle & Back Mount)

Seminar #012
Leicester Shootfighters, (Submission Grappling), Nathan ‘Levo’ Leverton, Leicester, UK – 24/03/2013

My initial entry into Leverage Submission Grappling, a nogi system being codified by veteran UK instructor Nathan Leverton, was last year, with my team mate Steve from Gracie Barra Bristol. Steve kindly gave me a lift in 2012, but this time he wasn’t able to go. I decided to take the opportunity to do some more CouchSurfing by coming up on the train the day before, as I had such a good experience in Dallas.

[I’m going to ramble a bit about CouchSurfing now, so if you don’t care, scroll past the next three paragraphs ;D]

If you’re not familiar with CouchSurfing, it is a social media website which people use to meet up and stay with each other. While that sounds rather bizarre to a lot of people, particularly those who do not spend much time on the internet, it’s a process that works very well in practice. There are checks in place, such as a system of references and vouching to warn others if anybody turns out to be dodgy. Leicester was my second time staying with somebody, which I’m also hoping to do when I head over to the US later in the year.

My host this time was Dani, who very handily is only about a mile away from Leicester Shootfighters. After cycling over (the Google Navigation thing on my phone is fortunately quite thorough, so my total lack of a sense of direction didn’t matter), it didn’t take me long to work out the right house: flags from around the world were peeping out from behind the window. Dani has travelled to a LOT of countries! 😉 She and her housemate Justyna greeted me with a big bottle of Becks and a tasty spaghetti meal.

Another CouchSurfer, Sara, was also there: just like in Dallas, there is a vibrant CouchSurfing community in Leicester. We headed out to a local shisha bar, followed by some excellent cheesy music at Hakamou (it was a bit full for dancing, unfortunately, though I could still have a good wiggle). While there we met two cool Canadian students (randomly, it turns out that Pete was well aware of BJJ, as he did some MMA and JKD back in Alberta), who Sara invited back to her flat where we all had a good chat until 4am. Slightly later than I was intending to get to bed, but Dani and Justyna are so hilariously entertaining that I was laughing too much to care. It’s impossible to not have a good time with those two, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again before the next LSG seminar. Thanks for the great night out, CouchSurfers of Leicester! ;D
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There has been heavy snow this weekend, which prevented a few attendees from coming along to the seminar. Then again, that does have the positive outcome of more personal attention from Leverton, which is a good thing from a student perspective. As with LSG 04, LSG 03 kicked off with an introduction. Leverton handed out a sheet detailing the techniques to be taught today, again aiming to cover it all off within five hours.

The seminar proper began with around two hours on turtle top position. I rarely go anywhere near turtle, so although many of the techniques looked familiar, I can’t think of the last time I used any of them in sparring. My main interest for this seminar was the back mount portion, but I knew that some focus on the turtle would be good for me, given I don’t seem to use it much these days. Particularly in regards to turtle, there was a key difference between LSG 03 and LSG 04: wrestling. As LSG 04 was on the guard, the predominant influence was jiu jitsu, but for the turtle, wrestling provides an excellent base.

Leverton’s first technique was defending against the person in turtle trying to grab your legs, as they will often be looking for a takedown. The simplest method of blocking that attack is to sprawl. Whether they have grabbed one or both of your legs, start by grabbing behind their armpit, the other hand going on their head (not their neck: aim for the end of the lever where they’re weaker). Push their head towards the mat and then sprawl back. It’s important you then square up.

When sprawling, you want to make sure you aren’t jumping backwards, as that gives them the opportunity to complete their takedown. Instead, thrust your hips into them then slide down. The aim is to create a wedge with your body that means their forward momentum is dissipated. You can then establish a front headlock, shifting your head-hand to wrap around and grip their chin. Drive the point of your same side shoulder into the base of their neck, right where it meets their back. Similarly to the sprawl, this blocks them moving forwards.

Your other hand clamps onto their triceps, then slides down towards their elbow. Come up on your toes, getting your ear into their armpit on the triceps-gripping side. Lower your chin-grip side knee slightly, then pull back on their arm. From there you can go behind, with two main options. The meaner version seemed to be ‘snapping’ them (a term I’ve heard in regards to takedowns, but don’t really understand in technical detail because I never work takedowns. Ever), driving with your shoulder first then dragging their arm back. The goal is to get them extended, so that it is difficult for them to react as you move around behind.

The nicer option is moving the arm on their chin to the other side of their head. The back of your hand is on their shoulder, while your arm is still pressed against their head. From there, move around. Leverton suggested this as a good option for when the person turtling is mainly trying to stay tight, rather than making any aggressive actions like a wrestler would. It therefore sounds like it could be a good option in the context of BJJ.

The standard way of maintaining control on top of turtle, or at least the option I’m familiar with, is sprawling out the legs connecting your hips. This is a bit like what Leverton called the ‘side ride’, which he noted was good for strikes (he should know, given he has a long history of training successful MMA fighters). Leverton prefers a different position, where he uses his forearms to create initial hooks before replacing them with his legs. Crouched directly behind them, brace your forearms into their hips (but not your elbows, or they can try to control them) and squeeze your knees into them.

This is just a transitional position, so don’t stay there long. You aren’t sprawled back from here because that is space they can move into. From here, twist around to one side. On one side, your forearm stays in as a hook on their hip. Leave a leg behind on that side too, still tight to their body. Your remaining arm reaches for their arm on the other side, joined by your other knee.

If there is space, you can just replace your forearm with your leg to insert your hooks. Note that for the second hook, you will have to turn your body before you can insert it, or you’ll find the motion awkward. Most likely they won’t let you do that and will stay tight. In that situation, Leverton suggested trying a tilt to back mount, with two options. At this point there was a degree of jiu jitsu influence again, as Leverton described these techniques as the ‘Maia’ and ‘Marcelo’ back takes respectively.

For the Maia, you’re shifting diagonally into their bottom corner. Move your body backwards slightly, diagonally behind you and away from them on the arm-gripping side. Leave a small space, then pull them into that space. That will roll them over the knee you had on the arm-gripping side, ideally straight into back mount. You’ll also want to establish a harness/seat-belt grip, with an arm over the shoulder and the other under the armpit.

By contrast, the Marcelo shifts forwards into their top corner. This is more difficult, as it feels like there are more parts to the motion. Start by jamming the knee on their arm-gripping side into the gap between their thigh and their arm (if they are tight there won’t be much space, but digging your knee in should open it up). Sliding over their shoulder, drop onto your own shoulder, pushing off your leg to roll them onto you. A common mistake is to just leap over and hope your body weight will be enough to roll them, which almost certainly won’t be the case: you need to be pushing off the mat with your leg. During that roll, pinch your knees around their leg to stop them walking through and escaping.

Next, swing the leg you have underneath around their leg to get your hook. You then want to bring your second hook in, which they may block. If they do, you still have one hook, which allows you to use Marcelo Garcia’s ‘hip extension’. Lock your feet together, then pull them towards you with your seat-belt grip and thrust your hips into their back. That should stretch them out, giving you the space to secure your second hook.
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After a short break, Leverton moved on to bottom turtle, which again was roughly two hours. I was initially nervous when I saw this was due to feature takedowns, as that was liable to exacerbate my groin injury, but fortunately the takedowns were from turtle and staying low, rather than a big lift and drop. The overarching theme for this section was making your turtle dangerous, rather than a purely defensive position.

The other major point was scooting backwards while in turtle. Bring one arm back at a time, to reduce your vulnerability. By moving backwards, this helps to extend your opponent and open up opportunities for attacking and escaping. That does mean you may mash your knees up drilling, as you’re sliding them back and forth on the mats (especially if you are just wearing shorts so the skin is exposed), but meh. Hopefully my awesome Pony Club Grappling Gear spats will arrive at some point: the Yang seems to have gotten stuck in transit from Australia a couple of months ago (possibly customs? Or just Royal Mail being rubbish, as they are frequently crap with getting stuff to the office).

Keep your knees wide for base, elbows inside, then defending your neck with your hands (either Aisling’s ‘Shirley Temple’ defence, or crossing your hands). You need to keep the person in front of you so that moving back becomes particularly effective. Leverton ran us through a quick drill, where the person on top just put their hands on your upper back while you were in turtle, the person on the bottom adjusting to stay facing them.

From here you can attack with a single leg, wrapping their leg and keeping your head on the inside, elbows tight, trying to bring their knee into your chest. This can be set up by backing away: even if they’re sprawled, they are going to have to come forward to stay on top. To finish the takedown, keep your inside hand locked behind their knee, grabbing their ankle with the other. Pull that out, then move around, put the leg between your knees and bump them with your shoulder.

This combines well with the double leg. Should you get the opportunity, grab both legs, bring your head outside, drive with your outside leg and move on top. In many ways this was similar to how I’ve been taught to complete the side control escape to your knees. A detail I wasn’t doing (or at least haven’t emphasised) is sliding your other knee in. Like Roy Dean’s takedown, Leverton pivots to the side rather than staying straight on, but wrapping both legs rather than using a knee block.

I’ve familiar with the peek out, which I know as a wrestler’s sit-out. Although when I say ‘familiar’, it isn’t something I use a lot because I’m lazy and don’t like to move very much. The situation is that they have made the mistake of wrapping arms by your hips. Base on an elbow and the opposite foot, then knock back their same side arm with your non-basing elbow.

Bring your non-basing foot through right across to the opposite corner, getting your head up, then spin behind them. Your inside hand stays by the leg in case they try to run behind. Also make sure you are putting your weight onto them when you bring your head through. If your weight is sat on the floor, the person on top can simply put their head on the floor, bring their leg over and mount.

I prefer the arm roll, which I think I first learned during my very brief stint of judo way back, as a set up for waki-gatame. Of course, a good grappler isn’t going to give you their arm like that, but it is still worth knowing. Same position, but this time you reach back and lock their arm. Look in the direction of the wrapped arm, then drop your same side shoulder to the mat and roll them onto their back. Turn towards their legs to come on top (if you turn towards their head, they can take your back).

The sit back to guard is another basic option I’m used to, but it turns out that I have been doing this wrong. This is not the same as trying to pull guard off a takedown attempt. As Leverton noted, jiu jitsu guys can get away with that as their opponents don’t normally know how to hold the top turtle position properly or perform a decent double or single leg, at least by comparison to a wrestler. Instead of pulling guard, you are sliding over your leg. Do not kick out your leg: just rock back into guard. Leverton came over several times to correct my positioning, so clearly I have some bad jiu jitsu habits to iron out.

Once I do, this could be very useful for escapes I use all the time, especially the running escape. Which is cool, as I’ve been struggling to finish that escape properly (as opposed to just stalling with the running escape) for ages. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can incorporate Leverton’s details, along with the scoot back Geraldine did the last time I taught the running escape. Although as you can see from the picture, the scenario is somewhat different, so perhaps it isn’t entirely relevant.

To perform a front headlock escape, there were two versions, early and late. If you can control that arm before they secure it around your neck (this therefore also applies to guillotines and the like when you’re in turtle). Grab their wrist and push it down to the floor, then run your head up the outside of their arm until your reach their shoulder.

If you’re late and they’ve managed to get a bit deeper, the focus will still be on that arm. Reach for the elbow of the arm they have by the neck and try to pull it down into your chest. Use the kind of motion as if you were climbing a rope, hand over hand. After you’ve secure it towards your chest, switch your knees and step around, reaching an arm around their back. This ends up looking a bit like an arm drag.

Leverton took the opportunity here to make some comments about what he called ‘sport jiu jitsu’. I know what he means, but it’s a term I dislike: I associate it with the marketing campaign to separate ‘self defence’ and ‘sport’ BJJ into two distinct styles, which I think is a false dichotomy: that came up again recently here and I also babble about it extensively here.

He basically said that currently in elite BJJ competition, you will see double-guard pulls where top jiu jitsu competitors fight to grab each other’s feet. That looks ridiculous even to an educated viewer. Leverton far prefers to get on top, smash with wrestling and look to submit. Given I’m assuming I was one of the few jiu jitsu people in the room, I kinda feel I have to respond. ;p

Not that I disagree with any of that: I don’t like the manner in which some competitors currently aim to play footsie either. I also have absolutely no interest in 50/50 and similarly over-complicated guards, aside from countering them with as simple a pass as possible. The main point I want to make – and I’m sure Leverton is fully aware of this – is that there are lots of people within jiu jitsu saying the same thing. For example, Xande Ribeiro, amongst the greatest competitors of all time and still active in major tournaments today. Speaking to Inside BJJ, Xande stated in #58:

Double guard pull? This is insane. You watch a match, and seven minutes is in the same position. […] You see fights, black belt fights, seven minutes in a position that is not an end, you know? There’s a beginning, there’s a middle, but no finish.

I even hear people say, “Well, what if you mount the guy for three minutes…” Yeah buddy, I’m mounted on you. That’s totally different. I am in a dominant position. But when you are in a position where the only thing that you can do is a toe hold, get an advantage, or maybe an armbar that some people do from there, that’s it. What else is in there? I didn’t go to a tournament to have someone fight for their life to wrap their legs around my leg and stay there for eight minutes.

I tell people, grab my fricking arm and pull my arm for ten minutes! Pull my neck for ten minutes! Do not pull my leg and wrap around it tight. That’s not the jiu jitsu I teach for my students. Double guard pull? What is this double guard pull? All of a sudden jiu jitsu is two guys fighting for the bottom? I don’t really appreciate it, it’s ugly, it’s bad.

People should be a little more proud and think “I’m a bad ass passer. I’m going to pass your legs, go around to your side, hold on to you and you’re going to suffer.” I think that should be more the mentality, not just a sweeping art. “Ok, I sweep you, then I stall and I get two advantages, then I sit my butt on the floor again.”

I wasn’t raised like that. I’m from a time when you could slam in jiu jitsu, you could reap the knee. People fought for the finish, points were just consequences of your work.

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Back mount lasted around an hour, brought over from another seminar in the series that was overly long. Starting with the top, lower body control discussed hooking your feet inside. Bring your knees up higher to shorten the length of your legs, as this will provide less space for their escape. Tense the hamstring if they roll, following them over remaining stuck to their back.

Upper body control looked at the seat-belt grip, also known as the harness, which is the basic over the shoulder and under the armpit grip. Leverton prefers to cover his choking hand with his armpit hand: as I’ve discussed in the past, there are various opinions on the best option. Some instructors teach that covering with the armpit hand means you can go straight to the choke if they try to knock it off. Others prefer having the choking hand on top, so that you already have that immediate route to the neck.

The body triangle depends a lot on both your body type and that of your partner. In my case, I’m quite flexible, but there was no way I was locking my short legs around my partner, who was a fair bit bigger than me (even with Leverton’s handy tip about opening your hips by turning your toes downwards).

Next up was a few tips I recognised from Marcelo Garcia, as these are both techniques I’ve taught in the past and had success with in rolling, based off Marcelo Garcia’s material. Marshal Carper, who was among the co-authors for Garcia’s book, produced a handy video detailing the techniques in combination. First there is moving them from side to side with your legs, particularly if you have them on the choking side and they try to roll away, then secondly there is the ‘hip extension’ method for opening up space to insert your second hook (covered more briefly earlier in the seminar).

Leverton also examined the standard transition to full mount if you’re losing the back, which looked familiar to how I’ve seen it taught elsewhere (lock your heel to their far hip and swivel around), althrough I don’t normally grab the arm. That’s a useful detail to keep in mind.

Leverton then moved into two submissions (incidentally, it was cool that Leverton focused on controlling position rather than loads of submissions, in contrast to numerous other seminars). I have taught the rear naked choke a number of times, but was looking forward to Leverton’s version, hoping to learn some useful tweaks. Leverton did not disappoint, providing simple details that could make a huge difference. The most important distinction is the way he places his locking arm, so that it becomes more involved in the choke.

It is entirely possible most other instructors do this, but it is not something that I can remember being emphasised. Set-up the choke in the usual way, bringing your choking arm around their neck with your elbow under their chin and your body tight. The second arm locks up with the elbow in front of their shoulder, not behind. Both of your armpits are therefore resting on their shoulders.

That minor shift in position makes it a lot tighter, along with the considerable advantage of hiding both your wrists (which they now can’t grab). Leverton noted that while there are lots of ways of finishing off the choke, such as expanding your chest (which I like to do), you have your arms around their neck so squeeze those before anything else.

Leverton’s variation reminded me of the palm to palm lock Kesting does to walk his arm into position. It is also something I’ve seen on Demian Maia’s DVD, where you are essentially choking them with one arm. This is useful if for some reason you can’t get that second arm into place, though it is naturally not as strong a choke as when you can get both arms locked in for a true RNC.

If they tuck their chin, you can bring your arm over the head for a nasty Neil Adams style armbar from the back, which involves a vicious grip that is almost a bicep slicer. If for some reason you haven’t heard of Neil Adams, he has two Olympic silver medals in judo and is very, very good at armbarring people. When Adams tells you how to do an armbar, you should listen extremely closely. 😉

Grab their wrist, then reach your other arm over. Grab their wrist with that other hand, whereupon you can switch your first grip to your own wrist, securing a figure four grip. Drop to your shoulder, swinging around: as you do, bring your leg across their hips, swinging the other leg out. This spin should be the same kind of motion as when you spin for an armbar from guard (I’ve always sucked at armbars from guard, so wasn’t very fluid at this).

Hook the swinging leg over their head, so the back of your calf is pressing into their face/temple rather than their neck (for the same reason as a Thai clinch, because holding higher on the head is harder for them to resist than gripping by their neck.) Move your arm deeper, so that instead of grabbing your wrist, you’re now grabbing nearer your elbow. Curl your wrists up and you can also turn the hand nearer you elbow upwards.

Straighten your leg into their head as you apply pressure with your arms. Speaking from experience, this feels horrible. I would be tapping long before the actual armbar. If your opponent is tougher than me (which is highly likely), use that hold to unlock their hands (which they will normally clamp together to defend the armbar), then drop back for the submission.

You can briefly see Neil Adams himself use the grip in this video, which is from another seminar at Leicester Shootfighters:

Leverton’s demonstration of back mount escapes was quick by comparison to the rest of the seminar, beginning with some basic survival details, such as hand placement on the neck. Again, you can use the ‘Shirley Temple/Home Alone’ or the hands crossed over the neck. Elbow inside, knees up, keeping your abs tight. You can then move into the escape, which was a fairly standard drop to the side and shrimp.

It was essentially the same version Xande demonstrates on his DVD set. Leverton calls it the ‘scrape escape‘. Drop to your side, bringing your knee in, then lift and pop their knee off with your hip, just like Xande. Shrimp out pushing on their leg, ready to move into guard should they try to move on top, as people normally will attempt. If they’ve got a choke in the early stages, it is especially important to get your head and shoulders to the mat to reduce their efficacy.

You can also turn to your knees, using the same motion as if you’re escaping from under side control to your knees. This is useful for when they’ve locked their legs in a sort of ‘side-on back mount’, making it hard to complete the usual escape. If you can drop your elbow, then there is a chance you can thread one leg under the other, turning on the spot to come up in their guard. Leverton also mentioned escaping the body triangle using a similar motion to the scrap escape (personally I just step over their foot and bridge into their locked feet, as he demonstrated, but it as he said it’s good to keep practicing that scrape escape motion).

I realised at the end that I had been drilling with Jake from Fighting at Forty blog, which is a good site I’ve been reading recently. I love meeting fellow bloggers whose work I enjoy, which was therefore a cool way to end the seminar. I’m looking forward to making more of them, which will also mean I can get in some more CouchSurfing fun. All in all, great weekend, particularly as when I got home, I saw that the GrappleThon has now raised over £4000 for Rape Crisis! 😀

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29/11/2012 – Rolles Gracie Jr Seminar in Houston

Seminar #11
Rilion Gracie Houston, (BJJ), Rolles Gracie Jr, Houston, TX, USA – 29/11/2012

I don’t know much about Rolles Jr (and I’m still not completely sure whether his father should be spelled ‘Rolls’ or ‘Rolles’, as I’ve seen both. I think it is the former, but then why is it ‘Rolles Jr’?), except that he is probably the largest member of the Gracie family and has had a successful MMA career, despite that one slip-up the UFC. These aspects of Rolles would both feature prominently in the seminar, which kicked off with a refreshingly humble tribute to his uncle Rilion (who has influenced his teaching too: the style felt similar to yesterday). Rolles noted that it felt strange to be the teacher while his own mentor was stood a short distance away.

My last bit of training for the Texas trip kicked off with a takedown, where Rolles noted that he prefers the upright posture of judo. My groin injury meant I couldn’t really take part, but there were still a number of handy details I could take away. The initial grip looks especially useful: reach over the back and grasp a clump of gi near their shoulder blade, then bring your elbow down past their shoulder. This gives you a brace that can prevent them driving in for their own takedown.

I can’t remember the actual takedown very well, but from what I recall, drop down with your knee raised on the outside, wrapping their leg, still holding onto their gi. Pull on the gi as you drive and lift into the leg, corkscrewing them into the mat to establish side control.

Getting to the ground, the focus was on closed guard. Rolles commented that as a big guy, he found that people often clammed up in his closed guard, staying defensive with elbows pinning his hips,head in his stomach and knees tight. It is difficult be offensive when confronted by that lack of space, but Rolles has developed a solution.

For the armbar, start by grabbing their same side armpit to get a fistful of gi material, then clamp your elbow to your side. Your other hand goes into their collar, again on that armpit side. At this point, many people won’t react as they don’t worry about the choke until your second hand comes into play.

Your hips are stuck, so instead, open your legs and straighten them, then swivelling off their thighs, bring your knee on the collar arm side in front of them. Shove that up by your collar grip (or the other side of their head, if you prefer), bringing your other knee up as well.

From here, you can squeeze your knees and pull on their collar and armpit, trapping that side of their body. With the foot of your collar arm leg, push into their same side knee, just like the push sweep. This will put their torso to the mat, flat on their stomach. Due to your grips, it should also stretch out their arm.

Bring your armpit side leg up their back to pin their shoulder, mirrored by your knee on the other side (rather like Levo’s pressing armbar). Switch your collar grip to your own collar, in order to secure their wrist. It is now possible to turn your top knee down to the mat past their shoulder and go for a belly down armbar. If they roll, maintain your grips and follow them, then complete the submission from mount.

If they are a bit more savvy and grab the foot of your collar side leg, to stop you pushing their knee out, turn towards the other side, pressing into their hip with your armpit side foot. This sets you up for a triangle. Swivel the leg they are holding around their grip (you should be able to beat their grip on this, though that becomes more difficult if they manage to slide their arm further down your leg), then move into a triangle as normal.

Finally from that position, you can sweep them over your head. This time when you’ve got your knee into position, they stand up. Pull them in, raising your elbows up by your head, then put your feet on their hips and roll them past your shoulder. Again, my injury wasn’t up to this, so I just continued with the previous techniques from earlier.

The second half of the seminar was nogi, or more specifically, MMA. I wasn’t expecting quite so much relating to working off strikes, but then I guess Rolles is known for his MMA, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. The initial takedown begins with a few jabs to judge the distance, after which you move straight into the clinch, reaching through to their far shoulder. Shuck their shoulder (particularly if they push on your head) then slide to their back, gable gripping your hands together.

You want to control a little below their hip, twisting you lower hand to dig your forearm in firmly. This isn’t comfortable. Move forward to put them onto their knees, so that you can then progress to attacking the turtle. You have one knee on the mat, the other leg over their back. Punch their head on the leg-down side to get them to cover with that arm, to create some space to insert your hook.

Your arm on the other side wedges inside their leg, effectively becoming a hook. Roll them over, then either establish your second hook, or go straight for the rear naked choke. A quick tip on that was to grab the shoulder with your choking arm, not releasing it until your second arm was most of the way into position. That’s because it is harder to pull your arm down if you’re grabbing the shoulder, as opposed to open because you’re about to weave it by your other bicep.

If you can’t get that initial hook with your foot, simply jam your elbow into the other hip, bring your knee out slightly on what would have been the initial hook side, then drag them into that space you’ve created. That should roll them, so you can now insert your hook and move on for either both hooks or the RNC like before.

Finally, should they attempt to escape your back control, Rolles did a body triangle type counter, which I definitely couldn’t do with my injury, but I was able to follow the head and arm choke counter he finished off with. This was quite similar to John Will’s technique, where from the seatbelt grip you pull your arm through and turn. Block their arm from escaping with your head (keeping in mind this only needs to be tight enough to block) until you can turn all the way. From there, sink down and jam your head in place, then cinch in the choke.


30/09/2012 – Leverage Submission Grappling Fundamentals 04 (Closed Guard)

Seminar #009
Leicester Shootfighters, (Submission Grappling), Nathan ‘Levo’ Leverton, Leicester, UK – 30/09/2012

I first began actively participating in online martial arts forums back in 2002, during my MA when I was still doing Zhuan Shu Kuan kung fu. I started off as part of the Tung-Fu message board, which had some cross-over with the much more influential SFUK: I think shortly before I joined, there had been some kind of troll influx from SFUK. After a few months, those trolls morphed into contributors, causing Tung-Fu to go from being a staunchly traditional martial arts forum to one relatively supportive of the then recent phenomenon of MMA (indeed, when we had a meet-up a year later, grappling taught by an MMA instructor was a major component of the day). I think it was around then I first encountered someone posting as ‘Levo’ online, a regular on SFUK.

That name popped up frequently over the years on various forums I frequented, either in person or as a reference, in places like Cyberkwoon, Bullshido and Martial Arts Planet. Almost always, Levo would be making some measured and intelligent argument about something in martial arts. I often found myself quoting him, like here, particularly in the days before I was seriously grappling myself. I often thought it would be cool to go train with this Levo guy, but never took the opportunity to head over to Leicester and check out his school.

It’s taken a decade, but I finally got round to it today. Levo is the internet handle of Nathan Leverton, a pioneer in UK grappling. Having spent well over a decade training numerous successful fighters in MMA, this year he’s decided to codify his experience into a system, ‘Leverage Submission Grappling‘. I heard about it earlier this year, so have been keeping an eye out on developments.

The reason it intrigued me back in January was mainly down to Leverton’s reputation. I expected that if he was creating a system, it would be technical, cerebral and for want of a better word, ‘grown-up’. That’s as opposed to something like 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu: though much of Eddie Bravo’s nogi system is viable if you are an experienced grappler with the requisite flexibility, I’m put off by the marketing approach and constant drug advocacy. Leverage Submission Grappling also has the advantage that it was advertised as fundamentals, which always perks my interest.

Today’s seminar is number four in a series of six proposed Leverage Submission Grappling seminars on fundamentals. The next one is on the 14th October (more information and booking details here), discussing side control, but I’ll be in Portugal. Seminar number five on open guard is the following Sunday, which I can’t make either, so I’m hoping I can make the one after that (which I should be able to, unless it is in November when I’m away in Texas).

Leverton’s instruction totally lived up to my expectations: intelligent, detailed and thorough. The breadth of his experience was immediately evident from his theoretical introduction, where he discussed how Leverage Submission Grappling draws on numerous grappling styles, from catch wrestling to judo to Brazilian jiu jitsu amongst others. It would be fascinating to chat with him at length about his background in martial arts, so hopefully I’ll get the chance to interview him some time, either for Jiu Jitsu Style or just for this website.

He started off with theory, running through a positional hierarchy in keeping with Brazilian jiu jitsu (i.e., the back, mount and side control are where you want to be, guard is neutral, whereas underneath side control, mount and the back are progressively worse). Of all the positions, guard was going to be the most influenced by jiu jitsu, given that BJJ is arguably the style which has developed that position the most.

First of all you need to know how to hold the guard properly. This might seem like a simple point, but as Leverton said, many people don’t use their legs as effectively as they could. Rather than letting your legs flop down so you’re resting on their thighs, you’ll achieve better control by gripping higher on their waist, pinching your knees.

Next you want to break their posture. As soon as they adjust a knee and start to rise, pull your knees into your chest to knock them off-balance. You also want to bounce your hips over if they start shifting their knee into the middle: I’m used to having a trouser leg to pull on to help with that, but the principle is the same in no-gi. Once you’ve broken their posture, clamp your heels down to help keep them there.

Most likely they will try and position their arms to maintain posture: in gi, that normally means one hand grabbing both collars and the other by your hip. In no-gi, there isn’t anything to grab, but they’ll still probably be pressing into your stomach or possibly your hips. Either way, you want to get those arms out of the way. Leverton went through the three basic options, which are swimming inside the arms and pushing them to the mat, then the opposite motion from outside, and finally the same elbow grab and pull I’m used to from the gi.

When you’ve brought them down, wrap up the head immediately with your arm. There are two main routes for securing that: first, you could underhook with your same side arm then link your hands, or secondly you can overhook. If you overhook, make sure you put your knee by your elbow to keep things tight. This concept of tightness was probably the overriding theme of the day, as you’ll see the further I get into this write-up.

Having established that grip around the head, Leverton moved into his first submission, a pressing armbar. For a fundamentals seminar it seemed fairly complex, but as Leverton explained, this technique also teaches several important principles that relate to various other techniques. Starting from your underhook, shift your arm from the head so that you’re instead gripping around their shoulder with both hands. Pull that in tight.

Open your guard and shift your hips out towards the trapped shoulder side. You’ll end up with one leg on top, the knee by their shoulder, while the rest of your leg curls down the middle of their back. Your other knee should clamp underneath the shoulder, pinning it in place. Next, you want to secure the end of their arm towards their wrist (‘stick theory’: to snap a stick across your knee, you hold it at both ends, not just one). To shift up the arm, you may need to push against their head with one hand to help your control.

Adjust your grip so you’re a little underneath their elbow, grabbing your own far shoulder. You want to be a bit past the point of where you’d apply the submission. If they pull their arm out slightly, you won’t lose the submission opportunity completely. Your other arm then moves up to join the first, so that both arms are crossed under their elbow and pulling into your chest.

Push your knees into them if you need to adjust that position on the elbow. Walk your shoulders back to stretch out the arm and lift your head up slightly, to create some space around their elbow. Finally, pull their elbow in towards that space you created by squeezing your arms and expanding your chest.

Leverton then progressed to the spinning armbar, which he noted was his preferred variation. According to Leverton, this is the judo approach and is more effective for nogi. The set up is to cup the inside of their elbow with your same side arm, elbow up. This is intentionally a loose grip, as you don’t want to tip them off that you’re about to go for the submission. Crunch your body so that less of your back is in contact with the floor, making it easier to spin.

Wedge the back of your hand under their same side leg, then open your guard. Kick both your legs up at the same time and spin, using your hand against their leg to help your rotation. Clamp your legs down, angling the leg by their head slightly outwards for control (so, a little like Adam Adshead’s tip on armbar control). Again, tightness is key, getting those knees squeezed on either side of the shoulder.

From here you can then sweep them into mount, which Leverton recommends: they can’t stack you from mount. Move your knees to the side to raise their bum in the air, then knock them forwards to go to a mounted armbar. Pinch your knees to raise their arm up, providing better leverage. Another handy tip is to pull their arm slightly off-centre, towards their legs. That makes it very hard for them to escape, even if you’re doing the Japanese armbar with the near leg tucked by their side rather than over their head.

The climbing armbar is more common to jiu jitsu and gi grappling, but as with the pressing armbar, it teaches you useful concepts, like climbing the legs. Control one arm at the wrist and elbow, putting your same side foot on the hip. Kick the other leg up into their armpit to bend them at the waist, swivelling to look at their ear. Bring your first leg over their head, then complete the armbar as before. That series of three techniques also revealed that my shoulder is worryingly tight: I was already close to tapping just from the set-up!

After a quick break (very useful for scribbling down some notes, or in my case speaking the main points I wanted to remember into my phone), Leverton moved on to the triangle choke. Ryan Hall’s name came up several times, which made sense as his instruction on the triangle is probably the best around at the moment (no doubt helped by the fact he has hundreds of competition wins via that submission).

Leverton discussed two set-ups, starting with the basic option Hall calls the ‘tap through triangle’. Grab their wrist and push that into their stomach (not the chest, as that’s a bit high, though there is a different set up where you push the arm right to their jaw). Open your guard and lift your legs over the top, then lock them in a ‘diamond’. A key detail is to then pull their head down, but into your belly button rather than your chest. It’s a simple point, but it made me realise that’s a big mistake I’ve been making up until now, and is probably why I get stacked so often.

If you can get straight to the triangle go for it, but if not, stick with a secure diamond rather than a sloppy half-locked triangle. From there, pull on your shin to lock up the triangle as normal, swivelling off to an angle if necessary. The second set-up was starting from an overhook, shifting your hips and bringing your knee through for a kick-through set-up, then finishing as before. Leverton includes the usual important advice about not pulling on your toes or locking over the toes, as that’s a good way to get injured.

Another useful point he mentioned on the triangle was to do with people tucking their chin into the ‘hole’ at the bottom of a loose triangle, meaning you can’t choke them. If that happens, simply twist their head so their chin is directed at your leg rather than that hole, meaning you can press your leg into their throat. This ‘hole’ may develop if you haven’t got their arm across: like Ryan Hall, Leverton also emphasises that you do not have to have the arm across the get the choke. If they bury their arm underneath your body, you can swim inside to pull the arm up into a pressing armbar position and either submit them with that or complete the choke.

After another break, it was time for the kimura, or as it is called in catch wrestling, the double wristlock. Leverton has trained with catch wrestling legend Billy Robinson, who has a somewhat negative view of jiu jitsu, especially the guard (you can get a flavour of that here). As a result, Robinson hates it when people call this lock the kimura.

The set-up was familiar, as you reach over the arm whenever they make the mistake of putting a hand on the mat. You can then lock up your figure four grip. There was a brief pause at this point to talk about grips. When going for the americana or kimura from the top position, you would use a thumbless grip, because if you use your thumb, that bends your wrist upwards. Without the thumb, you can keep your wrist and arm in alignment. However, from guard the grip with a thumb is fine, as there isn’t the same issue of your wrist being forced out of alignment.

Once you have that grip, shift your hips out as before, bringing them down to start attacking the arm. Push their arm a bit further than ninety degrees: as with the pressing armbar from earlier, you want to have some leeway in case they start to escape. A BJJ kimura is a little different from a catch double-wristlock, because the catch version brings their elbow higher, also using their own elbow to get counter-pressure. Leverton cited to famous example of Sakuraba versus Renzo in Pride 10, where Sakuraba was able to get an immense amount of control from the kimura due to that elbow positioning and counter-pressure.

The last submission was the guillotine. Leverton began with the standard variation, adding a little tip that as you bring your hand through, ‘hollow’ your chest to make it easy to cinch up. Once the hand and arm are in place, your chest returns to its normal position, which instantly tightens your hold and makes it tough for them to wriggle free.

A more effective variation is what Leverton referred to as the ‘Marcelotine’, named after Marcelo Garcia. I’ve vaguely heard of it before, but as I never use guillotines I hadn’t paid much attention. However, having now been shown it by a good instructor and drilled it, I’ll have to revisit that attack: definitely a powerful choke.

The difference with the Marcelotine is that firstly you grip is shallower. Insert your wrist by their jawline rather than deep into the throat. Grab your first hand with your second, gripping around the non-thumb side of your first hand. The elbow of your second hand is raised, bracing against their shoulder. To complete the choke, press on their shoulder with that elbow while you simultaneously twist your first hand back with your second, ideally right into the fleshy part just behind their chin.

Leverton then moved on to sweeps, starting with the high-percentage sit-up sweep, also known as the hip bump. This makes for a classic offensive combination with the kimura and guillotine. Rise up as you would for the kimura, except this time you push up off your other arm and reach right over their arm. Secure their tricep and whack them with your hip. This should cause them to fall off balance. Once you get your knee onto the mat, twist your upper body so that you’re effectively doing a take down.

The scissor sweep was going to follow, but Leverton decided that it just wasn’t effective enough in nogi, so skipped ahead to the basic double ankle grab sweep. As they stand up, maintain your grip on their head to keep their posture bent forwards. At the moment you let go and they try to reach an upright position, grab behind their ankles, open your guard and bring your knees together under their chest, then drive those knees into them. If they’re tall, you may need to push into their hips with your feet instead.

That should knock them over if they aren’t prepared for the sweep. Before they can react, come up on your hand, then bring your hips forward on that same side. It’s important you don’t try to move straight forward: your direction must be diagonal. Slide your knee on that side to the mat, keeping your hips low, also grabbing their head. From there, you could go to mount, s-mount, side control etc. It is an awkward position, so takes a bit of getting used to.

The last section was on closed guard from the top: in other words, passing. However, before you can pass, you need to be able to stay safe in the closed guard. First off, like Caio Terra says, you should be on your toes in order to drive forward. Leverton then showed the basic safety position, which I think I’ve seen in Saulo’s book. The idea is not only does this keep you safe, but it may frustrate them into opening without wasting much energy yourself or leaving opportunities for them to attack. Good tactic, a little similar to something Roy Harris does, except he stays a little higher.

In short, your head is buried into their chest, your elbows are clamped to their hips, which in turn are shielded by your knees. If they manage to overhook, rotate your arm out, if they underhook, turn your thumb up and pull straight back. Should they pop their hips over, block it with your elbow on that side then replace your knee. When they try to sit up, use your head to keep them down.

Similarly, if they sit up to the side, pummel your head back in to return them to their back. If they put a foot on your hip, kick that leg back, drop your hip to knock their leg off, then return to the safety position. Should they get frustrated at any point and open their legs, scoot straight backwards before they can re-close their guard and move into combat base, with a knee up in the middle.

If they don’t open their guard, then you can use a guard break from the knees. It’s reminiscent of Saulo’s DVD. Leverton mentioned he’d had trouble getting this to work for years: I’ve struggled with it too, so it was cool to get more details. Geeza taught a similar lesson on this position a while back. Geeza used the metaphor of cats and dogs as a guide for your back positioning. In that lesson, Geeza had us start on our hands and knees, starting in the ‘dog’ position: head raised, back curved down, chest up. From there shift into the ‘cat’, where you arch your back and dip your head slightly.

The application is posturing in somebody’s guard. Your back should be in the ‘cat’ position: Leverton called this ‘hunching your back’, which gets across the same idea. For nogi, brace both your hands against the bottom of their ribcage, with the hands turned outwards to avoid getting wristlocked. This uses skeletal structure (your straight arms, their ribcage) to prevent them from breaking your posture.

In order to open the guard, move one knee out to the side, then insert your other knee into their tailbone. Leverton emphasised that you must move your knee out first: if you just insert your knee, you don’t have any base. Your hand on that side will shift to their hip, making sure your shoulder is over the top to focus your weight into that hip. Once your knee is against their tailbone, move the other knee out even further, shifting your body towards that side to create an angle. Finally, hunch your back to pop their ankles open.

Alternatively, you can use a standing guard break. Trap an arm with both of your hands, pressing down firmly into their stomach, then raise your knee on that side. Bring your other knee in tight to their hip, so they can’t easily underhook that leg. Next put both your knees behind their bum and drag them towards you. If they try to raise up, sit backwards: this is uncomfortable and should stop their motion.

When you’ve secured that position, reach back with one arm and put your hand on your hip. Don’t dig your hand too deep, or they may be able to trap your arm against your side with their leg. Turn your body, using that twist to open their legs. You can also just push on their knee, depending how tight they’re gripping. Step backwards on the same side leg and open the guard, then immediately move into your guard passing posture.

Sadly I’m not going to be able to make the next two seminars on the 14th and 21st October, because that’s when I leave and return from Portugal. Hopefully the seminar on back mount will be a date I can make, as I’m really keen to get to that one (so, not the next weekend of October as that’s my mum’s birthday, or between 17th-30th November when I’m in Texas ;D). My back control is rubbish, so if I can learn how to keep it tight in nogi, that should help me tighten it up in gi too.


08/07/2012 – Oli Geddes Seminar

Seminar #008
RGA Bucks, (BJJ), Oli Geddes, Aylesbury, UK – 08/07/2012

This weekend my family celebrated my father’s 60th and my younger niece’s 2nd birthday, so it was time to head back to Bucks for a visit. I try to make it up for all the birthdays, though I think I’ll miss two in 2012 due to holidays abroad. Still, that normally means I can get back to Aylesbury around five or six times in a year. That tends to be a good excuse to go catch up with the team at RGA Bucks, which will be even easier after September when the Saturday open mats join the schedule.

Instead of that, Kev kindly invited me along to a seminar which was taking place on the Sunday. It was going to be Nic Gregoriades, who recently taught an excellent class at Gracie Barra Bristol, but due to unforeseen circumstances he had to pull out. Another old instructor of mine, Oli Geddes, generously filled in for him. I last saw Oli a bit more recently than Nic, as Oli has taught classes at GB Bristol too: I previously trained with him late last year.

Oli wasn’t the only black belt present: Kev is now a black belt too. I wasn’t able to congratulate him last time I was at RGA Bucks, so it was nice to be able to do it in person this time. He’s also been building up his YouTube channel over the last year: very cool, as I can therefore still benefit from his instruction even though I’m in the wrong part of the country to train regularly at RGA Bucks. I’m looking forward to seeing him go through one of his signature submissions, the bow and arrow choke: he’s caught me with that many times.

Oli’s focus for today’s seminar was a topic I’ve yet to approach in depth, mainly because it scares me: leglocks. However, it was good timing, because Mike down at GB Bristol recently asked about leglocks, so today helped to beef up my knowledge a bit. I knew there was a nifty set-up that involved stepping through so that you’re facing the floor (checking back, I can see that Kev taught it here), but couldn’t remember it. Oli more than refreshed my memory: he crammed it full of about ten different options. Fortunately he was kind enough to let me shoot a quick reference video at the end of the seminar, so I’ll be peppering this post with some screenshots from that.

With so much to cover, Oli jumped straight into the technique. This wasn’t going to be a basic level class, as right from the off we were switching from some kind of shin control open guard into what Oli called Lagarto guard, then x-guard, sweep and finish with a footlock. For that first straight ankle lock, you being with your same side shin pressed on the front of their shin, while your same side arm wraps behind their knee. Your free hand grips the material by the inside of their other knee, so that you can make a fist.

From there, drop back and lift their shin-trapped leg. As that leg elevates, pull their leg around the outside of your own, in order to put their foot next to your hip. You also want to wrap your arm around their same side leg again, but this time you’re lower, behind the ankle. Hook it deep, so that the heel is in the crook of your elbow.

While you’re doing all that, you’re also going to adjust your leg position. The leg you were using to press into their shin now goes behind their leg, then you bring the foot of that leg around the outside, pressing into their hip, with the other foot tight.

When you’ve established that position, you can switch into x-guard. So, your other foot presses into the outside of their other leg, your shin pressure leg moves in front and inside, so that the knee is behind their shin leg, the foot wrapping the outside of their other hip. You can then push them off balance.

Bring that other foot back and return your first leg to the previous position, so that you can pinch your knees together on either side of the leg you’ve hooked with your arm. Turn your knees outward into their knee, in order to turn their leg and knock them over (you’ll need to make sure you keep their foot tight for that to work). As they fall and are about to hit the mat, bring your outside leg underneath, sliding your inside leg over the top. Get a good wide base with those knees.

You’re also still wrapping up their leg. By switching your legs, you’ll also turn your body over, so that you’re now facing away from them. Drive your hips down and arch your back, which should apply pressure to their ankle for the submission. This is legal for whitebelts on up in IBJJF rules, as it still counts as a straight ankle lock. It’s always worth noting that there are many other competitions besides the IBJJF with different rules, but given that the IBJJF is currently the most powerful tournament business in BJJ, a lot of academies follow their lead in terms of regulations.

The next technique I can remember does something comparable, with a straight ankle lock from spider guard, except that you’re switching to the previous guard to get that submission. Start with both sleeves gripped, one foot into the same side hip, the other foot pressing into their other arm (for spider guard, that means the crook of their elbow, so that you can bend their arm around your foot).

Maintaining your sleeve grip, switch your bicep foot to their same side knee and push that out. You hip foot will move inside their leg then go around the outside, to put that foot on their hip, while again you’re simultaneously hooking behind their ankle with your same side arm. When you’ve pushed that leg out to disrupt their base, you can then bring the hip foot into x-guard: so, the knee goes behind their same side leg, while the foot hooks around the outside of their other hip.

From here, you’re now going to use your sleeve grip to pull them down, passing that sleeve to the hand you have behind their leg. That then frees your other hand to grab the gi material behind their neck (or their collar if you can’t reach that far, but behind the neck is better). Pull them down even further, then kick with your legs to roll them over. This is therefore a bit like the de la Riva sweeps I learned at Gracie Barra Birmingham two years ago, but from x-guard.

You’ll end up on top, retaining that grip on their ankle you got right near the start. Once on top, you can let go of their sleeve. That gives you enough space to slide your knee on the non-trapped ankle side to their head. Your other knee is going to slide towards their head as well, but due to it’s position, it will be able to scoop up both their leg and arm on that side in the process. This scrunches them up, so they’re in a terrible position to defend.

The finish is a little different because of the need to keep your knees squeezed. You therefore can’t spread your knees to drop your hips and drive through, or you’ll give them a chance to wriggle free. Instead, you want to rely on arching your back and pushing out with your chest, in order to apply the ankle lock.

Technique number three was yet another complex guard, this time deep half. However, Oli wasn’t looking to show us a sweep, but instead a way for the top person to use that previous submission in order to create an ankle lock counter to the waiter sweep, a typical sweep from deep half.

Of course, that assumes you know how to perform the waiter sweep, which if you’re like me and rarely venture outside of fundamental guards probably isn’t a particular familiar option. If you’re in half guard, you want to swivel underneath them to get even deeper: hence the name deep half guard. You now have both legs and both arms around theirs.

For the waiter sweep, you want to use an underhooking arm to bend their leg around yours. Keep on lifting so it is off the floor and drag it towards your head, then kick your legs up to go for the sweep. It’s just before this point that the person on top can use Oli’s technique to counter. As they try to lift your leg and kick for the sweep, hook the one on the outside of your trapped leg, enveloping their foot in your armpit.

Immediately turn your knee downwards into order to put it by their head like before: if they get far enough in their sweep to lift your leg off the floor and towards their head, it’s too late. You need to get the knee turned before that point. Once you have that, the ankle lock is the same as before, squeezing your knees to scrunch them up then arching your back and driving your chest forward for the submission.

Oli then dialled it back a bit to a slightly more simple ankle lock from x-guard. Instead of sweeping them and sliding through to the top, you’ll sweep and stay on your back. To get into x-guard, your same side knee goes behind their leg, the instep of that foot around the front of their other hip. Your other foot presses into the knee of that other leg, to stretch them out and keep them off balance.

From there, again like before, you are wrapping with your arm, so their ankle is snug in the crook of your elbow. Bring the knee of your hip leg backwards, so that now the instep is hooking around the front of their same side hip. Your knee pressing foot goes back as well, pushing on that same hip but a little higher up than your first foot. You can now turn your knees to twist their leg and knock them to the floor.

You’ll remain on your back, taking the opportunity to establish a solid ankle lock position. Their ankle is still in the crook of your elbow, which means you can reach that hand to the crook of your other elbow, crossing your arms. Your leg on the same side as your ankle hugging arm is underneath their leg, the knee pointing away from you, the foot hooked inside their thigh.

The other leg goes over the top, pressing into their hip: you can use this to push and stretch them out further. Turn onto your ankle hugging side and arch your back. It might feel like your arm is too deep, but after today I can say it does definitely apply pressure to your ankle, so seems to work.

Next up was a toe hold from butterfly guard, where things get a little more dangerous: this is not normally competition legal for anyone below brown belt, but always check the rules before you compete. From butterfly, grab their opposite collar, but not too deep: you still want to be able to pry under their chin with your forearm if necessary, like the overhook guard from Nic G’s class. Your other hand grips the gi material on the outside of their same side knee.

Unusually, your inside knee moves across to their ribs. You’re going to flare out that knee to shift them sideways. Fall to your back, pulling their leg up with your grip. Your flaring knee will probably have shifted down to their hip. Swivel the other leg around the outside of their same side leg, again putting the foot into their hip. The hand which was gripping by their knee now slides down to grab their foot.

Oli noted that if you can, grip around the toes to bend them down. Do so without actually grabbing the toes themselves: you’re still grabbing the meat of the foot, but enveloping the toes with your hands, meaning you can bend them down. The reason for that is they can begin to defend your attack by curling their toes up to make their foot solid. If you take that possibility away, it’s easier to manipulate their foot.

Having grasped the end of their foot with one hand, push it around your leg. Bring your other hand behind their ankle and grab your own wrist. You’re then looking to push their foot, as if you were literally trying to shove their big toe into their bottom. A somewhat crude image, but it’s helpful for remembering the proper direction of rotation. Again, this is dangerous, so do this with gradual control.

If you’re stood in their open guard, you can wrap their foot to immediately drop back for an ankle lock. Some people try to do this instead of passing, which is not advisable: learning how to pass the guard is incredibly hard (in six years, I still suck at it), so you want as much practice with passing as possible. Still, it’s worth having this up your sleeve if they keep dangling their feet in front of you.

Wrap the arm with your arm as in the previous techniques, then if you’re being nasty, step on the inside of their thigh of the wrapped leg and fall back. Oli mentioned how both Buchecha and Ary Farias have done this to vicious effect, basically stamping on their opponent to set up the submission. Drop to the mat on your side, again with your ankle hug side leg underneath their leg, while your other foot is over the top, pressing into their same side hip. Raised slightly off the floor and looking over your shoulder nearest the mat, arch your back for the tap.

Oli finished up with a very unpleasant foot lock: I’m not sure exactly what this would be called, but from what Oli said I think it is the same one Victor Estima has been using successfully in recent competitions. You’re in their open guard and they have a foot on your hip. For the submission, that foot needs to be turned so that their toes are pointing diagonally at your opposite shoulder. In drilling we were turning it by hand, but in sparring I am sure there are various ways you could get the foot into place.

Once it is there, wrap under their ankle and grip your other bicep, while your other arm comes over the top: i.e., a sort of RNC hold. Crouch down in a squat, then to apply the submission, turn your elbow in the direction of their leg. You’re not swivelling from the hips, more from your shoulders. Even more than the toe hold, be very careful, this will fuck up their knee. Drilling this incredibly lightly with Sahid, I could still immediately feel a lot of tension in my knee. For good reason, only brown belts and above can do this in the IBJJF and I certainly hope that’s the case in other competitions. Oli mentioned that David ‘Morcegao’ (a recenty promoted brown belt who is well-known on UK BJJ forums) goes through this attack on his YouTube channel, so check that out for some more details on the Estima footlock.

I think there were a few others I didn’t manage to capture in a video at the end, so my memory may be more hazy on those. I believe one of them was a straight ankle lock from 50/50. I wouldn’t know 50/50 guard if it smacked me in the face with a wet fish, but you basically just wrap under their ankle and grab your collar, then push on their knee with your other hand. Turn to the side and arch your back, if I’m remembering correctly.

Thanks again to Kev for inviting me down, to Oli for the seminar and letting me take a video, not forgetting Sahid for being an excellent training partner, as always. 😀


Seminar: John B Will

Seminar #007
Dowty Judo Club, (BJJ), John B Will, Gloucester, UK – 08/05/2012

There aren’t many sources of BJJ history available in English. The main text is Kid Peligro’s The Gracie Way, an interesting if biased biography of several figures from the Gracie family. John Danaher has been involved in two instructional books with significant historical sections, Mastering Jujitsu and BJJ: Theory & Technique, though the historical section of the former is essentially an update of the latter. Aside from that, it is mostly MMA histories like No Holds Barred and Total MMA.

However, there is another useful historical source, contained within the pages of John Will’s ‘Rogue Black Belt’ series of books, specifically the second and third volumes of his three part biographical sequence. Hence why I jumped at the chance to meet him in person for an interview, which should be appearing a little further down the line in Jiu Jitsu Style. Thanks to Mark Collett, I was able to meet Will before his seminar on the 8th May, as well as attend that seminar myself.

I already knew both from Will’s books and Mark that this would be a very different class format to what I’m used to. First of all, everybody faces the same way, with Will standing against a wall he designates as ‘north’. Every technique is drilled like that, which makes a lot of sense: it means that the instructor can easily scan the room to see any errors, and can just say “move your right leg a little to the left”, knowing that there is no need to try and mentally adjust to the varied configuration of each pair of training partners.

Secondly, for the demonstration of the technique, Will does the usual thing of having everybody gather around him in a circle. This again makes sense, as you can get the best angle that way, maximising the space, rather than being spread out along a wall. Thirdly, when drilling he talks you through the technique: if you weren’t paying attention during the demonstration, the instructor now has a chance to correct you. Finally, everybody drills a couple of times at their own pace. After that, you switch, so the process can be repeated for your partner.

Given his extensive history in the sport (we’re talking about a man who first trained with Rorion in the 1980s, years before the UFC brought BJJ to international attention), there were plenty of anecdotes. Rigan Machado’s teaching methodology was used to illustrate one point, Hélio Gracie’s attitude to private lessons fleshed out another. Hélio also served as the central reference for the first set of techniques, which Will referred to as ‘the four days of Hélio’: the structure and content was taken directly from four private lessons Will had experienced with Hélio himself.

The four lessons built up to a sweep from the guard. Hélio didn’t assume you already had the grips: the starting point was in guard with no grips at all, while they still have good posture. So, lesson one was extremely simple. Grab behind their elbows (and it needs to be the elbows, not the gi material around them, as that can move), pull their elbows outwards and towards you, while simultaneously bringing your knees to your chest. This should collapse their posture.

Hélio’s second lesson was to reach over their head with your left arm. They will naturally try to recover their posture by raising up. As soon as they do, reach your right arm deep into their opposite collar. Having secured that grip, your other hand then also grabs the collar, next to your first hand. If they try to recover their posture now, get as much of your body off the floor and hang off that grip. Even if they’re bigger than you, this should make it very difficult for them to return to an upright position.

The third lesson is opening your guard. I haven’t seen this before, and initially it seems counter-intuitive, but judging from drilling it’s also effective. Spread your legs out wide and straight, so that they are across the knees of your training partner, also shifting your second hand to their sleeve. Again, this should make it extremely tough for them to stand up. Next, your feet go on their hips, then using your legs in combination with your collar and sleeve grip, stretch your training partner out.

Finally, your knee should now be next to their elbow. Collapse that elbow by bringing your knee across, in order to clear a path to their belt. Switch from feet on hips to butterfly hooks, then reach for their belt with your sleeve-gripping hand. Lean back and use your grips to pull them down, clamping the elbow of your belt-gripping arm to your side. Like in the previous lessons, this should make it hard for your partner to recover posture.

As they are basically stuck, the instinct will be for them to post their hand on the floor and push up. That gives you the opportunity to underhook it with your same side arm, reaching around to hold their same side shoulder. Use your elbow to bring their arm out of alignment, also shrimping your hips towards that arm two or three times. Your shin on the other side drops towards their knee, then simultaneously push out their leg with your shin (similar goal to a push sweep follow-up after a failed scissor sweep) while lifting with your remaining butterfly hook.

Don’t be greedy and go to mount, as you’re liable to at best get caught in half guard, at worst rolled right under their mount (as your underhook would then work to their advantage). Instead, stick to side control. Once you’re there, immediately control their far arm with both of yours, clamping with your head before they can get a forearm into your neck. Your hand on the other side will be waiting for them to try: when they attempt to move their arm around, you can grab the wrist and go for the americana.

Will announced a brief two minute break, before going into the next section of the seminar, which focused on the head and arm choke. He started off by showing the mechanics of the choke, beginning in side control. You’ve managed to get their far arm to the upper side of your head (i.e., the side nearest their head, rather than nearest their legs). This is a good position for you, so you want to keep their arm trapped there.

Having clamped their arm to your head, put the hand you have nearest their legs on their hip. Push off that, in order to curl your head (and by extension, their arm) towards and around their head. This is sort of like a ‘pre-stretch’ in plyometrics, if I understood Will correctly, setting your choke position in place to make it easier once you get the rest of your body there. Walk your feet towards them so your hips rise into in the air, then hop over to the far side.

The second option is to pass over more gradually. Slide your knee over their belt line, as if you were going for mount. Once that knee is on the mat by the far side, use your other foot to hook around their far knee. Pull that towards the near side, then drop down next to them on the far side. Be certain to use the space you’ve created: in the process of pulling them over, you’ll have turned them on their side, leaving a gap you can fill. This should help you make the choke even tighter.

However you get there, next establish a ten-finger grip around their head and arm, locking your hands together: you’re curling your fingers and linking them, rather than the more typical palm-to-palm gable grip. In order to complete the choke, you need to take out any slack. Raise their head up slightly, extend your arms, then use your near side arm to cinch in the arm by their neck as tightly as possible. Re-establish your choke position, then drive with your shoulder to elicit the tap.

That was followed by lots of other entries. From north-south, dig your head along their chest to get into position, reaching under their armpits with both hands. You don’t want to be too deep: just get your thumbs inside, rather than grabbing all the way down by the belt or something like that. Get them up on their side, still keeping your elbow down (like Rodin’s ‘Thinker’) so they don’t have any space to slip their arm out.

Do a sort of push-up to keep your weight pressed into them, also driving your shoulder into their elbow. This ‘staples’ their arm in place. Walk around, at which point you could go for a kimura, but in this case you’re going to attack the head-and-arm choke instead, reaching the thumb towards their neck. You can then use the method Will already went through (i.e., ten finger grip etc).

There was also a handy little pointer here for the common problem of them grabbing cloth to block a kimura. Push a little to make them think you still want the kimura, then backstep around their head, using your bodyweight to either break their grip, or move into the head and arm choke.

When attacking the turtle from the side, putting your knee next to theirs on the near side, reach under their near armpit and grip their far shoulder. Your other arm goes to the inside of their far knee, just blocking it rather than gripping anything. Roll into the near side – Will describe it as ‘disappear underneath them – to bring them over your body, putting you back into the choke position.

The next situation is that they’re escaping your back control, specifically by turning towards you and beginning to put their back on the mat, on your choking arm side. Similar to Marcelo Garcia’s option for retaining back control, switch your non-choking-arm-side hook from inside their thigh to the outside, then hook under their knee. That will briefly halt their turning motion, giving you a bit of time.

Will advises against having your choking arm hand on top when using a seat belt grip in back control. Instead, he suggests your non-choking hand should be protecting your choking arm. The reasoning is that your opponent will probably go for the easiest arm to grab, which is the one on top. If they pull your non-choking arm down, then that’s better, as it clears a path for you to put your choking arm right into their neck.

I have seen other instructors teach it the opposite way around, but with the same end result. If I recall correctly, they argued that if the choking arm is on top, that means you can capitalise more quickly if they ever leave their neck free. Xande has yet another option, which merges the two: when he teaches the rear naked choke, he uses a gable grip. The palm of the choking arm hand points away, which he then twists as he inserts the arm for the choke.

For this technique, when you’ve hooked under the knee and are ready to go into the choke, switch your hands so that the choking hand is on top. You can then use that choking hand to pull yourself into the head and arm choke position, completing the submission as before.

The final entry was from what Will called headlock control, also known as scarf hold. This was specifically the classic scarf hold, where you’re reaching under their head to grab your own leg, rather than modified scarf hold, where you’re reaching under their far armpit. Will made the point that this position wasn’t as common as it used to be, because people often have a bad experience. They go into scarf hold, pulling their opponent’s arm up…then the opponent links arms behind their back and rolls them over. The move can often be discarded by beginners as a result of that bad experience.

However, Will does it differently, the key detail being that linking arm. Instead of pulling it up and trapping it under your armpit – which exposes you to that linked hands escape – jam your arm next to your raised knee so they can’t get their arm around your back. Will’s route to getting into scarf hold is itself also unorthodox. From side control, Will focuses on the arm pushing into your hip. Underhook that arm and walk your fingers along the mat, then literally lay your body on top of the arm, squashing it flat.

In some ways this is reminiscent of the Sao Paulo/Tozi/Reis pass (it has lots of names), in that it feels counter-intuitive, because you think you’re exposing your back. However, if you’ve distributed your weight correctly, they should be stuck in place. Their next move tends to be turning towards you, which is when you wrap their head with your other arm. You can now switch into scarf hold, remembering to block their ability to reach through for your back. They are probably then going to try and push into your neck, giving you the opportunity to push their elbow to bring their own arm past their head, then transition to the head and arm choke once again.

All in all, it was an excellent class. John Will is without any doubt the best seminar instructor I’ve seen to date, so I made sure to pick up a couple of his DVDs at the end (especially as he was selling them at a discount). I wanted to see if the same style of teaching had been captured for an instructional, so I’ll be reviewing both of them at some point in the future. I’ll also be using them to illustrate this post, along with some of the great photos Esther took on the day.

Thanks again to Mark for inviting me to the seminar: I’m intending to head to Cheltenham some time to check out one of Mark’s own classes, as I’m curious to see what his teaching methodology is like. The club he runs with his business partner Tony is a John Will affiliate, of which I think there are currently only two in the UK. The other one is where I briefly trained in Coventry, under John Will purple belt, Rich Green.

Make sure you’re at one of John Will’s UK seminars next year! ;D

Seminar photos included by kind permission of Esther Smith


Roger Gracie Seminar

Seminar #6
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Roger Gracie, Aylesbury, UK – 06/03/2011

Before I talk about this seminar, I wanted to talk about another one: be sure to check out the charity women-only BJJ seminar being held by black belt Helen Currie on 3rd April from 13:00-15:00, here. No experience necessary, and the proceeds go towards fighting breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The fee is a tiny £5, and it will be held in Oldham at Stealth BJJ. Worthy cause, and you get to learn some awesome technique: what more could you want? 🙂

Continuing with the charity theme, shout out to all the grapplers from Martial Arts Planet in Kingston, Ontario (the names I managed to catch are Laura, Lex, the Hull family, Morgan and especially fellow blogger Ashley, which is where I heard about it in the first place). I spent most of yesterday watching their live stream of a twenty-four hour grapple-a-thon event they had, in support of The Ontario Lung Association. The recording of the live stream is still up, in several parts, here. If you’d like to fight lung disease by donating to the Ontario Lung Association, click here.
___________________________________________________

The seminar today (which incidentally was also in support of a charity, the Action for Brazil’s Children Trust over in Brazil) is without any doubt the busiest class I’ve seen at the McLeod Academy, the home of RGA Bucks. The club has several locations: I used to be at the one in High Wycombe.

The name ‘Roger Gracie’ unsurprisingly gets people excited, so there were around sixty people from the club there, possibly more. I’m guessing sixty, as everyone gave a £10 donation to the Trust, and we ended up raising £607 in total. Either way, it was great to see several women among that sixty: with a high level female purple belt at the club (Yas, who recently recorded the below excellent video with Kev), I’m hopeful that the number of women will continue to grow.

I’m still taking it easy on my knee, so spent the warm-up doing sit-ups and press-ups rather than the usual jumping jacks and squats. However, it seemed to be relatively ok for the takedowns Roger taught (though we weren’t actually bringing anyone to the mat, as there wasn’t space). This begins from the grip break: you grip their sleeve on the top of their hand, and also underneath, making sure that there isn’t any loose material. Step back and pull up at the same time.

Keeping one hand on the sleeve, transfer the other to their collar and pull them down to break their posture. Step outside their leg as you drop to take their leg, being sure to keep your head on the inside. Securing their leg with your arms, stand back up, then also trap the leg between your arms. From there, you can do for various takedowns, like the single leg, or indeed switch to a double leg.

The main technical instruction centred on the half guard. Roger taught a simple but very effective posture, which can help you either recover your full guard, take the back, or sweep. You need to get up on your side, with a same side underhook. It is also essential that you don’t let them cross-face you, or they’ll be able to drive forward and put you flat on your back.

So, keep tight and curled in, with your hand blocking their same side arm. For extra support, you can brace that hand with your head. Alternatively, you can simply put your hand on your head, with your forearm directly in front of your face. Curl in further towards them, ideally getting right by their leg. This will make it very difficult for them to fish your head free. Most likely, they will end up trying to drive their weight forward.

As soon as you feel that weight transfer, bring your underhooking arm up, in order to knock them off-balance, past your head. You can then come up on your elbow (same arm that is on your head). Don’t bring your head out from underneath them yet, as you don’t want to give them a chance to control it. From there, you may find you have space to slip your knee through to get back to full guard, or swing round to take the back.

A more experienced opponent will be wise to what you’re doing, and as soon as you underhook, they will look to overhook that arm, establishing what’s called a ‘whizzer’. That now blocks you from taking the back, but it does present other opportunities. The technique is much the same as above, but this time you can’t go to the back.

If they don’t drive their weight forward, you can try to move out to all fours, from which you can try to attack (e.g., if you go for their far leg and perhaps get to side control). If they do drive their weight forward, swivel underneath, reaching your basing arm behind their leg. Continue the roll, and their momentum should enable you to bring them over your body, so that you move into top half guard.

That was it for technique, moving straight into specific sparring. Again, I sat this one out, though I did get to watch some good rounds of sparring: for example, Callum’s nifty open guard, which has caused me problems many times. There were about four rounds of that, split by weight, followed by free sparring.

After Roger called time, everybody lined up, a tight squeeze with that many people. Kev announced that Roger was going to do some gradings (the main reason he’d popped down today), drawing out a clutch of crisp new blue belts from a box behind him. I didn’t catch the name of everybody who was called up, but well done to all. Next, Kev started pulling out purple belts. Sahid was up first, a very well deserved promotion: he’s been dominating the competition scene for a while now. He was followed by Callum, Howard and Matty Burn, along with Tom and Adill. Awesome to see that many new purple belts at RGA Bucks, so massive congratulations to those guys.

Roger hadn’t finished yet, as Kev handed him another purple: it turns out that I was going to get one too. I have to admit it makes me a little nervous, as I still feel I have so many holes in my game. However, I trust my instructor’s judgement, particularly as Kev has rolled with me many times. It is also obviously a privilege to have the belt tied around my waist by Roger Gracie, the most dominant champion in BJJ’s history.

I look forward to finally getting back to sparring, which will now become an especially good test of how well I can control my ego! 😉

< Previous Seminar :::


Roger Gracie Seminar

Seminar #6
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Roger Gracie, Aylesbury, UK – 06/03/2011

Before I talk about this seminar, I wanted to talk about another one: be sure to check out the charity women-only BJJ seminar being held by black belt Helen Currie on 3rd April from 13:00-15:00, here. No experience necessary, and the proceeds go towards fighting breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The fee is a tiny £5, and it will be held in Oldham at Stealth BJJ. Worthy cause, and you get to learn some awesome technique: what more could you want? 🙂

Continuing with the charity theme, shout out to all the grapplers from Martial Arts Planet in Kingston, Ontario (the names I managed to catch are Laura, Lex, the Hull family, Morgan and especially fellow blogger Ashley, which is where I heard about it in the first place). I spent most of yesterday watching their live stream of a twenty-four hour grapple-a-thon event they had, in support of The Ontario Lung Association. The recording of the live stream is still up, in several parts, here. If you’d like to fight lung disease by donating to the Ontario Lung Association, click here.
___________________________________________________

The seminar today (which incidentally was also in support of a charity, the Action for Brazil’s Children Trust over in Brazil) is without any doubt the busiest class I’ve seen at the McLeod Academy, the home of RGA Bucks. The club has several locations: I used to be at the one in High Wycombe.

The name ‘Roger Gracie’ unsurprisingly gets people excited, so there were around sixty people from the club there, possibly more. I’m guessing sixty, as everyone gave a £10 donation to the Trust, and we ended up raising £607 in total. Either way, it was great to see several women among that sixty: with a high level female purple belt at the club (Yas, who recently recorded the below excellent video with Kev), I’m hopeful that the number of women will continue to grow.

I’m still taking it easy on my knee, so spent the warm-up doing sit-ups and press-ups rather than the usual jumping jacks and squats. However, it seemed to be relatively ok for the takedowns Roger taught (though we weren’t actually bringing anyone to the mat, as there wasn’t space). This begins from the grip break: you grip their sleeve on the top of their hand, and also underneath, making sure that there isn’t any loose material. Step back and pull up at the same time.

Keeping one hand on the sleeve, transfer the other to their collar and pull them down to break their posture. Step outside their leg as you drop to take their leg, being sure to keep your head on the inside. Securing their leg with your arms, stand back up, then also trap the leg between your arms. From there, you can do for various takedowns, like the single leg, or indeed switch to a double leg.

The main technical instruction centred on the half guard. Roger taught a simple but very effective posture, which can help you either recover your full guard, take the back, or sweep. You need to get up on your side, with a same side underhook. It is also essential that you don’t let them cross-face you, or they’ll be able to drive forward and put you flat on your back.

So, keep tight and curled in, with your hand blocking their same side arm. For extra support, you can brace that hand with your head. Alternatively, you can simply put your hand on your head, with your forearm directly in front of your face. Curl in further towards them, ideally getting right by their leg. This will make it very difficult for them to fish your head free. Most likely, they will end up trying to drive their weight forward.

As soon as you feel that weight transfer, bring your underhooking arm up, in order to knock them off-balance, past your head. You can then come up on your elbow (same arm that is on your head). Don’t bring your head out from underneath them yet, as you don’t want to give them a chance to control it. From there, you may find you have space to slip your knee through to get back to full guard, or swing round to take the back.

A more experienced opponent will be wise to what you’re doing, and as soon as you underhook, they will look to overhook that arm, establishing what’s called a ‘whizzer’. That now blocks you from taking the back, but it does present other opportunities. The technique is much the same as above, but this time you can’t go to the back.

If they don’t drive their weight forward, you can try to move out to all fours, from which you can try to attack (e.g., if you go for their far leg and perhaps get to side control). If they do drive their weight forward, swivel underneath, reaching your basing arm behind their leg. Continue the roll, and their momentum should enable you to bring them over your body, so that you move into top half guard.

That was it for technique, moving straight into specific sparring. Again, I sat this one out, though I did get to watch some good rounds of sparring: for example, Callum’s nifty open guard, which has caused me problems many times. There were about four rounds of that, split by weight, followed by free sparring.

After Roger called time, everybody lined up, a tight squeeze with that many people. Kev announced that Roger was going to do some gradings (the main reason he’d popped down today), drawing out a clutch of crisp new blue belts from a box behind him. I didn’t catch the name of everybody who was called up, but well done to all. Next, Kev started pulling out purple belts. Sahid was up first, a very well deserved promotion: he’s been dominating the competition scene for a while now. He was followed by Callum, Howard and Matty Burn, along with Tom and Adill. Awesome to see that many new purple belts at RGA Bucks, so massive congratulations to those guys.

Roger hadn’t finished yet, as Kev handed him another purple: it turns out that I was going to get one too. I have to admit it makes me a little nervous, as I still feel I have so many holes in my game. However, I trust my instructor’s judgement, particularly as Kev has rolled with me many times. It is also obviously a privilege to have the belt tied around my waist by Roger Gracie, the most dominant champion in BJJ’s history.

I look forward to finally getting back to sparring, which will now become an especially good test of how well I can control my ego! 😉

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