28/11/2012 – Rilion Gracie Houston

Class #478
Rilion Gracie Houston, (BJJ), Rilion Gracie, Houston, TX, USA – 28/11/2012

The next stop on my Texas training trip was Rilion Gracie Houston, taught by Rilion himself. I had a chance to rest on the Tuesday, using it to get some typing done, then on Wednesday Conor drove me down to train at Rilion’s academy (Conor also took some pics, so I’ll be adding those in once he puts them up). If you haven’t heard Rilion’s name before, he is probably best known for two things: Rickson once said he had the best guard in the Gracie family, and Roger trained with Rilion at a pivotal time in his BJJ career. He is known to be very technical, which always gets me excited as I love learning more about the fine details.

The warm-up was fairly standard, running round the room followed by some star jumps, press-ups and sit-ups. Rilion runs a relaxed class, although there were quite a few people in official Rilion Gracie gis with their name written on the collar. I had thought that was a Gracie Barra thing, but perhaps it’s just an old school Brazilian thing (Roger does it too, and I think Renzo as well, but then they both have ties to GB).

Rilion’s teaching was every bit as thorough as I had hoped. His process was to run through the whole technique once, with plenty of emphasis on details, then run through it again in even more detail. He also regularly paused to note that if you didn’t grip a certain way, you were liable to get swept or lose your control. He described it as ‘invisible jiu jitsu’, something most commonly associated with Rickson but I’ve also heard Braulio use the term (he had a video series with the same name).

The technique was actually several techniques in sequence, beginning with a takedown. From standing, you grab their same side collar and go into a low stance, elbow tucked in. Pull on the collar and step, so that they will naturally step as well. You are waiting for the opportunity to drop to their collar-side leg for the takedown, depending on their footwork. Generally they will leave that leg trailing. When the moment is right, drop down into a sort of kung fu stance, with your same side leg bent, the other stretched out horizontally.

Wrap up their leg with your arms, hooking around the back of their knee with the outside arm, then behind the ankle with the inside arm. Jam your head by the inside of their knee. Pull their leg back as you drive forwards to put them on their back. Immediately move forwards to sit on the leg, so they can’t simply pull it free by turning away from you and wrenching. You still have your arm wrapped behind their knee.

At this point, the technique moves on to passing butterfly guard, as most likely they will now insert a hook and try to sweep you. To prevent that happening, wrap around the outside of their other leg with your arm, below the knee. That enables you to provide enough counter-pressure that they can’t lift you up with their hook. To being the pass, reach through to the bottom of their trouser leg with your other arm and grab the material, taking out any slack.

Drive your head into their chest to put them flat on their back: if you go off to either side, they may be able to establish some kind of control, so keep your head in the centre. At this point, there were a couple of variations to complete the pass, so I may be missing bits, but I think you next grab the collar, then move forward to crunch their knees towards their chest.

Move around to the collar grip side while shoving their knees with your hip. You also need to make sure you are still grabbing the bottom of their trouser leg and stretching it out. This should prevent them from shrimping out. Keep moving until you can establish side control. IIRC, Rilion also showed the option of popping your hips up and pressing down into the trouser legs in a bullfighter pass type motion.

Sparring was light, due to my injured leg and Conor also has a dodgy knee. He did a few takedown entries, then we played around with some positions on the ground, mostly side control and guard. I had an opportunity to work more top side control, focusing on trying out the Relson style some more, along with using my head to control the hips and getting my elbows into armpits for control. I was also grabbing the back of the trousers quite a lot, which was another useful grip to test out.

I wasn’t able to do much in terms of passing, though I had a go at the technique we’d just learned. There was also lots of maintaining open guard, which has been a theme this trip (and tends to be something I do a lot when visiting a new academy, as I don’t feel as comfortable trying to immediately drive forward and pass to side, not that I’m any good at passing anyway ;D).

Conor reminded me that when I’m in the running escape I have to be very careful they can’t drive a knee across the bottom leg as then you’re stuck. This is what Sahid does to me, so I need to work out a defence to that, or simply be aware of that control and keep the leg out of range. I attempted to block that control with my other leg a few times, but that potentially leaves me vulnerable to something else.

He also mentioned a simple arm drag type motion that can be done off an initial collar grip where you have your arm posted behind you. This is a position I find myself in quite often, but I haven’t been using it to arm drag (or ‘collar drag’, which is more the case here). You simply move to the side and pull them down into the space you just left. Something I should be trying more often.

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Roy Dean Seminar: Day One

Seminar #2
Uplands School, (BJJ), Roy Dean, Poole, UK – 25/07/2009

Today is only the second time I’ve attended a BJJ seminar, the first having been with Victor Estima in Belfast. That day, Victor focused largely on one guard pass, adding details and getting in lots of drilling. Roy Dean has a very different style, running through a huge number of connected techniques. As he says, his goal is for the student to at least get one or two techniques that really fit into their game, so having that sheer number of techniques increases the likelihood of providing something specific for a diverse range of people.

This first day began with various single leg takedowns. Grip their same side collar and use your bodyweight to pull them down and off balance. Drop to your outside knee, moving around to the side of their same side leg, then hook that leg with your arm. Use your head to drive forward, getting to your feet, clamping their leg between your knees. Shove your shoulder on the inside of their leg while simultaneously stepping back, which should knock them to the ground.

Alternatively, once you are up with their leg between your knees, step back with your outside leg, dropping down so that you end up with a knee raised inside their guard. Still holding their collar (which you used to pull them down at the start), keep your elbow in, bring your knee across their leg and pass to the side, pulling up on their sleeve to settle into a controlling position.

Checking my notes, I’ve mentioned a heel hook here, so I must have meant from that position. You have one foot underneath their bum, the other over their leg. Scoot in closer towards them so that their leg bends, making it easier for you to wedge your hand and wrist under their heel. You can then twist that up for the submission.

Importantly, Roy mention that this technique was not for sparring, merely something for his students to be aware of. It is always essential for a safety warning whenever going over a very dangerous technique like a heel hook, particularly if you’re teaching white belts.

Roy then demonstrated some ‘what if’ scenarios for the single leg takedown. Again, you’re standing with their leg between yours, looking for the takedown. However, they have managed to circle their leg to the outside. You can still take them down: step in, sweep their standing leg, then in conjunction with your collar grip, drive them to the mat.

If they circle their leg to the inside, you need a different option. This time, you can move right into an Achilles lock. Bring your arm under their leg, pressing up in their Achilles tendon: your arm will be near their foot. Lift up the leg, then step forwards with your far leg. Block the foot of their standing leg with your near leg, driving in to take them to the mat.

After a short break, it was time for the second hour of the seminar. Roy began with a basic rear naked choke, in back mount with them sitting in front of you, feet hooking their inner thighs. Roy emphasised that it isn’t just the arms that make this submission. You also need to shrug your shoulder, further cutting off any space around their neck.

Aside from the usual grip, where you hold your bicep, brining a hand around the back of their head, Roy also showed a variation using fists. As ever, you get the arm around the neck, so your elbow is under their chin. Grab their shoulder with the hand of that arm.

Put the elbow of your other arm on that same shoulder, then bring the fist of that arm around to the back of their head. Instead of pressing with your palm, you press with the back of your fist.

Next up was a sliding choke Again in back mount with them sitting in front of you, get one arm under their armpit. Open up the nearest lapel, then feed it to your other arm, which you bring over their other shoulder. This should be a tight grip, with your hand curled.

The other hand, which is still under their armpit, now grips their other lapel lower down. You can now lean back, pulling down with that hand while twisting the other for the choke. In other words, you effectively straighten your arms out to create the pressure.

To create even greater pressure, remove one of your hooks and put it across their stomach. The way I tried to remember which leg to use was that the sole of your foot should be pointing the same way as the knuckles of your lower hand. Lean in the direction of the knee of that leg you have across the stomach, again straightening out the arms for the choke.

You can make it tighter still after removing the hook and establishing the leg across the stomach. Release your lower grip. sliding that hand along their arm until you reach their elbow. That gives you the space to then reach behind their head, setting up the choke.

Before you sink it, make the submission super-tight by swivelling your legs around, so that you are able to bring your free leg over their shoulder, locking your feet together. This is a very stable position to get the choke, with little room for escape.

If for whatever reason you aren’t able to get that choke on, switch to an armbar from the back. Keep swivelling your legs, push their head, then bring the leg over their head. You’re now in perfect position for an armbar.

Staying with chokes, we shifted positions. Instead of back mount, Roy showed us how to attack the turtle. Establish one hook on the near side with your foot, also hooking the same side arm with your own, coming underneath their armpit. Your free hand will reach over their far shoulder, gripping their collar.

Roll over your shoulder towards the unhooked side, locking in the other hook as you turn, aiming to use momentum to drop them right into the crook of your elbow. You can now go for a rear naked choke.

You can go for an armbar from the turtle with a similar set-up, with the key difference that this time, you don’t secure your second hook. Instead, you want to bring that leg all around, pushing their head, going straight into the armbar. If they try to turn towards you to escape the armbar, there is the option of a triangle too.

I would note here that you can get stuck under their arm as you attempt to move round for the armbar. If that happens, you can go for a choke instead.

Last one for the turtle was to get a hook, grip their collar, then grab under their thigh, on the far side. Roll over your shoulder again, but more perpendicular than before. You should hopefully end up with a collar to pull over the neck and a firm hold behind their knee, pulling their leg up. Pulling from this position will give you a bow and arrow choke.

The final technique for that second hour was from the previous position, a choke from rear mount with them sitting in front of you. For this particular technique, you don’t put in either hook, but instead grip one collar, then using the mechanics of a technical stand-up, bring your legs back and pull your partner towards you. To finish, twist into the grip, using the pressure of your shoulder to complete the choke.

Hour number three focused on how to attack from the knees. This is handy for sparring in class, as BJJ sparring commonly starts from the knees: Roy provided some option. It is also applicable beyond that, such as if you end up in a scramble, with both of you suddenly facing each other on your knees.

Roy kicked off with a throw. Grabbing their collar and elbow in the usual way, put your opposite foot by their near knee, to a point that about half your foot is directly next to the knee. Using your grips, pull them over that knee and to the mat, then move directly into knee-on-belly.

Alternately, you can armbar from the knees. As before, you are holding the collar and elbow. You also have one knee up, by their opposite hip. The other knee is on the floor: keeping it flat on the floor, slide that leg over towards their knee. You can now swivel, and then put the foot of the raised knee leg into their armpit. The other leg goes over their head, after which you can complete the submission.

Another option is that you are on your knees, but they want to pull guard, so they are waiting with one knee up, the other leg flat on the floor, knee pointing to the side. Attacking the leg with the raised knee, grab their heel with your opposite hand. With your free hand, grip their same side sleeve.

Next, pull their heel back and yank their sleeve (or wrist, if it is nogi) out. This should spin them and expose their side, leaving you plenty of room to go straight into knee-on-belly. Roy later referred to this as an ankle pick, a term I’ve heard related to wrestling, but never really understood before now. Its also what Christina called the “it’s me” position, which is how I’ll always remember it.

From knee on belly, there is often the option of the armbar: that is again the case here, as you’ve still go hold of their sleeve. So as before, bring your leg over their head, then drop for the armbar, making sure you keep your knees pinched and don’t land with your hips too far back.

Alternately, you can spin and catch the far armbar, if they try and push your knee off with their hand. Same technique as yesterday, reaching through the frame of their arm and swivelling into place for the armbar.

The technique portion drew to a close with numerous options from the armdrag. Starting position is and open guard, with your feet on their hips, but they are still on their knees. Hold their opposite sleeve (or wrist), then with your other hand, grab the knob of their elbow, gripping on the outside of their arm.

Pull with your arms and push with the feet, which gave Roy the opportunity to repeat a useful description of BJJ by his instructor, Roy Harris: BJJ is the art of pushing and pulling. Disengage your foot from the side where you aren’t holding their arm, then shift the grip you have on their sleeve or wrist to high under the same arm.

You can now pull them past you onto their knees. That disengaged foot is perfectly placed to become a hook, while you will establish an over-under grip with your hands (i.e., where one arm goes under their armpit, the other over their shoulder, then grip together). Potentially you could spin right to their back and get the other hook in on the far side.

However, if you can’t quite get that foot all the way over for a far hook, reach over with an arm to grasp their gi near their far lat muscle. With your other hand, reach under their same side arm and grip their wrist, pulling it inwards.

The hand you had on their lat will now move to block their same side hand, enabling you to roll them into back mount, where you can finish with a choke.

That ended the third hour, leaving a final fourth hour for open mat. My first spar was with Gareth, the big white belt from Friday. I was more proactive this time, managing to get on top and into mount. I’m remembering to switch to s-mount when people try to roll me over, which is good, but can’t finish the armbar from there. I had it in place, but wasn’t able to prise Gareth’s hands apart in order to properly extend the arm.

I also couldn’t get the ezequiel from mount, which I tried a few times, but was probably holding it wrong, and I also don’t think I created the right pressure by lifting an elbow. Attempting to finish it from guard after he rolled me was no more successful.

In guard, I continued to work for triangles, and continued to get stacked. I also always seem to have the wrong placement for the arm and leg when looking to switch, though that could just be another example of my failure to react immediately rather than pondering what to do next.

Roy interrupted us midway through, which was cool as I was looking forward to rolling with him. Sparring black belts is always awesome, particularly when they are able to carefully observe and break down your game like Roy. As usual, I was very defensive, protecting my neck, looking to go to half guard from side control and mount.

I’m still a bit flat, but Roy kindly said he thought my defence was pretty good, as I didn’t leave him much space, kept my neck safe and showed signs of using my legs as well as arms. I mentioned that while I’m content with how my defence is progressing, my guard passing and submissions remain awful.

That led to what was perhaps the most useful thing I learned all weekend, a guard break. As any regular reader knows, I have been trying to get the damn closed guard open ever since I started, without a great deal of success. Previously I’ve been trying to tailbone break, but generally get swept or stuck. I’ve also been attempting to trap and arm, stand, then step forward to their trapped arm, pushing on their other leg. There too I’m still lacking key details, as they often manage to grab the foot I have back anyway.

Roy’s suggestion was that I push up into their biceps with straight arms, taking them out of the equation. At the same time, bury your head into their stomach. That provides the stability to jump straight into a wide base with your legs. You then jump again, but this time in order to bring your knee into their tailbone. Sit down and use that knee to cut through their guard, opening the legs.

To pass, grab their collar and arm, dropping your raised knee to trap their leg with your shin. Bringing the elbow of your collar-gripping arm in, slide through, pulling up on their arm in order to secure a good side control or scarf hold. This is apparently on Purple Belt Requirements, Roy’s new DVD. There was more guard passing in store on day two, which proved to be just as heavy on technique.
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That ended the seminar, but I was in for another surprise. Roy had two students with him, Glen and Rick, who you might recognise from their blue belt demonstrations up on Youtube. As well as acting as uke for Roy (along with Steve), Rick and Glen were in charge of filming the seminar and taking photos.

Update May 2011: Some of that footage has now been released on DVD, as part of The White Belt Bible. The section in question is a short documentary about the Roy Dean Academy trip to London, so also shows them going round the capital, Paul’s private lesson, and earlier rolling from Roy before I got there. If you’re wondering where yours truly pops up, there is about forty seconds of me from 08:02 onwards ;).]

Rick has an additional project in the works, which sounds fascinating: once its finished, it will be a BJJ documentary, with the central thread being Rick’s progress towards his purple belt demonstration this year, alongside lots of interview and competition footage from around the world. I’m assuming the video will be incorporated into that, but perhaps it is meant to be stand-alone.

Either way, I was pleased to be asked to take part in that, with a quick interview about my training, the blog, how I got into BJJ and the like (naturally much, much longer than forty seconds, but I like the quote Rick took: makes me sound coherent instead of rambling ;p). I could talk about BJJ for days, so relished the opportunity to let loose with a stream of enthusiastic, but hopefully coherent babble.

Back at Steve, Kirsty and Paul’s flat, I had a chance to look through Purple Belt Requirements with Steve. Looks brilliant, and very different from every other instructional DVD I’ve seen up until this point. Also useful to have a first viewing to get in mind some of the things I want to discuss when I come to review it in a few days.

Even better, I could ask Roy himself later that evening, as we all hit Bournemouth for some drinks. Talking with Roy and Rick (Glen stayed at home) was awesome, with lots of long conversations about BJJ, Roy’s DVD, Rick’s documentary, along with a whole load of other stuff.

Four hours of training followed by several more hours of talking with top BJJ black belts and their students: that’s a day that is going to be tough to beat. 😀

[Pics included by kind permission of Paul Laver]

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03/09/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #175

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Nick Gregoriades, London, UK – 03/09/2008Advanced

As I’d expected, that damn work meeting meant I wasn’t able to make Thursday. Grr. I think I may need to get my ear checked out, though, as its been sore for a good long while now. I don’t think its cauliflower ear, as it doesn’t look swollen, but when things hang around for more than several weeks, I tend to think its worth seeking medical advice just for peace of mind. Of course, I’m in the UK, so our healthcare system is provided by the state rather than by emptying my wallet. 😉

On a more positive note, great interview with top female competitor Penny Thomas over at the Fightworks Podcast. She had some excellent advice for women looking to progress in the sport, as well as encouraging those already in BJJ who might be getting a bit frustrated at the lack of numbers on the competition scene. Also turns out she knew Nick G back in South Africa, which is kinda cool.

Getting back to tonight’s class: after the warm-up, Nick immediately moved into guard passage. I was with Christina, and started off with an attempt at the Saulo Ribeiro pass (right click and save link) UpaLumpa linked on Bullshido. While I didn’t have much luck on that first try, the instruction looks good from that sample video, so will hopefully pick up the DVD set its from at some point. I then fell into the familiar pattern of defensive posture, blocking her chokes and trying to keep my base. She locked on a collar choke, but I was able to get my arms around hers, push the elbows together and posture up to ease off the pressure.

Underneath, I wanted to work my open guard. Its still really weak, but the more I do it, the better it will get. I aimed for De La Riva and trying to use all my limbs, getting at least three control points on my partner’s arms and legs. Christina passed without too much trouble, but I’m hopeful there’s been some small improvements on my part. A clearer focus would help, so I need to pick some solid basic sweeps, then aim for those.

Technique started with a takedown, moving from a double leg to a single leg. You’ve dropped and driven for the double, but they step back their leg. That makes the double difficult, but the single is still an option. Step your same side leg around their forward leg, wrapping it behind. Now shove your hips into them, knocking them to the floor. You don’t need to use your arms for this: its all in that hip motion.

Next Nick showed us one of his favourite open guard passes. First, grab their gi pants at the knees, your arms inside, bringing your elbows in tight. Step back with one leg and pull their knees towards you, aiming to end up with your other leg between their legs. This should also cause them to sit up, which is where you want them to be.

Drop your outside shoulder towards their chest, swinging the foot you have inside their legs over your other leg. Make sure that this lands flat on the floor, to provide you with a point to post off should you need it. Also, as you drive into their chest, make sure you do not let go of their gi pants with your hands.

Finally, you can now switch your legs again, moving to side control. Remember to keep your head towards their knees: if you’re not careful, they may be able to bring their arm up, cross-face you and roll you over.

That then led to open guard sparring. This meant that I continued in much the same vein as before, trying to secure hooks with the De La Riva and generally attempting to get some kind of control by pushing on the hips and gripping the sleeves.

When passing, I found it much more difficult, and ended up basically flopping onto their legs with both Tran and Christina. This was in an effort to keep my weight down, but just led to getting swept in both instances. Tran did so by getting a shin across my stomach, wrapping an arm under my leg and then rolling me to one side (he showed me the counter, which is to simply grab that knee by your stomach and pull it onto their other knee, making them vulnerable to a pass).

I stayed with Tran for free sparring, initially trying for that half-guard sweep Oli showed us last week. I had my arms in position, but couldn’t make space to shrimp out and move to the dogfight. I also found it hard to keep the leg trapped properly, meaning that it wasn’t secure enough that I could switch my legs and pull the heel back.

Instead, I found myself under Tran’s mount, which happens all the time. I tried moving back to half-guard, but couldn’t quite manage it, Tran taking the opportunity to move into knee on belly. From there he took my back, meaning that I spent the rest of the spar trying to defend the choke. Think I just about managed it, but wasn’t able to triangle the leg and move to top half-guard, which was my intended goal.

Bruno took it easy on me, noting that I’m going to my back too readily, and also giving me some useful advice on crushing down when in top half-guard. I should be using my shoulder to press my partner’s face in the other direction, also really pushing down with hips and chest. To free the trapped leg, I need to step up, making it harder for them to keep their ankles locked, then gradually work my way out and slide through.

Unusually for me, I didn’t take a break, so my third spar in a row was with Christina, where I struggled helplessly as she calmly switched from side control to knee-on-belly. Again, I really, really have to keep my arms and elbows tight, as I continue to leave my arm far too vulnerable. Numerous times when in knee-on-belly, Christina could easily have dropped back for the submission, but didn’t want to risk yanking the elbow (as due to the position, the armbar would have been very tight). Similarly under side control, my arm was asking for the kimura, so I need to take a good look at my posture.

Sparring tonight reminded me how it is all too easy to get demoralised in BJJ: this is a tough sport, and it takes a long time to get anywhere. Even when you feel you’re progressing, it’s a matter of peaks and troughs: some of those troughs seem to stretch far off into the distance.

That means its important that you don’t allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in self-pity. As with anything, the only way to improve is to pick yourself up, try to work out what you did wrong, then try again. I always try to take away at least one positive from class, be that some helpful advice, a great new technique, or just something to work on. If all else fails, then I can at the very least be happy that BJJ gives me a great work-out. 😉

Should be training again tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll be able to get in the Saturday as well, to make up for only making one session last week.


22/11/2007 – BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #104

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 22/11/2007No-Gi

As ever, Jude ran a fitness intensive class today. The warm-up was fairly continuous, with bear crawls (not sure if I’m doing them right, but appear to be walking on all fours with your bum in the air), shrimping and the like, with a few double-legs thrown in for good measure. That bear crawl would prove to be of importance to the first and, like yesterday, only technique: single leg takedown.

The variation this time was a bit different. You start by dropping your right knee, also putting your right hand to the floor. Reaching for their leg with your other arm, you switch to the other knee, swivelling round and forward. Having secured that grip, your first hand grabs their ankle, finishing by lifting up their leg and taking them down.

Next, Jude got us to do a drill where the first person goes for the leg, but their partner steps round. This is where the bear crawl comes in, as you have to move round in a bear crawl motion to keep near the leg, trying to use your head and shoulder to secure it, until you can get the grip from the earlier technique demonstration.

Finally, one person started off by having both arms around a leg, aiming to take them down (pulling guard was not allowed). Their partner tries to turn them over, for which Jude suggested getting an arm under their neck, grabbing an ankle with the other arm, then driving forward to move into side control. My partner was again the big Polish guy from yesterday, but he went fairly easy on me. I was heartened to hear his response to my comment that I wasn’t going to be able to provide him with much of a challenge: “meh, its only training, not a competition”. Music to my ears. 😀

Sparring kicked off with guard passage, where I spent most of my time trying, not entirely successfully, to avoid getting guillotined by Christina. I keep coming in with my head too low, something I need to keep an eye on. When in her guard, I also had no idea what to do in order to pass. Trying the old tailbone break was even less productive in no-gi, so I also attempted to give the open guard pass from a few lessons back a go. I’m still nowhere near getting it, but if I can steadily improve then it will at least provide me with another option. At the moment, I’m failing to secure the hip, so that’s the first thing I need to work at.

Free sparring began with Leo. His game is probably the kind of style I should be learning from, as he’s comparatively small like me, but stays extremely mobile while keeping tight to his opponent. I went for an armdrag for a change, though not knowing what I was doing, didn’t get me anywhere: still, better than my usual ‘tactic’ or either letting them sit on me, or pushing forward only to be swept and then sat on. While in his guard, Leo also got me with what I think was a kimura or something, but I didn’t realise that would function while I was still fairly square on.

I then found myself paired me up with the aforementioned Pole. He’s pretty beefy, so I was a little apprehensive, but again he toned it down, which was cool. However, even when going easy, he still gave me a good squashing, and despite him letting me get guard, I couldn’t do anything with it. He also tried some acrobatic mid-air spin to move into side control, which worked the first time, but I was able to push him backwards on his second attempt.

All that enthusiasm (on his part, at least) resulted in us traversing plenty of mat, and that resulted in the back of my head cracking into Oli, which was shortly followed by my face colliding with the Pole’s knee. I finished off that spar, but decided that I’d better have a sit down before trying again. I’ve had concussion before, but wasn’t certain in this case if the heavy feeling towards the front of my head was a sign my brain had taken a bashing, or just my cheek feeling sore. Either way, I ended up resting for the next three spars, going light with Christina for the last round.

As last week, Jude wasn’t going to let that be the end of our exertions. Repeated sprawling, squat thrusts and even Jackie Chan-esque hanging sit-ups (which I struggled with, both as the support and the person trying to lift their body up) drew the session to an end.

I’m considering doing the Friday beginners class, as my gf is off in Cheltenham that night, but will see how I feel. I guess it would at least make for a change to get my arse kicked by white belts rather than blues. ;D


01/11/2007 – BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #100

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 01/11/2007No-Gi

Unusually, Jude took the no-gi class today: that could be the start of a new trend, as I think I heard him say something about taking over a lot of Felipe’s classes for a while, because Felipe is doing an Open University degree (always good to see people getting back into education :D).

Unlike yesterday, there was lots of technique to go through. Jude started off with the single leg takedown we did a while back in a beginners class, also showing a variation if they resist. As you go for the single leg and they maintain their balance, shift your grip and stand up, so that you’ve got both arms underneath their leg. Then change the near hand (so the one further from their foot) to go round their waist, and finally sweep their lone leg with your same side foot, dropping them straight to the ground.

He then moved on to the guillotine from guard. Your hand dives around their head, palm up, with the forearm right into their neck, aiming to grab your own stomach or far side. Then use your other hand to grip round the wrist, making a tight hold, finally twisting your torso towards the knee on the same side as your first gripping arm. The choke comes from this swivelling motion rather than squeezing madly on their neck.

Another option is to do a guillotine from open guard. This time, one leg comes in underneath and against their stomach (a bit like the scissor sweep), while the other goes around their back. Using the same guillotine grip as before, twist towards the bottom leg for the sub. Jude showed it from your opponent attempting to escape side control by coming to their knees, whereupon you get under their neck, adjust for the guillotine grip, shoving your hips forward and then dropping back into the open guard.

Finally on the technical side, Jude showed us some escapes from the guillotine, noting that to free yourself from that particular submission can be both difficult and painful. The first option was if you hand an arm free: get that across their neck. Then bring up the same knee to whichever side your head is on, sprawling back with your legs and driving with your shoulder to put maximum pressure on their chest. Reach back to remove their arm, which should loosen as you drop your weight on them.

If your arm isn’t free, reach around their back instead. Push your head to the floor and drive forward, again thrusting your shoulder into their chest. This should also serve to loosen their grip until you can extricate yourself from the guillotine.

Like yesterday, I again found myself doing a lot of sparring. I started off with my drilling partner, Leo, who’s roughly my size, if rather stronger. He went pretty light, so I tried playing with guard and seeing if I could get any sweeps. While I could occasionally work my legs into position for an elevator, I couldn’t work out how to bring Leo forward: not having the usual grips made my sweeps even crapper than usual. I probably should have had a try at the sit-up, although I can’t remember if Leo sat back at any point.

I haven’t sparred Ben for a while, so had a roll with him after Leo. As always happens when I spar Ben, I found myself at the receiving end of armbars: I almost thought I might be able to bend my arm round the knee and escape, but Ben got my arm back too quick. He also put me in a triangle which I again felt I might have been able to get out of, as I had both arms in, but was squished into my own forearm. There was no chance I’d be able to resist the power of both Ben’s legs and his arms pulling my head down, so soon tapped.

I also found it tough under Ben’s side control, where I couldn’t make any space, and in addition failed to get my far leg over to try for half guard. That heel drag step over thing didn’t work under mount either: still, I’d like to work that technique more, as after all I’ve currently just been going off something I saw Johannes do at Belfast. Yet another thing I could ask an instructor next time I get the chance.

Next up was Christina, under whom I spent some time squished in side control, and also in her guard. I tried the elbows to hips tip she mentioned yesterday to avoid armbars, which seemed to help. I had no clue how to pass, as again, my passes are poor with a gi, so became even more useless without the grips. I tried to curl into a ball to maintain open guard, and also see if I could trap a leg to pass, but without much success. I need to shrimp more and perhaps keep my knees tighter when they’re trying to pass and give me enough space, as that could then lead to recovering my guard.

I was ready to sit out at this point, but Jude dragged me up to spar. The opportunity to roll with a black belt was a nice way to celebrate my hundredth lesson, and as you’d expect, Jude took it very easy and coached me through some escapes and submissions (like the kimura from guard). This again emphasised that I absolutely must shrimp more, with one of the few proactive things I did being that step over to half guard. As soon as I get that, I need to shrimp towards the trapped leg and then get my other leg into position for recovering guard.

Under Jude’s side control I felt pretty helpless, even though he was going light: I tried to bridge and make some space, but clearly I’ve got lots of work to do on effective bridging. In general I continue to move too slowly after bridging – I need to use that moment of imbalance on their part to shrimp. At the moment, I’m just sliding up, which isn’t helping to prepare my escape.

Annoyingly, I couldn’t find my gumshield before the session, so hopefully I haven’t lost that: will have to check at home. Final piece of news is that there is an academy Open Day on November 17th from 13:00-15:00, which is meant to be a chance for us to all bring down our family and friends to try out BJJ. My gf is away that day, so technically I could try and get some people down, but that depends firstly on if anyone would be up for it and secondly how far I’ve got with my updated writing (for which I’ll be having a meeting on the 20th, so possible that they’ll ask for it before the 17th anyway).

That Compeed plaster fell off at some point during the training, but not sure exactly when. So, would appear it can only handle one and a bit training sessions, unless it fell off right at the end. Four more of them to go, which I can but hope will be enough for the burn mark to heal up.


18/10/2007 – BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #96

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 18/10/2007No-Gi

To start with medical matters, finally had that mole (or rather, ‘tag’: think I’ve been using ‘mole’ incorrectly) removed yesterday. Straightforward process, beginning with an anaesthetic injection, which did sting a bit but nothing too unbearable. The doctor then used a hot wire to literally burn the tag off my back: I could hear the sizzle as it sliced through, but fortunately the anaesthetic did its job. The wound seems to have healed up ok – doctor said my painkiller would wear off in three hours, so should take some paracetemol, as I’ve basically got a burn mark on my back. Despite its many problems, still good to know that the NHS is capable of providing really simple procedures like mole/tag removal for free and without a long wait. Giving that wound time to heal was why I didn’t train yesterday.

My left elbow has also been giving me trouble for a while, but I think that’s probably due to my seating position when typing. KPMG has occupational people that should be able to give me some advice on that kind of thing, so I’ll give them a try when I’m next in the office.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, work presentation last week went fine. The food at the conference centre was also much better than last year, which provided something tasty to look forward to. That same conference has been held in the UK for the past three years, so hopefully next time we’ll get the chance to go to the US. Getting in some BJJ, or maybe even a US throwdown, would be awesome.

Onto training: my regular training partner Chris wasn’t there, which was a shame, so I ended up with a guy I’ve never trained with before. I didn’t catch his name, but he was a fairly muscular looking bloke. Proved to have some useful tips later on.

We started with a single leg takedown from the clinch. Step back with your left, then when they’re put their leg out as they’re pulled towards you, wrap your right leg around that leg, also grabbing their other leg with your same side hand. Drive forward, throwing your free leg out to land in half guard.

If that didn’t work, another single leg option was to step sideways inside their legs, then drop your leading knee to the ground, also wrapping that over their leg (which is behind instead of in front as with the previous example). Again grabbing their other leg, lift it and drive forward, but this time you end up in their closed guard.

Felipe followed that with demonstrating three techniques off an omoplata from the guard. You start with a tight guard, one arm wrapped firmly around their’s, your other arm securing their head. Move the arm round their head to their free arm, then push off their same side hip with your leg, aiming to push the knee past the arm you just grabbed. Keep tight: I repeatedly made the mistake of scooting out, which merely gives your opponent the space to pass.

Having got your knee past, keep pushing off the hip (maintaining your grip on their other arm), until you can bring your other leg over their shoulder and past their near side cheek. That then means your can triangle your legs to secure the grip, then getting a good hold around their back to keep the lock on, shift to the side away from them to flatten your opponent out. To finish, having moved your legs round, move your hips forward until they tap.

If they roll before you can get the omoplata, one option is to grab a leg as they come over, jam your knee past, then wrap up their foot (high by the ankle, or your leverage will be weak) with the back of your arm. Making sure their knee is higher than yours, press for the kneebar.

Finally, you can grab their foot instead as they come over, get a figure four grip and twist for the sub. If they kick your grip away with their other foot, you can still move through into scarf hold or side control.

Class then moved straight into free sparring. I looked around for someone lighter, but ended up with my partner from drilling. As expected, I got good and smashed, mostly sitting under side control or mount. I learned once again that I need to be careful when leaning in or I’m asking to get guillotined. I’m also having a bit of trouble escaping the knee on belly. Everyone who’s done it to me so far has followed up with the same technique, an armbar attempt (just like Colin did back at Birmingham 2). Normally I can defend by just moving round quickly to stop them stepping over, but didn’t work this time.

My next spar was one of my more usual opponents, Christina. She’s stronger and a little bigger than me, but always helpful to roll with because she maintains control, so doesn’t crank anything. Again, I pulled half guard (meant to go for full, but keep ending up with half), struggled for a bit, then found myself under side. I escaped a few times back to half guard, which Christina passed back to side control. That pretty much covers the whole roll: half guard, side control, half guard, side control, along with repeated attempts by Christina to get my arm.

She gave me a useful tip about being under side control, which was that it’s a good idea to touch your elbow and knee together, forming a barrier and making space for your escape. Though I didn’t quite get this against my third and final sparring partner, Joanna, it was a useful to have that to go for. As with Christina, I again ended up shifting from half guard to side control, also spending some time under mount. I began the spar in open guard, so that’s something I need to work: in particular, automatically framing my arms against their armpit and side to prepare for recovering guard.


18/10/2007 – BJJ (No-Gi)

Class #96

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 18/10/2007No-Gi

To start with medical matters, finally had that mole (or rather, ‘tag’: think I’ve been using ‘mole’ incorrectly) removed yesterday. Straightforward process, beginning with an anaesthetic injection, which did sting a bit but nothing too unbearable. The doctor then used a hot wire to literally burn the tag off my back: I could hear the sizzle as it sliced through, but fortunately the anaesthetic did its job. The wound seems to have healed up ok – doctor said my painkiller would wear off in three hours, so should take some paracetemol, as I’ve basically got a burn mark on my back. Despite its many problems, still good to know that the NHS is capable of providing really simple procedures like mole/tag removal for free and without a long wait. Giving that wound time to heal was why I didn’t train yesterday.

My left elbow has also been giving me trouble for a while, but I think that’s probably due to my seating position when typing. KPMG has occupational people that should be able to give me some advice on that kind of thing, so I’ll give them a try when I’m next in the office.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, work presentation last week went fine. The food at the conference centre was also much better than last year, which provided something tasty to look forward to. That same conference has been held in the UK for the past three years, so hopefully next time we’ll get the chance to go to the US. Getting in some BJJ, or maybe even a US throwdown, would be awesome.

Onto training: my regular training partner Chris wasn’t there, which was a shame, so I ended up with a guy I’ve never trained with before. I didn’t catch his name, but he was a fairly muscular looking bloke. Proved to have some useful tips later on.

We started with a single leg takedown from the clinch. Step back with your left, then when they’re put their leg out as they’re pulled towards you, wrap your right leg around that leg, also grabbing their other leg with your same side hand. Drive forward, throwing your free leg out to land in half guard.

If that didn’t work, another single leg option was to step sideways inside their legs, then drop your leading knee to the ground, also wrapping that over their leg (which is behind instead of in front as with the previous example). Again grabbing their other leg, lift it and drive forward, but this time you end up in their closed guard.

Felipe followed that with demonstrating three techniques off an omoplata from the guard. You start with a tight guard, one arm wrapped firmly around their’s, your other arm securing their head. Move the arm round their head to their free arm, then push off their same side hip with your leg, aiming to push the knee past the arm you just grabbed. Keep tight: I repeatedly made the mistake of scooting out, which merely gives your opponent the space to pass.

Having got your knee past, keep pushing off the hip (maintaining your grip on their other arm), until you can bring your other leg over their shoulder and past their near side cheek. That then means your can triangle your legs to secure the grip, then getting a good hold around their back to keep the lock on, shift to the side away from them to flatten your opponent out. To finish, having moved your legs round, move your hips forward until they tap.

If they roll before you can get the omoplata, one option is to grab a leg as they come over, jam your knee past, then wrap up their foot (high by the ankle, or your leverage will be weak) with the back of your arm. Making sure their knee is higher than yours, press for the kneebar.

Finally, you can grab their foot instead as they come over, get a figure four grip and twist for the sub. If they kick your grip away with their other foot, you can still move through into scarf hold or side control.

Class then moved straight into free sparring. I looked around for someone lighter, but ended up with my partner from drilling. As expected, I got good and smashed, mostly sitting under side control or mount. I learned once again that I need to be careful when leaning in or I’m asking to get guillotined. I’m also having a bit of trouble escaping the knee on belly. Everyone who’s done it to me so far has followed up with the same technique, an armbar attempt (just like Colin did back at Birmingham 2). Normally I can defend by just moving round quickly to stop them stepping over, but didn’t work this time.

My next spar was one of my more usual opponents, Christina. She’s stronger and a little bigger than me, but always helpful to roll with because she maintains control, so doesn’t crank anything. Again, I pulled half guard (meant to go for full, but keep ending up with half), struggled for a bit, then found myself under side. I escaped a few times back to half guard, which Christina passed back to side control. That pretty much covers the whole roll: half guard, side control, half guard, side control, along with repeated attempts by Christina to get my arm.

She gave me a useful tip about being under side control, which was that it’s a good idea to touch your elbow and knee together, forming a barrier and making space for your escape. Though I didn’t quite get this against my third and final sparring partner, Joanna, it was a useful to have that to go for. As with Christina, I again ended up shifting from half guard to side control, also spending some time under mount. I began the spar in open guard, so that’s something I need to work: in particular, automatically framing my arms against their armpit and side to prepare for recovering guard.