10/04/2013 – Dónal Private: Windscreen Wiper & Sit-Up Sweep

Class #498 – Private #009
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 10/04/2013

As ever with jiu jitsu, the sweep I worked on today has several names: Andre Anderson calls it the ‘Rey Diogo sweep’ after his instructor. I first learned the windscreen wiper sweep from Ciaran Toal in Belfast, so I sometimes refer to it as the ‘Ciaran sweep’. However, ‘windscreen wiper’ seems like the most descriptive term, which I therefore use most often.

Dónal was pleased when I mentioned I’d like to study this technique in more depth, as it is one of his favourites. He had various modifications to the versions I’ve learned before, beginning with his grips. Anderson grabs the elbow and pushes in. Dónal grabs the sleeve with his same side hand, grabbing just below their knee with the other hand. If you can’t get any material, pull your legs inwards to knock them towards you and take their weight off their legs. That should enable you to get a good handful of cloth by their knee.

You don’t just grip their sleeve with a typical pocket grip. Instead, Dónal used a principle similar to the grip on the shin when doing the knee cut pass. Grab the cloth then turn your hand inwards, pressing your knuckles into the side of their forearm. Just like when they sit on their heels and make the trousers too tight to hold, by turning your hand in their sleeve becomes tight and restricts their movement. They can longer easily circle their hand around to break your hold.

Remember the advice from Anderson’s DVD about bringing your hips off the mat and closer to your partner. That way, they don’t have as much space for a guard pass: you’ve taken it away, so to even begin a guard pass they have to first create that space. On the sleeve grip side, put your foot on the mat by their leg, keeping it tight so there is no room for them to wriggle. Anderson prefers to put his foot on the hip, but as I found during the Nic Gregoriades ‘big class’ on this topic, I think foot on the floor works better for me than foot on the hip. You could go straight for the windscreen wiper from here, but Dónal uses a combination instead: he starts off with a sit-up sweep.

For this initial technique, the sit-up is a bait. Angle your hips slightly towards your sleeve grip, then shove their arm into their other hip. Do the sit up sweep as normal, coming up diagonally towards the knee grip side and bumping into their hip. Their natural reaction will be to press forwards to prevent your sweep, which sets you up perfectly for the windscreen wiper. On the knee-grip side, kick your leg into their armpit, curling it around their back as you do. It’s important that this leg stays tight to them, right from the moment you do a sit-up: imagine that leg is an arm, which you’re using to hug them tightly.

You’ll drop back slightly too. In order to do the hip bump, you’ll have probably come up on your elbow. Don’t drop straight back down. Instead, angle off in the direction of your knee grip, moving the shoulder of your posting elbow across. Your leg should end up across their upper back, the foot near their opposite shoulder. Kick the leg forwards to knock them over, thrusting up with your knee grip arm, then roll them into mount.

Keep hold of their leg and sleeve, also extending the sleeve forwards. Holding the leg makes it hard for them to bridge, while holding the sleeve and straightening the arm could lead directly into a submission, such as an americana. To further help with that, slide your knee up on the sleeve grip side, so they can’t bring their elbow back to their side.

Keep in mind this is a combination: the option of completing the sit up sweep is also available, switching back and forth depending on where and how they resist. Sit-up diagonally, bumping with your hip, again shoving their arm into their other hip as you do. You also want to lock their arm in place with your sleeve grip side hip, pressing that into them.

If they don’t lean forwards to resist (if they did, you’d go to the windscreen wiper), they will most likely post their arm on the knee grip side behind them. Let go of their sleeve and instead reach slightly below the elbow of that posting arm. Push it forwards and hook it, then continue the sit-up sweep/hip bump motion.

Bring your knee up to trap their arm again, for submission opportunities. Also don’t let their other arm free: because you shoved it into their hip and clamped it in place at the other end with your hip, once you roll into mount it should be totally stuck underneath you. That means they can’t use it to defend, putting you in a great position to attack.

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.

21/06/2007 – BJJ (Beginners)

Class #65

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Leonardo Leite, London, UK – 21/06/2007Beginners

My back was feeling it from all those takedowns, but its job wasn’t done yet. After scribbling down notes furiously while the beginners went through their warm-up, I joined in the class to be confronted by a series of throws. I’m not sure if Leo has a judo background, but he seems very keen on takedowns. Along with the basic trip, we also went through both the head throw and the hip throw. That does remind me I need to write those up in my technique summary at some point, particularly as I suck even more at throws than most other aspects of BJJ.

First technique Leo went through was the sit-up sweep. He emphasised pushing forward with the hips, and also coming up on the elbow and then basing off your hand, rather than doing one or the other as I’d previously thought was the case. As with every other time I’ve done that drill, the instructor followed up with the kimura from guard. Chris, as ever a helpful training partner, suggested that when feeding my arms through for the figure four grip, I should focus on the lower part of the arm rather than the upper, which makes it tighter according to Maurição. Seemed to work better. I also need to stop using a monkey grip (holding with the thumb wrapped round), instead clamping my fingers and thumb on top. Finally, I should break their posture more thoroughly when pulling them backwards, aiming to drive their head right into the floor.

I still have the same problem passing Chris’ guard, as while I can open it and start the pass, it always ends up with Chris coming to his knees. Its that old weight problem again, as I’m still not pressing down enough after I’ve gone to grip his head or shoulder. Same thing happened both on my leg pin pass and stack pass (which I still haven’t seen demonstrated in class, so should probably ask one of the instructors about soon). I did manage a sit-up sweep, however, which was good, although I think that was mainly because Chris was taken by surprise rather than my technique being particularly good.

Found myself in half-guard underneath, which gave me an opportunity to try the escape we learned yesterday. Or rather, it would have, if I could have remembered it properly. Vague images of grabbing peoples toes and knees sent me grasping for Chris’ foot, but I wasn’t in position. Another option, possibly more sensible, would have been to concentrate on recovering full-guard. Definitely a skill I need to work on, particularly if I’m in danger of relying on half-guard sweeps instead. That would be deeply stupid if I don’t have the more fundamental recovering guard sorted first.

Finally, side control sparring. I was able to get into mount on Chris, but kept getting swept. This demonstrated to me that I’ve been lazy in mount – previously, I was able to push my partner back down when they tried to sweep, but Chris either had better control of my arm, more strength, or a combination of both. Whichever, I have to be more careful of his hold on my arm, or I’m going to keep getting swept.

From underneath, I was mainly spinning round trying to avoid Chris getting North-South. While I could resist by putting an arm up, it felt like it was pretty much a matter of time before he got the position. I need to find a more solid method of defending – perhaps bridge more at opportune moments, or some other distraction to enable my knee to come through? Right near the end, I flipped right on top of Chris, but again I think that was more down to him trying not to neck crank me that an escape on my part.

Think my back is going to complain tomorrow, but hey – I’ve got until next Wednesday to recover, when its back to the advanced class. Chet kindly gave me a lift to the station in his car, which meant for the first time in ages, I didn’t have to sprint from Edgware Road to Marylebone to get my train back to Amersham. Nice. 😀

29/03/2007 – BJJ

Class #46

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 29/03/2007

As with yesterday’s class, we went through the sit-up sweep and kimura from guard. One useful tip Felipe provided for the sit-up which I haven’t been doing previously was to come up on the elbow. Before, I’d always tried to come up on my hand: going from the elbow feels a little tighter, not to mention easier. However, I haven’t tried it in sparring yet, so will see if this method works better. Having yet to manage a smooth sit-up sweep (I always find myself straining, then either failing or having to really force it), worth a try.

Sparring went quite opposite to my rolls with Dominique yesterday, as I didn’t manage to complete any sweeps or passes. Mainly I was finding myself stuck in someone’s collar choke attempt. I didn’t have any real trouble resisting, but because my opponent was clinging on, I found it hard to do anything but defend. Against Mike, he eventually managed to get behind me for the RNC, while with Del, we ended up in a scramble and both standing up. Del is a little unusual, as he seems incapable of stopping – I get the impression that for him to acknowledge you’d passed or swept, he’d need to be lying there unconscious first!

Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact I’m still having trouble securing my position after I get a shin over their knee, enabling them to escape. That’s what happened with Mike, who found himself behind me after my pass attempt, as well as Del. I tried to hold on to a leg and grab an arm, but it was pretty sloppy. So, next time I need to concentrate on making sure I’ve got that knee isolated, grab the gi to keep them down, and leave my hook on the knee until I’ve passed.

As I’ve been whining for some time now, I really want to have more options when passing. At present, I have either the over the knee pass or the tailbone pass, only the former of which I ever get to work. I was thinking I could try going for the double underhooks again, as I used to have some success with that, but probably of greater importance is dealing with the root problem: breaking people’s guard. I should start digging my elbows in, and also use better posture when standing to facilitate the break – this was working ok against Dominique yesterday, but I had trouble making the space today, or perhaps I simply wasn’t pushing down hard enough on the hip.

In the guard – which I only had one chance at, having spent most of the rolling time on top – I decided to go for an elevator again. However, I think that Dicken (or perhaps Deacon? Uncommon name either way) was too far back, as he was able to pass over my leg. So looks like I need to better secure my opponent’s arm before attempting the elevator, or they’ll simply move into mount.

Even more than on Tuesday, it was the time after class that proved especially useful. I’d asked Oli after sparring how to defend the RNC, which he duly demonstrated. First, turn your head towards the elbow that’s choking you. Most important is that you prevent the other arm going behind your head – ideally, you overhook it and trap the arm against your side. Bridge up and drop your shoulders into your opponents chest, which should hopefully loosen up their hooks enough that you can remove a leg on the same side as the choking elbow, move round then turn over into side control.

I found that I had trouble controlling Chris’ arm while drilling this technique, so that’s something I’ll have to improve. However, I do at least now have something to try if I find myself in a RNC again.

Rest of that after class time I spent working the flower sweep, which we haven’t done in class for a while. I particularly wanted to try a variation I saw recently where you don’t have an arm around the knee. Instead, the process is to grab a tricep, with your other arm round the back of your opponent’s head. Then as normal, you bring the leg opposite to the isolated arm straight up under your opponent’s armpit, the other leg chopping at their knee, then roll them into mount. The problem with this tactic, at least judging by Chris’ reaction, is that your opponent can then continue that roll and end up on top of you. So, if I attempt this sweep I’ll need to be careful that I get control as I roll – IIRC the description I saw, that might be accomplished by keeping a firm grip on the head. Will have to give it a go in sparring.

Not staying at my sisters next week, so that’s going to be the last time for a fair while that I get to drill after class. Shame, but at least I got a number of useful looking techniques out of it.

27/03/2007 – BJJ

Class #44

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Felipe Souza, London, UK – 27/03/2007

Among the many reasons I’ve heard not to train in BJJ, age comes up fairly often. Some people continue to believe that you can’t train in something like BJJ beyond your twenties, presuming that instead they’ll be forced to give their old bones a rest and take up tai chi instead.

Which is why Tony Penny is awesome. This gentleman is well into his eighties, but has recently received his blue belt from Roger Gracie. I just noticed the news on the RGA site – congrats to Tony, not only for his great personal achievement, but also the inspiration that a man of his years provides the rest of us. If you’re thinking “I’m too old for this,” or “man, my back is acting up today,” then take heart from Tony’s example – it’s never too late to start training.

Moving on to tonight’s class, Felipe went through the sit-up sweep and kimura from guard combination, which we last went through with Luciano on the 15th. Maurição was also present, and as usual was an attentive teacher, moving round the class correcting mistakes. On the sit-up sweep, it was important to note that the guard opens up before you rise to isolate the arm, and also that you make some space by scooting slightly backwards with your hips. It’s always lovely and smooth in drilling, but in sparring I tend to get stuck at the point where I’m raised up against them, due to my inability to push through my opponents resistance.

That’s where the kimura from guard comes in handy as a Plan B. Felipe went through the technique rather quicker than Jude, who seems to be a little more meticulous. I guess just a difference in teaching styles: I tend to find that I get something different out of each instructor, the multiplicity of perspectives being useful for producing a broader picture. Maurição added another detail, which was to turn you hips to make more space for the submission. Drilling with Chris, who as always was good at pointing out errors in my technique, reminded me that I need to lock down against the shoulder with my elbow. When he demonstrated what he meant on me, there was a huge difference in how much resistance I could put up if he left that shoulder free.

Sparring wasn’t king of the hill today, so I worked with Chris for the first spar. I’m still finding that the pass over the knee functions best for me, although I continue to leave my opponent too much space. That resulted in Chris twisting into various positions, at one point getting into a turtle: I went for his back, but after a bit of straining we stopped. Earlier in the spar, the positions had been reversed, but unfortunately as I was resisting, Chris hurt his knee while trying to flatten me out. Seemed ok the rest of the spar, so hopefully that won’t flare up.

Very unusually, as I went to spar with Anne, Oli G pulled me over. I assumed at first he meant I should spar somebody else in the class, but he actually meant spar him. Turned out to be useful, because as Oli is obviously far superior in technique, I could go slow, observe, and then ask what he did. That resulted in a simple but very important part of passing I realise I’ve been missing (this goes both for standing and what I call the tailbone pass): controlling the hip with one hand. I realise now that I’ve been tending to try and jump immediately into base, then struggled to open guard and often ended up getting pulled straight back down. Holding down the hip solves both those problems, as it makes my base much more secure, and also helps with opening the guard. Further proof that fundamentals are always important, even when you think you’re already sticking to the basics.

I ended up in position for an omoplata at one point, which was a useful thing to recap, but I think I’ll have to drill that again and review the Abhaya videos. As much as I try, I still can’t quite visualise the technique, so hopefully we’ll cover it in class again at some point.

Rather than having to rush off to Amersham, I’m staying with my sister this week, who lives in London. That meant that I could hang around after class for some drilling. Oli was helpful in going through triangle defence, which I worked with Chris. First, stick your hand on your head to make space. Then go for the knee near your head and grab it with both arms. Sprawl and push through, opening the legs and escaping the triangle. On top of that, Oli also helped me out with the triangle itself, with pointers like locking up the arm by pulling them in close and using my hips.

Chris noted I wasn’t pulling the arm in tight enough with armbars from guard, so I need to remember to drag that arm right up to my chest. I think I was getting a little lazy with the technique because I’m fairly happy with the drill: dangerous to ever get complacent, so that’s something I’ll have to watch.

Class finished with Anne finally getting her stripes – Maurição gave her a whole new belt, with I think three or four stripes on it. About time, as she had that year of experience in Belfast: definitely deserved, as judging by the times I’ve rolled with her, you can tell she’s at a higher level than most of the beginners.

On an entirely different note, Bullshido appears to be acting up and won’t let me log in. Strange. Will just have to update my log on there tomorrow.

15/03/2007 – BJJ

Class #39

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Luciano Cristovam, London, UK – 15/03/2007

No Felipe today, as he left after the advanced class, meaning I had my third ever lesson under a purple belt. Luciano ran a more fitness intensive class than Felipe, adding in a bunch of star jumps, sit-ups, press-ups, squats etc to the usual running round warm-up.

Technique-wise, however, things continued where Jude and Felipe had left off, focusing on the guard. After going through the double-leg again, Luciano showed us the sit-up sweep, which is always good to drill. Points I need to keep in mind are getting my arm-pit right up to their shoulder and pushing up with the hips. I almost never go for the sit-up in sparring, as I keep being too worried that I can’t raise up far enough and quick enough before I get passed.

Keeping the kimura (which Luciano demonstrated next) in mind may help me overcome that niggling fear of raising up. I must remember to push the arm out and away from easy handholds – Chris helped to drum that into my skull by grabbing onto my gi if I didn’t get his arm out far enough. I also found that I had trouble bending his arm: I kept putting the figure four on too loosely, and sometimes even forgetting because I was concentrating on getting the arm out to the side. Another tip is how to break Person A’s grip if they are holding you down in guard by both lapels: simply reach underneath with both hands and push upwards against the inside of their wrists.

Finally, Luciano went through the armbar from guard, which I’ll write down here again to remind myself. Person B isolates an arm, grabbing the wrist with their same side arm, then coming underneath Person A’s other arm to grip the elbow. Importantly, Person B then drags that arm right over to the opposite side. Next, Person B puts their foot on the same hip as the isolated arm, pushing off that so they can make room for their other leg. This pushes down on Person A, aiming to break their posture, so it becomes easier to bring the leg which was on a hip round Person A’s head, then secure the armbar, remembering not to cross the legs.

Luciano didn’t mention raising the hips by pushing off Person A’s hip, but that may be because he prefers a slightly different set-up (or perhaps he thought it was obvious).

Sparring was with just the one person, which I prefer. I started off with a guy called Jude (not the instructor, obviously!), who has a bit of a size advantage. This showed when he was in my guard, as I had real trouble pulling him down, meaning I couldn’t get off the scissor and flower sweeps I wanted to try. What I should have done was do that grip break Luciano showed us (coming up underneath and in-between the hands), then gone for a sit-up sweep and/or kimura. Alternately, I could have tried an armbar, but wasn’t brave enough: I absolutely must get more comfortable with opening my guard, as its acting as a hindrance to certain techniques.

I didn’t manage anything from the bottom, merely resisting for a while before getting passed, but I did have some success on top. Jude was really working for the ankle grab sweep when I stood up, but I didn’t have too much trouble maintaining base – it could just be us beginners haven’t sufficiently familiarised ourselves with standing sweeps, but so far I haven’t found it overly difficult to resist. I was eventually able to get round into side control, as Jude gave me sufficient space to move round his legs.

It seems I’m still waiting for mistakes when passing, however, when I should be forcing the issue. I need to work on my guard breaks, although I am at least standing up more readily now, so that’s progress from my previous hesitancy. Something else I need to be careful of is, conversely, letting my opponent too close I’m in their guard. At one point, Jude was able to put on a fairly uncomfortable crush against my face – though I managed to escape after some struggling, I can see that being a potential submission if I’m not careful and don’t remain calm.

I wanted to go against someone my own weight and build next, so made a beeline for Nathan. We had switched from guard-passing to side control sparring, where I had some success. As in the past, I was getting the Americana repeatedly, though I need to remember to shrimp away from the head, then grab the wrist with my hand nearest their head (I think: occasionally mix those up). At one point I thought Nathan was going to get out of it, but I kept cranking and got the sub. Not sure if that would have worked against somebody stronger, and I also think I need to think more carefully about how to get the Americana from a tighter twist, such as when my opponent has managed to turn to their side and brought their arm in close.

I wanted to try something else after getting the Americana, as otherwise I wasn’t learning anything. Unfortunately, my mind went completely blank when trying to remember any other submissions, though that meant I could go for the mount instead. As with the guard, I found I was waiting for mistakes, although I was able to maintain my position when Nathan went for sweeps.

Underneath side control, I attempted the push up and shrimp out escape. However, Nathan was good at stopping that by moving round quickly and going for scarf hold. He also attempted some kind of twisting collar choke that involved stepping round into North/South – this is something Jeff also went for some time ago. I was able to stop him (only just, though) by keeping a firm grip on his gi and moving round in the same direction, so the choke could never quite go on. Probably due to fatigue, Nathan left space each time, meaning that I was able to come to my knees the first time and push down into side control. On the second occasion I was much more sloppy: when I found some space, I basically rushed forward and ended up in Nathan’s guard. Not exactly sure how that happened, but it definitely wouldn’t work against anybody either stronger than me or good at keeping their weight down in side control. I also need to get better at stopping the guy on top moving round – I don’t think I was getting my knee in the way as much as I should, although grabbing onto a hip seemed to have some effect.

Plan to train again on Saturday, which means I’ll get in four lessons this week. More than makes up for the crappy trains last Wednesday, so I’m glad my gf’s travel arrangements mean I have the opportunity!

28/02/2007 – BJJ

Class #33

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Jude Samuel, London, UK – 28/02/2007

I was going to go to a Ted Hughes seminar today, but as I had to miss ZSK yet again this week, decided against it so I could get some extra training in. Now that my shoulder seems healed up, I’ve been able to do padwork with my gf again, which I’m very pleased about. Also finally bought myself some flip-flops for wearing at BJJ – could have gone with my gf’s ones, but the pink floral design is too camp even for me! So, good ol Primark had some for a quid.

Today Jude moved back to guard work, having spent most of the recent lessons focusing on mount. For the first time at RGA, I got to see the scissor sweep demonstrated as well as the sit-up sweep, both of which I’ve been checking out on the internet for some time now. Unfortunately, I was in a three, which meant I didn’t get to drill as much as I’d like. On the other hand, Jude came over and talked us through the techniques, which was brilliant – always very handy to have the instructor watch while you drill.

Jude began with another sweep I’m keen to drill, the sit-up sweep. Person B bumps Person A forward to get them to put their hands on the floor, then rises up and brings an arm behind the opposite arm of Person A, coming high on the shoulder. Person B tucks that arm close in to their stomach, pushing on Person A’s elbow. Person B then twists up and to the side, using their other arm for balance (Jude emphasised that to get the necessary space, you had to come up on your hand as opposed to your elbow). Finally, Person B brings the opposite leg to the arm they’re gripping all the way across, ending up in mount. Here’s the vid of Rowan Cunningham demonstrating, which I’ve been trying to work in class for the past few months.

This was followed by the kimura from guard, which was especially useful as it functions as a Plan B if the sit-up sweep fails. Getting to the same sit-up sweep position as before, Person B finds that Person A has too good a base. So instead of struggling to knock Person A over, Person B grabs the wrist of the arm they’re isolating, gripping their own wrist with their other arm (which is already in position due to the attempted sweep). Person B drops back (having raised up for the sweep) then moves the arm away from their body (so Person A can’t cling on to a gi or a leg), clamping their leg across Person A’s back. Making sure they first bring the arm over their knee, Person B then pushes on Person A’s wrist, using Person A’s elbow as a pivot, resulting in the submission.

Jude then demonstrated the scissor sweep. Having looked at this sweep in detail on the net, I’ve seen a couple of different approaches, but one thing has been consistent – in their tutorials, Aesopian, Rowan Cunningham and Don Daly all wait for Person A to go up on one knee. It would appear that this isn’t absolutely necessary, as Jude went straight for the sweep. Person B grabs the opposite collar and sleeve of Person A, then rises up on their elbow to shrimp out to the other side. This provides the space to pull Person A towards them and get a shin into Person A’s stomach, hooking the foot round; Person B’s other leg drops down. Finally, Person B simultaneously pushes on the collar and pulls on the sleeve, while also pushing against Person A’s stomach and chopping with their other leg. This ‘scissors’ Person A’s base and spins them to the ground, where Person B moves into mount.

Again, Jude showed us what to do if that failed, which interestingly turned out to be what Aesopian refers to as the ‘stupid simple sweep’ (see his tutorial in the second part of this). Not sure what the most common name is, but I’ve seen it called a push sweep fairly often, so I’ll use that. If Person A has too good a base, then Person B moves the chopping leg back, instead pushing on Person A’s knee, otherwise following through with the technique as before. Hopefully at some point we’ll also be shown the armbar Rowan Cunningham suggests as a Plan B in this video.

Although there weren’t many people in class, we once again did ‘king of the hill’ sparring, which was a shame. I’d have preferred to spar in a pair rather than from a line-up, so I could continuously work on technique, but I suppose that king of the hill does mean I’m forced to spar with people I wouldn’t normally pair up with. I didn’t have much success from the bottom, where I think I’m still leaving too much space. Hamid also mentioned that he thought I was attacking too soon – I can see what he’s saying, as I need to get better position first (e.g., control the arm, pull them closer to me etc). I went for a somewhat strange sweep I saw recently on Dominique when she stood up, but merely ending up getting passed – something that might be fun to try when we go back to the normal sparring set-up.

Passing was more successful. Mainly, I seem to be getting passes either when I’m escaping an armbar or when I manage to work my arms back sufficiently to go for double underhooks. This is exactly what I did with Paul (IIRC his name correctly), though I ended up using the shin to trap his leg instead. At first I stopped because I’d inadvertently stuck my elbow into his groin (not much use to me if I’m only passing due to pain rather than technique), but got the same pass when we restarted from our previous position. I could still do with switching my base quicker and keeping in tighter.

Against a big guy called Marvin (although not sure I caught that name right), I did the same pass, but I think he was fairly new. Jude was telling me to clamp down the leg, as Marvin kept going to open guard (either intentionally or through inexperience) – making sure my partner isn’t able to close their guard after opening it is something I need to work on. Through strength Marvin was able to effectively throw me over as I was passing, but I managed to scramble and ended up facing him with both of us on our knees. So, passed, but a little sloppy.

As my gf is in Bath this weekend, I’ll be able to train three times this week. That means I can make up for that class I had to miss due to the snow, which is cool.