Leicester Shootfighters, (Submission Grappling), Nathan ‘Levo’ Leverton, Leicester, UK – 24/03/2013
My initial entry into Leverage Submission Grappling, a nogi system being codified by veteran UK instructor Nathan Leverton, was last year, with my team mate Steve from Gracie Barra Bristol. Steve kindly gave me a lift in 2012, but this time he wasn’t able to go. I decided to take the opportunity to do some more CouchSurfing by coming up on the train the day before, as I had such a good experience in Dallas.
[I’m going to ramble a bit about CouchSurfing now, so if you don’t care, scroll past the next three paragraphs ;D]
If you’re not familiar with CouchSurfing, it is a social media website which people use to meet up and stay with each other. While that sounds rather bizarre to a lot of people, particularly those who do not spend much time on the internet, it’s a process that works very well in practice. There are checks in place, such as a system of references and vouching to warn others if anybody turns out to be dodgy. Leicester was my second time staying with somebody, which I’m also hoping to do when I head over to the US later in the year.
My host this time was Dani, who very handily is only about a mile away from Leicester Shootfighters. After cycling over (the Google Navigation thing on my phone is fortunately quite thorough, so my total lack of a sense of direction didn’t matter), it didn’t take me long to work out the right house: flags from around the world were peeping out from behind the window. Dani has travelled to a LOT of countries! 😉 She and her housemate Justyna greeted me with a big bottle of Becks and a tasty spaghetti meal.
Another CouchSurfer, Sara, was also there: just like in Dallas, there is a vibrant CouchSurfing community in Leicester. We headed out to a local shisha bar, followed by some excellent cheesy music at Hakamou (it was a bit full for dancing, unfortunately, though I could still have a good wiggle). While there we met two cool Canadian students (randomly, it turns out that Pete was well aware of BJJ, as he did some MMA and JKD back in Alberta), who Sara invited back to her flat where we all had a good chat until 4am. Slightly later than I was intending to get to bed, but Dani and Justyna are so hilariously entertaining that I was laughing too much to care. It’s impossible to not have a good time with those two, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again before the next LSG seminar. Thanks for the great night out, CouchSurfers of Leicester! ;D
There has been heavy snow this weekend, which prevented a few attendees from coming along to the seminar. Then again, that does have the positive outcome of more personal attention from Leverton, which is a good thing from a student perspective. As with LSG 04, LSG 03 kicked off with an introduction. Leverton handed out a sheet detailing the techniques to be taught today, again aiming to cover it all off within five hours.
The seminar proper began with around two hours on turtle top position. I rarely go anywhere near turtle, so although many of the techniques looked familiar, I can’t think of the last time I used any of them in sparring. My main interest for this seminar was the back mount portion, but I knew that some focus on the turtle would be good for me, given I don’t seem to use it much these days. Particularly in regards to turtle, there was a key difference between LSG 03 and LSG 04: wrestling. As LSG 04 was on the guard, the predominant influence was jiu jitsu, but for the turtle, wrestling provides an excellent base.
Leverton’s first technique was defending against the person in turtle trying to grab your legs, as they will often be looking for a takedown. The simplest method of blocking that attack is to sprawl. Whether they have grabbed one or both of your legs, start by grabbing behind their armpit, the other hand going on their head (not their neck: aim for the end of the lever where they’re weaker). Push their head towards the mat and then sprawl back. It’s important you then square up.
When sprawling, you want to make sure you aren’t jumping backwards, as that gives them the opportunity to complete their takedown. Instead, thrust your hips into them then slide down. The aim is to create a wedge with your body that means their forward momentum is dissipated. You can then establish a front headlock, shifting your head-hand to wrap around and grip their chin. Drive the point of your same side shoulder into the base of their neck, right where it meets their back. Similarly to the sprawl, this blocks them moving forwards.
Your other hand clamps onto their triceps, then slides down towards their elbow. Come up on your toes, getting your ear into their armpit on the triceps-gripping side. Lower your chin-grip side knee slightly, then pull back on their arm. From there you can go behind, with two main options. The meaner version seemed to be ‘snapping’ them (a term I’ve heard in regards to takedowns, but don’t really understand in technical detail because I never work takedowns. Ever), driving with your shoulder first then dragging their arm back. The goal is to get them extended, so that it is difficult for them to react as you move around behind.
The nicer option is moving the arm on their chin to the other side of their head. The back of your hand is on their shoulder, while your arm is still pressed against their head. From there, move around. Leverton suggested this as a good option for when the person turtling is mainly trying to stay tight, rather than making any aggressive actions like a wrestler would. It therefore sounds like it could be a good option in the context of BJJ.
The standard way of maintaining control on top of turtle, or at least the option I’m familiar with, is sprawling out the legs connecting your hips. This is a bit like what Leverton called the ‘side ride’, which he noted was good for strikes (he should know, given he has a long history of training successful MMA fighters). Leverton prefers a different position, where he uses his forearms to create initial hooks before replacing them with his legs. Crouched directly behind them, brace your forearms into their hips (but not your elbows, or they can try to control them) and squeeze your knees into them.
This is just a transitional position, so don’t stay there long. You aren’t sprawled back from here because that is space they can move into. From here, twist around to one side. On one side, your forearm stays in as a hook on their hip. Leave a leg behind on that side too, still tight to their body. Your remaining arm reaches for their arm on the other side, joined by your other knee.
If there is space, you can just replace your forearm with your leg to insert your hooks. Note that for the second hook, you will have to turn your body before you can insert it, or you’ll find the motion awkward. Most likely they won’t let you do that and will stay tight. In that situation, Leverton suggested trying a tilt to back mount, with two options. At this point there was a degree of jiu jitsu influence again, as Leverton described these techniques as the ‘Maia’ and ‘Marcelo’ back takes respectively.
For the Maia, you’re shifting diagonally into their bottom corner. Move your body backwards slightly, diagonally behind you and away from them on the arm-gripping side. Leave a small space, then pull them into that space. That will roll them over the knee you had on the arm-gripping side, ideally straight into back mount. You’ll also want to establish a harness/seat-belt grip, with an arm over the shoulder and the other under the armpit.
By contrast, the Marcelo shifts forwards into their top corner. This is more difficult, as it feels like there are more parts to the motion. Start by jamming the knee on their arm-gripping side into the gap between their thigh and their arm (if they are tight there won’t be much space, but digging your knee in should open it up). Sliding over their shoulder, drop onto your own shoulder, pushing off your leg to roll them onto you. A common mistake is to just leap over and hope your body weight will be enough to roll them, which almost certainly won’t be the case: you need to be pushing off the mat with your leg. During that roll, pinch your knees around their leg to stop them walking through and escaping.
Next, swing the leg you have underneath around their leg to get your hook. You then want to bring your second hook in, which they may block. If they do, you still have one hook, which allows you to use Marcelo Garcia’s ‘hip extension’. Lock your feet together, then pull them towards you with your seat-belt grip and thrust your hips into their back. That should stretch them out, giving you the space to secure your second hook.
After a short break, Leverton moved on to bottom turtle, which again was roughly two hours. I was initially nervous when I saw this was due to feature takedowns, as that was liable to exacerbate my groin injury, but fortunately the takedowns were from turtle and staying low, rather than a big lift and drop. The overarching theme for this section was making your turtle dangerous, rather than a purely defensive position.
The other major point was scooting backwards while in turtle. Bring one arm back at a time, to reduce your vulnerability. By moving backwards, this helps to extend your opponent and open up opportunities for attacking and escaping. That does mean you may mash your knees up drilling, as you’re sliding them back and forth on the mats (especially if you are just wearing shorts so the skin is exposed), but meh. Hopefully my awesome Pony Club Grappling Gear spats will arrive at some point: the Yang seems to have gotten stuck in transit from Australia a couple of months ago (possibly customs? Or just Royal Mail being rubbish, as they are frequently crap with getting stuff to the office).
Keep your knees wide for base, elbows inside, then defending your neck with your hands (either Aisling’s ‘Shirley Temple’ defence, or crossing your hands). You need to keep the person in front of you so that moving back becomes particularly effective. Leverton ran us through a quick drill, where the person on top just put their hands on your upper back while you were in turtle, the person on the bottom adjusting to stay facing them.
From here you can attack with a single leg, wrapping their leg and keeping your head on the inside, elbows tight, trying to bring their knee into your chest. This can be set up by backing away: even if they’re sprawled, they are going to have to come forward to stay on top. To finish the takedown, keep your inside hand locked behind their knee, grabbing their ankle with the other. Pull that out, then move around, put the leg between your knees and bump them with your shoulder.
This combines well with the double leg. Should you get the opportunity, grab both legs, bring your head outside, drive with your outside leg and move on top. In many ways this was similar to how I’ve been taught to complete the side control escape to your knees. A detail I wasn’t doing (or at least haven’t emphasised) is sliding your other knee in. Like Roy Dean’s takedown, Leverton pivots to the side rather than staying straight on, but wrapping both legs rather than using a knee block.
I’ve familiar with the peek out, which I know as a wrestler’s sit-out. Although when I say ‘familiar’, it isn’t something I use a lot because I’m lazy and don’t like to move very much. The situation is that they have made the mistake of wrapping arms by your hips. Base on an elbow and the opposite foot, then knock back their same side arm with your non-basing elbow.
Bring your non-basing foot through right across to the opposite corner, getting your head up, then spin behind them. Your inside hand stays by the leg in case they try to run behind. Also make sure you are putting your weight onto them when you bring your head through. If your weight is sat on the floor, the person on top can simply put their head on the floor, bring their leg over and mount.
I prefer the arm roll, which I think I first learned during my very brief stint of judo way back, as a set up for waki-gatame. Of course, a good grappler isn’t going to give you their arm like that, but it is still worth knowing. Same position, but this time you reach back and lock their arm. Look in the direction of the wrapped arm, then drop your same side shoulder to the mat and roll them onto their back. Turn towards their legs to come on top (if you turn towards their head, they can take your back).
The sit back to guard is another basic option I’m used to, but it turns out that I have been doing this wrong. This is not the same as trying to pull guard off a takedown attempt. As Leverton noted, jiu jitsu guys can get away with that as their opponents don’t normally know how to hold the top turtle position properly or perform a decent double or single leg, at least by comparison to a wrestler. Instead of pulling guard, you are sliding over your leg. Do not kick out your leg: just rock back into guard. Leverton came over several times to correct my positioning, so clearly I have some bad jiu jitsu habits to iron out.
Once I do, this could be very useful for escapes I use all the time, especially the running escape. Which is cool, as I’ve been struggling to finish that escape properly (as opposed to just stalling with the running escape) for ages. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can incorporate Leverton’s details, along with the scoot back Geraldine did the last time I taught the running escape. Although as you can see from the picture, the scenario is somewhat different, so perhaps it isn’t entirely relevant.
To perform a front headlock escape, there were two versions, early and late. If you can control that arm before they secure it around your neck (this therefore also applies to guillotines and the like when you’re in turtle). Grab their wrist and push it down to the floor, then run your head up the outside of their arm until your reach their shoulder.
If you’re late and they’ve managed to get a bit deeper, the focus will still be on that arm. Reach for the elbow of the arm they have by the neck and try to pull it down into your chest. Use the kind of motion as if you were climbing a rope, hand over hand. After you’ve secure it towards your chest, switch your knees and step around, reaching an arm around their back. This ends up looking a bit like an arm drag.
Leverton took the opportunity here to make some comments about what he called ‘sport jiu jitsu’. I know what he means, but it’s a term I dislike: I associate it with the marketing campaign to separate ‘self defence’ and ‘sport’ BJJ into two distinct styles, which I think is a false dichotomy: that came up again recently here and I also babble about it extensively here.
He basically said that currently in elite BJJ competition, you will see double-guard pulls where top jiu jitsu competitors fight to grab each other’s feet. That looks ridiculous even to an educated viewer. Leverton far prefers to get on top, smash with wrestling and look to submit. Given I’m assuming I was one of the few jiu jitsu people in the room, I kinda feel I have to respond. ;p
Not that I disagree with any of that: I don’t like the manner in which some competitors currently aim to play footsie either. I also have absolutely no interest in 50/50 and similarly over-complicated guards, aside from countering them with as simple a pass as possible. The main point I want to make – and I’m sure Leverton is fully aware of this – is that there are lots of people within jiu jitsu saying the same thing. For example, Xande Ribeiro, amongst the greatest competitors of all time and still active in major tournaments today. Speaking to Inside BJJ, Xande stated in #58:
Double guard pull? This is insane. You watch a match, and seven minutes is in the same position. […] You see fights, black belt fights, seven minutes in a position that is not an end, you know? There’s a beginning, there’s a middle, but no finish.
I even hear people say, “Well, what if you mount the guy for three minutes…” Yeah buddy, I’m mounted on you. That’s totally different. I am in a dominant position. But when you are in a position where the only thing that you can do is a toe hold, get an advantage, or maybe an armbar that some people do from there, that’s it. What else is in there? I didn’t go to a tournament to have someone fight for their life to wrap their legs around my leg and stay there for eight minutes.
I tell people, grab my fricking arm and pull my arm for ten minutes! Pull my neck for ten minutes! Do not pull my leg and wrap around it tight. That’s not the jiu jitsu I teach for my students. Double guard pull? What is this double guard pull? All of a sudden jiu jitsu is two guys fighting for the bottom? I don’t really appreciate it, it’s ugly, it’s bad.
People should be a little more proud and think “I’m a bad ass passer. I’m going to pass your legs, go around to your side, hold on to you and you’re going to suffer.” I think that should be more the mentality, not just a sweeping art. “Ok, I sweep you, then I stall and I get two advantages, then I sit my butt on the floor again.”
I wasn’t raised like that. I’m from a time when you could slam in jiu jitsu, you could reap the knee. People fought for the finish, points were just consequences of your work.
Back mount lasted around an hour, brought over from another seminar in the series that was overly long. Starting with the top, lower body control discussed hooking your feet inside. Bring your knees up higher to shorten the length of your legs, as this will provide less space for their escape. Tense the hamstring if they roll, following them over remaining stuck to their back.
Upper body control looked at the seat-belt grip, also known as the harness, which is the basic over the shoulder and under the armpit grip. Leverton prefers to cover his choking hand with his armpit hand: as I’ve discussed in the past, there are various opinions on the best option. Some instructors teach that covering with the armpit hand means you can go straight to the choke if they try to knock it off. Others prefer having the choking hand on top, so that you already have that immediate route to the neck.
The body triangle depends a lot on both your body type and that of your partner. In my case, I’m quite flexible, but there was no way I was locking my short legs around my partner, who was a fair bit bigger than me (even with Leverton’s handy tip about opening your hips by turning your toes downwards).
Next up was a few tips I recognised from Marcelo Garcia, as these are both techniques I’ve taught in the past and had success with in rolling, based off Marcelo Garcia’s material. Marshal Carper, who was among the co-authors for Garcia’s book, produced a handy video detailing the techniques in combination. First there is moving them from side to side with your legs, particularly if you have them on the choking side and they try to roll away, then secondly there is the ‘hip extension’ method for opening up space to insert your second hook (covered more briefly earlier in the seminar).
Leverton also examined the standard transition to full mount if you’re losing the back, which looked familiar to how I’ve seen it taught elsewhere (lock your heel to their far hip and swivel around), althrough I don’t normally grab the arm. That’s a useful detail to keep in mind.
Leverton then moved into two submissions (incidentally, it was cool that Leverton focused on controlling position rather than loads of submissions, in contrast to numerous other seminars). I have taught the rear naked choke a number of times, but was looking forward to Leverton’s version, hoping to learn some useful tweaks. Leverton did not disappoint, providing simple details that could make a huge difference. The most important distinction is the way he places his locking arm, so that it becomes more involved in the choke.
It is entirely possible most other instructors do this, but it is not something that I can remember being emphasised. Set-up the choke in the usual way, bringing your choking arm around their neck with your elbow under their chin and your body tight. The second arm locks up with the elbow in front of their shoulder, not behind. Both of your armpits are therefore resting on their shoulders.
That minor shift in position makes it a lot tighter, along with the considerable advantage of hiding both your wrists (which they now can’t grab). Leverton noted that while there are lots of ways of finishing off the choke, such as expanding your chest (which I like to do), you have your arms around their neck so squeeze those before anything else.
Leverton’s variation reminded me of the palm to palm lock Kesting does to walk his arm into position. It is also something I’ve seen on Demian Maia’s DVD, where you are essentially choking them with one arm. This is useful if for some reason you can’t get that second arm into place, though it is naturally not as strong a choke as when you can get both arms locked in for a true RNC.
If they tuck their chin, you can bring your arm over the head for a nasty Neil Adams style armbar from the back, which involves a vicious grip that is almost a bicep slicer. If for some reason you haven’t heard of Neil Adams, he has two Olympic silver medals in judo and is very, very good at armbarring people. When Adams tells you how to do an armbar, you should listen extremely closely. 😉
Grab their wrist, then reach your other arm over. Grab their wrist with that other hand, whereupon you can switch your first grip to your own wrist, securing a figure four grip. Drop to your shoulder, swinging around: as you do, bring your leg across their hips, swinging the other leg out. This spin should be the same kind of motion as when you spin for an armbar from guard (I’ve always sucked at armbars from guard, so wasn’t very fluid at this).
Hook the swinging leg over their head, so the back of your calf is pressing into their face/temple rather than their neck (for the same reason as a Thai clinch, because holding higher on the head is harder for them to resist than gripping by their neck.) Move your arm deeper, so that instead of grabbing your wrist, you’re now grabbing nearer your elbow. Curl your wrists up and you can also turn the hand nearer you elbow upwards.
Straighten your leg into their head as you apply pressure with your arms. Speaking from experience, this feels horrible. I would be tapping long before the actual armbar. If your opponent is tougher than me (which is highly likely), use that hold to unlock their hands (which they will normally clamp together to defend the armbar), then drop back for the submission.
You can briefly see Neil Adams himself use the grip in this video, which is from another seminar at Leicester Shootfighters:
Leverton’s demonstration of back mount escapes was quick by comparison to the rest of the seminar, beginning with some basic survival details, such as hand placement on the neck. Again, you can use the ‘Shirley Temple/Home Alone’ or the hands crossed over the neck. Elbow inside, knees up, keeping your abs tight. You can then move into the escape, which was a fairly standard drop to the side and shrimp.
It was essentially the same version Xande demonstrates on his DVD set. Leverton calls it the ‘scrape escape‘. Drop to your side, bringing your knee in, then lift and pop their knee off with your hip, just like Xande. Shrimp out pushing on their leg, ready to move into guard should they try to move on top, as people normally will attempt. If they’ve got a choke in the early stages, it is especially important to get your head and shoulders to the mat to reduce their efficacy.
You can also turn to your knees, using the same motion as if you’re escaping from under side control to your knees. This is useful for when they’ve locked their legs in a sort of ‘side-on back mount’, making it hard to complete the usual escape. If you can drop your elbow, then there is a chance you can thread one leg under the other, turning on the spot to come up in their guard. Leverton also mentioned escaping the body triangle using a similar motion to the scrap escape (personally I just step over their foot and bridge into their locked feet, as he demonstrated, but it as he said it’s good to keep practicing that scrape escape motion).
I realised at the end that I had been drilling with Jake from Fighting at Forty blog, which is a good site I’ve been reading recently. I love meeting fellow bloggers whose work I enjoy, which was therefore a cool way to end the seminar. I’m looking forward to making more of them, which will also mean I can get in some more CouchSurfing fun. All in all, great weekend, particularly as when I got home, I saw that the GrappleThon has now raised over £4000 for Rape Crisis! 😀
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.