26/11/2012 – Revolution Dojo

Class #476
Revolution Dojo, (BJJ), Jeff Messina, Houston, TX, USA – 26/11/2012

For the next part of my Texas trip (full write-up here), I met up with yet another awesome blogger, Jodi, straight from the bus station. I’m really enjoying having the opportunity to talk at length to all these amazing people, who without fail have been incredibly nice to me. Jodi drove me around without complaint for what must have been hours, not only going to the station, but from there to the gym and then onwards to Conor’s house, which she repeated several times over the next few days. Thanks for being so generous with your time and petrol, Jodi! 😀

Jeff Messina likes to have a theme for his classes, which is something I wish was common to more schools. The theme while I was there was the triangle, so the warm-up drills were focused on that as well as the techniques. I sat out much of the warm-up due to my injury, as did Jodi, who has unfortunately hurt her knee. I joined back in a bit later, with an interesting triangle drill from inverted guard, which also works hip movement.

Lie on the floor with your head pointing towards them. Grab both of their sleeves. Swing your leg up into their opposite armpit, then use that to swivel around, making sure you spin towards them. Kick the leg through, using it as an anchor point to pull yourself into a triangle, the other leg going into their neck, after which you can lock up the submission. I could only do it on one side, unfortunately, but a great drill either way.

Next up was a relatively standard triangle set-up, where you use a scissor sweep motion to move into the triangle (similar to what Scott McVeigh showed in Glasgow a while ago). Grab their collar and sleeve on the same side, then still on that side, also push their hip with your foot. Bring the other knee across their other arm, as if you were going for a scissor sweep. Use the combination of that leg pressing with your grips to dislodge their grip on your jacket on trousers, swivelling the leg around so that it wraps around their neck. This should also pull them forward and break their posture, particularly as you’ll also be pulling their collar and sleeve. Use that broken posture to bring your other leg into play to lock up the triangle as usual.

The next set up was definitely not standard, building on the warm-up drill. This time you have a lasso spider guard. You have the lasso and are grabbing both sleeves. Switch grips, so that you pass the lasso sleeve to your other hand. Grab their collar with your free hand. Just like the earlier drill, spin through, kicking your lasso leg for the triangle. Keep your other leg so the shin is up on their thigh, pushing off that for the rotational energy. You want that knee to be there as a barrier, so they can’t drive forward.

Once the leg is up, you can control the back of their head with your knee before swivelling it into place over the back of their neck to cinch up your triangle. Jeff then showed the same motion, but this time in half guard with a spider guard grip. The technique is the same, except that you first have to free you leg from between theirs, by making space with your grips.

I finished off with some light sparring, for which Jodi was the perfect partner. We’re both injured, so neither of us was going hard. Once again I was working my guard retention, as well as playing a bit with top side control, including the ‘Relson grip’ Mikal had shown me the day before while I was having dinner at his house. I didn’t try the heavy cross-face Mikal also demonstrated (as per pic: your bicep goes into their jaw line, to make certain they can’t turn their head towards you), but showed it to Jodi afterwards as we were talking about side control grips. Jodi had some nifty passing and made me aware I need to be careful of my collars. She wasn’t far off choking me, so I must always be cognisant of that danger. 😉

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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.


28/08/2012 – Gracie Barra Bristol (Entering & Finishing the Triangle)

Class #466
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 28/08/2012

More work on the triangle tonight, beginning with entries. From guard, grab one of their collars with both hands, then pull them in with both your arms and your legs. As soon as their posture is broken, grip their armpit on that collar side with your opposite hand (so, you’ll have a grip over their back). Shrimp out slightly, then you’re going to get inside their arm, again on that collar side. If there is some space between their elbow and your side, insert your elbow and hook your hand around their bicep. If not, slide your hand under from the outside, then swim it inside to grab the bicep.

Next, wedge your knee behind, then scrape their arm over your knee, until you can bring your leg through: you want to end up with your knee fairly high. Take hold of their wrist, then swivel your leg around their arm, bringing that leg into their neck. You may need to shrimp out slightly more to help with that motion. Raise up your hips and push their arm across to the neck leg side, then lock that arm in place with your same side elbow.

Hold your shin with your free hand, which also means you push off their hip with your other leg. This will swivel your body round so that you’re now looking at their ear. Lock the back of your other leg over the neck leg, pull your toes back and angle out the leg, then squeeze for the finish. Dónal doesn’t like to pull on the neck, as this can cause strain: very understandable approach from somebody with long-standing neck issues and a good safety reminder in general. 🙂

In sparring, we started off with the ‘jiu jitsu chess’ flow roll. Each person is allowed two moves, then the other person has a go. Even more than a typical flow roll, this allows you to play with techniques you might not normally attempt, as it puts you into unusual positions. For example, I ended up doing a sweep from turtle into a kneebar, which I would never normally do in sparring. Also more messing about with inverted guard, armbars under side control and various techniques that generally aren’t part of my game but fun to play with in drills like this.

When that then progressed to free sparring with Dónal, I was mainly concentrating on bracing my arms into his shoulders and hips to prevent him passing. When I had a chance to try and pass, I kept that experimental mindset from the chess drill and ended up pulling the tail of his gi tight against his leg, to see if that would help. It didn’t particularly lead to anything, but meh, fun to test out the possibilities. I also briefly had a go at my favoured tripod sweep without much luck.

Next up was a white belt, where I attempted the triangle set-ups we’d learned, but I didn’t control his posture properly. I was too loose when switching to the cross choke and then armbar, finally shifting into an omoplata, where I didn’t control his back quick enough meaning he could roll out. Still, following him up that did at least mean I could then spin into side control and slide through to mount, which is where we spent the rest of the roll.

I was fiddling with an ezequiel choke, but failed to get it in smoothly. My hand was across, but I didn’t think I could finish it without crudely digging into his windpipe, so let go and looked for something else. I should review my notes on the Roger choke at some point, as now that I seem to be getting better at maintaining mount (at least on people around my size), it’s time I worked more on those fundamental attacks.


26/06/2012 – Gracie Barra Bristol (Closed Guard Triangle)

Class #460
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 26/06/2012

Tonight’s class continued with guard, this time a submission. As usual, Dónal ran through loads of drills to start, before progressing into the main technique, setting up the triangle. Grab their same side collar and pull them in towards you to break down their posture. Your other hand should be positioned on their same side forearm, slightly below their elbow. Push their arm backwards, then immediately bring your thigh to their neck. The reason you don’t instead push on their wrist is so that they find it more difficult to block your leg with their elbow. Once you have that leg in position, clamp down, keeping your other leg tightly pressed into their side throughout. Don’t try and jump both legs up at once, or they may be able to time it so that they have both arms outside and can move straight into a double underhooks pass. Instead, establish the first leg, then bring your other leg over to lock your ankles together. Squeeze your knees, and you’re ready to move on to the triangle itself. However, that wasn’t going to be covered in this class, as it’s only an hour long. Instead, we went into sparring, where again I went with Tony. Like last week, we focused on specifics, even more so than usual. I was playing with side control last week, where I’m fairly comfortable. Today I decided to play with mount. Generally I’m quite comfortable there too, but my main mount is low with grapevines. Due to Tony’s knee injury, I instead stuck with high mount. Now, I’ve been having more success from high mount than before, but I was reminded tonight how much less stable I am there compared to low mount. Tony was able to wriggle his knees in each time, getting to a position where he could brace both his shins inside one of my legs, then use that to make space and escape. It was an interesting test of balance, as well as a good opportunity to experience the kind of way I tend to try and escape mount, as like Tony I’m also a small guy who is used to digging my way free with knees and elbows. 😉 After that, Dónal moved into another cool drill, this time for sparring. You may be familiar with flow rolling. There is a step before that, where you take the BJJ chess metaphor to a literal level, sparring move by move. This apparently is something Hélio enjoyed doing, particularly in his later years when his mobility had declined. The idea is to take it in turns to do a technique, then freezing in place while your partner responds. It makes for an interesting experience, providing the opportunity to think carefully about your next move (not often afforded in the midst of sparring) and try out things you might not otherwise attempt. In an ideal world, the warm-up for every class would feature flow rolling. I think it is an invaluable tool, particularly for beginners, as it teaches so many virtues of BJJ: for example, the ability to relax, to flow and to experiment. Christian Graugart did a great video on flow rolling here, which is well worth checking out.


20/03/2012 – Royce Gracie Scotland

Class #449
Royce Gracie Scotland, (BJJ), Scott McVeigh, Glasgow, UK – 20/03/2012

[To ignore my rambling and skip to the training, click here]

The art we practice is called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Its royal dynasty is unquestionably the Gracie family: though other names are also important, like Omori, Franca, Fadda and of course Maeda, not to mention the Machados (cousins to the Gracies), it is the progeny of Gastao Gracie Sr who have had the most visible impact on the sport. However, Gastao’s father was not a Brazilian. He was a Scot, George Gracie, who lived about 20 miles north of Dumfries.

In 1826, George left the parish of Morton in Nithsdale (I’m still not sure if the specific village was Carronhill or Carronbridge) for Rio, returning in 1859 to the land of his birth in order to erect a memorial to his late father, James. This week I’m on holiday in the same area of Scotland: given my keen interest in jiu jitsu history, I knew I had to go see that tombstone. It’s located in a small graveyard by a ruined church, Greenhead Cemetery. It was a bit of pain to find the exact location, so if you’re planning to take a look too, save yourself some research by clicking here.

If you don’t have a car (I was very fortunate that my gf was willing to drive), then from Dumfries, you can take the 436 bus to Thornhill, then walk for about thirty minutes up Manse Road until you reach the graveyard. The site is on Google Streetview, where you can see the large gravestone George established. There are also several pictures from Reyson Gracie’s 2009 visit (written up here), which is what initially inspired my own mini-pilgrimage to the site. Finally, you can take a look here and here.

Looking at photos online is all well and good, but I wanted to be there in person, as well as get in some close-up pictures. I knew from what I’d read on the net that there was an inscription from George, though it was hard to make out. According to that Reyson article, it says “Erected by their son, George Gracie of Rio de Janeiro, 1859”, which looks about right. At the top, it appears four of George’s siblings died very young (I’m guessing that wouldn’t have been unusual in the early 19th century, presumably from disease), but his father lived to 85, so that long lifespan may run in the family. Hopefully one day somebody will raise up the cash to restore the gravestone before the words are completely obscured.

Our base for this week in Scotland was Kirkcudbright. It’s known as an artist’s town, mainly because of its connection with the Glasgow Boys: I’ll be talking more about them in tomorrow’s post. Despite the spelling, the town’s name is said “kir-COO-bree” (I didn’t realise the emphasis was on the second syllable rather than the first until later), but then as I have a weird name myself – it’s written ‘Can’ but pronounced ‘Jun’ – I can’t really complain. 😉

Kirkcudbright is a good location for heading off on walks around the Galloway area, along with a few more unusual attractions, like the excellent Cream O’Galloway visitor centre (quite cheap too, at £6.50 for entry and a tour). That used to be just a farm, but since they diversified into making ice cream back in the ’90s, it’s grown into a farm tour, an ice cream making experience, an adventure playground and several acres of walks. They haven’t stopped innovating, as the farm is about to embark on an interesting experiment with their dairy cows: the calves are going to be kept with their mothers for nine months, rather than separated.

Aside from a pleasant holiday, I’m mainly in Scotland for Jiu Jitsu Style magazine, to get material for the ‘JJS on the Road’ column. Scott McVeigh is one of the few black belts in Scotland, under the man many people still credit for their entrance into BJJ: Royce Gracie. I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott about the origins of Scottish BJJ, his time with the Gracie family and plans for the future (as ever, our chat should be appearing in JJS later this year), before putting on my gi to join in with training.

Like you’d expect from a Royce Gracie school, there was some self defence to begin with, throwing them after you’re grabbed from behind. The main groundwork techniques were built around the scissor sweep, or rather, what happens if they block your scissor sweep. For example, there may be an arm in the way, meaning you can’t bring your leg across their stomach properly.

Instead, that knee is going to go over their blocking arm: you can then push with your leg to break their hold on your gi, simultaneously pulling with your own grips on their sleeve and collar. As soon as you bypass their arm, circle the same leg up around their neck, then move into the triangle.

Another alternative is for when you’re trying the sweep, but decide to switch to a sort of reverse scissor sweep. Your shin is across their stomach for the scissor sweep, with a grip on the collar as well as their same side sleeve. Rather than pulling them onto you and chopping out their leg, switch your sleeve grip to their opposite arm (so, that will be the arm next to the foot of the leg you have across their stomach) and yank it across their body.

Next, release their collar and instead reach around to their opposite armpit, bringing them in tight. As when you’re trying to take the back, you need to press your chest into the back of the arm you pulled across their body, so they can’t pull it back out. On the same side as the arm you’ve trapped, put your shoulder back on the mat, which should enable you to fling them over with your braced leg and move into side control.

If they sprawl, you can take their back. Though their sprawl will make it hard to get the above sweep, you can now just bring your free foot between their legs and swivel around to their back. Scott advised that I should be pressing with my heels rather than trying to curl my instep and toes for grip, as the latter could get hurt should they try and roll out.

During sparring, I stayed defensive as usual. I’m already passive when training, so when visiting other clubs, my passivity gets almost catatonic (unless my training partner is inexperienced or much smaller, in which case I try and flow through a few positions). Interestingly, one of my rolling partners went for a footlock, which doesn’t happen all that often. I did the usual defence of sitting up and grabbing a collar, trying to sit through to mount. It’s good to have that reminder, given that even under IBJJF rules, white belts can throw a straight ankle lock.

I really liked the atmosphere at Royce Gracie Scotland, which felt informal and friendly. That’s a reflection of Scott’s character, who in many ways reminds me of one of my own instructors, Kev at RGA Bucks. Both of them give a strong impression that their main concern is how to improve their students’ BJJ, as opposed to how much money they can make.

Thanks again to Scott for welcoming me into his class: I wish him the best of luck with his plans for the future, and hopefully either I or another JJS contributor will be up to report on the upcoming Royce seminar in April. 🙂


19/06/2011 – RGA Aylesbury

Class #404
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, UK – 19/06/2011

It’s been about a little over a month since I last popped up to my parent’s new place in Aylesbury. Last time it was to help them with their move, whereas this time it’s because I’m teaching a seminar at up Warwick Uni on Tuesday. I was looking forward to seeing my sister and nieces again, as well as catch up with my old training partners at RGA Bucks.

Like last time, my sister and entourage arrived around 11, but this time they were only staying until around 4 or 5pm. So, due to wanting to see them, that meant again I didn’t stay for the open mat. Thanks to my sister’s mother-in-law, who had flown over from Canada the day before, I was able to test out my new ripstop gi (which I’ll review when I’ve rolled in it a few more times), a birthday present from earlier in the eyar. She had very kindly both taken delivery of the gi in Vancouver, then brought it with her on the flight.

Class today focused on the triangle, beginning with a basic set up from guard. Grab both of their wrists. Push one of their hands into their chest, then putting your foot on their opposite hip (but keeping your leg tight to their torso), kick the other leg to their neck. You need to make sure you raise your hips to get it over their shoulder, as it is important to come on top of the hand you shoved into their chest.

You should still be controlling their other arm. Make sure that is pulled towards you, so they can’t initiate their defence by tucking the elbow inside your leg. Grab your shin with your free hand, then lock in the triangle. Raise your hips to isolate their trapped arm, then push it across their body. You can now squeeze to finish for the triangle: it may help to swivel towards the knee of your neck leg to create a better angle.

If they tuck their chin to try and block the choke, it is worth continuing to try for the submission, as it is likely that they’ll eventually shift to stop the discomfort. However, be careful they don’t manage to wriggle backwards and slip out: this is a particular concern in nogi, where you don’t have the friction of the gi to help hold them in place. Also don’t forget you can always switch to an armbar or omoplata.

Another set-up for the triangle can come from when they have a strong grip on your collars. Bring your knee over their arm, so that your upper shin is in their bicep. Keeping hold of their other arm and possibly collar, put your free foot on their hip. From there, you can press with your knee and shin into their bicep to break their grip. Swivel that same leg over to go around their neck, then progress with the triangle as before.

To escape the triangle, bring the elbow of your trapped arm towards the leg it is pointing towards. Raise the knee of that leg, moving round so that you can connect your elbow and knee. Keep moving until you can start to drive that knee into their torso. Grab their knee, then posture up, using the knee you have pressing into their torso for additional leverage. That should eventually break open their triangle, after which you can either return to guard or begin to pass.

During specific sparring, I ended up in a three. Originally it was just with Callum, but a blue belt who didn’t have a partner asked to join in. I had trouble controlling his speed, coupled with his very attacking style. I don’t encounter that approach often, probably because I intentionally avoid that kind of competitive roll. Either way, my super-defensive approach often fails me when I’m sparring somebody willing to push the pace and just keep throwing attack after attack.

This blue belt did a good job of it, too: I only narrowly avoiding being choked on his fourth or fifth attempt during one roll, then later got caught in an armbar as I leaned forward too much when looking to pass. I need to be less complacent with my arms. I had thought I was safe, because I’d stepped over his head, then managed to get both legs locked around his head. However, he still had enough leverage to bend my elbow for the tap: kudos to him for his control, as I was being stubborn due to my leg grip. 😉

So, another obvious point is that I shouldn’t stay down in guard all the time fending off attacks: eventually I’ll get tapped. Instead, I should be looking to pass straight away. Getting swept is better than getting tapped, after all, as at least after a sweep you can keep working during free sparring.

Underneath, I kept going for a handstand sweep, but without much success. I then switched to a star sweep (when you spin around their leg and pull up, to knock them backwards), but couldn’t quite get it. I had their foot, but wasn’t able to knock them flat onto the floor. Partially that was because I was a bit worried about tweaking their knee or something, but he said it was fine.

I’ll be up again in a bit under a month, as both my father and my second niece have their birthday in early July. I’d assume that will mean my sister will do a joint thing on the 9th or so, but we’ll see. Would also be good to train again with Seymour of Meerkatsu fame, who is yet another birthday boy that week. 😉


19/06/2011 – RGA Aylesbury

Class #405
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, UK – 19/06/2011

It’s been about a little over a month since I last popped up to my parent’s new place in Aylesbury. Last time it was to help them with their move, whereas this time it’s because I’m teaching a seminar at up Warwick Uni on Tuesday. I was looking forward to seeing my sister and nieces again, as well as catch up with my old training partners at RGA Bucks.

Like last time, my sister and entourage arrived around 11, but this time they were only staying until around 4 or 5pm. So, due to wanting to see them, that meant again I didn’t stay for the open mat. Thanks to my sister’s mother-in-law, who had flown over from Canada the day before, I was able to test out my new ripstop gi (which I’ll review when I’ve rolled in it a few more times), a birthday present from earlier in the eyar. She had very kindly both taken delivery of the gi in Vancouver, then brought it with her on the flight.

Class today focused on the triangle, beginning with a basic set up from guard. Grab both of their wrists. Push one of their hands into their chest, then putting your foot on their opposite hip (but keeping your leg tight to their torso), kick the other leg to their neck. You need to make sure you raise your hips to get it over their shoulder, as it is important to come on top of the hand you shoved into their chest.

You should still be controlling their other arm. Make sure that is pulled towards you, so they can’t initiate their defence by tucking the elbow inside your leg. Grab your shin with your free hand, then lock in the triangle. Raise your hips to isolate their trapped arm, then push it across their body. You can now squeeze to finish for the triangle: it may help to swivel towards the knee of your neck leg to create a better angle.

If they tuck their chin to try and block the choke, it is worth continuing to try for the submission, as it is likely that they’ll eventually shift to stop the discomfort. However, be careful they don’t manage to wriggle backwards and slip out: this is a particular concern in nogi, where you don’t have the friction of the gi to help hold them in place. Also don’t forget you can always switch to an armbar or omoplata.

Another set-up for the triangle can come from when they have a strong grip on your collars. Bring your knee over their arm, so that your upper shin is in their bicep. Keeping hold of their other arm and possibly collar, put your free foot on their hip. From there, you can press with your knee and shin into their bicep to break their grip. Swivel that same leg over to go around their neck, then progress with the triangle as before.

To escape the triangle, bring the elbow of your trapped arm towards the leg it is pointing towards. Raise the knee of that leg, moving round so that you can connect your elbow and knee. Keep moving until you can start to drive that knee into their torso. Grab their knee, then posture up, using the knee you have pressing into their torso for additional leverage. That should eventually break open their triangle, after which you can either return to guard or begin to pass.

During specific sparring, I ended up in a three. Originally it was just with Callum, but a blue belt who didn’t have a partner asked to join in. I had trouble controlling his speed, coupled with his very attacking style. I don’t encounter that approach often, probably because I intentionally avoid that kind of competitive roll. Either way, my super-defensive approach often fails me when I’m sparring somebody willing to push the pace and just keep throwing attack after attack.

This blue belt did a good job of it, too: I only narrowly avoiding being choked on his fourth or fifth attempt during one roll, then later got caught in an armbar as I leaned forward too much when looking to pass. I need to be less complacent with my arms. I had thought I was safe, because I’d stepped over his head, then managed to get both legs locked around his head. However, he still had enough leverage to bend my elbow for the tap: kudos to him for his control, as I was being stubborn due to my leg grip. 😉

So, another obvious point is that I shouldn’t stay down in guard all the time fending off attacks: eventually I’ll get tapped. Instead, I should be looking to pass straight away. Getting swept is better than getting tapped, after all, as at least after a sweep you can keep working during free sparring.

Underneath, I kept going for a handstand sweep, but without much success. I then switched to a star sweep (when you spin around their leg and pull up, to knock them backwards), but couldn’t quite get it. I had their foot, but wasn’t able to knock them flat onto the floor. Partially that was because I was a bit worried about tweaking their knee or something, but he said it was fine.

I’ll be up again in a bit under a month, as both my father and my second niece have their birthday in early July. I’d assume that will mean my sister will do a joint thing on the 9th or so, but we’ll see. Would also be good to train again with Seymour of Meerkatsu fame, who is yet another birthday boy that week. 😉