Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 02/04/2013
Dónal has stepped back from teaching (understandably, as he’s a new father), so the class schedule is shifting around to accommodate that. From now on, I will be teaching the Tuesday class, meaning that Thursdays will be just the one nogi class. That does have the advantage of meaning I’ll be on the main mats again, which have more space, more heat and a better timer.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re underneath, you don’t want to be flat on your back. So, start your elbow escape by turning to your side and working your elbows inside their knee. Keep defending your neck throughout, so that your elbows form a frame. Create some space by bridging. You can then use your frame to help you shrimp into the space you just created, pushing against their leg.
The idea is to make enough space to pull your leg through: don’t just bridge and plop back down. That leg will need to be flat, the other raised, or it will be hard to pull it free. After you’re on your side, bump slightly, then simultaneously pry their knee up and over with your elbow while sliding your flat leg underneath.
Aim to pop your knee through initially. If you can pull the whole leg out in one, great, but don’t be greedy. Getting that knee through will mean you can then brace it against their thigh, aiding your second shrimp to free your other leg. Once one of your legs is fully out, you can then use it to wrap around one of theirs. Getting half guard may be a possibility here, but generally I’d recommend you keep working towards full guard. To do that, continue shrimping (towards the trapped leg side: you should be able to base the trapped leg foot on the floor if you’ve already got your knee into their thigh) and framing until both legs are free. Another option is to put the leg around their back.
You can also use a frame against their hips, one arm across, the other bracing against that wrist, elbow in tight. That’s also handy for stopping them moving up higher in mount. However, be extra careful with your neck if you do that: as your arms are down by their hips, that could leave you vulnerable to chokes. Use a powerful bridge followed immediately by shrimping to make space, then complete the escape as before.
The elbow escape is related to my personal favourite mount escape, the heel drag. The heel drag is also quite simple, which is another reason I like it so much. You’re in mount, your elbows in a good place for defence, down by their knees. For this escape to work, you need to have one of your legs out flat, just like before. Again, you also need to get on your side: a slight bridging motion will help.
The big danger at this point is that the person on top will switch to technical mount. You therefore need to make sure that your neck is safe if that happens. You also don’t want to let them settle into technical mount: immediately prepare your frames to start escaping before they secure the position. You may even be able to disrupt them as they try to shift, using that shift in their base to enter into your escape.
If they don’t get to technical mount, or you’re able to work back to the previous position, wedge an elbow underneath their knee. You can either make a frame against their hips, or if you’re concerned about your neck, adjust so that you can still pry your elbow under their knee while protecting your collar with your hands. As well as chokes, you also need to be wary of their cross-face: if they can control your head, they can flatten you back out, which will make the escape less effective. Use a combination of your elbow and shrimping to shove their knee backwards, on your flat leg side.
Bring your other foot over both your flat leg and the leg they have next to it. That means you can use the heel of that foot to drag their leg over your flat leg. As soon as you get it over, lock half guard and shrimp towards their trapped leg. In half guard, you want to get onto your side as quickly as possible: if you stay flat on your back, you’ve already done their work for them, as they will want to flatten you out in order to pass half guard. If you’re comfortable in half guard, you could stay there and work your attacks.
Alternatively, keep shrimping in the other direction, in order to free your other leg, just like you would with an elbow escape. It’s also worth noting that some people, like Roy Dean, recommend just pinching your knees rather than fully triangling your legs around theirs, so that’s worth trying too. To help recover full guard, you can also bring your arm across to their opposite shoulder, impeding their movement while aiding yours. Emily Kwok has a handy tip too: if their foot is too flat, making it hard to get your heel in for a drag, shove under their heel with your knee to pry it up and create that space between their foot and the mat.
A very similar escape, which I don’t use much, is the foot lift. Dean shows these two escapes in sequence on his awesome Blue Belt Requirements. The foot lift is for when they have some space underneath their in-step. People won’t often do that, in my experience, but if they do, this time just step over your flat leg. Use your foot to hook underneath their instep and lift it over, then as before lock up half guard (your legs are already in position), or shrimp to recover full guard.
Make sure that you pay particular attention to shoving on their knee with this variation, as it is easier for them to slip free (though if that happens, you can always switch to the heel drag). With both escapes, it is important to get the knee of their trapped leg back behind your legs. If they still have their knee past your legs, it makes it much easier for them to move straight into a half guard pass, by driving their knee to the mat and sliding through.
Teaching Notes: I suspected something like that might happen, so wasn’t overly surprised when Geeza rang me today to ask if I could teach. Fortunately this week is mount escapes, an area where I’m fairly confident of teaching material. Like I said last time, I wanted to rejig up my lesson plans for mount escapes, as I think elbow escape and heel drag goes together better than with the trap and roll.
A lot of people were forgetting to clamp down on the leg after shifting towards half guard, so I’ll emphasise that more next time. I think I’ll also review removing grapevines, as I could probably demonstrate the second option of bringing in a leg and stepping on their hook more effectively. Sparring was handy, although I think I learned more about being on top, as I didn’t spar underneath much, except for a bit of progresive resistance.
So on top, cross facing (making sure to use your shoulder) is handy when they’re getting up on their side and wriggling free. Crossing your feet under their bum, like I often do, works well but does mean they can stamp on your feet, which isn’t comfortable. Then again, that serves as a good reminder to crawl up into their armpit and go on the offensive.
It’s very common for people to snatch half guard and stall when sparring from mount. I generally say that people should keep on working from half guard if that happens, then if nothing is progressing reset in mount. I’m not sure what the best cut-off is: I was getting put in half guard a few times myself, which I took as an opportunity to practice working free, but there’s a line: it’s good to practice getting free of half guard as that is so common from mount, but not to the level where it takes away from practicing mount in general. Something to think about for next time. 🙂
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 28/03/2013
When moving around to north-south from standard side control, start by shifting your grip. You’ll need to place one arm by their near hip. A useful tip from Braulio is to anchor your hand flat on the mat by their legs, elbow near their bum. If you instead grab their gi or their trousers, they will be able to follow you with their legs as you turn. If you put your hand in the way, that acts as a barrier, meaning you can scoot around but they can’t scamper after you. Your other hand will normally wrap under their far shoulder.
As always with top positions, you must make sure you are maximising the weight you’re driving into them. Stay on your toes as you walk around, also establishing solid grips with your hands. Press your chest down to turn their head to one side: that is a good general rule of thumb from top position, as if you can turn their head to one side, it is tough for them to turn their body in the other direction.
As ever, there are numerous ways you can grip in this position. A common option is to basically flop your upper body onto their head, bringing your knees in. My personal preference is to move off to one side of the head, driving my weight onto their shoulder, my head low and pressing down, sprawling back with my legs.
You can also experiment with various grips. The most basic is probably grabbing under their shoulders and reaching for their belt, then pulling them in towards you. You could also try putting your elbows into their armpits, or maybe wrap up an arm, perhaps sliding your arm under the head. Another common approach is to have one arm over their arm, while the elbow of your other arm digs into their armpit.
Generally you want to keep your hips low, like in side control, but there are variations where you raise your hips, driving your weight through your shoulders. As Jason Scully over on Grapplers Guide mentioned, if they try that escape where they wriggle out and fling their legs over to take your back, raising your hips can be useful. You can then drive your forehead into their chest to stop them completing the escape.
The best place to learn about maintaining the north-south probably isn’t BJJ: its parent art judo is much better at pins. In judo, the orthodox north-south is called ‘kami shiho gatame’, with lots of variations. For example, the above picture shows three options mentioned in an old instructional book from 1952, Higher Judo: Groundwork, by Dr Moshé Feldenkrais (not only a good judoka, but an engineer, physicist and founder of the eponymous ‘Feldenkrais Method‘).
Scarf hold is useful to switch to if they start shoving into your neck and bridge. Turn your body, resting your torso on them, leaning into them for extra weight. You can have your knee up (to provide a counter if they start forcefully bridging into you), but be careful they can’t hook that with their leg. You can also sprawl your legs out, one crossed over the other. Keep your head low for additional control.
The position is also handy for when you want to kill the near arm. Scoop up their elbow with your near hip, digging it underneath as you switch to scarf, pull up the arm, then return to side control. Bring your knees in tight and suck your partner in with your arms to remove any space for their arm. From there, shifting backwards and sliding through to mount becomes much easier.
Most instructors would say that it is very important you pull up on their arm and keep good control of that elbow in scarf hold. If they can get their elbow back and dig it back under your hip, they can start to make space and escape. However, John Will disagrees. He feels that this position wasn’t as common as it used to be, because people often have a bad experience. They go into scarf hold, pulling their opponent’s arm up…then the opponent links arms behind their back and rolls them over. The move can often be discarded by beginners as a result of that bad experience.
For Will, the key detail is that linking arm. Instead of pulling it up and trapping it under your armpit – which exposes you to that linked hands escape – jam your arm next to your raised knee so they can’t get their arm around your back. There are various attacks you can do on the arm if you use the non-Will orthodox scarf hold, or like good judoka, you can simply pin them here. If they try and shrimp away, you can return to side control, and switch between the two. Also, make sure to stay right up into their armpit, rather than going low by their hip.
Finally, this can also combine well with the Saulo position I demonstrate in my side control basic maintenance class. If they are really shoving their forearm into your neck, you can go with that pressure but still keep control, ‘connecting the hip’ like Saulo advises.
Teaching Notes: North-south is my personal favourite transition and I also often shift into scarf hold. I’ve combined north-south with knee on belly in the past, but I think knee-on-belly is better served by a separate lesson. I’ll have to think of what to combine it with: perhaps reverse scarf hold and a transition into mount? That might be too much for one lesson though.
Today ended up being quite conceptual, which is hopefully useful. I know I like general principles that can be broadly applied, but then not everyone likes to learn in the same way. I’m at the point now where I’m confident on at least one lesson for each position, but still working on how best to introduce techniques beyond that.
That’s one of the downsides about only teaching once a week, as I can’t test things out as regularly as I’d like, but then teaching more often on a regular basis at this point would essentially become a job, so I’d need to get paid to make it viable. Hopefully some day in the future that might happen, but for now once a week is cool. 🙂
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 26/03/2013
For my hundredth class, it’s a pleasure to be able to say that the GrappleThon has now passed £4,000! The team continues to grow: if you’d like to help the fight against sexual violence and rape culture, then please donate here. You can also get involved and start fundraising yourself, if you’re able to get to Bristol on the 4th May. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested. 🙂
Tonight I’m covering what has become a favourite topic of mine, maintaining side control. I kicked off with the conceptual framework John described to me in Texas, which I’ve mentioned before: the primary control points are the hips and the triangle of shoulders and head, secondary control is inside the knees and elbows, then finally tertiary control relates to the wrists and ankles. John goes into more detail over on this thread. I think it’s helpful to have that framework at the start, as then the students can hopefully see how that principle filters through everything we’ll be training today.
Another key point to keep in mind is that when you’re underneath, one of the worst things that can happen is they control your near arm. Now you’re on top, you therefore want to get control of that arm. Dig your knee into the armpit, aiming to slip it right under, bringing your knees in close to their head to trap their arm. You can also try switching to scarf hold briefly, scooping their arm up with your hip, then switching back to side control.
Next, you want to apply the cross face. If you’re not familiar with the term, that means bringing your near side arm under their head. From that position, you can then drive your shoulder and/or arm into the side of their head or neck, aiming to get their head to turn away from you and/or generate some choking pressure to distract them. If they can’t turn their head back towards you due to the shoulder pressure, it will make it much harder for them to create space and escape. “The body follows the head” or “where the head goes, the body follows” is an old adage and a true one. Choking pressure can also open up opportunities to switch to mount or consider initiating a submission attempt. This is what SBG call the ‘shoulder of justice.’
So, you’ve got control of their near arm and their head. You’re now going to deal with their far arm. Reach under that far elbow with your arm, coming under the armpit. You have a couple of options here. Option one is linking your hands together with a gable grip and sucking them in towards you, providing a very tight side control. This is how Tran showed it to me several years ago, and has been my preferred control ever since. Option two is gripping around their shoulder, to bring their shoulder off the mat: this is something Dónal likes to do, which isn’t surprising as I think I first saw that on a Braulio video. You can also use the elbow of your far arm to squeeze into their far hip.
You want to keep control over this far arm for two reasons: first, they can use it to defend, by getting it into your neck. Second, there are a number of attacks you can do from here. Final point I wanted to emphasise was chest position. Picture an imaginary line between the middle of their chest and also between yours. You want to bisect those lines: don’t be too far over them, or they can easily roll you (if they DO try and roll you and it’s working, put your far arm or your forehead out for base). Too far back, and it’s easier for them to slip out and escape. Stay low, dropping your hips: don’t leave them any space.
This is what I would call orthodox side control, and it’s the one I use all the time. I prefer this position, because here I feel like I have the most control, as my opponent has no space. I also tend to clasp my hands, in what Xande calls the ‘super hold’ on his DVD, with good reason. It’s a powerful grip.
At this point, I wanted to note that there are a bunch of different things you can do with your legs. I generally prefer to bring both knees in tight, although more recently I’ve been sprawling the leg nearer the head back. If you can sprawl, it will help your control in that you’ll be able to lower your hips. That means more weight on top of them. However, if you have both legs sprawled back, there is a chance they might be able to bring their knee inside: you need to block it somehow, which would commonly be with your hip, your hand or your knee. Play around and see which position you like, and also be ready to switch depending on your partner’s movement
That leads into the second section, where I wanted to emphasise mobility in side control as well as focused pressure. Although it can be tempting to just seize up in side control, you have to keep moving: otherwise, you aren’t reacting to your opponent and they’re eventually going to escape. The old “it’s better to bend than to break” cliche comes to mind.
That transitional, mobile element to side control can be seen in Saulo’s method for maintaining side control, which he shows on Jiu Jitsu Revolution. He keeps his hip stuck right by theirs throughout. The only time he lets off the pressure is if he gets something better, like strong control on the far arm. As they move, turn and put your other hip to theirs, following them around with your legs sprawled back. Your elbow is across, blocking their other hip: however, be careful of pinching that in too forcefully, as that may help them initiate an escape where they roll you over the top.
Your weight should constantly be on them, because of that sprawl: don’t touch the floor with your legs or knees. You can also reverse, which Saulo’s brother Xande discusses in detail on his DVD. Turn your hips in the other direction, so that you’re now facing their legs. Control their far arm, also making sure to block their near hip to prevent their movement in that direction.
To continue emphasising the importance of that hip connection, I then brought in the drills I first taught a while ago, with sparring from side control without using your arms, then another round where the bottom person can use their arms but the top person still can’t. My intention was to help students improve their sensitivity and weight distribution, both on top and on the bottom. That progresses into general specific sparring.
Teaching Notes: I’m still not sure of the best order to teach this in. Last time I had the Saulo method first and orthodox side control second, but the problem with that is it means I’m saying “stay mobile, don’t lock”, followed by “here’s how to really clamp down.” It probably works better starting off with the tight control, then progressing to mobility. But meh, hopefully I’ll get some feedback that will establish what students prefer and find more useful.
I’m also continuing to experiment with arranging people for sparring. I’ve tried counting people off, putting them in two lines and king of the hill. I went with king of the hill again today, initially in two groups, one heavier the other lighter. Two people stayed on top, then I switched in another two for the next round. The problem with that is that one person is often left out, so I have to either add in an extra round for them, or switch things around mid-round (which could potentially cut somebody’s else go short).
At the end I did a typical king of the hill, except that if you stay on for three goes, switch out. I’m going to continue experimenting with that system and see if it works. Ideally I want something that gives everyone a chance to work the technique, doesn’t confuse anybody in terms of where they are supposed to be and also enables me to jump in if I want to.
I didn’t today, though I was sorely tempted, because I don’t think my injury is up to extended side control bottom sparring yet. I’m fine on top, and progressive resistance with somebody I trust is ok, but I’m still being careful when it comes to sparring. Nevertheless, it was useful doing progressive resistance with Mike: he had an interesting escape attempt where he put his arm at his side and used that as a brace to try and spin the other way.
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! 😀
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK – 21/03/2013
I started off by focusing on the survival posture for the running escape. Rather than gripping under your head and far arm as in orthodox side control, for tonight’s scenario your opponent is using near side grips (i.e., an arm under your head and by the same side hip). That means that it is very difficult to bridge towards them and shrimp, because they’ve trapped that side. However, you can still bridge away from them, as that side is completely open.
A simplified version of the running escape starts in much the same way as an orthodox escape: bridge to make some initial space. Your aim is to create a gap so that you can turn on your side, getting your hand past their near shoulder. Use that hand as a block, then step out with your bottom leg. Be careful you don’t elbow your partner in the face as you do that, especially if you’re pushing off their shoulder with your hand.
The defensive position you’re looking to reach is turned away from them, with one leg over the other, foot based out. Your top elbow is clamped to that stepping leg (your forearm should be glued to your upper leg), while your other hand goes behind your head for defence. This can be a handy place to catch your breath, although it can also be tempting to stall.
You need to keep several things in mind while in your defensive posture. First, don’t let them sneak an arm around your waist. If they get an arm in, you aren’t going to be able to turn away and free yourself. Should they get an arm inside, you’ll have to either wriggle your elbow and knee back underneath, or shift to a different escape. It’s possible you may be able to roll them, as when somebody reaches too deeply in turtle, but most likely they will start making space to insert their leg.
That leads into the second point: be careful they don’t take your back. This is the most common attack people have done to me when I’ve tried it. If they can lift you up enough to slide their bottom leg through (if they have an arm around your waist, this becomes much more likely), you’re in trouble. If it does happen, stay tight and don’t let them get that second hook in. Your elbow is already by your hip and knee to block the first hook, which means you can use the hand of that same arm to help protect your other hip from their second hook. You might also be able to move into turtle and roll them, but that needs good timing and control of their arm.
Third, watch for chokes. Saulo confidently states that they are never going to be able to choke you if you duck your head, bringing it next to your arm to block their entry. However, you can’t just lie there and assume you’re immune to being choked: you still need to take care they aren’t able to set anything up. Should they get hold of a collar, you can try yanking that same collar outwards to remove their grip, but it may be too late if they’ve already got a solid grasp and started cinching the collar tight against your neck.
Moving on to the actual escape technique, I went with two options. Saulo’s version in Jiu Jitsu University (p69) begins by making a little space and turning to the survival posture, then links directly to his knee on belly escape. I normally just teach that knee on belly escape as a drill for my open guard maintenance lesson (e.g., back in October), as the swinging motion is a useful skill to learn. However, in his book, Saulo uses that motion to recover his guard from under side control, rather than the swivel he uses in Jiu Jitsu Revolution 2 (he does a much quicker version in his first set, Jiu Jitsu Revolution 1).
The risky part is as you’re swinging through with your legs in the air: if your partner is prepared and you aren’t able to perform that motion smoothly and efficiently, they may be able to set up a double-underhook pass. It is therefore important to clamp your legs down as Saulo does in the last picture, rather than leaving them dangling and vulnerable. Jiu Jitsu University is more recent than Saulo’s DVD set, so I’m not certain if this version of the escape is a progression that has been stripped of superfluous elements, or a simplified version which is intended as an introductory option to the full technique presented in the second DVD set.
The second and perhaps more difficult option is from Saulo’s DVD. Push off the floor with your back foot, using that to move your body forward, your hips raised. Base on your head and shoulder, then turn your top knee inwards. Continue the rotation until you can recover open or half guard. This is probably the simplest option, but I find it is difficult to secure that position, as I have to scramble for a grip before they pass.
Whichever option you go for, be careful to time your escape, staying sensitive to their weight distribution. If they are driving into you with lots of pressure, it will be hard to make space and turn. A good moment to attempt the escape is when they are looking to attack or transition to another position. Often, there will be a brief moment before they start when they take their weight off you. That is the time to spring the escape.
Finally, as you start to recover guard, you need to make sure you secure the position. If you aren’t careful, they can just keep moving round and put you back in side control. That’s where I tend to get caught. If you’re having trouble, you could instead try going to turtle, or perhaps use the principles of guard recovery: block their shoulder and bicep, get your legs in the way, hook their leg into half guard, etc.
It is possible that the person you are training with won’t often use near side grips from side control. Speaking personally, I tend to go for the orthodox grip under the head and the far arm. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the running escape, it simply means you have to put yourself into position, forcing them to use near grips. All you need to do is make enough space that you can turn away and curl into a ball.
Teaching Notes: I added in a bit more detail on the swinging legs escape, in regards to recovering if you mess up and they underhook both your legs. I could go into more detail, but I just advised to make your legs heavy, wriggle back on your shoulders, then hook your insteps inside their thighs. As I’m separating the escapes part into a separate section, I don’t think I was overloading by adding that in, but I’ll ask for feedback and see what people think.
Also on the escapes, I could probably make more of framing after doing the second escape, when you just turn. Geraldine (who has recently moved to Bristol from Torquay, where she trained with the Fightworx crew, so ex-team mate of Vikki and She-Beast) did something interesting when I was drilling this with her, as she simply scooted back.
I hadn’t thought of that, so will add that in next time, as it’s a good idea, along with framing and/or securing grips. Geraldine proved to be a great training partner (particularly as she was doing stuff that I think will help when I next teach this escape, like that scoot back), so hopefully I’ll be able to roll with her more in future (plus she said she’s read my blog, which means extra cool points ;p).
Judging from what the two big guys in the class said, I don’t think they found the running escape as useful as the smaller people, so that’s something to think about. I could try asking some of the other bigger people if they ever use it, like Nick, or indeed Geeza. Steve mentioned that he generally just turns to turtle: I guess the running escape could be handy as an intermediary stage if you like going to turtle under side control anyway.
I’m also continuing to get in plenty of sparring with students, which is nice from a selfish “I want to train more” perspective, but also handy for testing out stuff I want to teach, in this case top side control. It is especially good that Tony is back training regularly, as he and Mike are two of my favourite training partners. I know I’ll get a challenging roll from both of them, but it will be technical. Mike hit a nifty stiff-arm escape on me, which is something I can never manage myself, so will have to pick his brain on it (he mentioned it’s been working well for him recently).
Speaking of Tony, he had an interesting point during sparring. When teaching, I had mentioned that it is generally a bad idea to reach under your leg to grab it, as then they may be able to collapse your leg on top of your arm, trapping both limbs (something I think Jeff Rockwell taught me). Tony likes to put his arm under, but he brings his heel in tight to his hip, as if he was technically mounting himself. That means the knee is up high, so it’s difficult to collapse. Next time I teach it, I can therefore mention that you break that ‘rule’ if you’re sufficiently flexible.
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Jamie Horsman, Bristol, UK – 20/03/2013
I was looking forward to seeing what the new instructors would be like, which is the main cool part about Geeza being away. Jamie hasn’t taught before, so I also wanted to make sure I was there to support him. He started off with some self defence, as this was a Gracie Barra Fundamentals lesson, taking someone down when they headlock you then moving into an armbar.
The main technique was escaping to the knees from under side control. Jamie uses Geeza’s method (which presumably is the official GB method: I haven’t watched the DVDs for a while, so can’t remember how Feitosa does it). Under side control, cross your hands over your neck, to stop your opponent having much in the way of offensive opportunities. You’re then going to shift to the ‘knife and seashell’, which is another way of saying put a forearm into their neck, cupping their hip with the other hand (I prefer using the forearm on the hip too, but this is a viable alternative).
Bridge into them, then turn to your knees. Geeza and Jamie end up straight on rather than off to the side. Bring your knees up one by one, then go to turtle. Straight on is how I first learned it at RGA, though I find that when I do that I tend to have trouble avoiding them sprawling on me and stuffing the escape. Hence why I teach the Roy Dean method of coming up on the side instead, but that doesn’t mean straight on is any less viable, I just have trouble with it. 😉
Sparring was specific from side control. I’m relying too much on grips, which will end up burning out my hands if I’m not careful: I need to try and be less ‘grippy’ for want of a better word. Next time I’ll try just placing my hands there, cupping the shoulder, the armpit etc and see if that works ok.
I focused on digging out their near elbow, along with just maintaining position and staying heavy. With white belts, they tend to get frustrated and start bridging wildly, meaning they get tired, so you can just swing your leg over quickly to mount. However, that’s a bad habit, as swinging the leg over is risky: they could snatch half guard, or worse, time their bridge and come up in guard.
So, staying heavy was relatively effective, as I was generally able to hold position. Except with Nick. As normal, he rolled me immediately: the fact he’s 105kg to my 65 obviously makes a difference, but still, I need to focus on transitions with bigger guys. I’m always telling people when teaching that side control isn’t static, you need to keep moving, but this was a good reminder to do it more myself. 😀
Underneath was less succesful. I was able to escape a few times and I think I did ok at conserving my energy, but a number of times after bridging and getting my knee through, I found myself spinning around unable to stop them following me. I need to block them from doing that: perhaps controlling the arm, like I taught yesterday, or simply controlling the knee? Another instance where I don’t think I’m following my own advice properly!
I’m also not bridging enough, though that’s partly due to my groin injury. I gave the spin out escape a try, where you reach under their body, but that didn’t go too well. I also attempted the stiff arm without any success: I think I need to commit more, as I’m possibly giving up on it too early.
On my way off the mats at the end, I was amused by one of the kids watching. He stared straight at me and said “You’re the strongest!” Especially entertaining as I was standing next to Nick at the time, who quite clearly takes that title. Unless he meant it in the Brazilian sense, so was in fact telling me I’m using too much strength and my technique sucks? The wisdom of children… ;p
Class #495 – Private #007
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Dónal Carmody, Bristol, UK – 20/03/2013
For today’s lesson with Dónal, I decided to move on from guard passing. The reason I started off with passing is that it has long been one of my major weak areas, which thanks to Dónal now feels much stronger (or at least I have a clear route to take). My other current big weakness is the guard…but my injury won’t let me work on that. Therefore I plumped for yet another weak point for me, which is back escapes.
As ever, I was looking for simple and efficient, preferably building on what I already know. Dónal came up with the perfect option, which is essentially a modified combination of what I’ve taught in the past, namely Xande’s variation where he falls to the side and the basic back bridge escape. Those modifications are important, as they make the escape much more effective.
Start off by immediately bringing your knee up on the choking arm side. In one quick motion, move your head forwards and simultaneously shove their head sideways (this is presuming they know what they are doing and have their head tight to yours for control). Look towards them, keeping your head and neck firm in order to stop them moving their head back into place. Push off your leg and bridge back, aiming to get your shoulders and spine to the mat. Angle your choking arm side knee towards the other side, to stop them dragging you back over to the choking arm side once you start escaping.
Due to your body slipping off to the side, they are probably going to try and come on top. To do that, they need to be able to turn their legs down and then away from you. Keep your legs in tight to block them: with your leg back, that forms an effective barrier to their efforts to turn. There are a couple of ways you can do that. The first one Dónal showed was hooking their top leg (if they’re trying to turn on top, they’ll be on their side) with your near leg. Alternatively, step your near leg behind the knee of their bottom leg and pinch your own knees together.
With your near arm, grab their trousers by their top leg (either by the knee or a bit lower). When you have the opportunity, switch to grip with the other hand, which means you can bring your near elbow down past their body, on the inside. At this point, make sure you’ve got your outside knee angled towards them, for base like before. Shrimp away, get your near arm back, then turn straight into the leg squash pass position.
I ended up doing it a bit differently when we were drilling, as I like to get control of the shoulder and head. I diverged at the point after you switch your grip on their trousers. Instead of getting my elbow to the floor and turning, I preferred to either reach across their neck and grab the gi, or better, reach under their head, grip the far armpit then lock my shoulder into their head/shoulder.
Either way, I then shrimp away and turn to try and come on top. With your grip on the knee, stiff-arm so they can’t lock their half-guard (if they do lock their half guard, this puts you in the opposite side half guard pass position, so proceed from there). Free your leg and move into side control.
The other option is to go to deep half, then do the Homer Simpson sweep to come on top and pass. This starts off the same as before, but the difference is that when they try to come on top, they’ve been a bit more canny and locked their heel into your far hip. That is going to make it more difficult for you to reach the top position. Instead, shove that leg between yours (either bridge and push it in between, or kick your far leg and swivel it round to trap their leg).
Pinch your knees, also stepping your near leg behind their bottom knee. Alternatively, you can hookin your near leg around the back of their top knee. Shrimp away, then curl your near hand underneath their butt, leading with the back of your hand. Use that to bump them off balance, turning into deep half. Hold onto their knee and turn it outwards, run around with your legs (this is the ‘Homer Simpson’ part of the sweep), then spin to come on top (be careful they don’t underhook your arm, as that’s awkward) and pass. I’m not a fan of deep half as I put it in the category of “flashy stuff that is too complex for me”, but this is probably the most basic application, so something I’m willing to try.
When you come on top, you can go into a useful knee cut/single underhook pass position, which allows you to go for either pass depending on their reaction. I think that’s in the Gracie University stripe 1 lesson on passing, which I should take another look at (also reminds me I still haven’t reviewed the guard chapter I bought ages ago, so will have to get round to doing that at some point.
I headed straight over to Jamie’s lesson afterwards, which continued the side control escape theme from this week. There was a chance I’d get to practice the back escapes, but then last time Geeza taught a GB Fundamentals on side control escapes, you stopped specific sparring as soon as they were able to turn to their knees, so probably not.