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April 06, 2008

bjj training scrapbook: single–leg takedown, and more guard passing.

I was walking home from the Parade at about 4.30am Saturday night/Sunday morning.  I live about 25 minutes walk from here, and it was pelting with snow.  Properly pelting.  About 3 minutes from the Parade, on Warwick Street, I was already covered in snow when a Castle Taxis vehicle stopped on the other side of the road.  From his window, the driver asked if I was going towards Warwick.  When I said I was going in that direction, he told me to jump in and gave me a (free) lift home.  "Can't let you walk home in this weather, mate."  It made me overjoyed and delighted - and is one of the best things that has happened so far in 2008.  If you're looking for a cab in Leamington or Warwick do use Castle Taxis (01926 494989).  


I submitted about 9000 words on Friday afternoon, which I estimate is about half of a chapter about digital video.  The problem was that I set out to do so much that the amount I did do made any barely any headway into my research questions.

I had another BJJ class on Friday evening - I meant to write up the class sometime earlier this weekend, but I've been busy watching the wonderful Frank Turner in Coventry (WONDERFUL folk-rock songs about life, existential crises and really wishing everyone else would want to make the world better), and seeing the mighty Never Back Down (Mr Miagi-tastic). 

Chiu showed us a single leg takedown.  From the elbow-and-collar grip, you quickly pull your opponent's gi downwards and then back up - in order to force them off-balance (this, or a variant of this, is standard to all the takedowns from standing that I know so far).  When they are off-balance, you shoot in as per a double-leg takedown (i.e. down onto your right knee, which should be placed between their legs, with your left foot further forward) and lift their left leg from the ground.  You then try to stand up, and basically circle round to the right - forcing them to put all their body weight onto the one leg that they still have control of.  This seemed to work better if you also had control of their gi collar, which you can use for extra leverage to throw them off-balance.  They'll hit the mat...

We then did some more work on controlling your opponent's legs when guard passing.  This is an important detail, that will work in conjunction with the guard passes we learnt in this session.  Standing in front of your opponent, you control their legs by grabbing their gi pants at the bottom in the middle.  You need to grip this really tight - I was working with Luke on this, and he said you pretty much needed to cut off your opponent's circulation in their legs.  To try to restrict your movement, your opponent will hook his legs around your arms (and, if they can, grab your gi by the wrists).  To break any control your opponent has, you need to push inwards and down to the floor, whilst also stepping backwards yourself.  You need to force your opponent's feet to the floor, and keep them there.  If you've got this controlled, then you should be able to pass as per the previous entry.

On a less technical note, I experienced my first real 'disheartened' moment that I've read so many people write about.  I felt like a complete joke in class, like all my movements were completely artificial, terrible and embarrassing, and just like I wasn't able to put anything into practice.    It was only when I got home that I remembered Aesopian's advice, which I've posted about before:

Realize that everyone else went through the same issues and understands what you’re going through. You’re not stupid if you don’t know something yet—that’s the whole reason you’re at class.

So relax and don’t sweat it.

I have another class tomorrow, so will try and keep it in mind.


I'm pleased to say that Florida won their weekend series over Pittsburgh.  They won on Friday (the first game I got to follow live this season) and Saturday, but sucked really hard on Sunday.  Still, 2 games to 1 is enough to win the series - and now they're travelling to Washington for games tomorrow with a current season record of 3-3.

Charity shops in Leamington are wonderful - I managed to buy the entire first series of The West Wing, and the 1989 Charlie Sheen baseball film Major League, on VHS for £3.50 combined from Myton Hospice.  Sweet.  If only I could find the time and motivation to watch and read all these things!

Jay Hieron vs Mark Miller from Friday night in New Jersey.  Hieron is very impressive. 

March 31, 2008

guard–passing drills.

Will the conference report ever appear?  Don't hold your breath, I got lazy last week and have lots of writing on my digital video chapter to do this week.  I'm trying to get a lot of sleep tonight, but I just wanted to quickly note today's class so I don't forget.

At BJJ class today, Chiu taught us a basic guard passing drill that is designed to practice the appropriate movements.  I haven't been taught this elementary pass before, so I was also learning the pass itself. 

Standing before your opponent, you should take control of both their legs by tightly gripping their gi somewhere around or beneath the knee.  If you push their legs towards them (moving your hips forward for additional pressure), then should push back and you can step around them.  Move your outside leg first, and effectively glue that to the side of their knee.  Then move your inside leg even further forward - taking your entire body outside of their legs.  Whilst you are doing this, DON'T let go of your grip on your opponent's legs (otherwise they will simply turn with you, and your body won't be free of their legs).  Pull the leg that you hold with your outside arm with you, and push the other leg in the opposite direction - crossing their legs if necessary.  That's the basic drill - just perfecting that movement.

If you opponent tries to resist by straightening out a leg, to block you from moving around them you can perform a 'sliding' pass.  Push the straightened leg down whilst, on the opposite side, slide your arm through the inside of their knee towards the floor (you need to be close with this, to restrict their movement in the bent leg with your forearm).  Your legs should be stretched outside behind you, creating a tripod-like stance.  Aim your head towards their chest or stomach.  From there you should be able to quite easily pass their guard.

We also did a knee-on-stomach drill.   Start with your right knee in your opponent's stomach, with your left leg out in front of you.  Control their hip with your right hand, and control their head or shoulder with your left hand.  For the drill, smoothly replace your right knee with your left knee on their stomach (they shouldn't not have a knee in their stomach at any point).  Control their head or shoulder with your right hand, and their hip with your left hand. 

Just wanted to note all this down before I forgot.  I even had to quickly borrow Rosie in the process of writing to remember the knee-on-stomach drill.


And here are some links you may or may not find interesting:

'Is this the big one?' by Jeff Faux (I recently discovered The Nation website, and think that it is quite brilliant).

'Crumbs from the SLIFR notebook' by Dennis Cozzalio - I really, really enjoyed this post by Dennis who I think is the one of the best film writers on the Internet.

And, because it's the start of the baseball season today, check out Fish Chunks - which will be my guide to Florida Marlins news this year, although as I write they've already conceded a depressing 6 runs in the 4th inning.

March 15, 2008

technique from half–guard.

First off - this article is quite brilliant: 'Nuggets of advice' by Aesopian (a writer about bjj who is quite prominent on the Internet).  A few of my favourite bits:

As a beginner, especially before you realize how understanding and supportive your school is, it’s easy to suffer from “feeling stupid”. So much is unfamiliar and unknown to you, and you’re being constantly required to do things before you know what to do...Realize that everyone else went through the same issues and understands what you’re going through. You’re not stupid if you don’t know something yet—that’s the whole reason you’re at class.

An optimistic outlook will aide you greatly as you learn and improve at BJJ.  Let’s say you get caught in sparring with a move you didn’t expect at all. You could react to this a few ways.  You could beat yourself up for getting caught, start muscling the guy so he won’t get you again and get a “revenge tap” out of him.  Or, as I’d suggest, you could admire his success and ask him to show you what he did so you can learn it too.  Your mindset, negative or positive, can affect how quickly and smoothly you improve, as well as set the vibe at your gym.

I had a really exciting lesson in BJJ last Saturday, which inspired me to buy a membership and actually commit to attending two classes a week.  Additionally, the Saturday mornings have been killing me so I've changed to evening classes - this week I've been to the 'basic' classes on Monday and Friday (rather than the Foundation ones I've been doing for the past few weeks), which are taught by Chiu, a brown belt (therefore, behind Braulio and Victor, he is the third most senior instructor at the club).  It marks a step-up in the difficulty of the class (the 15-20 minute warm-up in the Monday class was so tough that it made me feel like I was going to throw up), but there are a lot of familiar faces from my previous group who have been a lot friendlier and chattier since I've been around more this week - rather than just be that smiling weirdo who turns up every now and then.

Yesterday, we were taught a basic technique you can execute from the half-guard position in order to restrict your opponent's movement - with a view towards sweeping them and achieving a more dominating position. 

Okay, half-guard: you are on the bottom, resting on your side and hip (rather than flat on your back, which would be a weaker position to be in).  In the half-guard position you have trapped one of your opponent's legs, by having one leg between their knees/legs and your other around the outside of their legs.  If you cross your feet you've got one of their legs trapped, yeah?.   For the purposes of this description, you've got their right leg trapped.  To make sure that your opponent cannot put all their weight straight down on you (which is going to seriously restrict your movement), you need to have your inside leg bent and pushed into their midsection.  Your leg acts like a shield here.  So that's the position.

For this work optimally, you need to find a suitable moment in the exchange.  Ideally, your opponent would just be mounting an effort to pass your half-guard (i.e. recover their leg and get into a stronger position) so they can be caught slightly off-balance.  You need to extend your outside leg at the knee for balance, and then shoot one arm through their legs and the other arm around the right of their hips - basically you're looking to catch the foot of the leg that you don't have trapped.  When you've caught the foot, you need to secure it with one hand against their back - you are rendering that foot immobile.  (One detail: when I was using this in sparring later, when shooting for the foot, twice my opponent managed to turn the situation to his advantage and secure my back (and, eventually, a chokehold).  I think, to avoid this, when shooting you need to keep your head quite close to your opponent's body - or keep your half-guard tighter to restrict their movement.)

I'm a little less sure of the next step, and am going to try to practice it with Rosie this weekend to get a better grasp.  You need to cross your legs over, so that their right leg is being hooked solely with your left leg.  Therefore you'll be controlling their right leg with your left leg, and their left foot with your right hand.  From this position, you can drive forwards - take them off balance and hopefully secure the side position.  Chiu was very insistent that you needed to work out several ways to do this, because your opponent was likely to try counter-moves which would require something else.  

I think I've got the super-basics down though... 

I've written this whilst listening to 'A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation' by The Wombats, which is quite great.  They sound like energetic kids making a punky and fun racket with witty lyrics - perhaps like the Arctic Monkeys without the attitude.

I have bought 'Young Liars #1' from eBay, which is a new comic series by David Lapham.  I really like Lapham's stuff - the Stray Bullets book I have is brilliant, and his Daredevil vs Punisher was also more fantastic than most Marvel books.  Douglas Wolk describes it as 'awful' here (but says that he could be convinced yet), but on the same website Graeme MacMillan calls it 'kind of awesome' .  My enthusaism about Lapham's stuff is more than enough to encourage me to buy it and make up my own mind.

I'm looking forward to watching Marquez vs Pacquiao 2 tonight.  There's a really good preview write-up here

February 10, 2008

escaping from side control.

I was going to watch the Detroit vs Anaheim hockey game (sounds great, and I haven't watched a whole hockey game since Christmas holidays), but the combination of our overloaded-at-eveningtime Internet connection and upgrades at the legally dubious streamtvnow has denied me.  I guess that I'll write in here and read comics instead.

My shoulders, back, hips and left leg are aching from Brazilian jiu-jitsu yesterday morning.  I'm really, really enjoying it though - it has been years since I begun to learn a new sport, and there's something about this one that feels unique and exciting.  I even spent 30 quid on my own gi yesterday!  For the win!  This week I learnt a technique to be used to escape when your opponent is in side control.   

side control.

This photo shows what side control is.  The guy in the black gi is in side control, and yesterday I learnt one thing you can do if you are in the same position as the dude with the blue gi.  (I stole the photo from

First, you create space on the right side by lifting your hips (this is known as 'bridging') and pulling your right elbow down against your opponent's hip.  You then bridge your hips again, and roll your left arm underneath your opponent's chin until your hand is rested upon their shoulder, with your wrist and forearm under their chin.  It's really important that, when doing this last bit, you roll your arm under the chin rather than circling it towards their shoulder.  We were told that if you leave your arm dangling like this, it gives your opponent an opportunity to execute an Americana armlock - though I don't know how to do that yet!

Okay, here's the tough bit.  You perform a movement that is known in bjj as 'shrimping', which entails pushing from your legs to shunt your hips backwards (i.e. out of your opponent's control).  In this case, the dude in the blue gi would move his hips clockwise and bend his right leg (whilst keeping the left leg straight).  You can then exert your bent right knee against your opponent's stomach - and then push with your knee and your arm (that is against their shoulder) to create more space.  With this two-pronged leverage, you'll hopefully be able to get back into the guard position (where you have your opponent's body locked between your legs).  You may need to slip your left leg between their legs and use it to force their body away.  

I found it really difficult, and I'm still not convinced that I've remembered all of the detailed movements.  It's great living with Rosie, because we can practice on each other - so hopefully I'll be acquainted with it before the next practice this Saturday.

Okay.  Comics now.  Juno tomorrow. 

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