Thursday, 29 August 2013

Choke - Nova Forca BJJ

Tonight’s technique was a simple but very effective choke which gets tighter as you allow the other person to pass your guard. Using my left hand I take a cross lapel grip with my palm facing up. You then pull the back of your partners head down with your right hand so that it’s tucked under your arm. Most people will look to pass to side control from here as a normal reaction to escaping what looks like a guillotine attempt. However this just further tightens the choke. If they attempt to move further around in to the north-south position (Kami-shiho-gatame) the choke becomes tighter still. From what we were taught there are a couple of escapes. One is to roll over on to your back, however you can stop them from doing this by simply grabbing hold of their gi pants with your right arm whilst applying the choke. The other escape was to move in the other direction, so instead of passing to your right, they move to your left. Ricardo showed us a simple counter to this which involved putting pressure on the back of your opponent’s neck with your right arm, in a scissor movement.

I liked this choke as it’s quite easy to get the initial cross lapel grip without your opponent feeling duly threatened. When I practised this I substituted the pull down of the head by grabbing the jacket just behind the neck. This way the technique becomes Judo legal.

The below video shows this technique being used in competition. Here the attacker not only passes the guard but actually takes the back of the guy applying the choke, probably in the hope that the further around he moves the less effective the choke becomes, when in fact the opposite is true and he gets choked out.

As a Judoka, one thing that screams out at me whilst watching the above is the un-Judo like posture and total lack of any throwing attempted by both fighters. To me, this more closely resembles wrestling than Judo, which is odd when you consider that BJJ is derived from Judo.

Sparring followed and my first roll was with a young guy (only 16) who was having only his 4th lesson. Not much I could do other than let him try out what he knows. I’m certainly not good enough to start teaching him nor would I want to in someone else’s club. I did however just point out to him that it’s not a good idea to push me with straight arms when I have him mounted.

Next up was a stocky guy who was training nogi. He spent most of this roll moving from my guard to half guard. He was looking for a guillotine choke when in half guard but I was able to defend this. I wrapped up his right arm with my left but there was no collar to grab hold of, in fact the lack of any grips made this quite a difficult roll for both of us. I’ve never trained nogi myself as it’s not really applicable to Judo but I might give it a go one day.

Next up I rolled with Jadon. We fought for grips quite a lot with me trying to pass his guard. I eventually got to half guard but then I got reversed in a scramble and the bell went with Jadon in full mount putting on a cross collar choke that I was fighting not to tap to. Definitely a case of saved by the bell.

My Last roll was against Tubes who’s a purple belt. Following on from my roll with Jadon I fought for grips and tried in vain to control his legs which would have allowed me to pass his guard. He pulled me in to his guard but I was very weary of him sweeping me so I was constantly adjusting my leg position so he couldn’t get a grip on them. What I failed to notice, whilst I was concentrating on this, was that he had raised his hips and had slapped on an arm bar. At this point I tried to stack him but that allowed him the opportunity to grab my gi bottoms and roll me over to complete the arm bar and get the tap. We resumed and this time instead of getting me with an arm bar he caught me with a triangle and got a second tap. I found myself smiling through this roll, mainly as I was really impressed with the technique being used against me. I do this often when I train Judo and get thrown with a really nicely executed throw. It’s my way of saying good technique; I aspire to be like you one day.

The class finished with one of the white belts getting his birthday whipping and although he was entitled to run the gauntlet he opted to walk instead. Hardcore!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Guard Sweeps - Nova Forca BJJ

I paired up with Rob a four strip white belt for the first technique of the evening which was a sweep against an attempted guard pass. I’ve been meaning to ask Rob if he had ever trained at Yoshin Ryu as he looked very familiar and following the roll that I had with him last week I was convinced he had as he used the same technique to pass my guard as he done when we did Newaza and that was the stack pass. It turns out that he has been training at both places for a few months now.

Back to last night’s technique, I start on my back with Rob in my closed guard. He stands up in an attempt to break open my guard and I underhook his left leg with my right arm and drive my hips in to his knee, which pushes him on to the floor. All the while I keep hold of his right arm with my left arm. From there I raise my hips and drive the shin of my left leg behind his neck, whilst pulling on his right arm and rotate clockwise in to him and end up in an armlock. It sounds complicated and looks complicated but after a few pointers from Tim, one of the black belts, I had this technique down.

Ricardo go us doing a guard pass drill where one person starts in the closed guard of another. It’s the person on tops job to pass the guard whilst the person on the bottom has to defend by sweeping, submitting or catching the other person in half guard. We played winner stays on.

At first I was one of the people trying to pass guard and my first two attempts didn’t go well. On my third go against another white belt I managed to pass his guard and get to side control. Now it was my turn to start on my back and from here I had quite a bit of success as I managed a perfect flower sweep on one person and then another sweep which is the first one shown here.

The only difference when I did this was that with my left arm, I wrapped up my opponents right arm and grabbed his left side collar, thus making him think I was looking for a choke and also taking his right arm out of play. Then I swept him and ended up in mount. I like this sweep a lot as there is little set up work needed, unlike the version of the flower sweep which I do that most people know.

I stayed on for another couple of goes before Ricardo called time and told us to take a quick water break before we started sparring.

I managed 5 rolls in total, all but one were against fellow white belts. The one non-white belt I rolled with was a blue belt that I managed to hold down for a while, switching between mune gatame, Kesa gatame and Kezure kesa gatame. I was actively looking for a submission but I knew that as soon I went for one he would escape. However I am here to learn BJJ not to sit there in a pin and feel comfortable so I went knee on belly and tried to mount him (Tate-shiho-gatame). Unfortunately he took this opportunity to escape to half guard and eventually managed to sweep me but I regained full guard and remained in this position until the buzzer went.

My other rolls, against white belts, went pretty well with me being largely dominant and attacking with sweeps and submission attempts. The only time I was in trouble was my last roll when I was very tired having had no rest in-between.

The class finished with Ricardo making us do two minutes of knee jumps, press-ups and squats. The two minutes was actually more like four as he kept adding on time when someone didn’t jump high enough or do their press ups properly. Another tiring but very enjoyable session.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Letters from Nova Forca

The following is a review of Tuesday night’s class at Nova Forca as seen by two different people. (Myself and Jadon).There’s some overlap here, the kind you might get in a Tarantino Film (Think Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) but I think it makes for interesting reading.


Another very well attended class last night at Nova Forca’s new venue as again there were 40+ guys on the mat. Due to the restriction in mat space the normal brutal warm up workout was slightly less brutal but still enough to get me sweating profusely in my shiny new BJJ gi. So I’m no longer that Judo guy who does a bit of BJJ I am now just another BJJ white belt beginner.

The first, and as it turned out, the only technique we were taught was a very interesting combination of techniques. Starting off my back I apply an armbar but they pull their arm out, I then attack with a triangle but they defend by clamping their arm to their leg so I switch to an omoplata which they then cartwheel out of I then sit up and grab their trapped arm and roll them over into a mounted triangle. When Ricardo first started showing the technique I thought there was no way I was going to remember this or be able to put the moves together but I was pleasantly surprised how well I did and loved how these techniques just flowed in to one another.

A quick water break before we started sparring and first up I was paired with a big white belt who said he fought MMA. This was a tough roll for me. I spent a long time trying to pass his legs to get side control but he was defending well. I did manage to get to half guard but his sweeps were good and before I knew it I was on my back trying to stop him from passing. When he passed he quickly went knee on belly before mounting and then subbed me with a mounted triangle. We started again with the result pretty much the same, he passed my guard, went knee on belly and this time was looking for an armbar. However I was able to defend against this but he switched to another triangle and I tapped again. I smiled afterwards because I had been caught twice by my favourite submission.

My next roll was with a four stripe white belt who Jadon had just finished rolling with. This was quite a technical back and forth type of roll although he definitely had the best of it. He used the stack pass twice to get past my guard but in trying to secure the armbar I was able to reverse and even mounted him. When the bell went he almost had me with an armbar, so I was definitely saved by the bell.

I paired up with Jadon for my next roll and even though we have rolled before at Judo we’ve never really had a proper go at each other. He straight away secured a grip on my collar which left me feeling threatened; I tried to pull guard but he pushed my legs down and jumped over them in to full mount. He then takes a grip on my collar again and I am too preoccupied with trying to fight off his other hand to look for any escapes. After a few seconds he gets the cross collar choke in and slowly tightens it up for the tap. We restart and this time I decide to attack and almost pass his guard but he managed to get to half guard and then sweeps me to mount. From there he sinks in another choke, this time an Ezekial and I tap. We start again, with me on the bottom but Jadon grabs my leg and sinks in an Achilles lock. Apparently I was defending against this by holding him upright and not giving him the leverage to apply it but foolishly let go of him, definitely a white belt beginner move. Just before the bell went I attacked Jadon with an attempted stack pass and he rolled out in to turtle. I immediately attacked the turtle and was looking for a triangle turnover but the bell sounded before I could finish the move.

My last roll of the night was with another white belt who had been training for two years. This was a fairly even roll with most of the time spent trying to pass his guard. I got to half guard on several occasions but every time I thought I had passed he managed to escape again.

So I didn’t manage to submit anyone tonight but I did get subbed a lot myself. What I realise I need to work on are the following:

• Guard/half guard passing
• Defence against knee on belly
• Escaping from the mount.

Jadon also mentioned that I need to get tighter when I try to control my opponent legs. By leaving gaps they are able to pull me into half or full guard and immediately attack with sweeps.

The class ended with one of the blue belts getting promoted to Purple. At Nova Forca they favour belt whipping as a way of celebrating such things. I’ve seen a couple before but the guy being whipped has always worn a gi. However for Purple belt and up you don’t get the protection of a gi jacket which makes it that little bit more brutal, as you can see below.


Myself and Stuart made our way to Nova Forca in their new temporary residence in Epsom. It was a relatively small room packed with people, not even enough room for people to do sprawls. Nova Forca is a friendly club known for their hard "warm ups" and high standard of students. The warm up was luckily light due to space constraints but would be considered tough by any other standards. Myself and Stuart paired up to drill the series of moves Ricardo demonstrated. From bottom, you attacked the armbar, they pulled their arm out so you transition to triangle, they wrap their arm around your leg and posture up so you then you spin 180 and go for the omoplata, they cartwheel over to escape and you then sit up and grab their trapped arm and roll them over into a mounted triangle!. Ricardo had to show it several times, as its quite a long flow drill. But nice as it gave a chance to drill many different fundamental moves.

We then moved onto sparring.

1st spar:
I paired up with a 4 stripe white belt, he was solid and had a good guard game. I could pass his guard but couldn't keep him pinned. He gave my guard a hard time and I was on the defensive for a lot of it. I did manage to land a straight Achilles lock which he tapped quickly to. The bell ended with him giving me a hard time in half guard, I was going for a Kimura but he had it locked down. Ricardo came round and showed him how to rip his arm out of it.

2nd spar:
I paired with a blue belt of similar size. His posture indicated he was going to play guard, he put in a baseball bat choke grip early on but I didn't think to much of it as he has to spin to put it on. I go to pass which happens suspiciously easily, I land in side control and I can see his plan now with the baseball bat choke. His now got the angle he needs but from underneath he wont have a great deal of leverage and I can just turn out of it. So I carry on working on top, he then throws his legs up which lock me in place and the choke starts getting tight. I try to hold on hoping he will burn his fore arms out, but they don't and I have to tap. Feeling abit light headed!. He is pretty dominant the rest of the roll but I survive until he lands a triangle, I defend the choke but he then attacks the arm and I have to tap.

3rd spar:
Stuart and I decide to pair up as our rolls are always fairly constrained in the judo club. We both hate knee wrestling and our body language indicates whether we want to play guard or top. Initially he goes for guard, I stand (as I am not often allowed in judo) and push his legs underneath me quickly to land in mount. Its not a tight pass but its quite quick and can catch people unawares. I sit in S mount, as I anticipate he may roll me off so I can try grab his arm. I work for my favourite move, cross choke. I get the 1st hand in deep but he defends well and I cant get the 2nd hand in as deep as I like. But I get enough top pressure and eventually get the tap. We restart and Stuart attacks from on top, he pretty much passes my guard but leaves abit of room before getting side control tight and Im able to retain guard. I am able to sweep from half guard and pass to mount, he defends his collar well so I decide to go for an Ezekial (named after a Judoka) which I hope he isn't as familiar on how to defend, it works out and I get the tap. I then decide its my turn again to go on top, and I had pre decided I wanted to go for a straight Achilles lock (my 2nd favourite sub) as we arnt allowed to train these in Judo but it can be very effective and good practise for other leg locks. Initially he has the defence in perfect but keep me curled up by holding my collar, but unfortunately didn't realise his instinct was correct and lets go. I put it on abit high on his leg so the lock doesn't come on fully, however with this move even done loose it can crush the lower calf. The next roll and Stuart is on top again and is going for a solid stack pass, my defence is ok but he is going to pass so I decide to roll back into turtle. He is straight on me and has grips in my collar for a choke, luckily for me time runs out.

4th spar:
Another 4 stripe white belt. This guy has a serious top game and he wrecks me. Quickly getting me with a north south choke I had no idea on how to escape. Then a arm triangle from mount. I go for a straight Achilles but he has a super solid defence. I try my leap frog pass on him and he sweeps me!. The rest of the roll is survival at best, I try a few sweeps but he is able to scramble out. Great fun!

The class finished with a guy getting promoted to purple which is a big occasion at any club. Nova Forca are one of the BJJ clubs that follow the tradition of belt whipping. This guy was massive and was in seriously good shape, he has to do it without the jacket. The belt whipping was savage!, with a few spots bleeding and some bruises already going black. I gave him a good one but nothing compared to the others. This is the first whipping Ive seen and it was pretty brutal. An interesting tradition but not one I am keen on experiencing.

All in all a very good training session, I feel myself getting abit sharper on the ground. The more I tap the better I feel as its highlighting my weaknesses. I have still got some work to do before I get back to my old form. Timing, pressure and my guard all need to be improved.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

"I'm new here, lets go light..."

Guest Blogger - Jadon

 It has been quite some time since I have done any blog writing but Stuart has inspired me to start writing again and he has been kind enough to host me on his blog. My old blog was Tapping like River Dance, which focused on my journey from white to blue belt in BJJ.

I am now mostly training Judo as I couldn’t afford to keep up BJJ, and judo just made sense, as it’s a close cousin and probably the cheapest martial art to train. Due to the BJJ and training for a number of years as a junior in Judo I’ve made relatively quick progress to 2rd kyu. I’ve tried to keep an open mind where possible and I am really enjoying Judo, if possible I would still love to continue my BJJ training in the future. ARBJJ Farnborough has always been very good to me, and it still is. But I can now mostly be found at Guildford Police Judo club, Dorking Judo club and very occasionally Witley and Yoshin Ryu. This multi club approach is itself something that is still abit novel to me, as I’m used to a much more competitive team dynamic, which certainly makes things fun and it does work well with full time clubs. However the vast majority of Judo clubs only run twice or three times a week, so this open and welcome to all approach is a great attitude.

At the moment I am not competing, the plan is to keep fit and build up my repertoire until I gain 1st kyu, then go crazy and get my 100 points. I have medalled as a junior in Judo and as an adult in BJJ so competing isn’t new but I am determined to do well. My judo is abit unconventional; I have a good arm drag to ura nage. Although I’ve stopped using it as much as I think it’s considered a bit of a rude technique for day to day randori. My favoured techniques are a range of sacrifice throws, I feel comfortable with these as messing them up often leads to newaza which I am……….happy with. I am working hard on my other throws but am mostly successful with only the throws above and counters. I have quite good leg grabs which are now illegal in competition, which is a shame but that’s another post.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Real kimonos – BJJ GI Review Part 1

This isn’t really a review as such, at least not yet, but I’m excited because last week I bought my first BJJ gi which duly arrived yesterday. I had been scouring eBay for the last couple of weeks hoping to pick up a 2nd hand bargain but I couldn’t find one in my size (A4). However there are plenty to choose in the A1-A3 size bracket.

After realising that no one was selling a 2nd hand A4 I looked for a budget new gi and found Real Kimonos which were retailing for £35, which included postage and packing.

The Jacket is advertised as a 550 GSM pre-shrunk pearl weave. I do hope that those claims are true as straight out of the bag it fits me rather well. I can’t yet comment on the quality or comfort of the gi when rolling in it because I haven’t yet worn it to training but I’ll report back on that in the coming weeks.

The gi pants are made from a 100% cotton premium twill fabric and are reinforced from mid-thigh to ankle. There are white loops with thick drawstring system which gives a more secure fit. There is a choice of three colours, White, Black and Red. Being a bit of a traditionalist I plumped for white. I’m certainly not brave enough or good enough to wear a red gi to class but if they offered blue I may have given that some thought.

Looks wise it has enough patches to differentiate it from a Judo gi but is not too blingy as to make you stand out from the crowd. I’ll let you decide if you think that’s a good or bad thing but one of the reasons in me wanting to buy a BJJ gi is that I don’t want to always be “that Judo guy” and therefore this will help me just blend in.

I’ll report back in shrinkage, comfort and wear and tear in the coming weeks so watch this space.


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

New Venue - Nova Forca BJJ

Last night was the first class at the clubs new location and we had about 50 guys present on the mat. Due to the large turnout it made the normal warm up difficult so running around the mats was not an option. Instead we did star jumps, squats, sprinting on the spot and knee jumps but worked up a good sweat nonetheless.

We didn’t practice any techniques at all tonight instead we started with a drill where one of you sat down with the other behind with one hook in and an over under grip. When Ricardo gave the signal the person behind had 30 seconds to secure the second hook and/or get a submission. The first person I was paired with was Dan who, since I last visited the club, has gotten his black belt. Obviously I wasn’t successful in either getting my second hook in or getting the submission but I wasn’t alone in my failure as most were able to defend against this.

Our next drill had one person sitting behind the other, this time with both hooks in and a rear naked choke locking in. The aim this time was to not panic when being choked and try and work your way out of it. When I was the person doing the choking I was able to make my opponent tap and when I was being choked I tapped very quickly due to the pain on my Adam’s apple.

Our last drill again involved putting a choke on your partner who then had to try and escape. This time the person being choked started on their back with the other person mounting them. The choke was Nami juji jime. When I put this on my partner he fought for a few seconds so I leant forward to make it really tight. After a couple of gurgling sounds he tapped so I immediately let go but when I got off him I realised that he had passed out, albeit just for a few seconds. He didn’t seem too bothered about it and actually apologised to me for not tapping sooner. I was just glad that he was ok and able to continue training, which he did without any fuss.

After a quick water break we went straight in to sparring. As there was so many of us only half could spar at one time so Ricardo picked the matchups for the first fights and paired me with a stocky purple belt. He started fairly gently and kind of let me get in to a good position but after he realised I wasn’t a complete beginner he exploded in to life and had me in all sorts of trouble. At one point I’m sure he was trying to put a twister on me but I managed to escape. Near the end of our 3 minute roll he started to apply an Ude-garami on me and in my effort to escape I made a grunting noise which signalled to him that I was in pain so he let go of the submission. I wasn’t about to tap but I’m sure he could have cranked it on a bit harder so I wasn’t too bothered about it.

I rolled with a couple of blue belts afterwards but I tried to attack a bit more this week. I actually managed to get Mune gatame a couple of times and switched between Mune and Kesa whilst I tried to look for a submission. I must admit, giving up a Judo pin to go for a submission doesn’t feel right at the moment but at least I am able to get in to these positions in the first place.

My last roll of the night was against a guy who wasn’t wearing a gi but instead wore a rashguard and shorts. I assume he must be training purely for MMA. This was to be my most successful roll of the night as I secured an Americana and an armbar for my only submissions of the night.

In all I had 6 rolls of 3 minutes each and was totally exhausted at the end and yet at the same time I felt energised.

We had a couple of team photos taken at the end of the class; you can just about see me at the back (the tall blonde guy on the right).


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Survival - Nova Forca BJJ

With DJC closed now until early September I’ve decided to train at Nova Forca BJJ for a few months to improve my Newaza skills. So on Tuesday I gave Ricardo a quick call just to give him the heads up that I’ll be coming down and as usual he made me feel very welcome. I was accompanied by Jadon, who is a BJJ blue belt, and also Tim an orange belt Judoka who trains at Guildford Police Judo club.

Before the class started Ricardo informed everyone that the club would be moving venues to the Rainbow Centre in Epsom, which is only 5 minutes down the road. The full address is already on his website for those interested.

We went through the normal warm up which lasted approximately 25 minutes before Ricardo went on to show us what would be the only technique of the night, a standing guard pass. We drilled this for about 25-30 minutes, both left and right sides. I like the fact that you really get to drill a technique in BJJ. It means that when you leave the class you don’t forget what you’ve been told and can immediately add it to your repertoire. This is probably the reason that it takes so long to grade in BJJ, with the average time spent between starting and getting your first belt (blue) being somewhere between 1 and 3 years, depending on how often you train.

Techniques aside I think the quickest way of learning is to put things in to practice and roll and that’s what we did next for the last 30 minutes of class.

Being a white belt I know my main aim is survival and my first sparring partner was a purple belt so I was not expecting to do anything but try and survive. I think he must have been working on a particular move and was maybe trying to work on some specific weakness in his game because he didn't submit once in our 3 minute roll. Yes I was being constantly attacked and if it was Judo I would have been pinned on numerous occasions but I was pleased that I was able to come out of it still relatively intact and not gassed.

My next roll was with Ryan, who used to train Judo at DJC but due to personal reasons wasn't able to train anymore. However he has been doing BJJ for a number of years now and is therefore an experienced Blue belt. This roll was quite similar to my last roll. I defended for my life and wasn’t submitted. Perhaps my Newaza doesn’t suck as much as I think it does!

My third roll was against Tim, the orange belt Judoka from Guildford. Tim is fairly small in stature, well compared to me he is, but he put up a hell of a fight. I pulled guard and thought that I should be able to sweep him but he clearly has some ground skills and controlled my legs whilst he tried to pass my guard. I eventually managed to get him in my guard and slapped on a triangle. He did quite well at defending this until I finally managed to get a good tight squeeze and he tapped. When we re-restarted I did manage to take his back and got my hooks in. I was looking for a gi choke but his gi was so baggy that I found it hard to do this and so he hung on in there until the 3 minutes were up.

My last roll was against another blue belt and again it was similar to my other rolls against the BJJ guys where I just tried to not be submitted. Unfortunately this time, with him in the north south position (I think) he managed to secure an Americana and I tapped.

I really enjoyed the class tonight and was pleased that a few of the guys there had read my blog and introduced themselves to me. It was nice to catch up with Ryan again and I may have even talked him in to giving Judo another go if he has the time. Next week I may be incognito as I’m looking at buying a cheap BJJ gi and have my eyes on a couple on eBay. On the one hand it would be nice to just blend in but on the other its nice when guys approach me and ask about Judo, which is generally well thought of  here.