Grahams Gi Adventures: 1st BJJ Lessson….

…..Well technically it’s not actually my first. I did my first ever BJJ lesson at Carlson Gracies infamous Boiler room back in 2004 sometime ( i think). Since then I have also trained at Alex de Souza’s (once), Kev Capels RGA HighWycombe (once) and a few times with Matt Benyon (of the grappling dummy fame).

However, I have now resolved that I really need to get into the “pyjama game” properly if I am to attempt to push my grappling skills to a new level. I currently train no-gi once a week with a group of guys who started as complete novices. It was intended to be a way for me to fit in some training with my new life in salisbury and work around my family commitments. It has grown into a small but committed group who all really want to get good, and with me being largely self-taught nowadays I needed to find a permanent home to do my own learning if I am to continue to help them improve.

So last thursday, I packed up my trusty black (well sort of grey now) Blitz gi that I have had since my traditional jiujitsu days and headed down to a club I found near me in Southampton. I won’t go into tonnes of detail about the techniques we covered, we did two basic closed guard passes, both coming from the knee-in-the-tailbone. Pry the guard open and either knee slide pass or come onto one knee, collect their foot onto your shoulder and do the arm-in-stacking pass. The details were great though, once I have pryed the guard open by opening my knee out to the side (with the other knee in the tailbone) I had never previously shifted my hips back towards the knee-in side to create more space. Also with the stacking pass the (very simple now I have seen it) technique of collecting their leg onto your shoulder by sliding your same-side elbow back between your body and their leg, rather than reaching right back for their ankle were super-simple tweaks that made the techniques much more effective for me.

We also did a standing closed guard pass, again the little details made the differene to techniques I already knew: Lifting their shoulders off the mat so they can’t sweep you by doing the standard grabbing behind the ankles sweep and also the particular way of getting to standing (one knee up, then point your other knee towards the planted foot so your other foot flares out to the side first, before standing and as you do so, point that knee away from the foot it was pointing at, ending up in a kind of horse-stance before you pop your forwards to lift them) were all little nuances of technique I hadn’t seen before that made a huge difference.

Rolling at the end went pretty well, we first did some specific sparring with a group of people starting on their backs and then their partners inside the closed guard. The guy on top had to pass, the guy on bottom had to sweep or submit. I did Ok passing as top-man but my own closed guard was passed pretty easily by everyone. onto the full sparring section and it was supposed to be five minute rounds, but I think we ended up doing about 20minutes with the same person (or it felt like it!) as the instructor had to disappear off somewhere. I went with Nathan who was another no-gi practitioner doing his first proper lesson in the gi. He outweighed me by probably 10-15kilos and was much taller (I’m only 5foot8 and an out of shape 70kilos). It was a good roll, but I was definitely relying on no-gi techniques. I did get a collar choke from mount, but as Nathan had never worn the gi at all and I have done a few other BJJ lessons, plus 2 years of Sambo and 7 years of japanese jiujitsu I definitely was more comfortable than him with the kind of grips you need. Im sure had I had a chance to roll with some of the other guys, I would have been schooled much harder!

Although I won’t be able to train this week because I am on a course with work, I am definitely going to be visiting regularly and hope to see some decent improvements in my all-around grappling game as a result. There will be more to report next week!!


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