Seminar with Ana Maria 'India' Soures Gomes
6th February 2010
KO-Legacy Gym, Bethnal Green, London
KERRRRRPOWWWWWWW! Female black belt Ana Maria 'India' just hit the target with an awesome seminar! For me, this was by far the best seminar I've ever attended. Not to disrespect the dozen or so previous black belt seminars I have attended in my 7 years of training BJJ, but today, the techniques I learned just totally rocked.
Not many people outside of Brazil have heard of Ana Maria, but she's pretty famous in her home country. Not only because she is a very high level female grappler who has won numerous titles, but mainly because she was one of the hit stars of TV reality show No Limits. This show is apparently a bit like 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here' in the UK, or 'Survivor' in the USA. The basic premise is, lock a whole group of celebs and non-celebs in the jungle and give them tough tasks to do, then vote people in or out. Ana lasted something like 53 days out of a total 60-something days of the whole series, so really not bad.
It was really good to check out Jude Samuel's new Legacy BJJ and MMA gym in Bethnal Green, east London. It is just the kind of venue you imagine a hardcore martial arts gym should be like, ie under the rail arches, corrugated iron walls, hard, hard mats and sweat of a thousand roundhouse kicks and ghosts of a million screaming armbars. I love it here!
Ana went through five scenarios from this position. First, your uke pushes his weight onto your top leg, so you choose your moment, swim your top arm under his armpit, kick your top leg while at the same time extending your top arm high over his back all the way as far as you can reach. This sends your uke lunging head first. You take advantage of this deceit by taking his back.
In the second situation, uke is not pushing his weight, but instead sitting back and waiting for you to make the move. We spent ages on the sweep Ana showed us from here. There were numerous tiny details that few of us got first time. By the way, I should point out that Ana was not confident with her spoken english so often required someone to translate key points, but I think she communicated fine through her actions and pointing and occasional shouts of 'ok guys, this is veeeeery important!'
Anyway, this second sweep was sweet. Initially I was doing it as a sort of pendulum sweep, but Ana patiently walked over to each and every one of us to correct our mistakes. Turns out it was a very different thing altogether. I'm not sure I can explain it well, but suffice to say, it involves a lovely switch of your hips to send uke flying backwards. When Ana did it, it looked effortless. When we tried it, well, i think I made it work about two times. I'm gonna mull over it and try it in normal class to see if I understood it correctly.
For the third scenario, the opponent has managed to underhook your top leg and you are close to being screwed with a guard pass. Ana's trick here was to grab his top shoulder and pull it towards you, while at the same time, kicking your top leg away from you. The push-pull action causes uke to - guess what? - yep he flies head first and you can take his back. The added bonus here is that you have trapped his arm with your leg too (the leg you used to kick away).
By now, I was getting the feel of a common theme to Ana's chosen techniques, but it did not hit home until she showed her fourth scenario:
In this, uke has passed your patheticly defending top knee and, still in half guard, turns his body away from you to face your legs prepping for the 'I'm gonna slide my leg out of your guard' manoeuvre. Ana told us to tuck our elbows in so they were underneath uke's upper back, then with a neat pivot of our hips, and a sharp bridging movement, she showed how you could take the back from here.
I did this over and over and it certainly worked, but then Ana told us all off for doing the technique staccato fashion; 'no no no'...she implored...'you must move move move never stop!' And proceeded to demonstrate what she meant. Basically she wanted us to perform the sequence of techniques as if we were anticipating uke's reaction and really flow with the sequence without halting mid-way.
So, as just described, you are in trouble. 'Nooo probleeeem' Ana yelps with a little sense of mischief. You simply bridge up, stretch upwards with your top arm as far over your head, this creates enough space for you to curl back under your uke and return your hand back under your uke, but this time, swimming under his armpit, only to stretch it out far again. This final move sends your uke - ha by now you must know what happens to him?
After technical portion of the seminar, we all worked specific sparring. Ana lined us up and the bottom players had to use the half guard as described in the seminar. As is usually the case, the stuff you just learned is very difficult to make work moments later in live sparring. I think I'm gonna have to play with them a little at a time in normal class because my sparring was pretty poor today. But I did get to spar with Leopoldo who teaches at the Warrior School of Combat in Kensington. Leo is not much bigger than me, but of course, being a black belt, made me work hard just to move an inch. I'm not sure if he was even actually trying, but his job in the round that we sparred was to try to submit me, and he didn't. But then I do think he wasn't really trying, oh I dunno, maybe I was a little ok in fending him off. When the buzzer went, he pretended to be mad at not having subbed me and did a comedy armbar. Hilarious!
I think Ana must have been watching, because during breaktime, she beckoned to Leoni to spar and it was really cool to watch Ana in action against another female her size. Leoni seemed totally chuffed by her one-on-one with Ana and it was really cool to watch for us too. A great display of BJJ girl power.
Some words about Ana Maria.
Ana came across as hugely likeable, with a very lively personality. Her sense of fun was very infectious and whilst her techniques were in my opinion pretty advanced, she spent a lot of time correcting, readjusting, examining, praising, critiquing all of us one by one as we drilled. This was her very first time in the UK and her first seminar so she told me before she was very nervous, especially with her english language issue, but it certainly didn't show. All the guys and girls (I counted about 20-22 of us) were beaming with smiles, musing over techniques they would soon reap on their unsuspecting training partners back in their home academies.
At random points throughout the seminar, Ana would walk up to one of her male black belt colleagues and just attack them, then they would spar and she would be like this whirling dervish of jiu jitsu wrecking all hell on the guys. It was absolutely amazing to witness. Maybe they do this all the time in Rio, but I've never seen an instructor teach a seminar, stop midway and just randomly pick on someone bigger than them for an ad hoc spar, then go back to teaching. It was like she had all this superhuman energy that needed to be released through sparring or else she would revert back to being human again. It was abundantly clear to all of us, Ana loves to spar!!!
After the seminar, Ana and I sat down for a formal interview. As is my usual style, I asked really deep and meaningful questions, like 'Hey Ana, why do they call you 'India'?' Yeah, I know, Pulitzer Prize here I come!
Some more twisty turny Ana related photos from the seminar...
My thanks to Pippa first of all who organised the seminar (in between competing in Lisbon) and really made sure we had a good turnout. Thanks also to Amora, who translated Ana's interview for me so well. In fact it was so nice to see familiar faces and meet new people, that's half the fun of going to seminars. Now then, where's that grappling dummy, grrrr I'm gonna z-guard and then sweep you, you fool.