I went today to the Roger Gracie Academy which hosted a special charity seminar. This event occurs every year but it is the first time I've attended myself. 100 percent of the proceeds from the entrance fee goes towards New World International, an organisation that helps victims of AIDS in Africa. As well as a good cause, today was a unique chance to learn from four awesome instructors: Roger, Ray Stevens, Lucio 'Lagarto' Rodrigues and Vasile Panfil...
Ray Stevens, one of the few Brits to have won a medal in judo at the Olympics, runs his own academy in Wimbledon, London. Ray is well known as an Olympian, but what is not commonly known is that he is the first person to have been promoted to black belt in BJJ by Roger Gracie. Apparently, when Roger taught BJJ at the Budokwai in London, he used to also train judo with Ray, and naturally, Ray would pick up techniques from Roger. Two greats in their respective sports, both swapping ideas and assimilating each others' knowledge into their own games. Great stuff!
[Photo: Ray Stevens (left) demonstrates how to get rid of the opponent's grip]
Ray was really cool. He taught a slick sacrifice type throw where you drop under your opponent and he topples backwards, while you end up in side control. It was sweet. Then he showed us a valley drop type throw, but you use your partner's own gi to choke him out, whilst throwing him. Boy! we loved doing this one. The two techniques he chose to show us were the perfect blend of judo and BJJ in action.
[Ray (left) executing the throw]
Next up in our charity seminar hall of fame was Roger himself. Roger taught us how to break the posture of your opponent in the closed guard by attacking not the nearest arm (as you would with, say, a classic armbar from the guard), but by attacking the arm furthest away from you. He showed us that by getting this arm to cross your centre line, it was now possible to easily take the back or turn him over. I liked his sequence of techniques a lot. They initially seemed simple but the detail involved was staggering. Roger easily spent 20-25 minutes explaining every aspect of the move. But when we got to try it out, we realised why he put so much effort into explaining the moves - because it was simple, it was tempting to take short-cuts and make mistakes for the opponent to counter or escape. Thus, every single little bit Roger demonstrated had to count. Once we got all the info in our head however, it seemed like it would make for a pretty high percentage move.
[Roger emphasising minute details]
Our third seminar instructor of the day was Lucio Rodrigues, a second degree black belt more commonly known by his nick-name of 'Lagarto'. Lucio is a big man, I don't know how much he weighs but I think if I was his demo partner, I would definitely be flattened. That's probably why he chose Roger to demo his side control techniques. Lagarto actually seemed to relish the chance to make Roger tap - even if it was in the form of a technique demonstration which amused the audience.
[Lucio 'Lagarto' (right) shows us just how painful the shin behind the neck can be on Roger]
Lucio showed us the side control technique where you roll your opponent onto his side (facing away from you) using your body weight and then he highlighted the various control points from there (eg grabbing wrist versus grabbing his collar). He then demonstrated three or four submission finishes from this position, including a wicked collar choke that involved lpacing your shin behind your uke's head. Ouch!
Judo black belt Vasile Panfil was our final instructor for the day. Vasile is another big guy, with a fearsome reputation as a competitor and tatame warrior. He probably eats rocks for breakfast and billows fire just for amusement.
[Vasil setting up his throw/sweep technique]
Vasile showed us a neat throw from the closed guard...yes! the closed guard. It required the placement of your hand far over your opponent's back and a grab on his belt. Then you need to get your foot underneath the opponent's groin area, a bit like a deep half butterfly or shin-on-cherst half guard. In addition to the grips and body placement, the key to this throw was the timing (best done when uke is countering his weight in to you) and the hip shift in order to get your body right underneath your opponent nano-seconds before the throw.
[Me in white, throwing Paul using Vasil's technique, WOOT!]
Wow! we all loved this technique and you could see enthusiastic belters of all rankse chucking each other with manly abandon. Another perfect blend of judo and BJJ. I'm sure Vasil intended to show us more detail in this throw or sweep - whatever you call it, but time ran out. Shame as I think it was the coolest technique of the day. But anyway, after the training, there was the obilgatory group photo and I got to roll a little with my MHBJJ team buddies Chris and Paul.
[Proud dad Roger and 8 month baby son]
I really enjoyed my day out at RGA. I got to learn some cool techniques, meet some old and new faces and learn a bit about the unsungbut no less important, charity work being done in Africa. Well done RGA.
Full slide show of photos: