26 Mar 2010

On Yer Back - my BJJ workshop for trad jitsukas

Last night I had the privilege to teach some BJJ to my old pals at the NKJJK - a Japanese ju-jitsu club that I trained at for over ten years. The syllabus the club uses is great for self defence - analogous to the Gracie self defence series - but the system only has a small emphasis on the sportive side of grappling. So I hoped my workshop would showcase how ground-fighting can be seen as a multi-faceted thing of beauty.

First off, it was really great to hook up with my old pals and meet some new faces. Contrary to what people might read in MMA/BJJ forums and boards, I have found that traditional martial art schools are more than willing and open-minded when it comes to learning new stuff outside their own sphere. NKJJK and my own former club, Imperial ju-jitsu club, used to regularly host seminars from martial artists in other disciplines. So I knew I would get a good reception.

Mission Position
There's not a lot of BJJ you can thrust down people's faces in one session, especially to relative newbies who might never have sparred on the ground before. So I tried to keep things very simple. Simple is good. Simple is how I like to play my BJJ. And simple means I don't teach stuff I personally have never used or have much experience of. Simple however, doesn't mean easy. It's taken me seven years or so of BJJ training to get to simple. Lord knows how many it will take me to reach awesome black belt level of simple like wot Roger does...but I digress.

My aim last night was to demonstrate how fighting from the guard was not the passive reactionary thing it might appear to be to the casual observer, but that it could, and should, be used as an assertive means to submit, sweep and generally cause much pain and distress to your opponent. I made no pretence about the fact that playing guard - in the way that I do in my BJJ club - was very much a sporting thing. But I hoped that I could demonstrate that being on the bottom does not necessarily mean you are losing, or that you lack any control, quite the opposite in fact. It's the message that the Gracie brothers, and founders of BJJ, espoused with their many many exploits.

I began things with a warmup that is familiar to BJJ academies all over the world; left and right armbars from the guard, omoplatas from the guard and triangles from the guard. Then we put them altogether to create that old chestnut: the armbar-omoplata-triangle transition that just beautifully sums up jiu-jitsu at its finest in my view.

Next section of my workshop looked at submissions from the closed guard. From when I did trad JJ I knew that lapel and collar chokes are taught fairly early on, so I knew this would be no problem for my comrades. And indeed it proved so. A couple of tweeks to the angles and leverage used was all I needed to show. The running theme I would use, and the same I used at my last visit, was the cross lapel grip. I reasoned that a good cross grip gives a lot of control and offers a number of high percentage submissions. Having said that, I did throw in a suicide choke just for fun!

But where's the joy of squeezing your opponent's collar when the real fun exists when you can flip them over like a sloppy pancake? So I showed three or four sweeps from the guard, including the scissor sweep, variations of the pendulum/flower sweep and a spider guard/hooks guard/sasa sweep. As well as being a great position to get submissions, reversals are also useful in trad JJ tournaments as the judges tend to prefer the fighter who is on top to win the fight when no submission occurs.

And with that, the workshop was over, sadly no time to spar but we did all go for a pint and a curry - which was probably the real reason the trad guys turned out tonight. I hope I can continue to run these workshops every now and again. There is so much else to cover - what if the person stand's up, footlocks, mount submissions, escapes, counters blah di blah. Maybe next time.

My eternal thanks to Grant and all the crew at NKJJK for welcoming me back and giving me the platform to show that maybe BJJ and old skool trad JJ are not too different after all.

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Anonymous said...

To Seymour, many thanks for "showing us some magic" ans appologies that I could only watch. Never the less I realy appreciate you giving up your time, which I know is in short order with the kids, job and training. Speeking to some of the guy's afterwards, they loved the session and are just waiting for the next one! So role on October and best of luck with the brummy tornement.

The Part Time Grappler said...

I wasn't there but I wish I was. Giving back is soemthing we all yearn to do. Bless your heart my friend. I hope I can do that some day.

Meerkatsu said...

Thanks guys. I'm far from being good enough to be a proper BJJ instructor. It was actually harder than I thought to convey in words all the minutiae of detail that one just takes for granted having trained the technique for so long. It gives me a new appreciation to coaches who are really blessed with communicating to their students, like my own instructor Nick Brooks who I owe a lot to, but I also remember my former instructor Eddie Kone who was very good at breaking down techniques for us.

A.D. McClish said...

Wow! That's really cool. I would love to see some traditional Japanese Jiujitsu. Hope you can keep holding those seminars. I think the best martial artist is one who is well rounded. And by well rounded, I don't mean the type of well rounded you get when you are a stay at home mom who likes to bake brownies and drink chocolate milk. I like to keep the monopoly on that market. ;)

Meerkatsu said...

Allie after watching your fight video you posted, I don't think you have anything to worry about in that department mate!


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