Michelle Nicolini smiles sweetly as I take her portrait photos, her relaxed demeanour is deserved - she's just arrived in London off the back of another utterly impressive tournament victory - this time it was the prestigious World Professional BJJ Championships in Abu Dhabi. Nicole beat her rival Kyra Gracie with a devastating foot lock submission - the first time Kyra has tapped in competition as a black belt (afaik). The title adds to her already impressive haul of elite level gold medals. See her BJJ Heroes post here.
Michelle based the seminar today around many of her favourite techniques. As a consummate guard player, she guided us through a wide gamut of spider guard and X-guard sweeps - each one a set-up for a match winning submission. Many of the set-ups she showed allowed her to end up with her opponent's foot hanging tantalisingly prone to the now trademark ankle lock/toe hold submission. None of the techniques were too difficult but some perhaps took a little more time to get used to, especially if we wanted to incorporate the tiny details Michelle showed us, in order to make perfect.
Closed guard, that staple of the smaller player's weaponry was also touched on today. Michelle showed a neat variation on the armbar/omoplata/triangle sequence that she says she uses a lot in her matches.
Throughout the seminar, as we practiced, Michelle examined each pair correcting mistakes. Her ever present stopwatch perhaps hinting at her machine-like training regime, not a second gone to waste, every minute a minute used to hone her own techniques to perfection.
When the taught portion of the session was over, we all sat in a circle. On a novel twist on the usual Q&A, Michelle asked each pair to demo one of the moves in front of her and the rest of the seminar attendees. It was suddenly a little awkward as we all realised we had to 'perform' in front of everyone else. However it was a very good way of ensuring we remembered at least some of the techniques she showed us today.
Plenty of sparring concluded the session. Michelle rolled with as many people as she could, sadly I missed out in the line-up each time, but it was super cool to see the BJJ star run rings around guys and girls of all sizes and belt ranks, a true testament to her superlative skills.
I would like to thank Luiz 'Manxinha' Ribeiro and all the crew at the vast London Fight Factory Academy in Old Street, London. It was a terrific seminar and an honour to meet one of my BJJ heroines.