20 Jun 2010


Today I popped down to south London to visit BJJ School, who were hosting a seminar given by 6th degree black belt José Henrique Leão Teixeira - or 'Ze' to his friends. And what friends!

Ze first learned his BJJ from none other than Rolls Gracie, and then, after Rolls' sad death, he continued his BJJ education with Carlos Gracie Jr. After many successful years where Leao was pivotal in many of the big developments of BJJ in Brazil, such as helping to set up the CBJJ and many of the early big tournaments, Ze began his own school and called it simply, Escola De Jiu-Jitsu (Jiu-Jitsu School). 

Naturally with all that incredible BJJ history standing right in front of me, I could not resist the temptation for a sneeky private interview with the Prof and find out more about his fascinating experiences.

But first, there was the not so small matter of the official BJJ School grading event...

Gradehog Day
Some BJJ academies hand out belts casually and make minimal fuss. Some academies make a big day of it and BJJ School in London is one of those that do. I was invited there because I interviewed the head instructor of BJJ School, Felipe Alves de Souza, for Martial Arts Illustrated magazine last year - the interview you can now read here

Just look at this photo below:

I mean what are there? 60-70...maybe more? Boy do BJJ School conduct their gradings big style and I'm very pleased to say among the many graded that day were some good BJJ pals of mine - Eamonn Madden and Jackson Fortunato who were promoted to black belt by Ze and Felipe. What an amazing achievement, and BJJ School's first black belts promoted from the academy. It was also fantastic to see Leoni Munslow on her promotion to purple belt, she trains so hard and has just come back from the Mundials with experiences that will serve her well in the purple belt ladies tournament divisions.

I must say there was quite a buzz about the place, especially when the two brown belts stepped up to receive their new belts. The applause and cheers were deafening and I felt quite privileged to be a part of this occasion. The sight of Jackson's mum running on to the mat mid ceremony to give her lad a huge hug was immensely touching. Well done to everyone, and well done to BJJ School which only began 2 or 3 years ago.

Begone you pesky half guarder!
So onto the seminar itself. Ze chose to teach a dozen or so half guard escapes. He explained that he wasn't really a big fan of using the half guard himself but since everyone was doing it on him, he thought he had better get good at escaping them.

I won't do a technique by technique summary here, there were just too many he showed and owing to my poor memory I'll probably only write them down wrong..but the theme I notice with Ze, is that he gives special attention to the grips involved - some of which were new, or at least different, to grips I've used in the past. Ze showed how these grips could give just that little bit more leverage and control during the scramble to escape half guard.

Another thing I noticed was that Ze's style is very judo like. He keeps a very low base and the chokes he showed had a sort of judo flavour to them. Hmm, that sounded like a dumb thing to write, I know, BJJ and judo chokes are the same thing, but the way Ze applied them it looked very much like the way judoka would do them - maybe it was the fact that he wore a Mizuno judo gi. Anyway, there was one technique in particular that I really liked, and it was one me and my training partner (a quite raw newbie) drilled for ages and ages. You pop your knee out of his half guard, spin over to his other side, stay in half guard but grip one collar (as shown in the photo) with the other hand sliding underneath your own wrist.

The next step involves sliding your knee out from half guard whilst pivoting on your free hand. As you travel over your opponent, temporarily passing north-south position, you end up back round to the opponent's far side of the body but facing him. Now, the hand that was free and used as a pivot, reaches under the head and grabs the gi at the shoulders or lapels. If done right, the fists grabbing the gi should form a baseball bat choke position and it's fairly easy to squeeze and get the tap from here. Ze said you have to do this real fast as it is a 'surprise' move...and then proceeded to do it very fast, surprising Felipe somewhat!

Everyone really liked this a lot. But that was not all. Ze covered more escapes and submissions. Then he quickly went over some side control submissions and I really enjoyed the details he showed in this portion. Again, Ze's hand position and grip placement were key to making these techniques all the more powerful and high percentage. Finally, Ze showed us how to transition from side control to a triangle choke by trapping his hand and popping your foot up and over his body all the way behind his neck, then rolling over into triangle choke position. Ze said to grab your own leg before you roll - a detail I always miss when I've tried to do it myself before. If your opponent stubbornly resists the triangle, Ze then showed the one where you grab your own hands behind your knees and squeeze to get the submission. a new detail to me was that if your opponent is too big for you to grab behind your own knees, then just grab the gi cloth behind his back. Mmmm!

Thanks to Ed Brown for inviting me down to BJJ School and thanks to both Felipe and Ze for making me feel so welcome. It's good to see how BJJ as a sport is growing and academies like this one are a big part of that phenomenon. My Ze interview should be out in a magazine soon, fingers crossed.

I need to stand on a box in future!

About the Author


Author & Artist

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



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