I had the pleasure of training with Erik Paulson at Dartford BJJ on 17 December. This was the first no-gi session I’ve done since the pregnancy; I attended Monday night CSW class at Dartford BJJ prior to that. Every grappling diet needs a bit of no-gi, sweaty and gross though it can be. And work up a dewy sweat, we did!

Erik Paulson Seminar Dartford BJJ
Erik Paulson Seminar Dartford BJJ, Dec 2014

The Techniques

Erik ran the seminar with professionalism and good humour. After warm-up drills to get the blood pumping we worked a nice flow of techniques, recapping them at the end of the seminar to aid retention. Too often seminars are lots of talk and less action. I really liked the opportunity to learn from a master in his field and actually get the reps in.

Heel Hooks

We started with a pair of heel hook attacks:

  1. ‘Snake legs’ to heel hook
  2. Heel hook versus an open guard

For the ‘snake legs’, the opponent pops up to their feet in your guard. You kick through one leg to snake around and opponent’s leg and choose one of two variants to sweep them to the floor.

Against, an open guard, your opponent is on the floor with feet on your hips. You shuck both feet off and use a cross grip against an opponent’s leg while coming to the floor and applying the heel hook.

In both cases, ideally, one is applying the heel hook (with the bony part of the forearm) during the sweep/transition to the floor. Easier said than done! Practice, practice, practice.

Breaking Down the Turtle

Next we looked at a trio of attacks against the turtle:

  1. Arm trap to short choke or bulldog choke
  2. Face lift to hip through bulldog choke
  3. Roll to crucifix

This was a fun series, which I’d had some exposure to from my instructor, Dave Birkett, himself a long-time student of Erik’s. The CSW training we’ve done together has been particularly helpful in this area of my game, and it offers positioning and movement applicable to work in and out of the gi.

For the arm trap, from a side-on position to their turtle, you cross-face your opponent and hook their near-side arm with your northern-most leg. From here you can take your time to get a nice position for the short choke, or transition to the bulldog choke.

For the face-lift, start with the cross-face and transition to the face lift to create space to move to the bulldog choke. Send your southern foot forward as hips turn up.

Finally, for the absolute LOLs cuz it is supremely fun movement, start from the arm-trap position and roll over the opponent’s far shoulder – whee! – figure-4ing your legs as you come to your back. Get opponent’s free arm under your inside underarm, 10-finger grip on their head, pull at a 45 and, ‘tap tap’.

Erik Paulson CSW Seminar

Kesa Gatame and Fist Chokes

We finished the evening’s drills with fist chokes from mount, side control and kesa gatame and 4 submissions from kesa gatame:

  1. Arm bar with legs
  2. Bulldog choke
  3. Pillow arm bar (kesa gatame)
  4. Pillow arm bar (side control)

These attacks harmonised nicely with the drills against the turtle. These drills applied a similar theme of submissions in a different context, ie opponent on their back rather than in their turtle. Don’t you find this aspect of grappling incredibly obvious and simultaneously opaque?! The idea that there is a relatively narrow set of positions and submissions. The real art and skill is in seeing the positions in different contexts. It is cognitively simple to recognise the basic positions. In practice, it is hugely challenging to see and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of a roll, find those positions, control and submit.


This was the first time I’ve had the pleasure of training with Erik Paulson, one of my teacher’s teachers. I’ve been training with Dave for 10 years and he’s been training with Erik since the ’90s. It was really eye-opening to see another of my teacher’s teachers in action, and recognise the legacy of some of the material in the mix of Dave’s instruction. I could see parallels in their approaches to teaching too, and perhaps this is more the mark of a seasoned and earnest teacher than anything else: building up a logical flow of techniques; highlighting the importance of writing notes and visualisation; emphasising personal development alongside and through practice.

If it’s grappling, learn it. ~ Erik Paulson

Erik Paulson discussed the importance of an eclectic and open-minded approach to grappling training. He noted that every teacher adds his/her own nuances to any particular technique. You may have seen a triangle demonstrated by a dozen different instructors. It is important to seek to distinguish the different flavourings each practitioner adds to his/her triangle recipe. Every take on a technique may not be for you, but by being open to the possibility, you might discover unexpected gems that you can incorporate into your individual game. Quite right. Good reminder of a fundamental truth in all learning. With that in mind, where ever you fall on the grappling spectrum, I heartily recommend checking out an Erik Paulson seminar in your neighbourhood. He and his wife and business partner, Tonya Paulson, put together a well run seminar that shows earnestness and respect for the attendees. As with any seminar, some of the approaches may be more or less to your liking, and you’re certain to take away some nuggets to integrate into your own special grappling-brew.


Erik Paulson CSW
web: erikpaulson.com | erik paulson facebook: facebook.com/Erik-Paulson | tonya paulson facebook: facebook.com/tonya.paulson

Dartford BJJ / Dave Birkett
web: dartfordbjj.com | twitter: @dartfordbjj | instagram: @academia_de_jiu_jitsu