Dartford BJJ
Dartford BJJ

A selection of the Origin BJJ Team gathered at Dartford BJJ for a quarterly seminar with head instructor, Marc Walder. Marc’s seminars consistently reinforce a couple key themes:

  • take the time to get the details of a position right
  • focus on gaining an advantageous position before attacking
  • work towards positions with 50% offensive and 50% defensive qualities

As Marc so succinctly stated regarding some errors in executing an X-choke:

I’ve never been taught a choke that goes through the face.

In other words, let go of the desperation to get the sub if the position you’re attacking from isn’t right. In this case, if your forearms aren’t positioned correctly across the opponent’s throat, don’t waste your energy mashing up their face. Sure, some may tap from the discomfort, but many won’t and the goal isn’t just to get the other person to tap out (either by a legit choke, strangle or lock or through pain intolerance), but rather the proper execution of technique, of which a submission may be an outcome:

It doesn’t always have to end in a submission.

Similarly, Marc emphasised the importance of not fighting fire with fire, but instead recognising your opponent’s approach and mindset and responding accordingly to adjust your position:

Know what your opponent is about. If he’s being defensive, why should I be defensive too?

For example, if your opponent is seeking to pin and hold you while in your half guard, they are 100% defensive and are seeking not to attack you but to prevent you from recovering your positioning in preparation for your own offence. On the one hand, this indicates that you are in no immediate danger of a submission as your opponent is 100% defensive, so relax and consider how to improve your position. On the other hand, your opponent is demonstrating a fear of your escape / reversal of the situation and therefore is vulnerable to being put off balance – physically and mentally – by your work towards exiting the pin and gaining a better position:

I want to recover my position and then mount my offence. That’s considered as good as any submission; you’ve gone from a bad position to a better one.

Essentially, there are no short cuts and Marc highlights the importance of following the steps and getting each aspect of the technique right before proceeding to the next step. This applies to grander concepts such as ‘position, control, submission’ as well as to the nitty gritty of angle, grip, timing and etc of each technique.

The Techniques

Gareth and Lee Promotion
New blue and pruple, Gareth and Lee, with Marc

The seminar focused on a flow from the half-guard initiated from one of two possible positions:

  1. the opponent is in your half guard with double underhooks (under head and under arm) and the northernmost leg sprawled flat
  2. the opponent is in your half guard with double underhooks (under head and under arm) with the northernmost bent and tucked high towards your armpit

From position 1:

  • get onto your side to face your opponent
  • seek a ‘Janet Jackson’ grip on the opponent’s gi (release the far lapel from the belt and pass across the opponent’s back to your outside hand, thereby exposing their nipple, hence the mnemonic name for the grip)
  • switch the triangle of your legs around the opponent’s leg to block the trapped leg with the outside foot
  • block opponent’s northernmost leg with your inside elbow and nudging their thigh hip escape into a full guard
  • once guard has been closed, switch grip on opponent’s lapel to your opposite hand, thereby passing your inside forearm across the opponent’s throat
  • angle off by shifting hips north and putting head and shoulders towards opponent’s inside knee
  • grip at meaty part of opponent’s gi, passing outside hand across the opponent’s throat
  • bring knees to chest and elbows to floor for choke

From position 2:

  • get onto your side to face your opponent
  • seek a ‘Janet Jackson’ grip
  • underhook the opponent’s bent leg and shift hips to be ‘underneath’ the opponent, almost as gaining an X-guard
  • pull the lapel and seek to sweep with underhooked arm and shifting hips further and as opponent bases out to prevent sweep switch hips to be on side facing the opponent with outside arm passing high over opponent’s back (as if to take the back)
  • if opponent does not turn towards you, then take the back, otherwise retain lapel grip as opponent turns to face you and stay close to him/her as you transition to a top position (either in opponent’s full or half guard)
  • if opponent seeks to counter your movements by sprawling the northernmost leg and placing both arms over your head and back as you face them on your side, hip away to straighten your inside arm, insert the outside hook at the back of the southernmost leg and sweep to mount

These positions and drills were worked in isolation, but Marc asserted that the goal was to transition between these positions and options in response to the opponent’s counters.

The Promotions

Lee and Steve Promotion
Big Lee squeezes into an A1 purple belt while Steve keeps it classy in blue

The evening ending with 4 of the guys levelling up their belts and no review of mine of a Marc Walder seminar would be complete without a shout out to those that made the leap. We’ve got 3 new blue belts rocking Dartford BJJ! The guys have worked hard through injury, aches and pains and the regular beatings that come with the territory to really raise their games; well done to Gareth, Marc and Steve! We’ve also got a new purple belt in our ranks and it was a real pleasure to see ‘Big’ Lee Ranson be promoted. I’ve had the pleasure of training with Lee for many years, well some of those early years weren’t quite so pleasant, but over the past couple of years Lee’s gone through a massive change. He’s a big man, as his moniker suggests and could be a bit of a bruiser, but these days he’s much more interested in testing his technique even if it opens him up to attack from shrimpy opponents and in helping others to learn; it is terrifically fun to roll with him! Big congrats, Lee, represent!


Thanks to Danny and Kate at the Academy for the use of the pictures.