Last night Dartford BJJ was proud to host Marc Walder for one of his regular quarterly seminars. This turned out to be a big, BIG night for Dartford BJJ and my review of the evening may be rather more personal and emotional than normal.
Marc Walder’s depth of understanding and sophisticated jiu jitsu never ceases to amaze me and this was further reinforced for me by Marc’s demonstration of a series of techniques that relied on gi-grips more than I am accustomed to. The beauty of Marc’s teaching is that he doesn’t overload you with a huge range of techniques, but focuses on a few moves and refines the details at the same time every time I have the pleasure of attending his class, I am shown new variants and means of approaching common problems.
We began with a takedown initiated from basic grips to collar and elbow. Transitioning from the elbow to the cuff on the upper-inside of the opponent’s grip to the collar, the elbow overwrapped the opponent’s while shooting in to drive hips against opponent’s legs with elbow tucked tight to body to hold opponent’s arm in a Kimora-shape. Releasing the opponent’s collar to hold the thigh, the front leg was extended straight to gain an ‘hurtler’s’ pose to allow sitting back at an angle to throw opponent. At this point the back is towards the opponent and it is ‘walked’ onto the opponent’s chest before turning to face the opponent and gain side control.
Submissions from Side Control
Submission #1. In this case the opponent’s arms are framed against the bicep and shoulder. The bottom hand loosens the opponent’s far lapel, pulls it taught and overwraps the opponent’s forearm. Retaining a grip on the lapel the fabric is passed to the upper hand which is looped under the opponent’s neck. The idea is to bait the opponent to rip the hand out of the gi at which point the bottom hand slips through the gap left by the opponent’s arm, passes across the opponent’s neck to allow for an Ezekiel-style choke by pulling up on the lapel retained by the hand under the neck and pushing away with the hand into the opposite side of the neck.
Submission #2. In this case the opponent has chosen not to remove hand from gi-wrap. Switch hips to face south while retaining top pressure move knee to opponent’s hip. Slide knee along body as it travels north in order to get good ‘bite’ and control of the opponent’s near arm. Hold opponent’s outside wrist and put body weight through it while transitioning to an S-mount. Relinquish lapel to grab ankle and sit back while wrapping legs for triangle. An important principle here is to not roll all the way back and allow the opponent to come to knees, but instead use hamstrings and core to prevent the opponent’s opportunity to come to knees.
Submission #3. In this case the opponent’s outside arm is passed under the lower armpit rather than framed against the shoulder. The bottom hand grips the bottom edge of the outside lapel and holds at opponent’s hip and transitions to north-south to end at side control on the opposite side. Pass the lapel under the opponent’s neck and pass to opposite hand. Transition arm from beneath opponent’s neck to pass across throat and re-grab lapel. Apply pressure to finish the choke.
Dartford BJJ goes nuclear
While I’ve been training with Dave Birkett for 6 years, the first half of that time was spent in his London City classes at the Bob Breen Academy, formerly located in Hoxton Sq. At the start of 2008, I started making the journey to Dartford to train at his main academy, where a hard core of dedicated practitioners impressed me with their work ethic, technical skill and friendliness. At that time there might’ve been a dozen of us on the mats, regular, with a select group of blues and the rest of us white belts. So much has changed in such a short period; we regularly have 20-30 people on the mats and we now have a healthy range of belts from white to brown.
5, FIVE, of the guys that walked through the doors at the end of ’08 made the jump to blue last night. Our second generation of blues is a special group to me. ‘Little Richard’ came to Dartford BJJ a blue belt in another club but wanted to start again and, after working it out with Coach, strapped on a white belt and got stuck in. How many folk work so hard to get that first coloured belt only to quit soon after? Real testament to Richard’s character that he decided to make a fresh start and pay his dues. Jamie walked in an absolute physical wreck! Overweight, out of shape and really struggling with his fitness in the early days, but he just kept hammering the nut. Two months and two stone lighter later he was a changed man and not only has he become an exceptionally precise and technical player, he is living proof of BJJ’s ability to change lives for the better. Will, well, we rolled within his first few days of training and he dislocated a toe during the course of a sweep; his game was all tense and aggressive and I wasn’t too sure about him. He through himself in and, these days, works tremendously hard to ‘get things right’ and to relax and work his stuff. Last, but not least, there’s Hasan and Richard. They walked in and I thought, ‘These two are a bit wide’, but then I saw the rather large Richard walk away from rolling with a 14 year old girl who gave him a really hard time with a smile on his face and patting her on the back – reckoned he must be all right! Hasan, too, had a kind temperament and the two were hooked after that first class and were dedicated converts over night; Hasan is a light, quick, technical and savagely sneaky player that teaches me so much when we roll.
The evening got rapidly more special for me. Marc sat us in a circle and it was clear that something was up. He spoke about what a difficult journey BJJ is and in particular how challenging it can be for women and smaller people; this being clear from the ratio of men to women on the mats. He described how impressed he was with the ladies in BJJ – and at this point my lips started trembling and I struggled to keep it together – and said he was proud to be making his first promotion of a woman to purple belt. This was really moving to me and it is a great privilege to feel I have the confidence of Marc Walder and Dave Birkett.
This morning, I finally realised that I honestly have my club’s respect. During a break in the seminar I had a chat with Hasan and Richard regarding my possible promotion that evening and I mentioned that I felt unsure that I could properly defend my belt if I were promoted at this stage. Hasan scoffed at this and reckoned that I could defend it adequately. Bear in mind he submitted me last week, the second time since we’ve been training together and as in the first time a helpful revelation of a gap in my defensive game; I had zero answer to his slick arm triangle. Richard suggested I was being too tough on myself as I do well rolling around with ‘a bunch of meatheads’ while tipping the scales at 60 kilos (on a good day). I was reflecting on the evening over my morning’s porridge and, dammit, if the tears didn’t come. Hasan and Richard made me realise that the guys don’t think I’m lesser because I’m smaller and weaker and I rarely tap them out; that’s all my baggage and nothing to do with them! Indeed, they respect my technique, value my opinion and enjoy training with me. The amount of support I have received from everyone in the club is immense and I am so grateful that I can finally start to see it more clearly. Right, so I’ve started the purple belt journey – saddle up and on to the next thing!
The finale of the evening was Marc Walder’s promotion of Dave Birkett to brown belt. Dave is a wonderful coach and mentor. Dave has a long pedigree in martial arts, from a black belt in Shotokan to expertise in JKD and extensive experience in grappling and wrestling. When Dave met Marc he took the brave decision to try learning a new way and has developed into a terrific exponent of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Dave works tirelessly to support his students and make their needs his number one priority. The loyalty of his students and the retention rate of his academy is clear evidence of his prowess as a teacher and as a martial artist. I heartily look forward to the next 6 years at his club and beyond.
Thanks to Danny Suman, world-class Escrima stick champion and fellow DBJJer, for the use of the fantastic photos.