Sunday, October 15, 2017

John Will Seminar 15 Oct 2017 - Half Guard, the Seed

The seminar was held at the Red Boat Wing Chun Academy in Redfern.

A wonderful surprise at the start with Red Boat Wing Chun's chief instructor, Rick Spain, being awarded his Jiu Jitsu Black belt by John. David Suker of Stealth Fighting Arts in Bargo, received his the day before, and drove John to the seminar.

I will have more to write about this, shortly. This is a great thing for Sifu Spain and the Red Boat Academy.

 John Will and Rick Spain

L to R: George Adams, Rick Spain and myself

The Seed

John is keen when teaching to come up with a "seed" for a particular position or concept, from which everything else can go. If John taught that lesson and never saw a properly motivated student again, that student could take what John had taught him and come up with an entire system and the many other existing variations that come from that position or concept.

Pulling half guard from standing

Do not just sit down and pull your opponent straight on top of you. He will knee slice pass straight over your bottom leg and get side control in a millisecond.


Grab his R sleeve with your left hand and his L collar with your R hand - judo grips, more or less. Kick your R leg out to your L behind his R leg as you sit down and fall to your R, pulling his R arm hard over the top to your R with the L hand grip on his sleeve as you do so. Grab his R leg with your R arm, and come to your knees. Do some sort of single leg takedown now (the exact technige depends on how he steps or falls) and put him on his back, or side, ready to pass.

Starting half guard position

We start from a Z guard position, rather than the older style flat and close style of half guard. This avoids the underhook battle initially, and gives us a significant advantage for getting the underhook when we are ready. We are:

  • On our right side
  • Our R leg is between his, not too deep. We want our R knee bent with our calf hooking around the back of his R thigh but no deeper
  • Our L knee is framing near the front of his R shoulder, keeping him away, our L shin under his R armpit, our L foot close to his hip to avoid footlocks
  • Our head is angled towards his L knee, our R hand controlling below his L elbow, the L hand above his L elbow. Our hands are shaped in a "paw" grip, like a fook sao in Wing Chun. We control with the wrists rather than the palms or fingers. Our main aim here is to prevent him grabbing our head with his L arm.
  • Or L elbow is under/inside our L knee, the arm frame backing up the frame with the L knee
While passing guard we are pummelling for advantageous grips or arm positions. Using Z guard instead of other types of half guard gives you a better chance of getting what you want, the underhook.

Z guard demonstrated by Stephan Kesting of Grapplearts. He has his top hand on the shoulder and forearm against the throat, whereas we would just have it on the other guy's bicep. Note how he holds his right hand

Getting the underhook - the first move

Use your L leg to kick him away slightly, so you can sit up and get your L underhook, wrapping your arm tight around his waist. Waist, not  his L armpit or lat. At the same time sit up and bring your R elbow underneath you, so you are angled away from him slightly to his R. Your upper arm and chest should be aligned so that he is unable to force your back back to the mat.

Drill this move, repeating many times. What judo guys like Dave Camarillo call uchikomi.

Getting the back from the underhook

You get half guard and the underhook as above. He employs no countermeasures like the whizzer (explained below).

Move your R foot to the mat and take your L foot over his R shin, so both your feet are between ("inside") his. Go to your knees HARD, keeping your R foot between his legs, and drive your L shoulder to the mat. He should slide straight over your head, you do not need to shuck your L arm up to free your head. You should now be able to jump on his back, getting a seat belt control, with the L arm under his L armpit and R arm around the R side of his neck. Put all your weight on his R shoulder and break him down to the mat.

Move your hips away from him as he falls onto his R side. You do not want him on top of you, but beside you. If all goes well you are both on your R sides, you behind him with your R hook in and the seat belt control. Use the outside of your R foot to "staple" his R calf to the mat, and use your head (your R ear to his L ear) to "staple" his head to the ground as well. Get this right and he should be very strongly controlled.

He whizzers to stop the back take, go to Dogfight Double

You get the underhook as above. Knowing the backtake is coming, he overhooks your L arm with his R, so his arm is between your bodies. This will prevent you from going to his back.

The overhook counter to the underhook like this comes from wrestling, and is called the whizzer. It has many other uses besides this in grappling, usually as a counter to an underhook from any position, including standing.

So, he gets the whizzer. Keep the underhook and move the feet inside his as before. Use your L heel to "scorpion tail" his foot out toward you as you come to your knees hard. Your R foot should come out and you should end up on your knees, sitting with his R lower leg trapped between your L calf and hamstring. This is a position Eddie Bravo calls the Dogfight.

 Dogfight position. Athlete in blue has applied the whizzer

You are going to take him down to his and your L. Rather than reach for his L knee with your R hand, which won't work, instead:

Post your R hand on the mat, elbow locked, fingers pointing away from him. Push with the hand and try to headbutt his L knee. He will fall to his L side. Pass around to his back and move your L underhook so it is under his R arm. Get up on your L side and put all your weight on his R arm, trapping it with your L underhook. Get your hips off the mat for maximum pressure and block his R hip with your R leg (maybe L?). Your L arm goes over his head, above eye level.

He will want to get his L arm around you and try and go to the top. The pressure on his R arm from your L underhook should make this impossible. This move of his allows you to get your R arm around his neck and move to headlock control.

Move to headlock control in three steps:
  • R knee comes underneath you
  • L foot steps out ahead, allowing you to
  • scoot/step your R foot through again all the way to consolidate headlock control.
Trying to be greedy and rush the process may leave gaps for him to escape or counter.

Keep the underhook. Your L elbow and thigh should stay joined so he has no opportunity to get his R arm around your waist. Instead it will be out in space and available for you to attack.

Moving to headlock control is what John terms a "Blowfish" technique, referring to the traditional Japenese dish of fugu, or poisonous blowfish. One wrong move on the Japanese chef's part while preparing the blowfish for consumption, and everyone dies.

Many of the more obvious ways of moving from headlock control from side control etc. can leave you vulnerable to getting your back taken or reversed with a bridge and roll. The method John uses with the underhook is much, much safer.

He gets the whizzer and posts on his L foot, stopping the takedown

Get the underhook as before. He whizzers. Before you have the opportunity to push him down and get headlock control as above, he posts up on his L foot, effectively preventing the Dogfight Double.

Still come to your knees and trap his R shin in the crook of your L knee (the Dogfight position), as for the Dogfight Double. You will be unable to push him over. Instead, put your R arm and shoulder on the mat and roll to your left over your back, using the scorpion tail pull of your L calf on his R shin to roll him over you and onto his back. Most of the drive from the technique comes from cranking his R leg with your L, rather than the roll itself. Though pushing into him and timing the roll to use his energy as well as the shin crank as he pushes back would not hurt.

Not that if their leg is bent at ninety degrees and you are pulling on it near the foot, this configuration will give you maximum leverage.

You end up in a similar position to that of the Dogfight Double, and can go to headlock control the same way.

John demonstrated how you might pull the L lapel out of his belt with your R hand and pass it around his back to your L hand to aid in pulling him over. Though the scorpion tail crank on his leg remains the main driving force in the sweep.

John told us about Todd Nathanson, a Californian black belt who used this sweep extensively if not exclusively during John's visits. He even used it to deal with a road rage incident which kicked off outside a jiu jitsu academy in front of many other students. I'll let John tell that story with the funnier details if you see him.

In both the Dogfight Double and the sweep, it is important that you realise ahead of time that if you leave the underhook around his waist for too long it will get trapped underneath him, making the follow up move difficult. Do not "over-clap". As soon as he starts to go, you should already be setting up for the follow up. 

Do not oversweep, do not get too far behind or ahead of what is happening in the present moment.

If in either the Dogfight Double or the sweep he lets go the whizzer to post in front of him and prevent the takedown or sweep, switch then to drive your L shoulder to the mat and take his back, as for the first technique.

Attacks - Kimura

Grabbing the wrist first and the trying to apply the kimura is unlikely to work against any experienced grappler. They are too used to such attacks and can see them coming. They will pull their elbow to their hip to stop it, or if you get the lock on, grab their belt or inner thigh.

Instead, from Z guard:
  • Wrap your L arm around the top of their L arm, elbow to elbow
  • Kick your L leg through and go flat, pulling their L elbow away from their hip and rib cage as their body extends and also flattens out
  • Grab the wrist and complete the lock.
The closer your elbow is to theirs, the better the leverage. NB there are situations where you do not want to cut this too fine as they may be able to reverse it on you. This is not one of those situations if set up as described.

If they straighten their arm, move it up next to their ear, get your R ear pushing on their tricep near the armpit and wrap the R arm around the neck for an arm triangle. (Result of a great question asked by a visiting brown belt).

Experimenting with the order in which things are done can be worthwhile. It does not always pay off, but occasionally may produce something of real value. This approach to the kimura is such an example. Chris Brennan on his "King of the Kimura" video also advocates sitting up, wrapping the arm, and isolating the open elbow before grabbing the wrist, this time in the context of applying the kimura from closed guard.

The traditional way of setting up a kick is to step into range and then chamber and throw the kick. Back in the 80's, guys like Bill Wallace and Chuck Norris student Chip Wright(?) started experimenting with throwing  the kick while out of range, then (very shortly thereafter) hopping or sliding in to connect. The step after the kick instead of before. This worked well for a number of high level fighters.

True creativity (creating something entirely new from the Void) is very rare. Most creative solutions are the result of combining or synthesizing pre-existing elements, perhaps from unrelated disciplines. An interesting subject which deserves its own blog post.

Kimura - they grab the belt

You are a bit slow with the kimura or they see it coming and grab their belt to counter. Let go of the wrist with your R hand, "high five" with your R hand and place it on your L bicep as you slide your R hand onto your R bicep, trapping their L wrist under your R elbow. They should feel totally unable to remove your arm, with some bicep slicer pressure to boot. Let your R leg go flat and allow them to pass their R leg over it to side control on your R. If they don't pass, move your leg out from under theirs so they pass by default. Take your R ear to your R hip. Bring your feet over to the L and right up near your butt, up on your toes. Bridge and roll them and end up in top in side control. 

Do a "commando crawl" and push their wrist away from their body. "Jump the fence" and get your R elbow between their wrist and their body so they cannot grab their belt again.

Switch base, take the L leg over their face, use it to lift their L shoulder off the ground and up on their side slightly so you have room to apply the kimura from side control.

John talked about he Kimura and its history, and Masahiko Kimura, the great Japanese judoka aftern whom it was named. Here is the iconic picture of Kimura-san beating Helio Gracie which John mentioned (which is actually a perfect illustration of how the technique should be performed).

 Masahiko Kimura applying eponymous technique to Helio Gracie

The kimura can also be applied By moving your body over to the other side of his head, with your arm beneath his, and putting pressure on his wrist with your hand and on his shoulder with your chest. Your body cannot abide both wrist and shoulder on the floor in such a position. John advocates using his weight and the pressure of his rib cage to drag the opponent's arm into position before applying the lock from here.

Bridge and Roll Escape from Mount

With Sifu's promotion, John discussed how this is a new beginning, and we start learning EVERYTHING over again, properly this time. The bridge and roll escape from mount, which many people learn in their first Jiu Jitsu lesson, is no exception.

They have mount on you, but you can trap their R arm.
  • Trap the R elbow with your R hand on top, L hand behind their elbow. 
  • Your L foot traps their R shin, as usual. 
  • Bring both feet up close to your butt.
  • Move your head to the right, try to touch their R hip with your R ear.
  • Flare your L knee out to your L, putting pressure on their R calf with your thigh, at the same time pushing their R foot into the centre. This pressure on its own should make them feel very unstable, and their leg trapped, in a poor position, about to lose balance, and under pressure. 
  • You should need only a small amount of bridging energy to take them over. As they fall to their back and you come on top, bring your R knee up between their legs to prevent them closing their guard. 
  • Finish on a "combat base" position ready to pass.
Combat Base position, demonstrated by excellent Jiu Jitsu blogger Cane Prevost

That's all, folks.

A morning well spent

John's autobiography. Ripping yarns and great advice.

John Will's seminar schedule. Get on board with one of the best Jiu Jitsu coaches on the planet.


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