GF Team black belts Jake Mackenzie and Vinicius Marinho taught a three hour seminar at GF Team, Richmond, London. Jake concentrated on half and deep half guard while Vinicius taught passing the aforementioned techniques. Both instructors offered intense detail on techniques that have been honed though their vast tournament experience.
[Disclaimer, this report only describes a few techniques and even then, the possibility of me erroneously describing them accurately is probably quite high, so bear with me.]
Jake is a Canadian who spent much of his early BJJ career training half the year in his home in Nova Scotia and the other half in Brazil. He also spent several years in Florida, training under Roberto Abreu 'Cyborg' who promoted him to black belt. A keen competitor and winner of many titles (see Jake's BJJ Heroes entry here) he told us last year alone he had competed in 24 BJJ tournaments!
Jake began his portion of the seminar with his tips on how to maintain a basic half guard position. Immediately I picked up a number of pointers that I did not know before. He quickly moved on to how best to deal with the top guy having flattened you out and acquired underhooks on the far side, aka, my worst nightmare when playing half guard. Jake's answer was actually very simple - bridge, reach far over your head slightly to the far side, shrimp back and tuck your head low while securing your own underhook on the top guy (and gripping his belt). It was a neat illustration to me of how basic BJJ warm up drills, like bridging and shrimping are actually incredibly relevant and vital components of how one has to move in jiu jitsu.
From the now newly acquired underhook half guard position, Jake ran through several different versions of a sweep from this position. All the sweeps were based on an initial exchange of position of my own legs, thus leaving the half guard to end up on both my knees. From here, Jake showed several techniques dependent on how the opponent reacts from here. I had been taught one of the techniques before, but Jake's addition of extra fine little details made it a much richer experience for me and I really absorbed the new information (team mates beware!) The other variations were new to me, but again, with Jake's excellent instruction and encouraging help during drilling of the techniques, we were all able to nail the correct sequence quickly.
Jake next moved on to teaching deep half guard. I have nightmares about the deep half. Despite many attempts by various instructors to teach me it, it's simply a technique my mind cannot get around. Unluckily, my training partners seem to have picked this guard with ease, compounding my misery as attempting to escape. Today was ideal then for me to once again, attempt to understand how deep half guard (and the follow on sweeps) really work as Jake is widely recognised for his powerful and extremely effective deep half attacks.
I have not watched too many instructionals on the topic, so I don't know if the deep half tips Jake showed were of his own invention or fairly standard among deep half players but it looked to me like he had adapted several aspects to make them his own. I really liked what he showed and I felt a big wave of relief as I successfully managed to drill these without fumbling around like a dispraxic. One of the techniques ended by taking the back, it scored highly in my mind as a flashy but cool technique.
Just as I was really getting the hang of all this flipping people over whilst appearing to resemble someone just having a lie down, Jake commented on the fact that many many times, opponents will be doing something in their attempts to resist that would make you have to start all over again or switch to another technique. It still seems a bit low percentage to me, but I am at least one step further than I was before the seminar so hopefully I'll get to try some of these out in normal class.
All the while Jake spent a lot of time with each pair, correcting and encouraging them during the drills. Jake is a very energetic and fun character, his North American accent just hinting at its Canadian origins. At the end of class he entertained us with stories of life training in Brazil as a gringo and other amusing anecdotes. He's an example of someone truly living the jiu jitsu lifestyle, eating, living and breathing the sport and art every single day.
I had already read about Vinicius's rare talent to work his BJJ from strange creative angles and positions beforehand. You can read his BJJ Heroes entry here. I was eager to see how this would translate to passing the guard.
Vinicius kicked off his portion of the seminar with a basic half guard pass. Despite seemingly not containing too many moves in the sequence, there were actually a lot of small details that once executed correctly, made the pass highly effective. Vinicius instructed in Portuguese while Jake translated. It seems he likes to begin his passing with one knee raised from within the opponent's half guard- that knee ideally travelling away from the opponent's legs and on top of his stomach before continuing as a knee slice pass! He demonstrated options from this position and made us aware of the opponent attempting to reach for our outer leg. From here, the passes he showed involved meting out some pretty tough weapons - the aforementioned knee and a forearm across the opponent's jaw line to make his turn his head away. I liked these passes. They were straightforward and fancy free.
Vinicius next moved on to passing the deep half guard. He explained that in order for a deep half guard to work and for you to be swept, the opponent ideally needs to straighten out your leg. Vinicius showed us how the first port of call when under (on top?) someone's deep half is to bend at your own knee and prevent your leg being straightened. Pushing his bottom knee to the ground then took away the deep half guarder's ability to rotate underneath and effect the sweep. From this position, we were shown how to switch leg positions and pass to the side mount. It made perfect sense to me and again, Vinicius had taught us techniques that were seemingly simple but highly effective. I wondered however, when would we see the weird and strange angles and positions he was renowned for? After a few more deep half guard passing scenarios, it was time for q&a and then sparring.
After a couple of nice sparring bouts with Benny from GF Team and Gavin from Roger Gracie, I managed to spend five minutes rolling with Vinicius. It seems I got my answer on the weird angles and strange positions question. As a lightweight, he nimbly danced around any of my feeble attempts at sweeping him or pulling any type of guard on him. The pattern would be - he would take whatever position he felt like and I would squirm and scramble as frantically as I could in an attempt to (a) escape and (b) vaguely look like I knew what I was doing. Like all exceptional BJJ practitioners, I could tell he actually gave me a lot of space intentionally so I could at least conform to (a) and (b) above while all the time he knew I would move to whatever finish he was waiting for. There were moments when I literally had no idea where he was positioned around me. It was a thrilling experience for me and a great privilege to roll with someone of his high caliber.
|Left to right: Jake, Gabriel, and Vinicius|
After we wrapped up the session, we all headed off to eat at Rodizio Preto in Putney. It's fair to say I completely stuffed myself with meat, meat and, yeah, more meat. All in all a most excellent day out training with high quality black belts where were also great company too.
My thanks to Gabriel Rainho (head of GF Team in London) and Benny Sootho for kindly inviting me to attend today.