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Artechoke in a Can: Arm Drag Introduction

Last week, we began our module on back control. Now, we begin to explore paths and avenues for taking the back with an introduction to a basic arm drag.

To me, the arm drag is a concept, a principle. Working with the arm drag teaches you to look for the back anytime your opponent’s arm is crossing diagonally across your body. If his arm is in this position, you have an opportunity to take his back. While this may seem somewhat obvious to see and to read, distilling the back take to this extremely basic form will help you to troubleshoot your back takes and to explore new opportunities to transition to the back. As we explore basic arm drags in this lesson, we will come back to this idea again and again.

In the first video, I illustrate this concept with a demonstration of a standing arm drag. Almost everything in these videos I learned from working on Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques and has changed my game dramatically. The arm drag is a bit of an obsession for me, so forgive me if I get longwinded in the videos. That said, pay particular attention to my footwork. The arm drag is most successful when you move yourself instead of moving your opponent.

In the next video, we look at how to counter the wrist grab with an arm drag (a very useful attack) and then jump from the back bodylock to back control while our opponent is standing. If you’re a bigger guy, you could transition to a high crotch single, a supplex, or some form of lateral drop. You have a lot of options when you’re in the back bodylock, and we didn’t have enough time to thoroughly cover them all.

Next, we started to look at using the arm drag from the butt scoot position. Again, moving yourself is key, and having that mobility stems directly from your butt scoot posture. At the end of this video, note how I swing my leg to get the momentum to come up into the seatbelt position while my partner is turtled.

To finish the lesson, we discussed some more details of posture and talked about why I prefer to fight for the second hook with my opponent on his side versus turtled. Again, most of the material is shamelessly taken from Marcelo. Note: this video reveals a secret Pittsburgh technique called the “Southside.”

Next week, we will continue exploring the potential of the arm drag.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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Artechoke in a Can: Maintaining the Back

This class marks the beginning of a new module: Arm Drags and Back Takes. For me, this topic is something of an obsession. When I discovered the arm drag, specifically Marcelo’s take on the technique, it opened my jiu-jitsu to a whole new kind of game. Before, I relied heavily on rubber guard, depending on high guard and variations of high guard to win matches. When my knees gave out, putting a lot of guard techniques out of my reach (like triangles, for example), the arm drag provided a new way of playing guard and approaching jiu-jitsu as a whole.

Once I gained confidence with the arm drag, I made it my mission to constantly look for the back, which is why almost every module I teach touches upon taking the back in some fashion. For me, and this may not be true for all grapplers, my end-goal is the rear naked choke. No matter where I am, I want to get to the back and set that choke, so in that way, my jiu-jitsu is something of a funnel, with all roads eventually leading to the same position (unless a finish presents itself along the way).

One of the major hurdles that students face when it comes to taking the back is not specific to individual techniques. Rather, it’s a matter of confidence. In an average roll, you might never take the back, and if you do, you’ll probably only spend a minute or less in the position. At the same time, it’s very easy to rack up hours of practice playing guard or playing top. The result: many grapplers take the back, quickly lose it, which can create a mental block, a creeping frustration that clouds their mind when they should be focusing on maintaining and finishing from the back.

To head that problem off, the first lesson of this module focuses on techniques for maintaining the back position while your opponent attempts to escape.

In the first video, I demonstrate how to un-turtle an opponent when you have a single hook. If you are fighting to take the back, this position comes up a lot, and it can be very difficult to finish your opponent from here because of his ability to use the mat to limit space. By rolling him on to his side, you give yourself the advantage of having the mat as a tool for maintaining the position, you limit his mobility, and your free hook as the mobility to become a problem solving tool (maintaining position, trapping arms, breaking grips, etc)—all while minimizing the risk of getting rolled back into guard.

The second video addresses a common scenario: your opponent blocking your second hook once you have rolled him to his side by connecting his knee to his elbow. This is a bit of a non-issue as you’ll eventually learn that the second hook is not as necessary for control as you might think, but being able to slow your opponent down or to get your four points with the second hook can still be important. The solution is not very complex, but many people overlook it.

In this final video, we address the common challenge of what to do when your opponent bridges and flattens your back to the mat, forcing you to support his weight while making it difficult for you to choke. Again the solution is relatively simple: use a butterfly hook to reset his hips. But you have to have confidence in the previous two techniques for this transition to be effective for you because this requires you to have the stones to give up a hook (preferably on the underhook side). On a side note, you can use this same technique to reset your opponent’s hips if he is shrimping out.

To end the class, we did a trigger drill to start developing muscle memory that’s connected to specific stimuli. This simulates a live roll but gives students the ability to take their time and ease into applying a technique in real time. The more advanced students incorporated a seat belt recovery technique that was touched on in the Kimura Module.

Next week, we begin to explore the arm drag as a concept, which will set up the rest of the classes in the module.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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Artechoke in a Can: Dynamic Kimuras

To round out our kimura module, and this is becoming something of a tradition, I exposed my students to some of the “newer” applications of the kimura.

We focused on fundamental kimura attacks and transitions for most of the module because not only are they accessible and reliable, they are a good way to expand the way a person thinks about a technique in jiu-jitsu. For six weeks, I’ve emphasized the idea that the kimura is a position, not just a submission. Making that distinction helps you to explore the potential of a technique rather than thinking of it in terms of “success or failure.”

In today’s lesson, we looked at some more dynamic kimura transitions, which I first picked up from a Mendes brothers video. For the sake of being thorough, that video is below.

Admittedly, this particular kimura application is still relatively new to me, so teaching it is a way for me to refine my thoughts on it, and it also provides me with a stable of beta testers. With 16 other people playing with the Mendes kimura, the chances of someone showing me a new discovery or insight related to this particular technique is high. In that way, we can all grow together.

To start that ball rolling, we looked at the kimura that the Mendes brothers showed, which I have been using to set the armbar or take the back.

Next, we looked at countering the single leg with a kimura grip. This is not a new technique by any means, but being comfortable with the Mendes transition has made me much more confident in attacking with this technique because I feel prepared to deal with the inevitable scramble that follows.

To end the class, we looked at a recovery drill, the purpose of which is to help make the Mendes transition feel more natural.

And to prove that more people are using the kimura grip than just the Mendes brothers, here is a short clip of Andre Galvao using the kimura grip as a control tool, just like we’ve talked about for the last 6 weeks:

Next week, we start my favorite module: arm drags and back-takes.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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Artechoke in a Can: Kimura Flow Drill

Last week, we introduced Artechoke in a Can, which jumped into the middle of a kimura module that I’ve been teaching in my no-gi class at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh. I teach in “modules” because exploring advanced concepts and applications of techniques is difficult without first establishing an understanding of the fundamentals, so when I pick a theme we build a foundation first and then add on to it, which allows my students to learn more than how to do a technique; they get the why as well. With each week building on the last, my students can also accumulate a significant amount of repetitions, which makes them more likely to retain and use what they learned than if it had a been a one-shot class.

In this particular lesson, we focused entirely on kimura drills, an active review of the high-points of what we had already covered. Rather than do more static drills, we did flow drills. To give you some context here, most of this thinking comes from Matt Kirtley of The idea is that jumping from static drilling to live application is difficult. To incorporate a new technique efficiently and effectively, you need to bridge that gap. Flow drilling is one level about static drilling. It forces students to chain techniques together into a sequence, making them more familiar with transitioning from one technique to another while easing them into trigger training.

Trigger training is stimulus-based drilling. When your partner does A, you react with B, but instead of the path always being the same, your partner chooses the trigger, forcing you to react appropriately. The flow drills incorporate triggers to a degree, which helps to start making a mental association between a specific scenario and a specific reaction. Again, this is nothing revolutionary, and I certainly did not invent it myself, but many jiu-jiteiros forget to use this type of drilling in their own training. The videos below will give you an idea of how to create a flow drill out of your current technical project, and they also provide a glimpse into some of the techniques that we worked on before Artechoke in a Can launched.

In the first drill, we emphasized positional transitions, coming out of the guard to take the top position. Most of these are basic transitions, yes, but the opportunities are too often missed in live rolling.

Next, we focused on our top transitions, specifically recognizing when to attack with a north south kimura (shoulder up, elbow exposed) and when to attack with a north south guillotine (shoulder down, elbow hidden, chin turned away). We also used this as an opportunity to refresh some of our back-take transitions.

Finally, we did a quick kimura to armbar drill from guard. This move is pretty simply, but it requires fairly advanced hip movement. I noticed that some of my students struggled with this transition when they first learn it, mostly because of the hip movement involved, so we came back to it to hone that coordination. The move itself is pretty useful as well.

Next week, we will do a final lesson on the kimura, consisting some of the more dynamic kimura transitions, and then we will move into an arm drag and back take module.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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Introducing Artechoke in a Can

Artechoke in a Can started as a class blog. When I taught a class at Steel City Martial Arts, my home gym in Pittsburgh, I filmed it, wrote a brief description of the class, and uploaded the content to a blog. My goal was to help my students retain what they learned in class by making it easy for them to review while also giving them a way to catch-up if they were unable to attend a particular class, which made it easier for me to teach classes in modules.

As the blog grew, more people (like members of our affiliate schools) began using it as a training supplement. That inspired me to make the entire blog public, which is why it now lives under the Artechoke roof. I hope that you enjoy my class and that it benefits your jiu-jitsu in some way. Full disclosure: I am a purple belt and do not profess to be an end-all expert on jiu-jitsu. I simply enjoy sharing jiu-jitsu.

North South Kimuras

This class picks up half-way through a module on the kimura. For the last three weeks, we’ve been exploring the kimura as a position. When we think of the kimura as a submission, we limit our thinking because we tend to view submissions as techniques that succeed or fail. When we think of positions, we think of possibilities, in terms of “I got here, now I can do this, this, or this.” Seeing the possibilities that the kimura creates ultimately makes our kimura more effective because we are able to threaten multiple attacks on-top of the ever-present threat of the kimura.

No matter what position you’re establishing the kimura from, you are never far from an armbar, a guillotine, or a back-take. Some kimura entries will favor certain possibilities more heavily than others, but in general, if you have a figure four looked on your opponent’s wrist, you can bet that those three options are nearby.

Last week, we looked at attacking the kimura from side control, which lead to finishing the kimura from a vertical north south position (sitting on top of your opponent, pinching their torso between your knees). From this vertical north south position, you can transition to an armbar or a back-take if you can’t finish the kimura. In today’s lesson, we looked at setting the kimura from the north-south position, which gives you another way to enter the vertical north south position.

Next, we looked at using the north south position to start attacking the north south guillotine. When you threaten the kimura, your opponent will sometimes focus so much on hiding his elbow that he exposes his neck, giving his an avenue to continue attacking, forcing him to defend defend defend.

To cap off the class, we touched on the rewind principle, which emphasises the two-way connection between many techniques. Too often we get stuck in a linear progression and forget that we can from A to B but also B to A, which keeps us on the offensive, threatening two attacks at once. In this final video, we also touch briefly on using the vertical north south position to attack with the armbar or to take the back.

Next week, we will continue exploring the kimura, but we will pause on learning material. Instead, we are going to work on drills to tighten our technique and to increase our reaction time so that we can quickly connect the dots between techniques, positions, and transitions with minimal thinking.