Back at home: Gracie Barra Birmingham

After a long break away from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I have written about in previous posts there was always going to have to come a time when I went back to my school, Gracie Barra Birmingham, and re-enroll as a student. This week was it.

The location is great and there’s loads of mat space and I’m sure that I will enjoy the GB curriculum as there’s so much I want to improve on. I just need to remember not to over-train and that slow and steady wins the race because I don’t want to burn out.

My first visit to the mat was on Monday 4th April for the lunchtime class. The class focus was on the side control position with Professor Rafael (pictured above, front row on the right) where he taught how to isolate the attacking arm when moving from side control to north south back to side control. This movement was mainly about the pressure of the top game and making it uncomfortable for your opponent.

My second visit was on Tuesday 5th April for the lunchtime fundamentals class. We looked at passing the closed guard in this class, due to an injury of the instructor, and we drilled the Bullfighter pass where after you’ve stood up, pinching your knees together, you grab the pant legs and step back whilst pushing your opponents legs to the ground. You follow up by walking around and drive your nearest knee down to the mat and block off their hip and establish side control.

After the advanced class there was Live Training so I jumped back on the mat and sparred with a few guys. I didn’t do at all well as you’d expect given the ratio of Brown, Purple and Blue belts on the mat but I got to train with a long-time training partner from when I started out with Chris Simpson at Elite 2000 which was nice. One of the things I am keen to do is to find an active mentor who will take me under their wing during sparring but this will take time. 

Last time I trained I was able to make a connection with one of the coaches, now a Professor, but I’m not sure they train at GB Birmingham now. Most students do find one or two guys they always roll with, and who if they are a higher belt will give regular tips and feedback about their sparring. That’s not to say that everyone doesn’t give feedback in their rolls.

I don’t know whether you’d count it as as third or still a second visit but I also attended the Tuesday evening fundamentals class after a quick visit to Cineworld round the corner to watch Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. This class was taken by two Purple belt coaches who focused on the side control. The main details we looked at were mounting our opponent and using a collar choke using the crease of the Gi on the shoulder to submit our partner. I liked these details as I have been left thinking that my choke attacks were lacking.

My original plans were to go down every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to train (but that was based on thinking I could jump in the Advanced classes) but it looks like Tuesday for a double, Thursday for a lunchtime single and Saturday for another lunchtime single followed by an hour’s live training will be my schedule for the next few weeks (or until I get that grading to allow me into the advanced classes). 

Gracie Barra schools have a rule that only three stripe white belts and above can attend Advanced classes. This is a little disheartening as I used to train regularly in the advanced classes but to be fair I have been away from the sport for over 6 years so spending time in the fundamentals will give me an opportunity to focus on my weak areas without any pressure and get back to where I was whilst I learn some new techniques I didn’t get round to learning on the cycle last time.

I am enjoying being back and it’s nice been nice to see so many friends again (especially as they have increased in rank) and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer/warmer welcome from Braulio. He’s such a class act.


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