BJJ Grrl

"Be gentle, kind and beautiful, yet firm and strong, both mentally and physically." ~Sensei Keiko Fukuda

Romulo Barral seminar

on October 23, 2010

So, I didn’t plan go to the Hannette Staack seminar in Richmond at first because Yoshi had a fight scheduled for the same day. Then his opponent backed out, but the boys were talking about a Romulo Barral seminar the same day down in Knoxville, TN. But then they stopped talking about it, and then guys started getting sick or announcing plans for the weekend, plus there was a home football game, so I thought no one was going. And then last night around 10 p.m., I get a text from Justin asking if I want to go to the Romulo seminar in the morning; if so, be at his place at 5:45 a.m.

Oh, my gracious, that’s early…

But, obviously, I showed up, else there wouldn’t be a post… Made it on time, too, which, if you’ve ever seen me before 7 a.m. (and most days, before 9 a.m.), you know that’s doing really good.

Everyone else had backed out, so it was just me and Justin. It’s about a 3.5-hr drive to Samuel Braga’s school in Knoxville. We passed most of the time catching up on Fightworks Podcast episodes.

Seminar was from 10 a.m. till about 1 p.m. Wasn’t packed out like Justin said the Draculino seminar was, but was still pretty full. Romulo went over spider guard techniques — setups, transitions, sweeps, and submissions. He started with a few things that he wanted to show, and then he moved in to “If/then” scenarios, where we supplied the “if” and he supplied the “then.” I tried to write them all down, but he went so fast! He’s a very energetic guy. Showed things many times and explained it well, but still seemed to move fast. (Maybe it was just the caffeine wearing off for me.)

(I had issues with spider guard all day, too, and the simple stuff — grips, keeping my feet down near the elbows, keeping one leg straight. Bah. Haven’t gotten to play it much, though. Guys see me trying to set it up, and they clamp their elbows in tight and back away. Aw, c’mon, guys, lemme play it. My spider guard game sucks, I promise, because no one lets me practice it.)

(1) Just getting in to and moving around in spider guard as your partner tries to walk around your guard. Everything came back to here. He kept emphasizing to relax, relax, relax — this shouldn’t be a position where tired yourself out trying to hold it. This is a defensive, but relaxed, position. Also, he called feet-in-the-biceps “grips” all day. So I might, too.

(2) Partner breaks one bicep grip and grabs the pants inside your knee. Kick that leg out while pulling in on their sleeve to break the grip, and then “lasso leg” that arm (leg loops over their arm, and foot goes behind their triceps; pull in deep; you should have their hand trapped deep in by your own hip). So then the partner hips in to break your other bicep grip and tries to pass to the side you have trapped, pressing your knee and foot out of the way. Swing back around to square and lasso leg the other arm.

(3a) They try to bring your knees together to double-break, smash, and pass. All timing — drop your feet to their hips as you pull forward on their sleeves. Should bend them over at the waist. Then you can work back to spider guard/lasso leg.

(3b) They try to throw both hips in and chuck your legs over your head. Timing again — drop one foot to a butterfly hook under one hamstring. Done. Now back to center.

(4a) Partner has double-unders. Get normal spider guard sleeve grips; now press forward on their forearms while walking your hips back. Legs heavy. Romulo talked about how he’ll play his defensive spider guard game, especially this one, over and over again until the guy is frustrated and tired, and then he’ll switch to his offensive spider guard game.

(4b) Partner has double-unders, and you can’t break them with (4a). Bridge your hips straight up and push up on their hands, sliding them along your legs, until you can pull a foot through or two through. Start pushing back to spider guard.

Offensive Spider Guard: From having a lasso leg at any point, switch your grip from their sleeve to their near collar. They’ll probably unwrap their arm (and you can help by pulling out your leg) and put it inside. Romulo said he wants everyone to start playing this kind of spider guard, and said he’ll tell everyone this wherever he goes. So, there ya go. Everything from here on started this way.

(5) First, pendulum sweep — keep solid pressure in their bicep with your remaining foot while using the other in a “one, two, three” swing down and around, letting up just a little on the far arm as you swing through so you aren’t stopping them. If they don’t base out, continue the sweep and come up on top. Second, triangle — if they base out, which they can because you don’t have their arm, shoot your hips up while popping the foot on the bicep forward and sliding their arm backwards. Romulo also pointed out here that you must try the sweep for real; that if you try to set up the triangle from the beginning, that you’ll probably fail.

(6) They get to both feet, but crouch low. Take your free leg and slide it between theirs while pressing upwards with the bicep grip. This should make them stand and step forward, so they’re now standing over you, with one leg back and one leg over you and by your hip. Must keep pressure on the bicep. Let go of the collar grip and loop around the foot by your hip (almost like you would try to set up an ankle lock). Move your free leg inside to make your top X-guard hook; then release the bicep grip and bring that foot inside their knee for the bottom X-guard hook. Keep the sleeve for how. Use the X-guard to make them step closer so you can release the sleeve and get a good grip on their far pant cuff. Use your bottom X-guard hook to push out on their knee to sweep them in that direction. Turn belly down, rotating them by their ankles (you do still have them both trapped, don’t you?). You can come up to your feet, using their feet to control them.

(Extra tip on something he showed briefly — on de la Riva hook, use the hook to extend them before sweeping.)

(7) They stand. Pull your free leg in front of both of theirs, making them end up with both feet on the side opposite from where you have the spider guard grips. Use the spider guard grips to force them closer to your head (you still have the collar grip to control them, too). If needed, drop the collar grip to push their far knee out further. Now take your near leg and swing it back in and up, getting a kind of upside-down de la Riva hook. Sit up, switching your hips and scissor-sweeping them back. Come up on top.

(8) You have lasso leg, and they pin your knees and try to pressure pass. Must keep pressure on the bicep. Let go of the collar and reach back for the triceps. Kick the trapped leg straight while pulling on the triceps and pushing on the opposite bicep. Sit up and swing around to the omoplata.

We took the group picture then, and then anyone who wanted to stay and do some specific sparring could. Justin and I did a round or two together, and then everyone switched. There was a purple belt woman there from Alabama (I didn’t catch her name); I wanted to run over and work with her, but she hurt her knee during the last set and had to sit out, so I sat out, too. Justin did one round with a blue belt guy and then waved me in for the second round. Most everyone else left after that, so Romulo and Samuel played around for a while. (Looked a lot like this, though Romulo is limited to bottom half guard right now because of his knee injury. He had wanted to roll with everyone at the seminar, but with his knee still recovering, that wasn’t a good idea.)

(That’s Justin in the black gi.)


Justin and I went next door to this great Mediterranean place for lunch, er, mid-afternoon snack. (The “cheese baklava,” sadly, turned out to mostly resemble a single-cheese, slightly sweet tiropita. But the fried zucchini was fantastic.) Then we drove back mostly again to the sounds of the Fightworks Podcast.

The last leg of the trip, though, I turned it off and asked that, since I had him trapped for the remaining hour and a half (*weg*), could we please discuss my jiu-jitsu and what I needed to be working on. I wish I had taken notes, because it was sooooo helpful and very encouraging. Now I just have to remember it all!!

  • One of the first things he mentioned was exactly what I had noticed on Thursday — I was getting to mount and s-mount, but couldn’t finish the armbar at all. I thought my timing was off. He said my order of operations was off. The problem was that I was getting to s-mount before getting my grips on the arm. So then I’d often have to dig for that arm, which gave him time to escape, and, even if I did dig it out, my grips weren’t as deep as they needed to be. I wonder how many other places something like that is happening.
  • Speaking of timing, I still hesitate too much. Need to commit.
  • Take guys out of their game and their comfort positions. Don’t play their game. Romulo talked a lot about this, too. If the guy always passes to the right, make him pass to the left. If he’s really good in one position, don’t let him go there. Also, work on framing in such a way that the guy thinks he’s stable, but any movement will result in him sliding off or giving up space.
  • In nogi, think of grips in terms of surface area. I try too often to use my hands as grips in nogi, and that simply doesn’t work for me because I have small hands (small surface area) compared to who I’m attacking. Must have underhooks and overhooks. Also, a deep grip with no surface area isn’t necessarily a tight grip.
  • We talked a lot about simply controlling guys rather than always being concerned about having to finish them with a submission, especially for me. (Similar to what Scott had said a few weeks ago.) And if I find myself fixating on a submission (i.e., can’t see past it), to force myself to catch-and-release and to purposely not try to finish it. Romulo also touched on this today, saying that he doesn’t care how many times his students tap someone or not so long as they’re working on new things and not just sitting around on their favorite moves.
  • Also talked about how to start working on things. (A lot echoed Kintanon’s advice earlier.) He likes to have 2-3 things (usually separate for gi and nogi) that he’s working on at a time, and his goal is to attempt at least one of the bunch on everyone he rolls with in a given night. If he gets it, great, that’s 1 rep. If not, great, too; he’s found a way not to do it. His 2-3 things are also not related to each other and he tries to find things that aren’t too specific (e.g., would pick “kimura” over “kimura from north/south”) so that he always has something at least nearby that he can work towards. (I think my problem is largely picking something too specific and then never being able to get there.) Also, he works these things for 6-9 months rather than just a few weeks.

There was more, so much more, and I was very sad to see our exit arrive. I really wanted him to keep talking. *le sigh* But, he said I should bug him in class more about these things, too. (People should learn to be careful about saying these things to me…) I’m also going to try to remember more of what we talked about, too.

So, an unexpected, long, but very fun day.

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14 responses to “Romulo Barral seminar

  1. MC says:

    Welcome to the best BJJ school in the southeast!

    Your notes are going in my BJJ file. Thanks so much. It’s hard to visualize stuff from the text, but still. I was disappointed to miss this seminar and will at least have a reference to ask questions from when I go back there to visit.

  2. Allie says:

    Great stuff. Wish I had more money to go to more seminars!! Arg!

  3. leslie says:

    @MC: Aw, sorry that I didn’t get down there until after you’d left. It seemed like a good place.

    @Allie: Seminars are great and all, but they’re usually focused on whatever the instructor wants to teach. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep going, but I think quality time with your own instructors — who know your game and can help with specifics — is often more valuable. Getting to talk to Justin about my training was even more valuable than the seminar itself.

  4. Georgette says:

    Super timely and helpful comments on spiderguard, which I am starting to mess with a bit. I appreciate it.

  5. leslie says:

    @Georgette: The most helpful thing for me was bringing them close with that lasso leg and then getting that collar grip. I find that guys have too easy a time just standing up and getting away from me, and then I can’t keep pressure on them. But, with this one close grip, I might have a chance at keeping them broken down.

  6. leslie says:

    Also, a huge “I’m sorry!” to Aparna and anyone else who was nearby to the seminar and would have come if they’d known I was coming. But, since I didn’t know until 10pm the night before, I didn’t really even think about getting word out. (Though, I was hoping you would have all shown up, and I was really excited to see two girls there. However, they weren’t you.)

    So, sorry again, and I will try to do better about organizing me myself and the boys and making travel announcements.

  7. BJJ Judo says:

    Wow, sounds like a great seminar thanks for so much detail.

    Whenever anyone tries to back out of my spider guard the way you discribe I put one foot in their hip, grab one of there feet at the ankle and kick backward. It is a very simple and very effective way to put them on their butts. The catch is your opponent might feel a little silly getting pushed backward onto their butt. After one or two times they will change strategies and engage so expect to start getting smashed.

  8. leslie says:

    @BJJ Judo: Ah, a hook sweep. Yeah, I guess that is right there. So their options will become to let me play spider guard or to let me sweep them and take top. I like this plan! 😀

  9. leslie says:

    @Georgette again: More spider guard goodness back at the Michelle Nicolini seminar, too.

  10. Anne says:

    We also did spider guard at the Emily Kwok seminar last Halloween!

    (just an fyi, on your sidebar, it says that the west coast charity seminar is Felicia, Val, Emily, but the website only says Felicia and Val)

  11. leslie says:

    @Anne: Oh, you’re totally right, and I looked at that entry for BJJ Judo’s comment and didn’t even notice. Duh! So more spider guard.

    So, wait, that means you were there. “E” from Ontario?

  12. Anne says:

    yep! And when I stumbled upon your blog I thought: “I think I know this girl, but I can’t figure out who she is”. after awhile, I remembered though.

    Btw, are you going to the november seminar?

  13. leslie says:

    @Anne: No, probably not. That would be a very long weekend, and I don’t have any more time off from work this year. (Ugh!)

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