Marc Walder Seminar Review: How to Know if You’re a ‘Winner’ or a ‘Loser’

Marc Walder and Charlotte

The Walder suffers a Charlie-RNC

We enjoyed our first Marc Walder seminar of 2011 at Dartford BJJ on Wednesday night; we are lucky enough to enjoy quarterly seminars with Professor Walder. Over forty of us packed into the Academy to enjoy an evening of jits and philosophy with Marc. We were honoured to have the event photographed by Fighters in Focus and, as was the case with our last seminar, it was a fun, educational and emotionally charged evening for all concerned.

Technical breakdown

Wayne and Charlotte

Armbared by his own flesh and blood before purple-belt time!

The evening developed into a master-class of attacks from the back. We started with taking the back from a north-south position. I was intrigued at Marc’s suggestion to hold this position at an angle favouring one side rather than square to the opponent; I’d never absorbed this detail before. From this position we gripped the lapels, looping under the opponent’s armpits while keeping our head tight to the opponent’s chest as if ‘listening for a heartbeat’. While maintaining pressure with the head on chest, come to standing and roll the opponent to a sitting position, applying pressure on the opponent’s back with chest. Roll the opponent to one side, insert a hook on the opposite side, fall towards the hooked side while inserting the opposite hook. Consolidate the position while maintaining a grip on the lapels.

Meg and Katja

Collar chokes make for untidy gi

We then examined three submissions from the back: the ‘clock choke’, the ‘Ezekiel’ and a transition to an armbar. For the clock choke, from the grips on the lapels, one hand is drawn out from under the opponent’s armpit while the opposite hand opens the collar and passes it to the free hand which then passes in front of the opponent’s neck. The free hand grips the collar with the thumb up and the wrist and arm straight. The had under the opponent’s armpit grips the opposite lapel. For the submission, rock to drop to the elbow of the arm passing across the opponent’s neck, straighten the back to straighten the arms for the ‘tap tap’. A new detail for me, as I had the pleasure of acting as Marc’s uke for a clock choke, was the use of the ‘top’ elbow to exert pressure when falling to the side prior to straightening for the submission. This isn’t an aggressive, strength-based pressure (Marc only has a few kilos on me, so strong-arming is not how he has developed his game) but rather a firm, tilting pressure in the desired direction of movement, what I like to think of as ‘being active in the position’. For the Ezekiel, where the opponent has defended the clock choke by gripping at the cuff and back of the elbow, remove the hand from beneath the opponent’s armpit, release the collar and grab the inside of the newly freed cuff with 4 fingers. Bring blade of forearm around to rest against the opponent’s neck and straighten for the submission. For the armbar, where the opponent has defended the Ezekiel attempt by trapping the hand passed under the armpit with their own elbow, release the lapel gripped by the trapped hand and transition to cup over the trapping arm. Bring the opposite foot to the opponent’s hip and use this as base to push body towards the side of trapped arm while bringing the other shin across the opponent’s lap to rest the hook against the opposite hip. This movement is intend to alter your positioning for the armbar as well as break the grip on the cuff passed across the opponent’s throat. Once the grip is broken, transition the newly freed forearm against the side of the opponent’s neck and push away while falling towards to the opponent’s knee to make additional space for the leg to pass behind the opponent’s back to come in front of their face. Roll to a seated position while retaining the cupped grip on the opponent’s arm. Consolidate the position by ensuring hips are ‘glued’ to the opponent’s shoulders and transition grips/angle for armbar.

Richard and Hasan

Sleepy time for Hasan

Naturally, once we’d examined offence from the back, we examined defence versus the chokes. To counter the clock choke, grip at the opponent’s cuff and elbow to prevent the attacking arm from wrapping the throat. Drop to the side away from the attacking arm; Marc noted that if you imagine the index finger of the attacking hand pointing, it will show you the direction to fall. Transition hand from behind the elbow to block the opponent’s far knee to prevent being mounted. ‘Shrimp’ hips away to escape from between opponent’s legs and turn towards opponent to establish side control. To counter the Ezekiel, grip at the cuff or elbow and drop to the side as before. Walk feet towards opponent’s head so that your back does a ‘flat spin’ against your opponent’s chest. When the angle for the choke has been neutralised, use head to push up unto the opponent’s chest, turn to face the opponent and establish side control.

Leveling up

Ryan purple belt promotion

Ryan in the height of Phoenician fashion

Our Marc Walder seminar in October 2010 was a big night for promotions and Wednesday’s gathering was similarly exciting for two gentlemen in particular. Ryan Debenham and Wayne Rowlands both made the jump to purple! This was a joy to see. Ryan is a very accomplished martial artist with both significant traditional martial arts and professional MMA experience. He matches his technical and athletic abilities with a great attitude and, on a personal note, I always learn a tremendous amount from him when lucky enough to pair with him. Wayne, a former Para and Kimura-savant, also has a wealth of martial arts experience both as a student and teacher. His grappling journey began in a simpler time with wrestling and CSW and while he’s been a consistent jits player for many years, in recent months he’s really stepped up his training regime and taken it to the next level. Well done, brothers, much deserved!

One for the road

Origin BJJ Team

Origin Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Team

Marc’s seminars are always about more than *just* techniques, they are also concerned with a philosophical approach to training. In his closing words, Marc dropped some nuggets that really clicked for many at the seminar. He prefaced his statement with the solid advice:

How do you know if you’re a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’? Winners judge themselves against their own goals and losers judge themselves against others.

The idea is that you judge your achievements against your own goals and aspirations, rather than in comparison to your perception of the abilities of others. In this way, your journey of personal development isn’t about the domination of others or fueled by a malicious intent. It is this sort of ethos that underpins the newly launched Origin BJJ Team. Clubs affiliated with Professor Walder operate up and down the country and have united under the Origin BJJ Team banner. We are a community of clubs with our own identities, but we are all part of a single team whose purpose is to ‘evolve with tradition and benevolence’. I am very excited that our collective approach to jits has been united in this way while allowing space for the the distinct characters of our individual clubs; it feels good to be part of a larger whole in a somewhat more tangible and, for me, I’ve already started to get to know more of my teammates further afield. What more is jits about than human relationships and cooperation? Go team!

Marc Walder BJJ Team: Brown and Black Belt Training Sessions

Dave Birkett, Meg Smitley, Marc Walder

In the esteemed company of Dave Birkett and Marc Walder

The Marc Walder BJJ Team is distributed among clubs from the south coast to the north of England. In order to ensure that advanced members of the team get to roll with one another and work their skills with people of their own level in a friendly way, Marc has started regular Brown and Black Belt Training Sessions which are hosted at Dartford BJJ. I am, patently, the luckiest, most spoiled and privileged girl in all BJJ-dom and was invited to last night’s inaugural session.

The session had an informal open mat feel and Marc began by asking for any problems the guys might be facing, which led to an investigation of triangle escapes. In proper Walder style, this discussion of technique and the physical implementation of jiu jitsu was accompanied by his views on a philosophical approach to practice that might facilitate the practitioner’s personal evolution. In particular, the importance of trying different approaches to familiar problems in order to push one’s game, to develop one’s own style and to find one’s own truth. The remainder of the session was spent sparring and I, personally, enjoyed three super fun rolls with a selection of very forgiving brown belts (some more forgiving than others, but I appreciate the crushing as a sign of respect). What can I say, it was a tremendous way to end a week, it has me pumped for the coming week’s training and I am still quite stunned to have been hanging with these folks. It is quite thrilling to be immersed in such a concentration of advanced players; exciting to think I might develop that conceptual understanding, speed of thought, superb positioning, composure and timing for myself in the fullness of time.

Marc Walder seminar at Dartford BJJ

Marc Walder demonstrates with Dave Birkett

Marc Walder demonstrates with Dave Birkett

Last night Dartford BJJ was proud to host Marc Walder for one of his regular quarterly seminars. This turned out to be a big, BIG night for Dartford BJJ and my review of the evening may be rather more personal and emotional than normal.

The Techniques

Marc Walder’s depth of understanding and sophisticated jiu jitsu never ceases to amaze me and this was further reinforced for me by Marc’s demonstration of a series of techniques that relied on gi-grips more than I am accustomed to. The beauty of Marc’s teaching is that he doesn’t overload you with a huge range of techniques, but focuses on a few moves and refines the details at the same time every time I have the pleasure of attending his class, I am shown new variants and means of approaching common problems.


Elbows tight and erect posture; Charlotte goes for it

Elbows tight and erect posture; Charlotte goes for it

We began with a takedown initiated from basic grips to collar and elbow. Transitioning from the elbow to the cuff on the upper-inside of the opponent’s grip to the collar, the elbow overwrapped the opponent’s while shooting in to drive hips against opponent’s legs with elbow tucked tight to body to hold opponent’s arm in a Kimora-shape. Releasing the opponent’s collar to hold the thigh, the front leg was extended straight to gain an ‘hurtler’s’ pose to allow sitting back at an angle to throw opponent. At this point the back is towards the opponent and it is ‘walked’ onto the opponent’s chest before turning to face the opponent and gain side control.

Submissions from Side Control

Working from the side

Working from the side

Submission #1. In this case the opponent’s arms are framed against the bicep and shoulder. The bottom hand loosens the opponent’s far lapel, pulls it taught and overwraps the opponent’s forearm. Retaining a grip on the lapel the fabric is passed to the upper hand which is looped under the opponent’s neck. The idea is to bait the opponent to rip the hand out of the gi at which point the bottom hand slips through the gap left by the opponent’s arm, passes across the opponent’s neck to allow for an Ezekiel-style choke by pulling up on the lapel retained by the hand under the neck and pushing away with the hand into the opposite side of the neck.

Marc Walder instructs

Marc Walder instructs

Submission #2. In this case the opponent has chosen not to remove hand from gi-wrap. Switch hips to face south while retaining top pressure move knee to opponent’s hip. Slide knee along body as it travels north in order to get good ‘bite’ and control of the opponent’s near arm. Hold opponent’s outside wrist and put body weight through it while transitioning to an S-mount. Relinquish lapel to grab ankle and sit back while wrapping legs for triangle. An important principle here is to not roll all the way back and allow the opponent to come to knees, but instead use hamstrings and core to prevent the opponent’s opportunity to come to knees.

Submission #3. In this case the opponent’s outside arm is passed under the lower armpit rather than framed against the shoulder. The bottom hand grips the bottom edge of the outside lapel and holds at opponent’s hip and transitions to north-south to end at side control on the opposite side. Pass the lapel under the opponent’s neck and pass to opposite hand. Transition arm from beneath opponent’s neck to pass across throat and re-grab lapel. Apply pressure to finish the choke.

Dartford BJJ goes nuclear

An ace posse of new blue belts

An ace posse of new blue belts

While I’ve been training with Dave Birkett for 6 years, the first half of that time was spent in his London City classes at the Bob Breen Academy, formerly located in Hoxton Sq. At the start of 2008, I started making the journey to Dartford to train at his main academy, where a hard core of dedicated practitioners impressed me with their work ethic, technical skill and friendliness. At that time there might’ve been a dozen of us on the mats, regular, with a select group of blues and the rest of us white belts. So much has changed in such a short period; we regularly have 20-30 people on the mats and we now have a healthy range of belts from white to brown.

Dartford BJJ team

Dartford BJJ team

5, FIVE, of the guys that walked through the doors at the end of ’08 made the jump to blue last night. Our second generation of blues is a special group to me. ‘Little Richard’ came to Dartford BJJ a blue belt in another club but wanted to start again and, after working it out with Coach, strapped on a white belt and got stuck in. How many folk work so hard to get that first coloured belt only to quit soon after? Real testament to Richard’s character that he decided to make a fresh start and pay his dues. Jamie walked in an absolute physical wreck! Overweight, out of shape and really struggling with his fitness in the early days, but he just kept hammering the nut. Two months and two stone lighter later he was a changed man and not only has he become an exceptionally precise and technical player, he is living proof of BJJ’s ability to change lives for the better. Will, well, we rolled within his first few days of training and he dislocated a toe during the course of a sweep; his game was all tense and aggressive and I wasn’t too sure about him. He through himself in and, these days, works tremendously hard to ‘get things right’ and to relax and work his stuff. Last, but not least, there’s Hasan and Richard. They walked in and I thought, ‘These two are a bit wide’, but then I saw the rather large Richard walk away from rolling with a 14 year old girl who gave him a really hard time with a smile on his face and patting her on the back – reckoned he must be all right! Hasan, too, had a kind temperament and the two were hooked after that first class and were dedicated converts over night; Hasan is a light, quick, technical and savagely sneaky player that teaches me so much when we roll.

Off with the blue

Off with the blue

The evening got rapidly more special for me. Marc sat us in a circle and it was clear that something was up. He spoke about what a difficult journey BJJ is and in particular how challenging it can be for women and smaller people; this being clear from the ratio of men to women on the mats. He described how impressed he was with the ladies in BJJ – and at this point my lips started trembling and I struggled to keep it together – and said he was proud to be making his first promotion of a woman to purple belt. This was really moving to me and it is a great privilege to feel I have the confidence of Marc Walder and Dave Birkett.

Happy mats!

Happy mats!

This morning, I finally realised that I honestly have my club’s respect. During a break in the seminar I had a chat with Hasan and Richard regarding my possible promotion that evening and I mentioned that I felt unsure that I could properly defend my belt if I were promoted at this stage. Hasan scoffed at this and reckoned that I could defend it adequately. Bear in mind he submitted me last week, the second time since we’ve been training together and as in the first time a helpful revelation of a gap in my defensive game; I had zero answer to his slick arm triangle. Richard suggested I was being too tough on myself as I do well rolling around with ‘a bunch of meatheads’ while tipping the scales at 60 kilos (on a good day). I was reflecting on the evening over my morning’s porridge and, dammit, if the tears didn’t come. Hasan and Richard made me realise that the guys don’t think I’m lesser because I’m smaller and weaker and I rarely tap them out; that’s all my baggage and nothing to do with them! Indeed, they respect my technique, value my opinion and enjoy training with me. The amount of support I have received from everyone in the club is immense and I am so grateful that I can finally start to see it more clearly. Right, so I’ve started the purple belt journey – saddle up and on to the next thing!

Marc Walder promotes Dave Birkett to brown belt

Marc Walder promotes Dave Birkett to brown belt

The finale of the evening was Marc Walder’s promotion of Dave Birkett to brown belt. Dave is a wonderful coach and mentor. Dave has a long pedigree in martial arts, from a black belt in Shotokan to expertise in JKD and extensive experience in grappling and wrestling. When Dave met Marc he took the brave decision to try learning a new way and has developed into a terrific exponent of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Dave works tirelessly to support his students and make their needs his number one priority. The loyalty of his students and the retention rate of his academy is clear evidence of his prowess as a teacher and as a martial artist. I heartily look forward to the next 6 years at his club and beyond.

Thanks to Danny Suman, world-class Escrima stick champion and fellow DBJJer, for the use of the fantastic photos.