Our academy, RGA South Herts, hosted a seminar with the incredibly talented Michelle Nicolini today. Michelle is an absolute legend with an outstanding resume. She is an 8x BJJ World Champion, ADCC, Pan and European Champion among a huge ton of other major titles. She also has an MMA record of 6-3-0. It’s safe to say that Michelle is one of the best jiujitsu grapplers of all time.
I was fortunate to meet and train with Michelle several years ago when working on an assignment for Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine. I was also commissioned by Tatami Fightwear (her gear sponsor) to design her signature kimono and rashguard.
Guard Passing and Guard Recovery
Michelle opened up her seminar with three guard passing drills which she explained was the way she got all her students warmed up in the classes that she teaches. She then moved on to a guard recovery that was a modified version of the Marcelo Garcia sit-up escape from under side control. This is a favourite escape of mine and I took special note of Michelle’s own modification to the technique.
Shin to Shin Guard Wizardry
The main techniques of the day revolved around Michelle’s infamous shin to shin guard – a guard that she has used to devastating effect when winning world titles and major tournaments. BJJ Scout made an excellent breakdown a few years ago that is still well worth studying:
The way Michelle sets up and then applies the shin to shin makes it an especially useful technique against opponents who want to pressurize, smash and crush you from the top. That little hook around their shin ensures they will be swept to their doom!
Michelle closed the session by teaching some shoulder clamp attacks from the closed guard – which she said was something she found very effective in her MMA fights.
Throughout the seminar, Michelle explained that over the years of her jiu jitsu development, being a smaller person meant she was not able to match her opponent’s strength for strength. Instead, she developed a very effective hook based game, which often used her opponent’s weight and strength against them. What was very fun was to observe her shin and hook based game when rolling with our RGA South Herts students. Round after round after round, Michelle swept everyone with ease. It was fantastic to see the theory put into practice so effortlessly!
Michelle teaches a fantastic seminar. She explains the techniques superbly and covers all the what-if scenarios. She intersperses her technical explanations with a few anecdotes from her fighting career and she likes a few playful jokes too.
I noticed last time I attended her seminar that she likes to use a timer during student drilling. She did the same again and I must say, I like this tactic. It prevents any time-wasting or uneven drilling between training partners. I notice she also does focus claps on the count of TWO, not my usual three. It might be me, but the group seemed to clap much more accurately and with more err, focus compared to my lessons.
Michelle continues to compete – she recently won the IBJJF European Masters event in Rome -as well as teach and train in academies all around the world. As a small person myself, I was thrilled to be able to learn from Michelle again and have her visit our club.