The trip over to Iceland wasn’t very bad. I’ve done a lot of traveling through my life, including outside of the U.S., so layovers and the like don’t bother me. I left Nebraska in the early afternoon yesterday, flew to Charlotte, flew to D.C., and then was on my way to what I thought was Reykjavik. Turns out, you fly into Keflavik, then have to take a bus up to Reykjavik. The bus wouldn’t have been so bad, but I think we maxed out at like 45 mph through the whole thing. I was able to see a lot of the scenery between both cities, which was pretty nice.
On my arrival to the Reykjavik bus station, I wandered around for a bit look for the taxis. Turns out they were on the other side of the building. No worries, I walk up to the taxi, tell him the name of the guest house I’m staying in, and he has no clue what I’m talking about. As it turns out, my hostel wasn’t a hostel, it was literally a guest house. I find the address and we set off. We get to the house, I walk up and ring the doorbell and nothing. I have no cell service and I can’t get any wifi around me. I ring the bell one more time and a groggy Austrian guy comes wandering down and lets me in. He is also a guest and says I should call the owner. I laugh and tell him I have no cell phone coverage and he gives me the wifi password and I email the owner. She shows up 10 minutes later and gives me a tour. The accommodations were a lot better than I thought they would be, considering it was the same price as a lot of hostels in the area where I would have to share a room.
(My new cat friend checking me out)
Its about 0900 local time at this point, and about 0400 back home. I’m tired. I quickly check the schedule for Mjolnir, they have class around 1200. Great! I set the alarm on my dying phone (but charging on my computer) for 1100, and lay down for some quick shuteye. I wake up, it seems odd that my alarm didn’t wake me. I check my computer, it’s like 2pm. Crap. I check the schedule again and the next class isn’t until around 6pm. OK, no problem. I get up and move around. I’m hungry. I freshen up a bit, throw on some clothes, pack my gi into my daypack and head out.
Reykjavik isn’t very big. I’m pretty sure I could walk the whole thing no problem. Iceland as a whole only has around 350,000 people on the entire island. Which is crazy, because it’s a big island. I’m looking around for somewhere to eat, and I can’t seem to find anything except a random Subway. I walk in, the entire menu is in Icelandic, the girl behind the counter greats me in Icelandic and starts talking to me in the same. I tell her I have no idea what she is saying, she switches to a very heavily accented English. This will be a recurring theme here, I feel. Must be the giant beard I grew before I left. Anyways, I get some kind of a sandwich wight the local special “fish sauce” on it. It was pretty good, especially for a Subway sandwich.
I do a bit of walking around before I decide it’s time to go to Mjolnir. I walked right by the building the first time, and I’m not entirely sure how. It’s a pretty decent sized building, especially for Iceland. I walk up to the second floor and immediately I see viking looking things all over. I walk into the main area, and there is even more, including a shrine to “Mjolnir”. I smile to myself and walk over to the desk woman, who again greets me in her mother tongue and I say “I have no idea what you just said” which elicits a chuckle from her. I tell here I’m here to train BJJ and ask if they have a schedule in English, I’m told they do not, but she was nice enough to go through the schedule for the next two days with me. It turns out that the BJJ classes, while with Icelandic words, have BJJ in them. I’m also informed that this evenings class isn’t the usual, it’s “grading” night and there will be a lot of sparring. I tell her that I’m OK with this if they are OK with me training with them. She says it will be fine, but that I need to know that I “probably won’t get ranked up” because the instructors don’t know me. I laugh and tell her that’s fine, I came to train not to get stripes or belts from other instructors.
(various viking related stuff with the Mjolnir shrine at the bottom)
So I suit up into my go and head into the training area. It’s pretty big and I get the impression that the area might have been a movie theater or a theater for plays and the like because of the large amount of stadium like seating in the back of the training area where parents, friends, visitors or whatever can watch classes. There was a kids class going on, it looked like a lot of fun for the kids. Very slowly people started showing up.
Around 1805 or so, the instructors (two brown belts) start giving instructions on how to tie the belt. I only know this because everyone took off their belts (except me) and were retying them. There was a bit more talk, I look over at a guy next to me and say "whats are we doing?", he tells me we are "easy rolling". Ah, ok..a flow roll. I end up with one of the purple belts for a couple of rounds. The third round was, I shit you not, a round that you actively TRY to lose. My purple belt partner was gracious enough to let me know that I was really good at trying to lose. Not entirely sure how to take that one, but we all have to be good at something, right?
After that there was more that I didn't understand, so again I ask for direction from the purple belt. He says they are splitting us into weight groups, kg wise, and I should find the appropriate group. I did some quick math in my head, 205# should be around 90kg, guess I'm with the big guys. So they put us into subgroups from there, 1/2/3. I get a number, that makes no sense to me, and randomly assign myself the number two with the help of some other people.
What comes next is a "pass, sweep, submit" kind of game. Their guys are pretty tough, and the women too from what I was able to see from a distance. I had some back and forth matches, some victories, and some defeats. I felt pretty good overall considering the being worn out from traveling.
The next round of things was Gunnar going around the room and picking the people who were up for promotion. I was sufficiently tired from our previous set of sparring, and looking around I could tell that I was not the only one. There also was not a set time limit to this according to one of the guys I asked. It stopped when they said it stopped.
So we lined up in a big snake around the room. There had to be 100 people there. It started with the biggest folks first (my group), followed by the medium, and then the small. I had a few rounds against some of the folks who were up for promo, and they all felt solid. This wasn't just white belts looking for blue, it was also seasoned blue belts looking to be purple. After a few rounds of this I was sweating pretty bad and decided to go grab some water, which is when the promotions started. Someone would get turned on their side or inverted and Gunnar would run up behind them, belt in hand, swinging for the fences (or their asses rather). With a loud CLACK on their rears, they were not a new blue or purple belt.
I'll be at the technique class tomorrow, and will write more then. It's after midnight here now, and I need to get some sleep!