The trip out was about half walking and half riding the tram. I don’t mind the walking, hell I probably should have ran both portions of walking to make sure I was under the prescribed weight limit for the IBJJF Rome competitions. When I got to the last leg of the trip I had a bit of trouble finding the place. Google maps and my GPS put me at the entrance to what looked like an elementary school. I walked to where the entrance was supposed to be and didn’t see anything that stood out as a BJJ gym, so I took a stroll around the building.
On the other side I ran into a bunch of kids and an older gentleman. I approached the man and asked if he knew where the academy was. He brushed me off and kept walking. I didn’t see any cauliflower ear on the kids from where I was, so I didn’t bother asking them. OK so I couldn’t really see their ears, but they were playing and I didn’t see any signs of grappling so I left them to their play time. As I started to get around to the other side of the building, there was an older man and his child walking about. I asked the older man if he could help me, and he said that he would. We talked a bit about the academy and he pointed me towards the doors where I had originally gone. He told me the school added on, but built bigger, and as a consequence didn’t need the old space so they set it up as a community center kind of thing.
There were a set of door bells on the door with names on them. One looked Portuguese, so I ran that one. There was no response, so I went ahead and just rang all the bells Still nothing. Open mat was starting in about 5 minutes so there should have been someone there. Just when I was about to give up and head back to the bus, a guy about my age strolls up on a bicycle. The older gentleman that was helping me asked him in Dutch if the academy was around. Bicycle guy apparently told him yes, and then spoke to me in English and introduced himself. He showed me a bell that was a bit hidden from the others, which is why I didn’t see it. We rang it and a smaller white belt came to the door to let us in.
We walked through a small room, to a doorway, and into a small entrance/closet looking thing. I knew I was in the right spot now, with the smell of stale sweat and the shoes cluttered about in the small entranceway. Through the door peeked the man I was looking for, Professor Flexa (pronounced in Portuguese as “Flesh-ah”). He greeted me and asked if I was training tonight, and to be aware that it was just open mat. I told him I didn’t mind, as I needed to get some rolling in anyways before my competition down in Rome. Through the doorway I could see the mat area, which was reminiscent of the Brazilian gyms I’ve seen from websites. It was maybe 15’ x 15’, not a large area at all. Radiators lined one side of the room, and I was positive that they were used religiously.
Professor Flexa pointed me towards the lockerroom, which happened to be just an old closet area (although it could have been an old shelf inset) with sheets for doors. I took my shoes off quick and ran over there with my bag. Warmups were already in progress so I quickly changed out and threw my street clothes in the bag, jumping out onto the mats to join in on what warmup was left. There were only about 5 of us there, not including Professor Flexa. If I remember correctly there were 1 white, three blues, 1 brown.
I teamed up with the white belt first. He was a bit smaller in stature, but decently built for his size. I don’t recall his name off the top of my head, but I do remember him wearing a Turkish flag patch on his gi. I started off just sitting, he was on his knees. The next thing I know he is all over the place. Now, for me, the great thing about short people is that no matter how fast they are, I can usually just catch them with my longer arms and legs and pull them into my guard or a variation thereof. This thankfully was the case, as I felt a lot of base out of him. He was very strong on his feet and knees for his size. This meant one thing to me, he’s a wrestler. Every time I got him on his back it was like a deer in headlights. This isn’t a negative things directly towards him, a lot of wrestlers have the same problem when they come into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s a big glaring issue, and he needs to work more from his back to get more confident with it. Once he learns that his hips are where his power is, just like in wrestling, he will be a beast. I confirmed with him after the match that he was in fact a wrestler.
Next I was paired up with the brown belt, who happened to be Ukrainian, and a female. I’ve learned in BJJ that age, sex, size, etc all mean nothing. A small female brown belt can choke you out just as quickly, if not quicker than a large male brown belt. This was the highest ranked female grappler that I’ve had a chance to train with, and I was going to play it safe and see what her game was all about. Most of the round was spent in her guard, with me attempting to pass her guard in multiple variations. I *almost* broke through a couple of times. All I could think was “jesus, theres some damn leg strength here”. Men twice her size can’t hold out as long as she did, and I had about 60 pounds on her easily and probably a good 5-6 inches in height. The leverage should have been in my favor, obviously it wasn’t. I can say that she never got a sweep on me the whole round, not a submissions.
Next I went with a traveling blue belt from the UK. Not much to really cover here, he was a cool guy but spent most of the round in my guard unable to pass. On my end of things I started to get a bit lazy and didn’t really put the pressure on and really half assed any sweep attempts.
My next round was against the blue belt that I met while trying to find the club. He had told me previously that he had been away from the club for about 6 months. So long that they had changed the mats while he was gone. I was pretty impressed with his technique for being gone for 6 months. I take a couple of weeks off and I get my face stomped by guys who I can usually hang with. He was getting gassed pretty easily, which is always my plan for someone that I feel is better than me or stronger than me (or bigger). I’ll lock them into a position that will cause me minimal effort to keep, while tiring them out so that I can take advantage and hopefully eke out a win. I ended up playing a lot of top game on him, putting pressure and the “shoulder of justice” on him. I’m always trying to found out how my pressure feels on people, so I always ask, and request suggestions on how to make the experience more painful. According to him, it was pretty uncomfortable. In his words it was “pretty smothering and bad”, but in a good way. I told him I was happy to hear that, as I’ve been working on smothering people and otherwise putting them in their own little “hell” when I’m on top.
The last match was against the brown belt again, and I was happy to take the match. I really wanted to pass her guard. Some of you reading this are familiar with a technique I use to pass a lot, in fact it probably annoys the hell out of you. Well, I did that. Usually once I get a guard open, I will voluntarily move into half guard to get a bit low. From here I will reach over the opponents top leg and wrap my arm around it and back through to the front of them. I then grab into the belt with my palm facing me and pulling down, trying to touch my elbow to the ground. This helps me keep pressure on their hips, and also keeps them from moving them a lot. Thats the good part, the bad part is that it essentially renders that arm useless outside of that specific job. Not always a bad thing.
I ended up passing her guard, but then somehow we ended up in a scramble that I didn’t expect. During said scramble she transitioned so fast into a knee bar that I didn’t have the time to stick my free foot on her butt to get my knee out of the danger zone. We’d been going at it for about 4 minutes at this point, and she had it locked pretty damn quick. I tapped. I was happy that I had made it that long. While I was trying to use technique rather than brute strength, I feel if I had resorted to out powering her it would have ended much more quickly. After we reset I decided I wanted to play from bottom, since he had played bottom both times before. Not too long after slapping half guard on her she ended up sinking in a clock choke that got tight as hell almost immediately. I threw out ever trick in the book to keep from tapping. I was bracing her arms, throwing one arm in between the choking arms, circling with her, switching my hips. All the while my neck bones are audibly popping all over every 15-20 second. It wasn’t too much longer and the bell rang. She seemed really let down that she wasn’t able to get the tap with the choke. Speaking to her after the round she told me that it was her go to move in competitions and always gets a win with it. I told her it was tight as hell, and in the right spot, but that I was doing everything I could to keep alive despite the pain and suffering. Hell, I had tunnel vision for most of the second roll. I told her that I thought that most people probably would have tapped, but I wanted to see if I could work my way out of the problem.
After class, everyone informed me of the morning class at 0800. Not being a big morning person, I told them all that I wasn’t sure if I would make it or not but that I would try. The shorter turkish wrestler went on to tell me about how energized I would feel after the class, that it was a good way to start the day. I just kind of grinned and went along with it. I knew how I would feel later in the day. Tired and sore.