Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Robin Gracie Amsterdam 3-24-14

I emailed my Hungarian point of contacted, Remy, the day that I got into Amsterdam to relay the fact that I didn’t plan correctly and wouldn’t be able to train with Raoul at the Rickson Gracie Amsterdam academy. He was nice enough to reach out to a friend of his by the name of Shebo who teaches at the well known kickboxing gym called Vos in Amsterdam to see if I could join them to train. Remy gave me the academy address and the day and time of training and I took off and went up there. 

The Vos gym has a very nice reception area, with a bar of sorts that serves up coffee and smoothies and the like. I got a little ahead of myself and showed up to the gym about an hour and a half early. I didn’t realize I was that early, I thought I was only 30 minutes early, but the body language of the receptionist was a bit off, so I looked at the clock and sure enough I was going to have some time to wait. Since I couldn’t get wifi in the reception area I ended up watching Dutch television without a clue of what was going on. 

After about an hour or so, Shebo came into the reception area and introduced himself. Shebo showed me the locker rooms so that I could change out, which there were two of. The most popular of the two was on the ground floor. There were another set on the second floor and you need to climb a spiral staircase in order to get up to it. The second floor also houses the showers, and I believe some steam rooms. We chatted a bit about my trip and I thanked Shebo for allowing me to come out and train with his team. 

Once we were on the mats the first warmup we worked on was with one partner standing and the other partner on their back. The partner who was on the ground would elevate their legs and hips, swinging up and over the standing partners legs and hips while using a free arm to brace against the partners legs to help move them backwards in motion. We did this up and down the mat, and then switched partners. Exercises like this tend to make my abs burn the first few times I do them, and them I’m usually good. This was no exception, while we do a similar movement at my home academy, we don’t move when doing it.

Next we jumped guard on a standing partner and did a 360 around them to the front, and then went the opposite direction. Think of a baby monkey climbing around it’s mother. Except in my case, more like an uncoordinated gorilla. I have never done this movement, let alone seen it. I personally really liked it and would love to see it thrown in from time to time back at the home academy. Due to my inexperience I fell off a couple of times. One of the purple belts pointed out to me that when you feel yourself falling you need to climb back up rather than attempting to keep your rounding motion. I also noticed that the purple belt was using his legs to hook and wrap around his partners legs for support, as opposed to my just retaining guard and trying to use only upper body strength to move around. 

When we completed we did some impromptu rolling. I teamed up with the other blue belt and we did a very light sparring session, with neither of us really using speed or strength. Like a flow roll, but adding maybe 20% intensity to it and not doing to “you go, I go” motions. 

The next warmup was one partner is standing straight up, and the other partner is on the ground with legs on hips, elevating their back off the ground. The goal here is to take one foot off and switch it to the opposite hip of the partner while moving yourself back and staying connected. I’m familiar with this movement, as we do it from time to time in class. What we don’t do is move backwards while doing it. Again, another thing my core was not ready for which made for some really awesome burning in the abs. We did this up and down the mat, and then switched places.

After we were done with the “wall walking” warmup we moved onto arm bar drills from side control. Going from side control, to securing the close arm and sitting into kesa gatame. Next, what I usually do is switch my hips to have my knees planted into the side of my partner, blocking the upper chest and the same side hip. I was told not to do this, that I should switch my hips over to the other direction (from facing the head to hips facing the opponents hips) in one motion. I’ve never thought of doing this before, but it feels like a much more efficient movement. From here you work into the mount position by swinging your far leg up and over the opponents hips. Making sure to but high enough to elude their block or attempted re-guarding. Making sure to base your arms, you put pressure on them in the hopes that they put their arms on your chest to relieve the pressure. Although, anyone with 6-12 months of training isn’t going to put their arms on your chest, because they know you’re taking an arm with you. For the drill however, we did. It’s important to get your hands in the right position. whichever arm you’re attacking, you want your same side arm to be forward with the hand on the opponents chest (over their arm), the far side arm goes underneath the far side opponents arm and onto the chest. You raise up on your arms, keeping downward pressure onto the opponent, and swing your close side leg over the opponents head, whilst keeping the arm your attacking close to your chest for the tap. We each did this 20 times and switched out. 

We jumped into some more informal sparing at this point. I went against the one stripe blue belt that I was working with. He felt pretty solid through the whole session. Neither of us really went all out, but he was definitely more dominant than myself through the whole ordeal. That’s been a bit of an issue for me as of late. I may have talked about it in a previous post, but I’m going to again. One of our senior white belts sent me an email about the same thing recently, how he was talking to our resident black belt and the black belt pointed out how WB was lacking intensity at the start of the roll but when a newer white belt put him in a compromising position he turned up the intensity and went after him. The WB said he was worried about being “an asshole” when rolling, it’s always a thing I’m worried about too. I know some of my teammates might not agree, but I don’t want to accidentally hurt anyone or use “dick moves”. However at the end of the day, sometimes you have to use “dick moves” in order to escape a position or to get the submission. The point here is I need to start turning up my own intensity too. 

My next round was with a white belt, who I believe was Eastern European by listening to his accent and his name. I got out of him that he had an MMA fight in a few weeks. I personally feel like a person shouldn’t have an MMA fight unless they have a blue belt at a minimum in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. To put it into some perspective, me as just a blue belt, had my way with him. I wanted to be in side control, it happened. If I wanted to mount him, it happened. If I wanted to submit him, it happened. This kind of reminds me of a local UFC vet from Nebraska. The guy was a great boxer/kickboxer, but he lacked ground game. In fact, anyone with a half decent single or double leg takedown would get him to the ground and he was done. So kind of the same thing here, this kid has a fight coming up and he has like 3 months of experience on the ground. He has no reason to be stepping into a cage at this point. 

For the last round of technique and drilling, we did a straight ankle lock with a deviation to keep the opponent in place. The deviation was to place your outside heel into the torso of the opponent. There was some confusion as to if this would be legal in an IBJJF competition because it was very close to looking like a “knee reap”. Knowing how hit or miss the refs are in the IBJJF, I personally would not risk getting a DQ over it.

My last match of the evening was with a younger lady, who I had previously did the arm bar drills with. She did the drills on me, I did mine on the blue belt. She was a bit reluctant to go with me in sparring, it might have been the sizee and rank factor, it might have been anything. I beckoned her over and Shebo gave her some words of encouragement. She was smaller, younger, and a white belt with no stripes. It was obvious that she was pretty new. But it’s all good. I told her not to worry, that I would be nice and that she didn’t have to be. She agreed and off we went. I’m not entirely sure how long this young lady had been training, but she brought what she lacked in technique and knowledge she made up for with tenacity and pressure. Granted I didn’t have to work too hard to keep her where I wanted to, I feel like she would do pretty well in her division in a tournament though. Another future star on the rise. 

I thanked Shebo for allowing me to come out and train with him. We all took a picture together, I thanked the rest of the people in attendance, dressed out and took off back towards the hostel. 

I was in a bit of a bind in terms of lodging in Leuven. I had booked a flight from Amsterdam to Leuven, not realizing that it would be far quicker to just take the train. My flight wasn’t due into Brussels until around 7pm, I would need to collect my baggage, go through any customs or immigration, and get onto a train find my way to the hostel in Leuven to check into the hostel by 8pm. That was cutting it very close. I asked the hostel if they could stay open a bit later and even offered to cover the costs of the employee to stay. I was informed by the hostel that “That is not how our economy here in Belgium works”. I’m not entirely sure what that was supposed to mean, as I can interpret it in many ways, and very few are positive. Needless to say I was going to have to wake up early in the morning and try to figure something else out. 

Whatever solution I was to come up with, it would end up costing me money. I had already paid for the plane ticket, but there was going to be a hefty bag fee. I was contractually bound to pay the hostel for the night even if I missed it. So I had a choice of either booking another hotel room for the evening, which was going to be expensive, or to take a train to Leuven early in the day. I chose to take the train. 

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