We had been communicating back and forth over the course of a couple of weeks. It finally became evident to me that in order to keep the trip going I was going to have to reach out to people for a place to stay. I hit Samir up for accommodations and he thankfully said it was no problem. He also offered to pick me up from the train station when I got into town, I just needed to give him the train info in advance.
Per the previous day…errr this mornings Metamoris escapades, I was again dead tired when I hit the train station in Strasbourg. Thankfully I didn’t miss any trains, and was able to hope on down to Zurich with ease. When I got into Zurich, I wasn’t sure where exactly to meet up with Samir, as we had not discussed that portion of things. I searched high and low for free wifi, only to find wifi that wanted my mobile number to SMS me an access code. That would be great and all, but I didn’t have any cell service in Europe at all. I finally found some pay phones in the basement and struggled to figure out how to exactly use them. I noticed there was an SMS option on the phones (I know, right?) so I texted Samir a message giving him a description of myself and what street I would be on.
I didn’t have to wait very long for Samir to find me. He came strolling up with his flat billed cap and his Shoyoroll jacket. I would later find out that Samir was fond of collecting two things presently, Jordan shoes and Shoyoroll gis. We hopped into his car to head out to go train for the afternoon.
Samir wanted to grab a quick coffee, and I agreed that caffeine was needed badly. We chatted on the drive out to a local Starbucks about my trip and the like. When we walked into Starbucks to order coffee Samir must have seen my eyes building out of my skull. I was looking at the prices and noticed that a SMALL coffee was a bit over $7 USD. He kind of chuckled and offered to grab the coffee on him, I thanked him graciously. I don’t think I had any Swiss Francs on me at the time anyhow. We made our way outside to chat a bit more before heading off to the training center.
The training location was in Schlieren, a bit of a drive outside of Zurich proper. The scenery on the drive out to the location was beautiful. I was finally away from the cold and dreariness of the countries that I had previously been to. The landscape was covered with buildings, but every view beyond them offered lush green mountains to look at. Samir explained that the Sunday training was a relatively new thing for the team. He felt that in order to fight well, you needed to be in shape. At first I thought it was going to be a conditioning class, my attitude sunk a bit. Personally I don’t like going to a BJJ class for conditioning, it’s not what I’m there for. I’m there to either drill, learn a new skill to drill, or fight. I can do my own conditioning outside of class. Fortunately, it was a full hour of rolling.
We were running slightly late when we arrived at the training center. Samir was renting space in it, much like Wim was doing up in Leuven. We headed to the locker room to change out, and then up to the training area. It was a small area, but large enough to train in. In fact, it was about average size compared to the rest of the gyms on my trip. I started my normal warmup of stretching, with mostly loosening the knees and hips up as I use them the most when grappling.
A lot of the rolls and specifics are really eluding me at the present moment. I do recall having some good rolls, and some not so good rolls. One of the rolls that does come to memory was against a rather big, and seasoned, white belt. He didn’t say much, nor have much in terms of facial expressions. He was big, fast, strong, and young. And this wasn’t his first year of training. Samir would tell me later that this specific white belt had come from another school, one that was populated with a lot of smaller training partners. This white belt was the largest by far, and the strongest. His game developed into one of strength and speed, as he was doing only no-gi in the couple of years prior to joining the Werdum Ruckus Clan in Zurich. A lot of what Samir said made sense looking back on the match. The white belts sole intent seemed to be to out power me in every position. I would eventually get him onto his back, but keeping him there would prove to be a chore.
At some point I ended up catching an elbow right to the top of the eye, putting me out for a few seconds or so I believe. I just remember feeling heat, seeing stars, my vision going black, and realizing I had whoever I was grappling in my half guard tight. I suppose thats a plus, unless someone is continuously raining blows down on my face from above.
The time finally came for me to roll with Samir. Samir is a four stripe brown belt, on the verge of getting his black belt at any moment. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but what ended up happening I wasn’t expecting at all. Normally I feel like I can roll for a bit with any skill level without feeling like it’s my first day again. Every once in a great while I will run into someone who’s skill level is just light years ahead of mine and they absolutely destroy me. Samir would be no different.
We slapped hands and he immediately came after me. His grips were ridiculously strong, so strong that 90% of the time I couldn’t remove them. Samir pulled me into his spider guard, I popped down into the “headquarters” position that we had learned from Saulo Ribeiro during a seminar last year. The next moment I was flat on my back, struggling to get back some semblance of guard. I succeeded in roping him into my half guard, only to have a powerful knee slide pass performed on me. Now I was in side control with a skilled behemoth on top of me. Without much effort Samir took the mount position, and then rolled me over into his full guard like I was a rag doll. Armbar, triangle, omoplata…the submissions and sweeps just kept coming and coming. Everything I tried he immediately found my weak point and capitalized on it. The bell rang, I was relieve to get away from Samir with what little pride I had left.
Talking with one of the purple belts directly after the round with Samir, I exclaimed my surprise at Samir’s skills, speed, strength, and technique. The purple belt just laughed and said “I know, I know”. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one in the gym who struggled against Samir. I would be looking forward to watching his matches in Rome, I had a feeling that he would end up dominating his division pretty easily. Seeing him in the Open division would be even more impressive.
Overall I thought the evening went pretty well. Like i said, I had some good matches and some not so good matches. The biggest thing to take out of this is that a lack of sleep will degrade your performance on the mats. I’m sure this isn’t a relegation to anyone (including myself) reading this. But actually living through it was a great reminder to be well rested and in good condition before even thinking about stepping out onto the mats for a competition.