I arrived by airplane from Warsaw, my ear was surprisingly feeling much better. My foot on the other hand was still a pain. I’m thinking if the pain persists through the end of the trip I will probably have to see a doctor when I get back to the States. I need to get one of my shoulders checked out also. Elga, the in-laws mother of my friend, picked me up at the airport with a coworker of hers. Elga doesn’t speak much English at all. Latvian or Russian, and I spoke neither. Thankfully her co-worker spoke near perfect English, so a lot of conversations were conducted through her.
The first day in town I didn’t train at all, because my plane got in too late. I thought that I had two places to train, one being a Pedro Sauer affiliate and the other being a traditional ju jitsu place that had a grappling class. I read the schedule wrong at the second place, thinking their day “I” started on Monday, but it was actually Sunday. So their schedule actually overlapped the Pedro Sauer guys.
The next morning the sister (of my friends wife), Ieva, took me around Riga. She wanted to take me to the local chocolate store, and picked out some fattening goodies for me to snack on while I was in town. After that we wondered around to a church, which we curiously had to pay to get into. Paying to get into a church was a pretty odd thing for me as you can pretty much enter any churches in the US at anytime free of charge. Next we wandered around the old town, which is pretty nice and expansive.
My buddy James kept raving about a restaurant in Latvia called “Lido” and told me that I needed to go there. The previous night, Elga and her coworker took me to the largest Lido location and I really enjoyed the food. When presented with options for lunch for the day, Ieva suggested a pizza place or Lido. I was all for Lido, but when I said I had ate there the previous night she decided I needed some diversity in food. I think she took it as that I didn’t want to eat there again so soon. We ended up going to the pizza place instead, which wasn’t bad. It was incredibly cheesy and heavy on carbs, just like one would think it would be.
After lunch Ieva dropped me off so that Elga could take me out to where I would be training. We had a few hours to spare and Elga wanted to show me the Forest/Park that she worked at. It was the largest one in Riga and Elga was pretty proud of it. It was a very nice place, complete with a pretty big playground, a large amphitheater, a huge lake on one side, and a bunch of walking and riding trails. Elga sent me off for a bike ride with one of her coworkers, Caspers (sp?). He spoke a bit of English, only having issues periodically with specific words. We rode around most of the park, had it been a bit warmer, or if I had thought to bring my gloves with me it would have been a lot more enjoyable.
When it was time to go to training, Egla and I took off for the journey there. I had previously given her the address and she thought she knew where it was. She got us pretty much right next to it, but it looked like it might be in a high-rise apartment complex grouping. My google maps kept pointing off into the same area. We were both a bit confused, and the lack of a common language between us made matters a tad frustrating for both of us. I remembered that I had the number for the academy and gave it to Elga for her to call Eugene, the owner and head instructor. It turns out, the one of the high rises had a community center type of deal on the first floor and we were not too far away.
I took the walk to the location and found my way in, having to dodge a rather large raiding party of children and their parents coming out of the dojo. I went in and waited around to find Eugene, who wasn’t there yet. There were a handful of white belts milling about, looking my way, curious as to who the new person was. Eugene showed up a couple of minutes later and showed me to the locker room where we changed out quick. He informed me that most of the academy had just competed in a local competition and the next week was going to be very low stress and “fun”. This was good news to me, considering my foot was still messed up.
As we went out, I looked around and just noticed an army of white belts. I was the only other colored belt in the class besides Eugene, who was a black belt. I attempted to line up at the back end of the white belts, but Eugene wasn’t having it. He jokingly mentioned that I needed to be at the front because I earned it, and to be aware I was a target for all the white belts in the room. Wonderful!
Eugene wasn’t lying when he said that things were going to be fun. The warmup consisted of a game. We all huddled around Eugene and on the count of three we were to hold out 1-5 fingers of one hand to be placed into a specific group depending on the number. The game would be that of one group having a medium sized rubber ball, about the size of a basketball, and would chase around the other people on the mats. The thing was, you couldn’t move your legs as long as you had the ball, but your teammate could. If you went off the mats or got tagged by the ball (in possession of a person, not thrown), you were out. Sure, it was a bit juvenile, but it was fun. This lasted about 20-30 minutes.
The next portion of class was going to be Eugene going over positions that caused problems during the competition that they had just attended. I thought this was a great idea from a coaching standpoint. He never mentioned anyone by name, only that there were problems from specific positions, and some options on how to correct them.
The first position was where someone went to pull guard, but missed and ended up in half guard instead with the opponent still standing. The person wasn’t entirely sure what to do next. Eugene showed to grab the leg opposite of your half guard, weave your torso through while grabbing for the belt. Then you want to use your legs to help bring uke down to the floor so that you can complete the back take. This seemed like a pretty standard movement that I have seen repeated in a few academies.
The next problem position was breaking posture from guard. I’m guessing it was a pretty inexperienced white belt having the issue here. Eugene show a few different ways for breaking down posture, which I’m not going to go into as I assume most of the people taking the time to read this are familiar with it. Eugene went on to show the various options for submissions after breaking down posture.
Next we went over single leg takedown options. I didn’t catch what the issue was here, if someone botched the whole takedown or just stopped after they got the leg and stood there. Eugene showed two different options for taking the opponent down one you have control of the leg. The first was to pinch the leg between your thighs to maintain control, then to trap the other leg with your arms, with your hands at knee level to hep collapse the legs. Eugene got on my case to not lift the opponent up, but to rather drive through them. The second option was a typical single leg takedown of cradling the leg capture capture and walking it up to chest/shoulder level and either pushing uke over or dragging them to the ground with the leg high enough to off balance them.
The next position I’m still guiltily of getting caught in from time to time due to being too high. When you’re in Kesa Gatame (side control), if you’re entirely too high on the bottom player they can roll you over and reverse the position. The counter to this is kind of sneaky in regards to giving them the roll and then attacking with a shoulder lock as they are coming over. As you’re rolling into bottom side control, you want to feed the arm closest to your legs into your top leg (the one opposite of the floor), then pull ukes head towards you and push your leg away and “back” (towards your rear). It’s important to pinch your knees here, and it’s VERY important to act quickly. This isn’t a movement that you’re going to get all the time. If the person is smart they are going to feel you feeding their arm into your leg and pull it away quickly.
A second option for the above is to use the momentum of you being pulled over to your advantage and keep the roll going and rolling uke over on their own head. Another movement that may not work all the time and your timing needs to be spot on.
There was no sparing during the 90 minute session. Eugene asked me aster class if I wanted to roll. I told him I wasn’t able to, as my host would be waiting for me and I didn’t want to keep them waiting on me. I inquired if they ever rolled during the scheduled class period and was told they only ever roll after class. I told Eugene I would stay later at the Thursday class to get some rolls in.
Sadly, I didn’t end up making the Thursday class. I just didn’t really feel up to it. My foot was bothering me pretty bad the next morning and my body was otherwise not happy with all the traveling that I had been doing. I only have three more countries to go, Estonia, Sweden, and Denmark. I’m hoping to stay healthy enough through it to get some more training in at each stop