I took a flight out of Rome on Monday, a bit later than the Zurich guys. This meant I wouldn’t being saying farewell to them in person. Most of the goodbyes were said the night before after dinner. I owe them a lot for their support and taking me in and treating me like family. This leg of the journey would prove be the start of travel difficulties for me. Language barriers, much different cultural norms, and a host of other things.
I knew when I flew into Budapest that I would need to catch a train to Pecs, the city I would be staying in over the next few days. I wasn’t entirely sure where the train station was, or how I was going to get there. Thankfully, the young lady at the information desk of the airport spoke enough english for her and I to communicate what I wanted and how I was going to get there. I was to take a bus to a metro stop, a metro through 5-6 stops, get off and jump on another metro to the main train station. From the main train station, I would need to navigate through the self service ticketing machines to purchase the ticket for the 3 hour train ride into Pecs.
I ended up being able to get the tickets I needed, and getting on the trains that I needed to be on. The final long train, I opted to spend an extra $8 to ride in “first class”, not knowing what it would entail. The first class car wasn’t much different from the second class car. The biggest different was there being less people and slightly more leg room. There was no drink or food service, but there was a toilet! I ended up using the time to finish up the blog entries for the Rome competition.
Passing through most on Hungary was an eye opening experience. The land looked beautiful and serene for the most part. Random small villages dotted the landscape, some of which we stopped at to let passengers on and off at. Outside of Budapest, the villages looked familiar to the old USSR photos we used to see as a child. A lot of the villages looked to still be in the 1960’s or the 1970’s. Small cars, people hanging out at the small train stations, looks of poverty all around. I was not in Western Europe anymore. I would’t call the landscape depressing, but it was depressed for sure.
I made it into Pecs without any incident. The first thing I though of was how in the hell am I getting to my hostel? I looked really quick to see if there was any wifi in the area, sure enough there was. I loaded up my Google Maps and started mapping out routes before I realized that class was starting at the dojo, which was on the opposite side of town. I quickly rerouted to the dojo, which was only about 15-20 minutes away from the station, by foot, with a large cumbersome backpack. I initially walked right by the location of the dojo, not realizing it was in a location behind the main street and it’s buildings. Thankfully I had the website up for the gym location on my phone from earlier and noticed a little snippet stating that it was behind a specific business, so I followed the directions and was there about a minute or two later.
When I walked in, I was greeted with Hungarian. I just smiled and nodded, looking around for Remy. He was in the middle of teaching class, but looked up and recognized me right away and welcomed me in. I dropped my bag to the side and waited for a stopping period for him to come over and chat with me. I explained that I thought I would be in Pecs earlier but had misread the actual travel time for the train. He didn’t mind and directed me to the area that I could change into my uniform in.
When I came back out, the team was drilling a “smash pass” from open guard. I’m familiar with the pass, but can never seem to get it to work on opponents that are my size or larger. One of the keys, Remy told me, was to use the grips at the knees like a steering wheel to turn your opponent in the direction that you wanted to pass him in.
Next up was positional sparing from guard. Remy lined people up down the mats. After every 2 minute round, the top person would move on to the next person, with the bottom person staying in place until all the top people had worked their way through the line, then we would switch and repeat. I played it pretty safe during the whole ordeal, as there were many white belts in the academy, and I’m not one to beat up white belts unless their name starts with “Nate”.
The last portion of the sparring was normal sparring. I was able to train with a handful of people during this period, including Remy. Everyone was pretty strong, even the young lady that I ended up with about halfway through. She seemed pretty frustrated that she couldn’t get her sweeps to work on me, but that’s the benefit of having a decent base and being about 40 kilos heavier. When I sparred with Remy, I thought something was amiss. I was able to sweep him and control him very easily during the round. I didn’t let it pump up my ego, but rather assumed he was seeing what all I was about.
The last round of the night ended up being with a blue belt and we had a pretty good session. I don’t recall the guys name, but I do recall his generosity. When I asked Remy about is there was a laundry nearby, the blue belt offered to wash my laundry for me. I told him, through Remy, that I appreciated the offer but that I didn’t want to have someone I just met having the responsibility of doing a weeks worth of my dirty laundry for me. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I thanked him graciously and handed over the laundry to him. Remy ended up explaining that stuff like this was the norm in Hungary, that people will treat you like family without hardly knowing you. I thought it was pretty cool.
Remy was kind enough to give me a ride to my hostel, as I had no idea where it was from the academy. In the following days I would find it to be a relatively easy 30 minute walk to and from the hostel. When we arrived in the area of the hostel it was dark out. It was pretty sinister looking in the fact that it didn’t look to be in the best part of town and the entrance was in a dark alleyway. It looked bad enough to Remy that he wanted to walk me up to the door to make sure I wasn’t mugged. I started to have second thoughts about having chooses the place. All in all, the hostel had about 95% positive reviews from both men and women, so it couldn’t have been that bad.
I rang the bell to be allowed in and was greeted by a french woman around my age who explained that the owner of the hostel was taking a shower and would be with me in a little while. The owner was also around my age, and also French. He and his wife were very nice people. They had the most fun little 7 month of baby that seemed to always bee in a great mood and willing to smile at everyone at the drop of a dime. Csaba, the owner, was going to head down to the local store and asked if I would like to tag along. I said sure, so he and I headed down the street to pick up some goods. I picked up some juice and water, and a Hungarian beer that I had never seen before. A few bottles of water, juice, and the beer ended up running me somewhere in the neighborhood of about $2 USD. This was going to help my budget out a ton!
We got back to the hostel, I had my beer, updated the blog for the IBJJF tournament and headed to bed. I was planning on training the next morning with Remy’s academy.
I woke up around 0830 in the morning and realized that I had forgot to set my alarm for the morning training session which started at 0800. If I were to leave right then, I would get to the academy with about 30 minutes to train. I decided against it and planned on hitting the evening class. The rest of the day I wandered around Pecs, taking in the sights, doing some photography, and going to the local mall to buy some hygiene products from the supermarket inside. The time flew by, and before too long it was time to head to the academy.
Because I waited entirely too long to catch up on the blog, I don’t remember a whole lot from training that day. I do recall a lot of tough white belts that I had to spar who were coming after me like it was the Mundials. The friendly blue belt from the day before brought my laundry back to the academy after class, and I found out that he cut hair for a living. I told Remy I was in need of a haircut and asked if the blue belt would mind if I made an appointment. I thought it would be a great way to get my hair cut and to pay him back for his previous generosity. He didn’t have his appointment book with him, so said that he would send Remy a text with what time I could come by the next day. Remy asked if I wanted to come in and roll with him the next morning, I said absolutely. He told me that he would pick me up from the hostel around 0815 in the morning.
Remy was right on time the next morning. During the ride we talked a bit about why he moved from the Netherlands to Hungary. He explained that his wife was half Hungarian and always wanted to move back to Hungary. Things kind of worked out for him and his family at some point financially and so they decided to move to Hungary. We discussed the location BJJ scene in Hungary, and it was apparent that he was really the only knowledgeable person around Pecs. He said there were some other schools there previously, but that they were run by people with no experience. So when Remy came to town, people from the other gyms would stop by his academy or see his team compete and would be impressed. This inadvertently shut the other hobby academies down. And rightfully so.
We rolled for a bit when we got to the academy, and as I expected, our previous session was just him feeling me out. Remy’s game and pressure were a work of art. For only being a purple belt, he felt like a pretty seasoned brown belt. There wasn’t much I was able to do to him. After awhile, he gave me some advice about certain aspects of my game. One of the main things that stood out was that he “expected more and better pressure from someone who came from a Rickson Gracie affiliate”. I took that a little hard, but I understood what he was saying. My side control was a bit lacking in pressure, but more of a locked in controlling side control. He showed me some different drills that he uses to refine his pressure from side control, but asked that I not let the details out of the affiliation.
There was another aspect of Remy’s game that kind of shook my world up. When I stood up in his guard to a standing pass it was like I had to squat the weight of a 500 pound man. I was amazed by this because I had never felt such weight from someone lighter than myself. It was a struggle to stand straight up, if I could at all. This was another little tidbit I picked up from him, and another that I can’t discuss the details of publicly.
The last thing I picked his brain about was my lack of being able to land a successful armbar. I felt I telegraphed a bit too much which leads to people escaping pretty easily. The advice was pretty simple, and pretty obvious after we went through it. I need to stop grabbing the arms before trapping the shoulders, using the opposite arm of the arm I’m attacking to help breakdown my opponents posture. It’s only after this that I can grab the arm that I want, while maintaining a tight capture.
I planned on going to class later that evening, but for some stupid reason went to McDonalds to eat before class. I figured it might be better quality than in the US, with a lack of a lot of the chemicals and preservatives they put into the food back home. While the food was tastier, and the portions smaller, my stomach didn’t agree with it whatsoever. After a month of not eating fast food I had a pretty uncomfortable and a bit violent reaction to it. So rather than training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I ended up reading about technique on my tablet instead.
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