(…or “What I did on my holidays”, part 1)
Before I talk about the training I did in Australia I think I should quickly cover the country itself. So here it goes, Tartovski’s short encapsulating review: Australia is insane.
I mean, it’s proper fucking bonkers: For a country that is essentially a vast desert with a few green bits around the edges desperately clinging on for dear life (I’m not being flippant – 35% of the country is listed as desert, 70% of it as Arid/Semi-Arid i.e. get less that 500mm of rain a year – Drought is a massive problem) It manages to contain 7 of the 10 most venomous snakes in the world, several of the most venomous spiders, the most venomous fish in the world, killer jellyfish, killer octopi, saltwater crocodiles, man eating sharks, and 40million people who are mad enough to live there voluntarily – some of whom I was planning to fight. Schoolboy error.
Given that I was going to be rolling with people I’d never met before and that I wanted to give the best impression of the UK BJJ scene I could, I decided that before I attended a club I should put myself through a punishing regime of lounging about, drinking too much, eating too much and going surfing. Although I must say that surfing in choppy waters was oddly like BJJ – it’s impossible to stand up, you can’t breathe half the time, and you have someone shouting at you telling you what you are doing wrong. Luckily for me though rather than having Andy shouting “HIPS! HIPS!!! HIIIIIPPPPSSS!!!” I had Stacey the terrifyingly fit surfing instructor shouting “KNEES! BEND YOUR KNEES!!” – I’m strangely not sure which I prefer.
The first school I visited was Eduardo Dias’ Garra BJJ. I’d spoken to Eduardo via email before flying out and he was very friendly and happy for me to train so I was looking forwards to meeting him and seeing his academy. It was 34°C in the car on the way there and I was praying for airconditioning. My prayers were not answered: The school itself is set in a (large) metal roofed industrial unit with nothing but 2 fans to cool it. Did I mention that Australians are all mad?
As it was my first time in a strange school I fully went with the prison yard philosophy of “Make someone your bitch on the first day, or be a bitch for life” and sensibly took the first option. I’d like to claim this was easy but it wasn’t – The heat was oppressively bad, I was almost certainly dehydrated, and I was gassing. I ended up fighting so hard to win that all I did for the first half of the round was exhaust myself and get nowhere. Luckily I realised what I was doing and stopped myself. I took halfguard (as it was the safest poistion I could get to) locked it down, and waited. I slowed my breathing, relaxed, and then starting working a sensible game: sweep, pass, mount, choke. Once I’d got my first sub I relaxed even more and even managed to pull off a nice triangle before the end of the round.
After that I took it alot easier, partly due to being alot calmer after my first roll, and partly due to the stupid heat. We were sparring in 7 minute rounds, one on, one off. I got to roll with their Brown Belt, Ty, who just so happened to be from the UK orginally and knew my instructor (or knew of him), another white belt who outweighed me by about 20kg but was unable to sub me and vice-versa, and a blue belt who knocked me around the room for the entire 7 minutes whilst giving me tips on my game. All in all, a fairly typical BJJ session! The one thing that struck me though was the different style of game they had compared to what I was used to. They played a much looser game which meant whilst I still ended up fighting from the bottom quite a bit, I never felt anywhere near the pressure I was used to back home which allowed me to reverse positions I really shouldn’t be getting out of easily – especially mount and side control. Not that I’m complaining…
Once we were done with the free rolling we did a drill I’d never seen before. One person is on their back using open guard, and the person on top has to pass whilst holding a tennis ball in each hand so they can’t use grips – Meaning they have to rely on moving their body movement alone. I thought it would make passing nigh-on impossible, but actually it didn’t effect my game too much. I’m not sure if this was due to the way I train normally with emphasis on hip pressure and pushing weight through, or due to it generally being more about body movement/weight and less about grips – but either way it was an interesting drill to make you concertrate and think about how you go about passing and definately worth giving a go.
The people there were all very friendly, even to a bloody pom like myself, and all were very interested in the fact that I’d met/trained with Roger Gracie. They all were interested to know what he was like so I told them that he’s a really friendly, very open, and cannot be killed by conventional weapons.
After the session I got a quick photo with Eduardo to prove I was there*, and thanked him for letting me train. He gave me nice Garra BJJ window sticker as a momento and finished by saying he shared a mutual friend with Roger in Fabricio Predador (owner of Pride Fightwear). So Roger, when you read this** – Tell Fabricio that Eduardo says Hi.
That’s all for part one… Tune into part 2 soon where I get get crushed by a 107kg purple belt, submit a shark, and almost die from jet lag. To be concluded…
*Pics or it didn’t happen!
**this is probably one the funniest things I will ever say on this blog.