Gym 5 – Carlson Gracie BJJ, Queenstown, New Zealand

I’m walking down the side of the Frankton-Ladies Mile Highway in the town of Frankton, making my way over to the Carlson Gracie BJJ school for a class.

I’m not 100% familiar the road laws in New Zealand, but I’m recieving a few horn beeps every now and again from passing cars which does not seem like a good sign. I’m sorry traffic, but according to google maps, this 30 minute highway walk is the only option I have without a car to train some BJJ! On the bright side, this (slightly dangerous) route definitely had the views!

Highway Walking

I had recieved yet another amazingly prompt and kind response when I got in touch via the Carlson Gracie BJJ website from Ben Boyce, a BJJ purple belt and one of the instructors and joint owners at the school.

Hi Craig,

Sounds great.

Classes are as per the timetable on the website. We also keep updates on the Facebook page.

Thursday – first class is at 6pm with an advanced class at 7pm. 

Training will be fine and you can train for free while you are here. However we don’t have gi’s that we rent out (however you can train no-gi).

Taking photos and filming should be fine.

See you at the gym tomorrow.

I finally stop annoying the traffic and get off the highway and onto the drive where the gym is located. I’m a bit early and the gym looks closed so I start taking some pics of (and around) the gym.

Carlson Gracie BJJ

Carlson Gracie BJJ

“Can I help you?”

A bit startled, I turn around. Turns out the empty gym is not so empty! I’m greeted by a young woman who looks slightly suspicous by me wandering around outside the gym taking photos.

“Hi, I’m Craig. I’ve been in touch with Ben about a drop in session”

“Oh yeah, no problem. Come in! You’re a bit early”

The woman’s name is Cheska and she shows me around the facility. The team have recently moved to this new venue (in Frankton) from Queenstown in the past couple of months.

There is a decent sized matted area and an outdoor gym at the back. But it was the views that I was bowled over with! Both the front and back doors of the facility are full-sized glass windows which gives you a 360 degree mountain view to look at whilst getting choked!

Mountains to the Back!

Mountains to the Back!

Mountains to the Front

Mountains to the Front

“This gym probably has the best views of any BJJ gym I’ve visited up to this point.”, I tell Cheska.

“Yep, not too bad, hey?” :-)

I get changed and start stretching out as a few more people start arriving, including Ben who I’d been emailing. We start talking about the gym, the views, and the recent change in location. Ben will be taking the class today, as the head instructor, Jose Gomes, was recovering from a small injury.

The class starts, Ben shows us some options on a double leg takedown. And I pair up with Joe and Brent for the drills (there was an odd number of students in the class so everyone could not pair up evenly). The 3 of us give it a try and get it to work (in a way) but each seem to have a problem clearing the legs and ending up in full side control as opposed to a half or quarter guard once the takedown is completed. Ben spots us and shows a tiny detail of the angle that we are coming in at. Suddenly it’s working for the three of us! :-)

Renan Demonstrating a Double leg

Renan Demonstrating a Double leg

Towards the end of the drills, Renan arrives and joins in. Renan (pronounced ‘Henan’) Secco, is a BJJ Brown Belt and another instructor at Carlson Gracie BJJ.

Ben and Renan take us through a combination drill of scissor sweep, and then a failed scissor sweep to elevator sweep combination. I pair up with Alex, a blue belt who arrived in the car with Renan.

As Ben mentioned in his email, there was no spare Gi at the class. I was drilling in no-gi and felt a bit bad that Alex couldn’t get the correct grips for the drill. I apologise but Alex is fine with it. It was also an opportunity to check with Ben who shows us both a nice no-gi variation on the same combination.

We round up the class with 30-40 minutes of rolling with 5 minute rounds. And everyone kindly stays for a class photo.

Carlson Gracie BJJ Queenstown

Carlson Gracie BJJ Queenstown

At the end of the class, I’m getting changed and Ben asks me where I’m staying.

“Central Queenstown”, I tell him.

“Me and Renan are going to do some extra rolling. If you’re ok to stop for an extra 30 minutes I can give you a lift back?”

This sounded great to me. Not only would I be able to watch some high level rolling, I didn’t fancy the highway walk in the dark :-)

I find out that Ben and Renan would be competing at the Artaxias submission grappling tournament at the weekend. “We each have a single exhibition match”, Ben tells me. “No points, submission only! Just the way I like it” :-) And as part of the training both Ben and Renan were getting in extra sparring sessions with one another.

It was great to watch….far more exciting than dodging traffic and the bus ride back into town! Here is a snippet from one of the rolls.

Just to be extra safe (and because I was massively behind in getting the blog up and running), I delayed on posting this until the Artaxis event was held. I didn’t want to risk posting anything which could give away any of their secrets!

And as an update on this, whatever they were doing it definitely seemed to be working! Both Ben and Renan won their matches at Artaxis by submission in less than 5 minutes each. Ben by armbar and Renan by toehold.

On the way back in the car, Renan and Ben were asking about other gyms I had visited and I told them the last one was GSW in Wellington.

“Does Pat still train there?”, Ben asks me.

“Patrick Te Tau?….Yeah he gave the lesson while I was visitng”, I say, “Why? Do you know him?”

“Yep…….Renan knows him better”, Ben says, and then both Ben and Renan crack up laughing from the front seats.

“Pat is a really nice guy!” Renan says, “were just in the same weight range and normally in the same bracket. We always end up running into each other at tournaments. I think we’re at 2-2 now”

I’m not sure why, but I really liked the idea that, in New Zealand, the sport is small enough that all the high level guys seem know each other and have a friendly history/rivalry :-)

And….my final story about how great all the BJJ people I’ve met on this trip have been in NZ (I promise….. kind of). Just as Ben was dropping me off in town he was asking how the experience was travelling in general.

“Really good, although at the moment I have to be on top on my planning”, I tell him. “For some reason, all the hostels and hotels seem to be fully booked up all the time. We can’t really just turn up in town and expect to get a room without planning a few days ahead currently”.

“If you’re back in Queenstown next week and get stuck, just give me a call! We have a spare room, you can just stop with us.”

….how amaingly kind is that!? I already had rooms pretty much booked up from now until the fly out date, but was so grateful for the offer….Ben may have tapped me out 5 times that night, but he wouldn’t be seeing me stuck for a room if I needed it :-)

And the roll videos. As always, please follow or contact me with any suggestions, tips or comments for improvement :-)

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