“Oh my God! What happened to you?”, I’m asked as I stagger back past the reception heading to my room.
“I got caught in the storm…..I wasn’t prepared”, I tell the guy behind the counter.
I’m in a rush to get back to my room. I’m wearing a waterproof jacket (the only sensible item I had in my bag when it started pouring down) which now has steam coming off it as the rainwater is evaporating in the heat, sandals…..which are squelching with each step I make, and some white board shorts. And as the jacket only (barely) kept my upper body covered, I’m fairly sure the shorts are almost completely transparent now.
“No”, the guy replies back, “I meant the pink nail polish you’re wearing.”
……….let me start again……
I’ve now arrived in Sydney. I had been given a ton of gym advice from all the amazingly kind people I’d met/been choked out by/trained with, in New Zealand, and now I was here I was! I felt like a child in a sweet shop!
Just a quick google of ‘Sydney BJJ’ brought up a list of options in arm’s length of where we were staying – it was nice to be back in the city again! As soon as I was settled in the room, I started emailing local and recommended gyms straight away to ask if I could drop in. And then I patiently waited by my screen.
Not, not even the next day or the day after!
Uh-oh…………….‘Oh no!……..Have I just been lucky to get the amount of positive responses up until now?’, I’m thinking. This blog may end up coming to a grinding halt after country no.1! :-(
And then I remember. It’s the Sydney BJJ open this weekend. Every instructor and member in all the local gyms will be busy competing, coaching or spectating……and contact emails from travelling BJJers asking about drop in sessions aren’t going to be on top of the priority list :-)
Feeling better, I wait a couple more days and then get in touch with Paulo Guimares, a 4th Degree black belt and head instructor at Roots Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who invites me down to attend an evening class that evening.
I arrive 10 minutes early. There are a few people stretching out on the mat already and I spot Paulo sitting in the corner and go over.
“Hi, I’m Craig”, I say and stretch out my hand.
Paulo smiles and shakes it. “Yes, the English man writing a blog?”
“But you didn’t bring a gi?” Paulo asks and his smile disappears.
“Er…..no sorry. I only have a small bag this big”, I make out the size of the bag between my palms. “The gi just didn’t fit”
Paulo looks at me in silence for a few seconds…….like I’ve just strangled a kitten. I think I’ve committed some sort of BJJ crime. Paulo’s smile comes back, “The spare gis are over there” he points behind me.
‘I should probably invest in a gi’, I’m thinking as I pick one off the hanger and take it back to the changing rooms…..maybe I can make some room by getting rid of my jeans and the first aid kit :-)
When I return back to the mat, another couple of members have arrived, we now total 6, including me and Paulo, and out of the six, three people are wearing black belts!
“This could be brilliant!”, I’m thinking. “I might be in a class which has a ratio of 1:1 black belts to students!”
My excitement quickly fades as the mat starts to fill up in the final few minutes before the class start. The ratio ends up 3:1 …… still not bad! :-)
We go through 5-10 minutes of warm ups and then Paulo takes us through a guard retention drill. Opponent passes the guard from the knees. Hips out, inside leg in, outside leg comes over to retain guard. Back and forth, side to side.
I’m paired up with a guy called Nikolas, as we go through the drills. The drill was long, and it got quite tiring from both top and bottom position. Not to mention, there was an expected storm in Sydney over the next day or two and the temperature was high and the air humid.
“Keep going……it’s good for you!” I hear Paulo, walking around the mats monitoring the drilling pairs.
The drill comes to an end and Paulo starts breaking down combinations using the drill as a base. Combinations for re-establishing guard, triangles and omoplatas.
This part of the session was pretty incredible! Paulo and Graham (another Black belt) were demonstrating the techniques together for the class. However, it did not seem like a pre-planned lesson, it seemed far more organic, they were bouncing ideas off one another and exploring strategies while going through the combination steps. It was like watching a master workshop!
The session finished off with some guard passing work and rolling. Everyone kindly stayed for a group photo.
Oh, and I almost forgot…….about my fingernails!
As the class draws to an end and everyone lines up, I see everyone stretch out their hands in front of them. I do the same (‘when in Rome….’) and then I see Paulo step to the front of the line and he has magically produced a pot of bright pink nail polish from somewhere out of his Gi. Turns out it’s fingernail inspection time!
I wait my turn at the very end of the line and watch people get the odd finger or toenail dabbed with the brush…..any long, slightly broken or slightly dirty nail failed the test and was covered pink.
Now, I don’t think my nails were that bad, but you have to take what comes to you being the visitor for the day – All 10, bright pink….I was lucky I didn’t get my toenails covered also :-)
….and as for my transparent white shorts – that was the Sydney rain which broke as soon as the class finished.
I’d do it all again :-)