“So let me get this right…..” Rach is saying to me, “….you’re going to get a bus….out of town….by yourself…..to meet a stranger…. that you’ve met on the internet……..who, you already know is going to try and wrestle you to the floor and hurt you?”
“Err……Yep, that’s right……..When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound too great, does it?”
“No….no it doesn’t”
I’m packing my bag and getting ready to head to Tempe, an area to the South of central Sydney in order to visit the Gracie Sharks Gym for a drop in session.
I’m excited! Unlike the previous classes and gyms I’ve visited, this one did not come about via an email or a phone call. This time around, I’ve been invited down! By Owen, who got in touch via the social media website Reddit (on a BJJ forum). I had created a forum post to open up the blog and to ask for a bit of advice and feedback on how it was reading (and also to ask for any rolling / gym suggestions on the way).
The response that came back was great! Apart from the odd, “Go and get your job back!” suggestion :-) , I received a lot of positive comments and suggestions for the trip. One of which came from Owen, a blue belt at the Gracie Sharks gym, inviting me to “Come for a roll” and providing the Facebook page for info. After checking out the gym, which was a bus ride away and had a class on a free evening, I got back to Owen:
“Cheers for the suggestion bud. That gym is within an hour of where I’m staying in Sydney – will get in touch tomorrow to see if it’s ok for me to pop down in the next few days :-)”
‘Hello!?….’ I hear as I’m waving my phone in the weird figure-of-8 way that the iPhone makes you do in order to get an accurate track of your location, and look up. There are 2 guys leaning against a car, 10 meters away down a side street. ‘Craig?’, one of them asks.
I go over and meet Owen and Justin who are waiting for the class to open up. Owen had spotted me by the camera over my shoulder, and probably my sense of being lost :-) They are in mid conversation about a particular technique which is Justin’s favourite – a variation on the scissor sweep from guard, and I find out they are both going for their purple belt grading the next morning.
“Nervous?”, I ask them both. Owen is. Justin isn’t (or wasn’t going to admit it :-) ).
Tiago Ferreira, the head coach and owner, arrives to open up the gym. Owen has already let Tiago know about me dropping in and we have a chat about where and what I’ve been up to until now, my plans for the next few weeks and other things I want to get out of the trip. I tell him that one of the (non-BJJ) things I’m trying to get out of this trip is to learn Spanish. Tiago tuts and shakes his head
“Portuguese, man!…..Learn Portuguese instead!”
Tiago has a spare gi to lend me for the class which I’m changing into as we are talking. I’m too busy taking in the new gym and chatting and miss the 2 long pants chords for the pants as I finished getting changed. Tiago points his finger to the loose chords dangling around my feet, “I know you are a white belt, but seriously man!” he laughs as he points it out…..oops! Not making a good impression here as a serious student! :-)
One of the nice things I found about Owen inviting me down was that he and Tiago were already accommodating and familiar with the usual favours of gym and class pictures I’ve been asking for in terms of the blog. Before class begins, and before I get a chance to ask, Tiago pulls me aside to tell me,
“For the class photo for your blog we’ll do it at the beginning or the half way point of the class ok?”, Tiago tells me. “We’re sharks you see? I can’t guarantee everyone will be here at the end. Sharks can just strike, kill and then leave!” he says with a laugh.
The majority of the class stay for an extra 45 minutes of rolling. I get to roll with everyone who is left including Justin (who catches me with the very same sweep we were talking about in the car park earlier! ) and Owen who was working on some particular back mount escapes and kindly let me take his back for most of the drill…..and I could not get past his defence! :-) ).
It was a great gym and group of people, I had a really good time. Thanks again Owen, for not only the invite, but for making such an effort for me (Taking photos and the roll vid below, sorting out the invite down with Tiago, giving me a lift back etc.), especially with so much going on at the moment (not only was Owen getting ready for his purple belt grading, he was also in the middle of moving into new house and helping his partner out who was involved in the NSW state election).
I’m not going to go as far and say I’m an advocate for meeting strangers you meet in online forums, but this was my first experience, and it was pretty great! :-)
And thanks to the rest of you guys for letting me swim with Sharks for an evening :-)
Rolling vid – as usual – please feel free to get in touch with any tips etc. especially, in this case, on how to finish an omoplata! :-)