It’s the start of week 18 and I need a plan! My visa is expired in the Philippines and I’m a week early for my planned stop in Bangkok. Sounds like the perfect time to do something spontaneous for my week in limbo! Ideally involving some training.
Since signing up to the BJJ Globetrotter’s Matsurfing Newsletter, I’ve been receiving regular updates on places to stop and train BJJ. One of the kind BJJers who posted in the newsletter is Dan Imal Reid, a Scottish BJJ brown belt who has been living and instructing in Taiwan at 2 gyms Kaohsiung BJJ and Tainan BJJ.
I send a quick email to Dan, asking if I could come by and train for a week (and also apologising for the late notice) and I receive this back:
You’re welcome to come for as long as you like! Everyone here is really friendly, you’ll have a great time. There’s a new hostel a stone’s throw from the gym which is like 350nt per night, like 7 pounds. Ill pop over and tell them, they give us a small discount. Usually its 450.
I don’t need or expect anything, just come along and have a good time!
Awesome! Done! Flight Booked!
I arrive in Kaohsiung in the late morning and slightly worse for wear! The flight was cheap but it meant waking up at 4.30am, and considering I was out saying goodbyes to Kev and Ian on my last night in the Philippines until 3am, I’m struggling!
I make my way from the airport to the gym, having had a bit of ‘body language and google map pointing communication’ with the cab driver, who ended up phoning his English-speaking daughter to act as translator between us to help.
Having been dropped off nearby, I find a coffee shop with a plan to caffeinate my way back to the level of a normal person. 30 minutes later, I get a message from Dan, “Arrived? I’m back in Kaohsiung”. I send him the name of the coffee shop, “Be there in 10”.
10 minutes later I meet Dan and Linda, a fellow BJJer at Kaohsiung BJJ. We grab a coffee and I do my best impression of a non-hungover person. After a bit of chatting, Dan takes me to the hostel to check in, but we’re a bit early and it’s not possible to get into the room for another couple of hours.
“Drop your bag here, I’ll show you the gym…fancy rolling?”
My impression of a non-hungover person needs to get a lot better quickly! “Sounds good, let’s go” :-)
We walk the 5 minutes down from the hostel to the gym. It’s a beautiful, light-filled and nicely decorated space, and being on the 9th floor of a tower building the views outside into the city aren’t too bad either!
“Here are the spare keys, man. Come in and train any time you like. You can even sleep on the mats here if you want to save on accomodation…..but the building closes at 9pm and the lifts stop working so you’ll struggle getting in and out.”
We get changed and stretch out. “So……Shall we fight?”, Dan asks.
We roll for around 40 minutes. Dan’s game is, as expected, brilliant. Not to mention, he was completely tuned up and in form having just won his division in the Pan-Asian championships a couple of weeks before.
“Shall we go and grab some food?” Dan asks me after we get changed. “Ever ridden a scooter? I have a spare one you can have for the week”. He passes me the keys.
I’ve said it before and I’m certain I’ll be saying it again, but I’m still blown away by people’s kindness and generosity throughout this trip! I’ve known Dan for all of 2 hours and he’s already sorted out my accommodation, and offered me the keys to the gym and a set of wheels for the week!
Speaking of wheels, I don’t remember the last time I even rode a push-bike!….but learning how to ride a scooter / motorbike is something I want to pick up on this trip as it opens up the option of buying a bike and travelling some parts of S.E Asia in a different way…..“No, I’ve never ridden one before but I’ll give it a go!”
The traffic does seem quite busy in the city, it was rush hour on a Friday, “Is there somewhere a bit quieter I can go to get to grips with the bike for a bit?”
“Yeah sure, we’ll work something out.” Dan says with a smile, “Follow me.”
I find out quite quickly that Dan’s idea of ‘working something out’ was to just take me through the centre of the city in the rush hour traffic! The sink or swim approach!
I’m getting beeped left, right, and centre! Trying to get used to the counter-intuitive feeling of speeding up on a bike when you feel unstable, not knowing any bearings in Kaohsiung, and getting used to driving on the other side of the road all at once.
“Baaaaaahhhhhhmmmmmmmmm!!!!” a truck blasts its horn at me as it takes over me to the left and I’m too close to the lane divide. I wobble back over to the right. I think I was more comfortable throwing myself out of that plane in New Zealand!
I reach a set of lights on red and pull up alongside Dan, thankful for a few seconds to catch my breath.
Dan looks at me deadpan………….“You’re going to die on that thing”
“Wait….what?……..”, I trail off as Dan has already pulled away as the light changes.
I catch up with him at the next turning. “Is this your idea of somewhere quiet to learn?”
Dan ignores me, “We’re going left at the next lights, but I forgot, it’s the street market at this time on a Friday”
“Ok? What does that mean?”
“Don’t run over any old people or children.”
“Wha……?”, he’s gone again.
We finally arrive at the Wakey Wakey Lakeview Cafe and Bar, and I say a quiet prayer of thanks under my breath for still being alive (being an atheist, that probably says something about the journey!). I meet Connor, an MMA instructor and friend of Dan from Scotland, who is visiting for a couple of months, and the 3 of us grab some food.
Despite, having only 2 hours sleep the night before, having just been choked out several times, and taking my life into my own hands through rush-hour Kaohsiung, I’m feeling back to normal and really good now! Dan and Connor were cracking me up with stories about Kaohsiung and the gym. We finish up and I head back to check in and try to get an hour’s sleep before the 2nd training session of the day.
The evening class is really well turned out. Everyone was super friendly and made a real effort to come and say hello and ask what I was doing. Seemed like a really close-knit gym, nice guys with tough, solid games!
The class finishes up. “Right, it’s Friday guys! You know what that means!” Ryan shouts, one of the owners of the gym and regular BJJ student also. I find out that the guys at Kaohsiung BJJ take a photo after each class and post it up to the Facebook group page….and Friday is topless day (well, for the guys)……when in Rome….
I get showered and have a change of clothes in the gym. “Drinks?” Dan asks, and a bunch of the guys are in, myself included.
10 minutes later, we are sitting outside a 7-11, having bought a bunch of cheap beers and enjoying the warm evening. I don’t know why, but drinking outside on the street here somehow feels a lot more sophisticated than back in the UK. Maybe it’s the warm temperature….or maybe it’s because we weren’t all 15 year’s old and drinking cheap cider :-)
It was another ‘how did I get here again?’ moment. My head is slightly fuzzy with the heat and having had 2 training sessions and 2 hours sleep, having a laugh and drinking outside with a bunch of people I’ve only just met, listening to one of the guys, James, play guitar while at the same time trying to troubleshoot a guillotine choke finish with Dan. The Philipines feels a lot more distant than the 15 hours it had been!
We finish up our beers and make our way over to ‘The Brickyard’, a club 5 minutes away from the gym which is also owned by Ryan and fellow BJJer, Graham.
“Shots?”, Dan says at some point throughout the night. “Strawpeedo Margaritas?”
I get the impression already that this week is going to be great for my BJJ, but awful for my liver!
I finally ‘tap out’ at 4am. And stumble back to my hostel. I get woken up early afternoon the following day by a text from Dan. “Where you at man? Meet me at the gym, let’s go get a sweat on!”. I feel a pang of pain in both my head and liver as I reach into my bag and grab my toothbrush, and training gear.
And this was the main blueprint for the week. Wake, eat, train, eat, snooze, train, drink, drink!, sleep……repeat. It felt great to be getting some regular training in again. The training in the gym focused on the top half-guard position – At Kaohsiung BJJ, Dan would spend a few weeks teaching a certain position, going through the basics and then gradually a bunch of in-depth options and combinations before moving on. It was really good, every lesson would be a new option/feature of top-half guard, and every drill and roll would start from that position. After the week I must have been in top and bottom half over 100 times…it started to feel really natural. I was a bit gutted that it wouldn’t be possible to keep this pattern and frequency of training up going forward.
Apart from the training (and the drinking), I spent a lot of time with Connor and Linda between classes. As Connor was one of the few people who was not based in Kaohsiung, he was up for doing a bit of sightseeing too and kindly showed me around a bunch of places.
We took a hike up ‘Monkey Mountain’, which has some pretty amazing views over the city and, as its name suggests, is full of Monkeys.
As its name doesn’t suggest, it’s also full of snakes! They only come out in the early evening, but we lost track of the time. We remembered sharply when we saw 2 workers in knee-high boots and sticks for probing the undergrowth make their way past us. They stopped for a second and muttered something between in each other in Mandarin as they looked us up and down – 2 white city-boys in shorts and sandals!
On another Day, we took a walk around the piers and the outdoor parks and art areas. I have never seen so many people out flying kites! (When did that stop in the UK?). We took a wander around some of the Buddhist temples and a trip to the beach on one day, and another day chilling out at N-Spa, which was a cross between a water park and some sort of water-based massage therapy facility….there were about 50 different units of water hoses of various pressures to work out all the knots in your muscles…..never seen a place like it before, it was really good and if I was based in Kaohsiung, I’d be here every other day!
The whole week was awesome, and went by in a bit of a blur. I have to finish this blog post before I loose the 2% of people who have soldiered on and read up to this point, so I’m going to omit some of the stories around:
- Getting shot in the arm with an air gun
- When nearly all of the gym went out to support one of the BJJ guys who was in a band and playing a gig at the pub one evening….and about 5 of the gym members inadvertently got in the middle of a lovers’ quarrel between 2 absolutely mortal-drunk Canadian guys.
- 7 of us getting a talking-down to because we didn’t identify ourselves as ‘vegan-feminists’ at 1am.
….Instead, I’m just going to say a massive thanks to Dan, Connor, Linda, Ryan, Graham, James, Tom, and all of the guys at Kaohsiung BJJ for a brill week of training and a great time both on and off the mats.
(A couple of Roll Vids)