Ask Me Anything, from Reddit

HERE is an ‘ask me anything’ thread that I put up on reddit:bjj. I gave a short overview of my trip and invited people to post questions. I appreciated the participation and I think I answered all of the questions to this point. 

The Reddit BJJ community is great. It has people of all levels from all over the world with some brilliant insights. If you train, you should definitely check out this forum.



Just to recap:
Money was getting low in south Florida, low enough that I wouldn’t have a cushion if something went wrong, so I was preparing to find a job.
A friend in Austin promised me some work so I spent what I had left in New Orleans and then went to Austin. But the job fell through.
As I was looking for work in Austin, I got another job offer from a friend in Phoenix, where I used to live. It was a good gig and I could train at my old gym, so I spent my last dollars on gas and bailed.
When I arrived, the job had evaporated. It wasn’t her fault but she felt bad and gave me some money, which I gratefully accepted.

So here I am now in Phoenix. Decision time.
I could stay here, or go back to MT, or work for a bit and continue the Rally. They all have pros and cons.

I’ll weigh my options on this blog and we’ll figure it out together.

Trip Stats:

5 months 16 days (169 days)
30 states and 1 province, 5 of those states I didn’t train in
around 8,000 miles on the odometer
66 gyms, 1 home gym
spent around $5,500


This post is about a week overdue. My memory has blurred over that time and the writing will suffer as a result.
I want to preface this entry by saying that New Orleans is now my favorite city. The people are great, the food is amazing, the city is beautiful and the bjj is solid.
Special thanks to Charles Haymon for the hard rolls and for taking me out and covering my broke ass. You were a great host. Hopefully I get to visit again someday.

I woke up early on Sunday (8 a.m.) to make the 10 hour drive to New Orleans. It was an uneventful trip- just a lot of coffee and podcasts.
The first thing I did when I got to town was try some fried alligator at a swanky downtown place called Cochon, which was pretty good.
A few hours later, after wandering the French Quarter, I tried fried alligator and étouffée at another place. The gator was about the same but $2 cheaper.
On Monday I took myself in a driving tour of the city.IMG_0236.jpg

I drove east along the Mississippi all the way out to Arabi, then crossed the river and turned west back to downtown. I continued through way out west past Metarie, past an airport. Then north, back east and back to the center of town. In the evening I went down to NOLA BJJ (uptown).
Class started at 6, but at 6:15 nobody was there. Understandable- it was the week of Christmas after all. I rushed over to Metarie to another gym I knew of called Mushin. Their class started at 6 as well, but I made it in by 6:45 and they were kind enough to let me jump in for the nog sparring. Most of the guys were new, but I got a good sweat on and the lat guy I rolled with was decent.

Tuesday was a tour on foot. I walked the French Quarter and Canal Street.
I tried a crawfish empanada and some breaded catfish. The catfish was good, but not the crawfish.
In the evening I tried Nola Uptown again. The head instructor Mathias was there but he was in a sling from recent shoulder surgery. But two brown belts, a blue belt, a white belt and two brand new guys without gi’s were training. One of the browns ran the class. He taught the common arm bar/triangle/arm bar series from closed guard. I drilled with a new guy who  spazzed his way through the moves but caught on quickly and seemed to enjoy himself.
I got to roll with everyone afterward and felt that the colored belts were definitely skilled and possessed their own unique styles. After class we talked a little and the brown belts told me about a friend of theirs who had done a trip similar to mine and called it 50 States of BJJ. Apparently he was in town with his own school and had recently been promoted to black belt. They gave me his number and the location of his gym.
Later that night I went out and had a few drinks at a small random bar on Bourbon Street where I had a good conversation with a fellow patron about his experiences traveling and living in a van.

It rained hard that night and off and on the next day. I killed most of the day on the internet but neglected to write a blog entry.
That night, Wednesday, I went to a NOLA affiliated gym called New State Fitness. This turned out to be the school of the 50 States guy- Charles Haymon.
New State was a good looking space. Their mats had 2 inch foam subfloor which made them extra bouncy.
Charles was really cool and a solid black belt. He had another black belt there, two tough purple belts and two tough blues and rolled with me twice himself. His background music was even impressive- very eclectic- not the same generic rap or rock you hear at most gyms.
When practice was over I showered off with a hose behind the gym and then went out to dinner with Charles.
Later that night, he picked me up downtown and took me out for drinks. We went to several bars on Frenchman Street and the surrounding area including Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop*, the Dragon’s Den and a bunch of dark maze-like spots with no signage. I loved all of them.

I woke up on Thursday just barely hungover and just in time to get to an afternoon practice Charles invited me to at a third Nola location. I rolled with one of Tuesday’s brown belts, an older Vietnamese black belt, and Charles. It was hot in this tiny gym, but it felt good to sweat some booze out.
Before I left, I learned about another practice at 6pm back at NOLA Uptown from a blue belt. So at six I went back and rolled nogi with three other guys and a teenager who weighed about 110lbs.
They were friendly and welcoming and we rotated through several 7 minute rounds to the old country music.
One guy was wearing an R Dojo rash guard so I tried to get into some leg entanglements with him. I didn’t catch him, but also didn’t get caught myself so I counted it as a personal achievement.

My uncle Mark got me a hotel for Xmas Eve, so I spent the rest of the night  relaxing in my room (not blogging). I went to bed early so I could get on the road at a decent time the next morning.

The drive west was pretty. I stopped in Breaux Bridge only because I recognized the name from True Detective. There was gas station/restaurant where I had crackling, an excellent andouille and tried boudin for the first and last time.
Then it was Lake Charles, Orange, TX, Beaumont, Houston, and finally Austin, where I met up with my old Olympia friends Spencer and Ryan.

At this point I was practically out of money- down to a couple hundred bucks. It was time to find some work:(
But Austin is a decent city with several gyms. It’s good place to be I guess.

*A bar I saw in Boston makes the same claim, but Lafitte’s is one hundred times cooler.

Robson Moura

On Saturday morning I visited Robson Moura BJJ. This was another gym I’d planned on from the beginning. The first instructional dvd I ever saw was his “Fusion” series (in which he wore one of my favorite gi’s that happens to be impossible to find) and I’ve been a fan of his ever since.
So I went in to train and the first person I meet is Robson. He shook my hand and talked to me for a minute before handing me off to his secretary to sign a waiver and pay.
The turnout was good for a Saturday, three black belts total, four other browns, and whites, blues and purples adding up to about thirty people.
Robson led us through somewhat difficult warmups involving lots of running, shots and sprawls.
We drilled quick guard pull-to lumberjack seep-to knee cut pass sequence, then Robson lined out six guys on the mat and had the rest of us rotate in against them from a line on the wall- just like at START BJJ.
The rule was you came in and tried to pass and if you did, took over the spot on the mat and people rotated in to pass your guard.
I passed a purple belt to start, then swept four people in a row with with single leg/deep half scrambles. Then Robson rotated in against me and put on a collar choke when I sat up to go for his leg. I had to lay on my back to defend the choke which gave him the pass. He let me stay in, so I went through a few more guys, finding a lot of success by getting to my knees, then wrestling to the top. I even swept a black belt.
(My style can fail badly but it can also surprise and confuse people.)
I started trying RDLR and some spider guard. I lasted for two people before I gave up a pass.
I rotated back in and met up with Robson again. As I tried to pass, he used the same choke as before to dump me over and sweep.

We switched to regular 5 minute rounds to finish up. I went first with a guy wearing a pink belt. Apparently if you forget your belt here, you have to use the pink one, which was some kind of cancer awareness item.
It was a fun round where I got the better of the scrambles and got one choke.
I went with two purple belts next and did well against them, although I couldn’t submit.
Then I went with a blue belt who just a little bigger than me. I watched as he set up the worm guard, clueless of what he was going to do with it. We spent a few minutes with him tilting me around and me just doing my best to stay upright.
For a moment, and I don’t know how, I unwrapped the position and ended up in half guard but he went right back to the worm and had me stuck again.
I rolled with a white belt next, then a brown belt. I tried RDLR on him, which was probly a poor choice. He passed it easily and went to mount. I was fatiguing by now and didn’t think I had it in me to force an escape. I defended chokes from mount, the back, mount again, the back again, for most of the round. With about ten seconds left I ended up getting half guard. He must have scored more than 20 points on me, but I was happy that I didn’t get tapped out.
I finished two more rounds with a blue and a purple, then everyone started to filter out.

I got a chance to ask Robson about the choke he used and he was kind enough to show me how it worked.
I also got to say hello to Bob Plaszcz, who I met up in Minnesota.

It felt good to have some success after struggling on Thursday.
There’s definitely a grappling style I succeed in and one that throws me off. Gotta work on the second one.

It’s hard to write about the shorter rounds and rotating partner formats. They’re more fun to participate in, but tough to recount later.

Tampa seems nice enough. The weather has cooled off and gas is cheap. But the water, although clear, smells like sulphur. It tastes fine, it just smells funny. Maybe it’s extra sanitized or something.

I’ve been invited to an open mat in south Tampa tomorrow and I want to visit Rob Khan’s gym too, but I’m worried about the cash flow.
I’m thinking I might only stop in Mobile and New Orleans, then head to ATX to regroup. The sooner I work, the sooner I can go back out on the road. Might as well get it over with.

62 gyms…

Marcelo Pereira

I drove over to the other side of Florida during the day so I could see the Everglades.
I didn’t get to see any huge snakes or alligators- maybe next time.

A reader of the blog had put me in touch with his coach, Marcelo Pereira in Naples, who was happy to have at his gym for Thursday night’s gi class.
The gym was an average sized single room, but there were a lot of people there -three brown belts, around 6 purples and ten or more blues.
We started class with competitive grip fighting. My partner was a purple belt around 200 pounds with freakishly large hands. I was able to peel his collar grips by going after his thumbs, but it was almost impossible to break his sleeve controls. We fought this way for about five minutes, then added trips and shots without finishing the shots.
I did a little better with this format, making it more about wrestling than judo.

After another five minutes we moved on to drilling round work. We practiced this lapel choke, (hi, Brad) but Marcelo showed it using our other lapel.
Often the opponent will use his far arm to push your face away as a defense. For this, Marcelo had us spin to the other side and arm bar that arm.

Sparring time. I did my first round with the grill hands purple belt. He was  strong and put massive pressure on me from the top. I had to fight out of several bad positions, but wrestled my way to the top with this tilt and scrambled to side control, spending the last minute or so there.

Round two was a brown belt bigger than the purple. He had the same relentless forward pressure to pass the guard. I endured it and got back to closed guard. He tried to standup to pass but I did my best to break his posture and pull him forward with my legs.
The match consisted mostly of me trying to get something going from the closed guard and him defendin well.

Round three was a blue belt bigger than the brown- I swear. This guy squashed me like the other two but almost worse. He cross faced me continuously so I couldn’t get up to my knees. I tried a risky move, letting him push me to my back then rolling with it and pushing his arm up over my head like this.
I went straight into closed guard and finished the round there working for collar choke/omoplata.

I finally got a round with someone my size, a four stripe purple in his forties.
I had an athletic advantage and used it to try to rest a little. I finished one choke from the back, but stalled a fair amount too.

I got up and got a drink from the fountain and missed getting a partner for #5. I went over to the wall to rest and got to talk with Marcelo. He told me about his history with Nova Uniao and training with Shaolin, Gustavo Dantas, Robson Moura, Leandro Nyza, and Tagarela. He also discussed the history of BJJ in south Florida, which was very interesting and included several names I recognized.
I didn’t grill him or anything- I asked maybe one or two questions and he just went off; it was great.

I rotated myself back in and went with a  smaller blue belt. He had the same ferocity as his teammates, used a different set of moves. He went for a berimbolo first, which I narrowly escaped. I baited him for another one and when he went, pulled his leg over my head and took his back. As he scraped me off, I transitioned into a traingle. I should have finished the submission, but the guy just outworked me and ended up escaping. I got mad at myself and began to play lazily, giving him an easy duck under and back take. I continued to sulk instead of escape and ended up conceding a bow and arrow choke.
I can’t say the blue belt wasn’t talented, but I beat myself that round and it pissed me off.

I finished with a different blue and an older purple belt and handled him them easily, but with no joy.

It was a tough night. Everyone seemed much stronger than me, or rather I felt weak. It may have been due in part to their style of grappling, but it felt like something else too. Maybe I hadn’t been taking care of myself.
Ultimately, there have to be off days and I have to take them in stride.
I got back on the road after a shower and made it up to Tampa.

I went to a gym to train, but observed only a couple  people on the mats and decided to avoid a potential mat fee and try again in the morning.

I got a needed oil change and tire rotation instead. Gotta keep the van happy.


Jeremy Arel of Great Grappling was the one who told me about Rafael “Gordinho” Correa‘s gym, START BJJ  Jeremy got his black belt from Gordinho’s brother, the famous Gordo.

I went in to inquire about training and found Gordinho himself manning the stylish front desk in an all white gi and matching white hat. He was very mellow and nonchalant about letting me attend.

The evening classes were broken into “blue belt program” at 6pm and “purple belt program” at 7. I went to the latter and found students of every belt color including some teenage orange belts (teens have yellow, orange and green before blue belt at age 16).
A fourth degree black belt named Professor Toti opened the class with some grip fighting and judo throw entries.
I drilled with a four stripe white belt who felt like he had a strong judo background.
Gordinho took over for the ground technique. He started from side control and grabbed a kimura as he pivoted over the opponent’s head, ending up in this position(pic). Then- look at the picture link; see how the bottom guy’s jacket is draped over his wrist- Gordinho took that lapel and grabbed it with his left hand, trapping the bottom guy’s arm inside his own jacket and controlling it with just his left arm.
This left Gordinho’s right hand free to reach behind the head and apply a collar choke.
We drilled this move for a while, then he added another option for a choke where you put your own lapel in your mouth and feed it to your choking hand.
It may seem complex in print, but I found it fairly easy in practice and felt super cool doing it.

After technique, Gordinho lined up five students out on the mats and put the rest of us against the wall. Students on the wall formed a line and went out to roll with one of the people out on the mats as they became available. The wall student got to pick the starting position- either closed guard or passing the closed guard. If the passer passed they stayed in and if the guard player swept or submitted, they stayed in.
This made for a continuous and randomized rotation involving the whole class.
On my first rotation I passed the guard of a purple belt. I stayed in, then successfully swept a blue belt, two whites, then the purple belt I’d usurped. Gordinho was training on the other side of the mat and Toti supervised. Tori sent a small black belt over to me who elected to play guard. I got his legs separated and stood up after a hard struggle, then grabbed his pants and went for a toreando pass. He rolled me over the top and I was forced into guard on the bottom, so he won and I went to the wall.
Toti told me to wait and rotate in when Gordinho next became free. This was a cool gesture. When I went with him I elected to pass. Gordinho was slow and deliberate, taking his time to secure a deep collar grip and then breaking my posture down. He went for another grip with his free hand to apply a choke, but I sensed it and tucked my head and arm tight against his body. At this, he pivoted his body around my arm and began to threaten an armbar. I responded by lifting my head and pulling my arm back, which made him go back to his choke. Catch 22- I was screwed in both directions. I tried hard but succumbed to the choke about twenty seconds later.
I went back to the line on the wall and eventually went in to face the first purple belt again. I played the guard this time and tried the Roleta sweep for maybe the first time in my life. Of course it isn’t work but I transitioned into a scissor sweep and hustled my way to top position.
Toti sent the black belt after me again and he elected to pass. I open my guard and worked my way into deep half, then to x guard. I managed to dump him back onto his butt and achieve a sweep.
I went through a few more white belts, then gave up a pass so other people could train too.
Tori put me with Gordinho again, so I decided to go from closed guard. Goodrich stood up; I knew if I opened my legs, he’d pass, so I kept them wrapped and went up with him. He was unfazed and patiently shimmied and bounced until I was barely hanging on. I preemptively let go and tried an immediate lumberjack sweep, but I preempted nothing as Gordinho saw it coming and slid through my guard. to side control.

To end class, we did one six minute round. I went with a blue belt and tried to win without destroying him.
Whenever I go with someone who I outclass, I try to give them opportunities to do moves and enjoy the roll. Not only is it productive for both parties, it’s polite, especially as a visitor. Smashing low belts is a good way to get stomped in most gyms.

We bowed out and made a handshake line.
Toti grabbed me and said he wanted to show me something. He said he’d been watching me work from the back and saw that I could be doing more to control the opponent. He showed me how to hook with one leg and grab the collar from under the arm with the opposite hand. He demonstrated that doing this and pushing your hips forward twisted the opponent’s spine and immobilized him. He did it to me to prove it his point and it was awful. I was grateful for the attention and thanked Toti. It’s rare to get personalized instruction as a visitor but I think it shows great character from the teacher.

START is a great school. It’s clean and bright and modern looking. Classes start on time and are conducted by multiple black belts.
Gordinho seems really cool as well. He joked around with everybody and trained all night with his students, even playfully torturing the teenagers.

I really wish I’d gotten video of the night’s technique, but Gordinho had to head out to pick his brother up at the airport, who was coming to town to corner his pupil Rafael dos Anjos in his upcoming UFC lightweight title fight. Oh well. I still had a great time and got to train with him.

This was my last night in Miami. On to Ft. Myers in the morning.

Vagner Rocha Martial Arts

Tuesday. I finally found my Hurricanes shirt at a Sports Authority in South Miami. I got it for $4.50 because it had a little hole in it. Score.
Afterwards I went to a famous restaurant called Versailles in Little Havana to have a Cuban sandwich and some espresso. This was the second Cubano I tried and it was much better than the first. The espresso had sugar in it- it was good, but I wasn’t expecting the sugar.
After that I checked out a fight shop downtown. You don’t see many mma/bjj based stores around, so I try to visit them when I can.

I decided to make my next gym Vagner Rocha Martial Arts, up in Pembroke  Pines. The traffic headed north was ridiculous. There were two big wrecks on the freeway and there were lots of us trying to use local roads instead. It took me forty five minutes to go 13 miles, but I got a nice long tour through some rough neighborhoods in and around Hialeah.
I arrived at the gym 15 minutes late, but they were ok with it. I wasn’t even the last guy to join class.

The first hour was no gi. Vagner had us warm up by practicing lifting our partners up with our butterfly hooks and blended that into the evening’s technique. The opponent would put his feet on the mat when we elevated them and we transitioned to single leg X guard (pic). We used that position to stand up and come to the top, like this.
My partner was good about getting lots of reps, which I appreciated.
After drilling, rolls.

I went with my partner first. I struggled to pass, as I usually do without the gi, but I kept good position and eventually squirmed through into side control. He turned into me and I dove over the top for a guillotine, then scrambled to mount. He escaped mount and went for a leg attack, but I escaped that. I spent the rest of the round trying to secure another pass.

Vagner set me up with a guy named Dan next. He stayed on his side as I tried to pass guard and threatened with scissor sweeps and triangle setups. I avoided them but wasn’t making any positional progress, so I decided to take a risk and bait him into moving a certain way. He took the bait, too well. I ended up in a triangle, but I managed to break it by using a combination of posts and posture that John Crouch had showed me back in Phoenix.
I turned my escape into a misdirection pass and spent the rest of the round on top and then on Dan’s back. He escaped back control at the very end.

Round three was with Vagner. I started out passing, but was quickly swept onto my butt. I went into a single leg, which Vagner turned into a kimura trap. I fought off the choke, but he finished the shoulder lock. I pulled half guard on the reset and made a good transition to my favorite deep half sweep. But as I came up, Vagner sat up and reached to my far arm for another kimura trap and another shoulder lock.
We ended up there a third time somehow and time expired.
Vagner told me after the round that I moved really well, but everything I did felt loose and gave him space to counter.
I’ve heard this before and recognize it as my style, for better or worse. I like to leave space for my opponents to try things so I can predict their movement beat them in scrambles. When it works, it’s slick, but it can fail big time against high level guys. I could maybe perfect this approach, but it might be easier to tighten up and force the positions I want.

Vagner put me with a burly guy next. He felt like a wrestler and we battled in that style with lots of front headlocks and throw by’s. I made it behind him at one point, but couldn’t maintain. It was a fun and fast-paced round that ended as kind of a draw.

The next guy I went with was a beast. He was like 280lbs and jacked. I couldn’t have him at all, and the entire round was me attempting arm drags from my butt and him trying to force me down on my back.

My last round was with a young skinny guy they called The Bird. We had sill styles and exchanged a bunch of positions. I managed to get two triangles, but I had a significant size advantage.

Most of the guys left after the no gi hour, but I stuck around for a second hour of gi training. I drilled a basic arm bar with an older  blue belt, then rolled against him, and then a brown belt my size, who I feel I got the better of.

I liked the casual atmosphere and friendly trash talking of VRMA. The students were pretty friendly with me and rolled well. Vagner was relaxed and approachable.
It seemed like they had a lot of serious MMA guys but maintained a mellow vibe.

This was a fun practice. I’d recommend this gym to anyone in the area.
I also got a cool sticker too.