Monthly Archives: July 2015

Bismarck, ND

After training on Monday night, I caught some sleep at a truck stop on the east end of Billings and woke up at 10 to drive 415 miles to Bismarck. I waited to head east until I felt like I was out of tornado danger, but I got a nice strong tail wind the whole way.I made it to Bismarck with time to spare and got ready to visit Ice Dragon BJJ.

Google Maps sent me to the wrong address, or rather an old one. I called the number on their Facebook page and the head instructor gave me the correct address. He also mentioned he wouldn’t be training because they had to break his jaw to get his wisdom teeth out. (God damn!) 

Ice Dragon trains inside of a fitness center in the middle of town. They have a large white walled room in back with blue AstroTurf that they lay their gray Dollamur mats on- makes a kind of icy color scheme.

A blue belt and co-founder of the school named Tyler led class. He was jiu jitsu friendly plus North Dakota friendly, which is about as friendly as you can get. 

He ran a series of warmups and then introduced me to everybody. Then he asked if I wanted to show a technique. When I get out on the spot to teach something I usually go with a single leg from the half guard. I learned a version at a Demian Maia seminar about six years ago and it’s just always stayed with me. 

So I showed it to the best of my ability and people seemed to get it. Then we rolled some five minute rounds.

I had good matches with Tyler, a wrestling white belt, a white belt from Havre, MT, a block shaped blue belt, and a purple belt named Griffin. Griffin’s guard was pretty slick- check out this quick video of one of his favorite sweeps.

Both of my parents are from North Dakota and we used to come out to visit their elders. I have good food memories from those visits, so I sought out a nice German meal today for a little nostalgia. I got fleischkuechle and knoephla. It wasn’t quite like grandma Ida’s but it was still pretty damn good.

Bismarck has been good, but I’m getting back on the road to try to make a noon class at Fargo BJJ.


Trouble Ahead

Look at this. I’m going to take my time getting to Bismarck. 

3 Days in Billings

Billings- pop. 109,000. Montna’s largest city. It offers a couple oil refineries, the Yellowstone River, the Rimrocks, two NAIA colleges, the women’s prison, and I believe the state’s only Panda Express. 

I left Bozeman on Friday night after a no gi practice and drove 140 miles east down I-90 to Billings. I passed the refineries in the way in, which look pretty cool all lit up at night. I cruised through downtown but it looked kind of quiet so I drove to the gym I was planning to train at in the morning and got some sleep.

I woke up late at 9:56. Class started at ten. I threw a gi in my bag and hustled across the parking lot to Billings BJJ. The session was an open mat. There was a purple belt, three whites, a blue and a teenage yellow. A brown belt, Greg Wheelon ran the timer since his shoulder was injured. The yellow belt kid called me out right away so we rolled for about fifteen minutes. He wasn’t small and he was pretty technical. He attempted a wide variety of moves, including some footlocks and a reverse triangle. Next I rolled with a huge white belt. He was only about 5’8″ but probly weighed 275. He looked like a power lifter. I climbed all over him but he hulked out of numerous armbars and chokes. I finally finished an armbar, but it took a lot of effort. We continued to roll and I continued to attack from the back. But once, he trapped right foot between his thighs and hugged my other leg, creating a heel hook. I had to tap. So the first guy to catch me on this trip was a white belt. Perfect.

I rolled with the purple belt next. He was just coming back to training after a few months away at college. His lungs weren’t back so we took it easy. I tried some berimbolo, but he had some really slick counters and defenses. The rest of the round was unmorable, but I do remember looking over and seeing that giant white belt ankle lock a blue belt who had his back (the feet crossed one). It made me feel better. 

I rolled with that blue belt next. He was had that 40’s strength and some good pressure. I used a lot of omoplatas and had good success.

Then that kid came after me again. He pulled guard and worked at a furious pace. I gave up a few sweeps and worked on defending from the bottom, but he was hard to catch when I went on the offensive. 

That was pretty much it, but Greg said Monday night would have a good turnout and I should try to make that class. I had nowhere to hurry to so I decided to hang around.

On Saturday night I cruised my bike around downtown to entertain myself. I saw a lot of drunks, and a lot of regular downtown stuff. I checked out the 1st Interstate building, tallest building in Montana.

Nothing interesting was happening so I got back in the van and found a side street to park on. 

I woke up to some annoying sound. It was a roofing crew, right next to me, going to town with nail guns. I knew they weren’t going to stop so I got up. I staggered across the street to a gas station where I used the pisser and bought coffee. The rest of the day consisted of some biking, a few hours of podcasts, a phone call, and some internet. 

Monday morning (this morning) was nice. It had cooled off some and it was overcast. I slept comfortably until about 11. I decided I should try to work on the blog so I set up with my (borrowed) laptop at Starbucks and tried to work. I worked on a few ideas- the history of BJJ in MT, the gym drama of Missoula, the time I lost my tooth at a seminar, but nothing turned into an article and I began to aimlessly surf the Internet.

Outside it started to rain. Then it started to rain really hard. Then the power went out and Starbucks had to close. I ended up running in flip flops about 8 blocks back to the van. I parked under an awning and changed clothes, then sat and listened to some insane right wing talk radio for until jiu jitsu at 7pm.

The 7pm class was taught by Greg. Greg is a BJJ brown belt and a judo black belt. Class started with a series of drills that all of Montana’s Paxiao schools do. We moved on to some grip fighting from the feet, a head and arm throw and osoto gari.

Then we worked on a half guard pass, and Greg had me show a pass. (Shoulda videoed these. I’m still learning how to do this blog.)

We rolled for the last half hour. I got a round with Greg where I think I may have wrenched on his hurt shoulder- sorry dude. I had another entertaining round with the purple and the blue from Saturday, another blue in a rare red Atama gi, and a few more rounds with white belts, one of which was an accomplished wrestler.

As a whole, Billings BJJ has great defense. Everyone was difficult to armbar and difficult to choke. Everybody was also really friendly.

If you ever find yourself in south central Montana, check this place out.

Billings BJJ website
Billings BJJ on Facebook–> lots of videos

Day 1 Part 2- who stole my wallet?

I’ve done this before. I’ve lived out of a truck and trained around the U.S. three other times. I’ve learned a couple tricks through trail and error.

One trick (not really a trick at all) is to shower after training by getting a day or week pass at some fitness gym in town.

After class I called Access Fitness and said I had just moved to town. They gave me a day pass and I went in and had a nice shower, even washing a pair of basketball shorts in the shower.

During this time, my wallet was stolen. It was in a backpack. They left my phone and keys. 

I checked everywhere in the van, went back to MTMMA, checked the van again- nothing. After having another wallet stolen and one more lost, I’ve learned to keep them accounted for. But this one- with my ID, debit card and $300 gifted by the parents for my birthday, is gone. 

I’m not mad. 

I was a real asshole when I was younger and I stole things. Other people are currently assholes and they steal things. Bankers steal from all of us all the time and some people don’t have anything to be stolen. 

I’m lucky to be doing what I’m doing and I accept the bad with the good. I’m still wealthy anyway. Tomorrow I’ll figure out how to get at my money so I can roll in Billings.

Fuck it :).

Day 1 Part 1- first training session

I spent last night in Butte visiting my parents. We said our goodbyes and they jumped on a motorcycle bound for Idaho. I went and got an oil change for the van then started, officially, east. I climbed Homestake Pass and crossed the Divide

towards Bozeman. I’d talked to Brian Deats of Montana MMA on the way over and he graciously invited me to train. 

I made it into class about halfway through. There were two blue belts, a gi-less fellow and a Machado black belt named Anthony. The grappling room was small, but the mats were nice blue tatami and the windows were big. 

Anthony had me roll with each of the blues, offered me a six minute round. 

We kept it relaxed and smooth. Once we got comfortable we got a little more active. I used closed guard and tried some arm drags and triangles I’d been practicing back in Missoula. Anthony defended calmly and passed to half guard a couple times. I tried some X guard from bottom half and missed a couple sweeps, landing back in full/closed guard. The time ticked down to ten seconds and we both went full speed, he passing and me going belly down and trying for a single leg. 

I did one more round, then class was over and the Krav group took over the mats.



This what I want to happen, but I know better than to think it’s really¬†going to go down like this.

My last day of work is the 19th. On the 20th or 21st, I’ll start driving east. A quick stop in Butte to say bye to the parents, then over to Billings where I’ll try to train.
The next day I’ll try to train in Bismarck. Fargo the day after, then a week or so in the Twin Cities.

After that, I’ll go towards Chicago, but my route will be determined by where I am invited to train. I’m expecting to hit most of the major cities and notable gyms, likely staying at some for a week or more. I’d also really like to meet some of the people training in small towns too. They often have interesting stories that rarely get told.
It will continue like this, traveling east until New York. I’ll probably do a month there- it’s New York. If it’s still fairly warm I’ll cruise around New England before heading down 95.
By then I’ll be doing great or failing. If I’m still going I’ll slowly weave my way down to Florida, where I may need to work for a month depending on my monies.
There’s little reason to predict what will be happening after this, we’ll just have to see.

If you feel that you can advise me in any way- please do. Thanks.

How I got started in BJJ

I was partying too hard when I was 20. I decided I needed to change my environment, so I chose to move to Alaska. I only made it as far as Olympia, Washington though. I stayed there with a friend from MT for a few days and liked it so much I decided to stay.

I dated a girl who went to the local Evergreen State College and I discovered I could freely use the campus Rec Center.

In the rec center I met a man called Don who helped me with my ridiculous weight lifting routines. Don was around 60, but he liked to do combat sports for fun. He had a kyokushin background and ran a little informal fight club in the rec center. He worked on me for several weeks but eventually got me into the room- and that was the first time I grappled.

<note: I wrestled for a month in 7th grade, but got kicked off the team for looting a pop machine with some other kids. I was an idiot.>

After a few months at the fight club, Don recommended I try a legit gym. I was pretty nervous, but convinced myself to try out BJJ of Olympia. The head instructor there was really good to me and I began to train every night.

I tried some standup, but was repeatedly demolished by two huge heavyweight amateurs and a pro middleweight. I decided I would just be a grappler.