Monthly Archives: November 2015

Charleston over Thanksgiving

I’ve postponed Atlanta until ‘after Florida’. I’ll hit it on my way out of the south with a fresh supply of time and money.

I chose to spend Thanksgiving in Charleston. I figured there would be enough entertainment there to wait out the holiday until gyms resumed their normal schedules. If I was lucky I could find an open mat on Wednesday or Friday.
After some Facebook digging, I found a school with a Wed. morning class- Devine BJJ. At 9:00 a.m. there were five people training- a white belt, two purples and two blacks.
I showed up really late because I got the start time wrong by two hours, but they let me join in the last few drills and the sparring. I got six good rounds in- competitive but not overly intense.
One of the purple belts turned to be a blogger too. His site, Jiu Jitsu Journey, is really good- puts mine to shame. (He wasn’t rolling because he had neck surgery coming in three days. Speedy recovery man.)

Thursday was boring as hell. I went to Shem Creek Park and walked around downtown Charleston. I listened to talk radio while eating raisins and peanut butter.
Later in the evening I found a bar showing Bears/Packers. I kept one eye on the game and managed to take in all of John Carter on mute with subtitles (terrible movie) while eating an excellent tuna steak.

Before I went to sleep I looked up a Friday open mat that was happening at Checkmat Charleston.
I made this one on time because it wasn’t until noon.
It was just a white belt and a blue belt when I showed up, but two purples and another blue trickled in after we got started.
It turned out half of us were from out of town, but it made for good conversation between rounds. One of them had even heard about me from his friends at Gracie Raleigh.

So I came to Charleston expecting to do no bjj, but instead found two more relaxed and welcoming schools.
But beyond that I’m glad I came here. This is a beautiful city like no other I’ve been to. They have the ocean, nice people, a thousand restaurants, and cool military planes and ships cruising around.

Thanks Charleston!
Next, Savannah.

P.S. I was reluctant, but I started a Facebook page for the Rally. Maybe I mentioned that already, but check it out.
And don’t forget about the Youtube channel.


Spartan Academy

I attended my last practice at Great Grappling on Thursday night then went back to Mark’s to pack up. I did one last load of laundry; when I turned on the dryer I heard something banging around. I figured it must be my belt and ignored it for a few minutes but then decided I should see if I could quiet it down since people were trying to sleep. I rooted around felt an object a shorts pocket. I pulled it out and found my phone, or rather its corpse.
I depend on a phone for directions, so I bit the bullet and bought a new one in the morning- an iPhone 6s. Fancy.

I made it to Spartan Academy in time for the night class, but I decided to skip it and go on Saturday. I figured I’d see more people on a Saturday morning than a Friday evening.
So on Saturday I went in and met head instructor Guybson Sa. Guybson was out with the flu, but he was still present to run the open mat.


It was a small group- two blue belts and three whites. We did some six minute rounds. I rolled with two of the white belts and found them to be pretty game and difficult to submit. I was going for chokes but they defended their necks really well. I did two rounds with one blue belt who had four stripes. He was strong and in good shape- a serious mma fighter I learned. I tried to outsmart him and work carefully but everytime I gained position he resisted like hell and fought out. It was intense, but not rough and a lot of fun. He made me pay for a few mistakes too, getting behind me twice.
I rolled up the other blue but he had tight defense like the rest of his teammates.

It wasn’t a long practice but I got a good workout. I talked with the guys afterward they were pretty cool.

Here’s a video they did for me. VIDEO Those are a couple of tough blue belts.
I may or may not make it in again on Monday. This next week might have a lot of gyms running limited schedules.


I trained at Spartan Academy twice more. One thing about them is that they never concede positions in sparring. It was a constant challenge to maintain control, which made it harder to work towards submissions. 

I got to roll with Guybson tonight. He’s got long ass arms and can darce/brabo from anywhere. He’s also a good wrestler.              I like the way Guybson interacts with his students. They joke with each other a lot seem to have genuine friendships. I think this is a good way to gain loyalty.     

If you’re in Columbia, check out Sprtan Academy. Tough rolls in a relaxed atmosphere.

Weekend Trip to Vegas

Uncle Mark was in the Las Vegas Marathon this past weekend and he was kind enough to take me with him so I could visit my aunt and her husband and my mother who would also be in Vegas.
I flew out of Charlotte on Friday morning and got there at 1pm local time. I took a long walk with my backpack to the strip and ate at the first casino buffet I came across.
My mom was at a hotel in North Vegas so I chose  gym that was on the way up there.

Cobra Kai had a class scheduled for 6pm. I walked up the Strip for a few hours and made it right on time.

Jerry Shapiro taught the class. He showed a snap down and then a loop choke variation.
I got four rounds of sparring in. The first one was with a brown belt. We didn’t test each other too much but he felt like he was pretty good.
I got a hard roll from a purple belt next, but I was bigger and better and took it to him.
I rolled with a white belt girl who must have wrestled or something because she was solid.
The last round was with a good blue belt.

I showered and found a bus stop to take me to mom’s hotel. The bus ride was 1.7 miles with one transfer and took almost two hours. I’d gotten used to driving everywhere so I was grumpy by the time I got there, but mom was really happy to see me and it was good to see her so I calmed down right away.

We ate a $10 surf and turf and talked while my gi washed in the hotel laundry.

The next day we met up with aunt(Mary) and uncle(Tim) and checked into a different hotel in the middle of the strip. I went with Tim to the airport where we picked up Mark.
Mark took us out to eat that night at the Wynn. I made a $10 bet on Holly Holm to beat Ronda Rousey at 8:1- my first official sports bet. Tim was intrigued  and put $20 on Holm too. So a few hours later I’d made $80 and Tim made $160.

Mark ran the marathon the next day and I walked the Strip with my mom.
We all hung out together for a while after Mark finished, then he and I flew back to NC on Monday morning.

A quick trip, but it was really good to see some family. All thanks go to Mark.

I got a text from a girl I’d been seeing back in Missoula before the trip. She let me take her MacBook and that’s what I’ve been writing the blog with.
But she has a friend who got in a bind and needs money, so she informed me that she’s going to need her laptop back so she an sell it.
It’s a very generous move on her part and I’m happy to return her property.

So we’ll see what I can come up with for the blog. I’m going to confront Verizon about my defective replacement phone tomorrow; if they replace (like they ought to) I’ll try to use  a phone.

I’m off to and GA soon but I haven’t decided between Atlanta and Savannah.

Great Grappling

I’ve been living large for almost two weeks at Uncle Mark’s house. He and his family have been spoiling the hell out of me and I’m grateful.
I found a school to visit near Mark’s called Great Grappling that I’ve been training at for 6 days, usually twice per day.
The head instructor is a guy named Jeremy Arel. Jeremy has gained some notoriety through a blog he published on about training in Brazil at the famous Gordo BJJ, and through his expansive Youtube channel.
Jeremy has his shit together to say the least. He got a degree in physical education from Winthrop and uses that knowledge to operate his program. Class starts exactly on time and is planned out to the minute. The curriculum is on a one year cycle.
Over four years, Jeremy has grown his school to around 200 students. He has one black belt, about 7 brown belts, 10 or so purples, and dozens of whites and blues. He has a good crew of women too, maybe 15.
I’ve been getting a lot of good sparring. Each practice I do at least four 8 minute rounds. The quality of opponent is always good and Jeremy always rolls me at least once.
I’ve gone out to eat a few times with some of the guys after class and have pieced together an interview with Jeremy through conversation. Here are some of his thoughts, heavily paraphrased.

Who are some of your favorite teachers or coaches?
‘A teacher is different than a coach. A teacher is one who shows you the mechanics of techniques. A coach helps you with strategy. Not all good teachers are good coaches and vice versa. Now, some great teachers I have known are Draculino, Gordinho, Gustavo Machado, and Eduardo de Lima.
Great coaches? Gordo. Incredible coach, incredible outlook on jiu jitsu.’

Do you think Rickson lives up to his legend?
‘I’ve never rolled with him, but I think he does. I went to a Rickson seminar in Brazil. There were 80 attendees and 74 of them were black belts. I still remember everything he showed that day- it was mind blowing. The technique was so simple and effective that it made me wonder if I really knew bjj. Listen to what the Gracie family says about him. They all say that he’s the greatest, hands down. That may be the one thing they all agree on. I think Rickson is probly even better than most of us realize.’

Okay, what about some other old school guys? Would the black belt world champions of the 90’s in their physical primes do well at this year’s Worlds?
‘Oh yeah. Those old school guys were tough as nails and had good reaction speed and “feel” for a match. Also, look at the techniques they favored. Double underhooks passing, stack passing, amazing closed guard games. Those are all hard counters to today’s common guards. They stayed low and didn’t take any risks, that’s a tough style to use open guard/dlr/spider games against. WallidPe de PanoMario Sperry– those guys would do fine today.
Mario Sperry wrecked me one time.’

Which is more important- a good coach or good training partners?
‘Coach. It’s difficult to teach or analyze yourself. But it’s actually not that hard to take a new student and make them into a useful training partner. You can drill and spar for hours, but it’s crucial to have someone who can identify and correct your mistakes.’

What’s a common misconception about jiu jitsu in Brazil?
‘Well, bjj has been going on for a lot longer down there and some gyms have been around for decades. In the US, you know almost everyone at your school but in Brazil, the student body can go back for years. At Gordo’s for example, I kept meeting new black belts of his. They didn’t train as frequently as they used to but they would still come in randomly from time to time. I swear- one Saturday 26 black belts decided to show up to the same class.’

I think I might like to run a school someday. Can you give me some advice about that?
‘When you have your school, bjj is not the real product- you are. People can get good training at a lot of gyms, but they choose the instructor they like most.
You have to be a professional. Always be upbeat and outgoing. Give equal attention to everyone. And try keep your personal beliefs to yourself so as not to alienate people. Be mindful of what you say, especially on social media.’

Jerermy  gave me a lot one on one attention. He watched me roll a lot and gave me a lot of specific coaching. He told me about how to be a good instructor and operate a gym like true business.
I saw that it takes a lot of work but it look like a good life.

I’ve been here a while and need to get on the road, but I could see myself coming back. Great Grappling has a lot of high belts and some serious competitors and an accessible coach with a vision for his team.

Lucas Lepri- Charlotte, NC

It rained all the way to Charlotte. I got into the suburb of Mathews around 9 p.m. and located Lucas Lepri BJJ. There was a bar next door, so I went inside and watched the end of the World Series. It was nice to see a NY team lose; I root against any pro sports team from New York state, California or Texas.
The next day at noon I did the advanced class which was led by Lucas. There were a few white belts, a couple blues, four purples,  a four stripe brown and another black belt. The brown and two of the purples were Brazilians.
We skipped a warmup and went right into technique, which I liked. (Why not drill a move to warm up?) It was the new and popular worm guard. I was nervous because I had no idea how to do it and I perceived it to be really complicated, but it wasn’t too bad. My drilling partner Paulo helped me and Lucas was very attentive.
We worked through a guard pull from the feet into worm guard and then to a sweep into mount, drilling for a total of thirty minutes. After drilling we started rounds, beginning with the first parts of worm guard.
My worm didn’t work too well; Paulo knew how to dismantle it and took my back a few times. I tried to do what he’d done when it was my turn to pass, but he had responses to that too.
I did another round from the worm with a four stripe purple that went about the same. The position was new to me and I just did the best I could.
We did a few rounds of free rolling after that. I had a tough time with everyone. I tried some reverse de la Riva, but I didn’t have a prepared response for when they sat down to prevent me from spinning underneath. I resorted to wrestling for single legs, but my back was taken whenever my pressure went too far to one side.
I had a size advantage, but knowledge and decision making were far behind. I was happy with a few escapes and a few deep half sweeps, but everything else pretty much failed.

Class ended and I drove 30 miles west to my uncle’s house. He’s been following my blog and has offered help the entire way, including a hotel room each time I had an infection in MN and Detroit and tips about visiting most of the cities I’ve been to as his work sends him everywhere. I was treated to home cooked food, cable, a huge bed, free laundry, good coffee, dogs, and and quality time with family I don’t get to see often.

I commuted back over to the gym for a night class. Four of the competitive guys- brown and three purple- were back. There were two other large purples and and a handful of white and blue belts. There was a brief warmup which consisted of laying down and lifting our partner off the ground with our legs. Then we rehashed the worm guard from earlier which began to feel smoother for me.
The sparring was good. All of my rounds were difficult- I don’t know if I could say I won any. I got to roll with Lucas. He would let me make the first move then counter it, and work into a submission in two or three transitions.  Sometimes, he’d pause and let me move in one direction or another, then counter that and tap me. I’d have to say that this was a new level of being dominated because Lucas was improvising rather than executing a preconceived series.


Today I did two more sessions- gi and then no gi. The same core of guys were there and Lucas taught both times. We expanded on the worm guard and worked on passing the butterfly guard at the evening class. I still took my licks in sparring, but I noticed a few instances where I made better decisions.
The smaller classes are great because Lucas can observe everyone. He’s watched me do everything we’ve worked on more than once and has gone through the trouble of correcting me several times.
His students have great etiquette and treat me really well. They follow these guidelines closely and it does a lot for the atmosphere. I’ve taken things like this for granted in the past, but I’m reconsidering now.
I really like this school and am looking forward to training tomorrow.