I tried twice to visit a Brazilian Top Team affiliate in Montreal and failed twice. It was the downtown traffic- ridiculous. But I got another chance here in Jacksonville and decided to do it.
BTT Jax is managed by Marcello Salazar Bergo, an accomplished wrestler, MMA fighter and 3rd degree black belt. It’s a pretty large space that has both striking and grappling classes.
I visited for a Thursday night no gi practice. The desk person was hesitant about letting me train. He went and talked to Marcello, who came up and shook my hand and seemed genuinely happy have me at his gym.
I got my stuff on and went out onto the mat. We started about 15 minutes late, but eventually got into warm ups which consisted of shrimps, reverse shrimps, forward and backward rolls and cartwheels. (Every grappler should practice some gymnastics for general dexterity.)
Then Marcello demonstrated a series of moves- a double leg takedown, an arm-in guillotine choke as a counter, jumping around the guillotiner’s legs to avoid the choke, the guillotiner hanging on and rolling the opponent over onto their back, ending in mount and finishing the guillotine.
It took a few repetitions to get the sequence down, but once we did we were able to work a lot on timing and fluidity. We did this for about forty five minutes before rolling.
I went with Marcello first.We started on the feet and I shot early to avoid any of his takedowns. I managed to pick up a single but he moved his foot to the outside of my body. I ditched the move and went to a low inside single on his other leg, but but he anticipated it and sprawled. He took my back after that where I struggled for a minute before giving up a choke. We started again and I sat into RDLR, but he went into a berimbolo somehow and took my back again. It’s not often I can’t understand a move but this one confused me. (For those of you who train- it’s not the entry you’re thinking of.)
We continued to work after another choke, and got my arm exposed for an armbar. I locked my hands together to buy time, and then went for my preferred hitch hiker escape. When I threw my arm straight I blasted Marcello in the face with a backhand. I apologized, but he was fine with it.
He told me I moved well after the round and gave me a bro hug.
I rolled with three other students afterward and did pretty well with them. It was interesting feeling them out with no clue about their rank.
Class finished a little after nine. Marcello told me I was welcome anytime and thanked me for coming in.
I spent the next day going 0 for 3 on a Matt Jones jersey at various Goodwill stores, visiting Neptune Beach for about ten minutes, and buying a new pair of flip flops at Wal Mart for $3.47.
I returned to BTT for the Friday night gi class. It was an Q & A format where students could ask Marcello questions about any position and he would give answers. We broke off into pairs and drilled the technique he came up with for them minutes or so before looking at another position.
For sparring, I did my first round with a white belt, second round with Marcello which went exactly like the previous night, my third round with a huge blue belt who gave me hell for about three minutes before gassing out, and a small black belt in a bright yellow gi.
The man in yellow and I had a good roll- not very hard but moving a lot and trying to catch submissions. I went for berimbolos three or four times and every time he looked for a toe hold. I’d straighten my leg to prevent the toe hold and make it to his back while he tried to transition to a knee bar. (I’ve met a few people who counter the berimbolo with a toe hold, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t work.)
That concluded the class and my time at BTT Jax. Marcelo Bergo is as friendly as it gets and he’s got a ton of knowledge. I might visit again on my way out of Florida.