A guy at Alliance Orlando told me his favorite place in Florida is Jupiter, so I stopped there to see the ocean and do laundry.
While I was in the laundromat, I happened to meet a burly old construction worker from Bozeman, Montana. We had a short conversation in which he claimed that I would die in Miami.
“It’s all Spanish down there. They’ll steal your van,” he growled, making a gun shape with his hand. “You’re in South Florida- this is a whole ‘other world. If I was you I wouldn’t go south of Boca.”
He said something about gay people in Key West as I loaded up my gi’s and made for the exit.
I went south of Boca against the Bozemanites advice. I began to Google gyms in the area in the late afternoon and found the listing for AJ Sousa BJJ in Ft. Lauderdale.
I remembered AJ Sousa from the BJJ Kumite (a great series on YouTube, check it out) and figured his school would be a good one.
I called ahead and then showed up for a beginner’s gi class at 6:30. AJ was in California for the week so another black belt named Shawn was teaching. He showed us two ways to attack the turtle.
The first option was essentially a spiral ride with grips on the collar and pants. Shawn’s version entailed pushing the opponent’s head down and lifting his leg so that he landed on his back instead of his belly.
The second option was for when the opponent tried to turn and face us and reestablish guard. We took a seatbelt grip and dove over the top to take the back.
I didn’t see this one working too well. You’d have to anticipate his move instantly and cover three feet of space in the time he covered one. Getting the hooks in seemed sketchy too.*
We did a few positional rounds to complete the hour.
At 7, a handful of colored belts took the mat. A small female black belt set the timer for ten minute intervals and people just started rolling. I found a blue belt to go who had good omoplata setups from the guard. Then I went a humongous blue belt who tried a few scary splash passes. (300lbs. jumping on me)
The group was pretty tight with each other and I had trouble getting partners. I missed the third round, but the female black belt approached me for the fourth. She introduced herself as Tammi. I wasn’t positive at the time, but I later confirmed that she was Tammi Musumeci.
She pulled guard and worked for a berimbolo. I tried to duck under her far leg and roll forward, but she pivoted her body and completed the back take. I escaped the back, and she transitioned back to another berimbolo. This time I tried the same duck under but laid back instead. She rolled and made it to my back again. I scraped her off my back a second time and we went back to another berimbolo. No more ducks- I went for a leg drag, but she pivoted far to the side and stopped it. I sat down to protect my back and she pulled herself to the top.
We went through a few more exchanges like this for the rest of the round- it was really fun and educational.
She had a cool system where she got to the position she wanted and then waited for me to pick a direction to move in so she could respond. It was complete and totally smooth and probably took years to put together.
She chatted me up a little afterwards and seemed to have a great personality- very funny.
I got one more round in with a purple belt. He had a “sporty” style, playing a lot of lasso/spider. I’m better lately at negating the sweeps and submissions. Jeremy Arel had talked about the double underhooks as a good counter to this style so I tried that. It worked well, but I couldn’t complete a pass. We battled like that for the whole ten minutes. I enjoyed it and felt like I’d gained valuable experience.
I spent the next day writing, exploring the area and searching for Miami Hurricanes apparel.
I showed up for the 7pm class at AJ Sousa and got more good sparring. I met a different sportive purple belt, got another round with Tammi, and rolled with another smaller female black belt called Sophie. Sophie showed me really slick arm bar from an omoplata that she got me with. She also recommend I visit her home gym, Fight Sports, when I hit Miami.
I had an interesting round with a guy with no belt. When I couldn’t find another partner a minute into the next round, he came off the wall to roll with me. He was intense and a little rough, but clearly an experienced grappler. He used a lot of force and pain compliance to make positions, but it wasn’t especially accurate. I countered his forward pressure with a few deep half guard sweeps that seemed to piss him off little. When I came to the top, he would furiously thrash to break contact and get back to his feet. I sat back down twice but the third time he did this, I pressed forward and stood up with him. He charged forward and forced me off the mat, tournament style.
I returned to sitting to restart, but immediately hit a hard low inside single leg. I knew he was going to try to sprawl and stay on top so I pulled his foot toward me and stood up, dumping him on the mat. The round ended right after and the guy looked annoyed, which kind of satisfied me.
This was a tough gym with a serious competition lean. This may have made them a little less friendly than other places, but I imagined they’d treat me like family if I became a member.
I intentionally used my white gi’s back to back for these days. They were getting a little dingy and I wanted to wash them separately with a lot of bleach to freshen them up.
The bleach helped a little, but I think they need a prolonged soak.
I need to procure a special container for this so I can soak them overnight in the van without gassing myself in my sleep. I’m thinking a white bucket with a lid will work.
AJ Sousa recently won the BJJ Library Challenge, set up by the Ribiero’s. I didn’t like it as much as the Kumite, but it was still entertaining.
*My disbelief in a move means little. It must work for some people and it’s possible that I don’t fully understand it.