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.