I drove over to the other side of Florida during the day so I could see the Everglades.
I didn’t get to see any huge snakes or alligators- maybe next time.
A reader of the blog had put me in touch with his coach, Marcelo Pereira in Naples, who was happy to have at his gym for Thursday night’s gi class.
The gym was an average sized single room, but there were a lot of people there -three brown belts, around 6 purples and ten or more blues.
We started class with competitive grip fighting. My partner was a purple belt around 200 pounds with freakishly large hands. I was able to peel his collar grips by going after his thumbs, but it was almost impossible to break his sleeve controls. We fought this way for about five minutes, then added trips and shots without finishing the shots.
I did a little better with this format, making it more about wrestling than judo.
After another five minutes we moved on to drilling round work. We practiced this lapel choke, (hi, Brad) but Marcelo showed it using our other lapel.
Often the opponent will use his far arm to push your face away as a defense. For this, Marcelo had us spin to the other side and arm bar that arm.
Sparring time. I did my first round with the grill hands purple belt. He was strong and put massive pressure on me from the top. I had to fight out of several bad positions, but wrestled my way to the top with this tilt and scrambled to side control, spending the last minute or so there.
Round two was a brown belt bigger than the purple. He had the same relentless forward pressure to pass the guard. I endured it and got back to closed guard. He tried to standup to pass but I did my best to break his posture and pull him forward with my legs.
The match consisted mostly of me trying to get something going from the closed guard and him defendin well.
Round three was a blue belt bigger than the brown- I swear. This guy squashed me like the other two but almost worse. He cross faced me continuously so I couldn’t get up to my knees. I tried a risky move, letting him push me to my back then rolling with it and pushing his arm up over my head like this.
I went straight into closed guard and finished the round there working for collar choke/omoplata.
I finally got a round with someone my size, a four stripe purple in his forties.
I had an athletic advantage and used it to try to rest a little. I finished one choke from the back, but stalled a fair amount too.
I got up and got a drink from the fountain and missed getting a partner for #5. I went over to the wall to rest and got to talk with Marcelo. He told me about his history with Nova Uniao and training with Shaolin, Gustavo Dantas, Robson Moura, Leandro Nyza, and Tagarela. He also discussed the history of BJJ in south Florida, which was very interesting and included several names I recognized.
I didn’t grill him or anything- I asked maybe one or two questions and he just went off; it was great.
I rotated myself back in and went with a smaller blue belt. He had the same ferocity as his teammates, used a different set of moves. He went for a berimbolo first, which I narrowly escaped. I baited him for another one and when he went, pulled his leg over my head and took his back. As he scraped me off, I transitioned into a traingle. I should have finished the submission, but the guy just outworked me and ended up escaping. I got mad at myself and began to play lazily, giving him an easy duck under and back take. I continued to sulk instead of escape and ended up conceding a bow and arrow choke.
I can’t say the blue belt wasn’t talented, but I beat myself that round and it pissed me off.
I finished with a different blue and an older purple belt and handled him them easily, but with no joy.
It was a tough night. Everyone seemed much stronger than me, or rather I felt weak. It may have been due in part to their style of grappling, but it felt like something else too. Maybe I hadn’t been taking care of myself.
Ultimately, there have to be off days and I have to take them in stride.
I got back on the road after a shower and made it up to Tampa.
I went to a gym to train, but observed only a couple people on the mats and decided to avoid a potential mat fee and try again in the morning.
I got a needed oil change and tire rotation instead. Gotta keep the van happy.