Monday, 8 September 2008

The heat is on!

I’ve been back from San Francisco just over a week now, so time to catch up before time and detail runs away…

After an 11 hour flight (United airlines – dreadful) we landed in San Francisco to temperatures in the mid to late 30s. After a short drive we got to our hotel in Walnut Creek. I love hotels – you can make a mess and every day the hotel fairies just come along and tidy up after you. I got straight to work on satisfying my passion for Root Beer and later found the hotel pool (a welcome relief as you’ll see) and Gym which was well equipped and usually empty.

We were in town for a week for a wedding – My Brother in law Jack was marrying Jen – a lovely girl from Walnut Creek. How Jack met Jen is a long and complicated story that I won’t tell here…

All week we were very fortunate to have Gene and Michelle – Jen’s parents, pretty much at our disposal as chauffeurs for the week – an unexpected but absolutely amazing bonus. With two three year olds in tow, I’m really not sure how we’d have managed without their help. The Bay Area’s transport is very good – cheap, efficient, regular and well connected, but getting around local areas, like Walnut Creek, is just so hard – streets are not pedestrian friendly at all – the car rules out there, and, on reflection, that was probably a good thing. By the end of the week, temperatures inland (where we were) had hit highs of 46°c so any opportunity of being air conditioned was gratefully received.

Looking at the schedules (visits to San Fran, family get-togethers etc), Tuesday was going to be my best bet to get to Eduardo Rocha’s place in Oakland to train. I had planned to simply go there by BART, but Jen and her parents looked horrified at this prospect and said they’d drive me. By all accounts, Oakland is not the sort of place you want to go on your own and start taking wrong-turns. I gratefully bowed to their greater local knowledge and accepted a lift.

So, I headed out for an “all levels” session, Tuesday morning 1000-1200, ready with Gi in hand and a huge bottle of Gatorade (why can’t you get the range in the UK [weeps]?) A few people were just turning up as I arrived and I introduced myself (rather obvious from my accent) as being the guy from England. The gym itself is a small space in what seemed to be like an office block, but it was clean, well equipped and airy. The guy taking the class that day was a purple belt called Jeremy Adkins – a really nice guy that kind of reminded me of BJJ’s answer to Henry Rollins – only with more tattoos…the most striking being one that completely covered his head. I believe Jeremy won gold in the open division at the recent Mundials and Pan Ams. We were joined by another Purple Belt called Butch (like he said I really was in the US now I’d met someone called Butch) a couple of Blue belts, a Couple of White belts and a lady Brown Belt who I think ran her own school somewhere.

So, after a reasonable warm-up, we got on with the lesson. Jeremy ran through the techniques in a clear, logical fashion, highlighting all the important details – his style suited my way of learning really well and I found the translation to practice pretty smooth. I trained with a huge guy called Scott – a white belt, at least 6’ 5” and the build to go with it. It’s always good to train new stuff with someone your own size (ish!). We worked on various moves from Butterfly Guard – here’s a quick summary of what I remembered:

Sweep 1 - I've done this one a few times before... Sit up to your opponent, scoot in close and slightly side on. Grab his belt behind him, scoop the opposite arm. Staying connected, fall to the side then kick your upper leg to sweep the opponent and take either cross side or mount.

Sweep 2 - Can be used if opponent pins your ankles. Simultaneously sit up and grab diagonally to back of tricep, posting out same side leg and post remaining hand out to side. Shift butt out to where hand was posted, simultaneously pulling the arm that you have hold off - this pulls the opponent forward onto all fours (this is a dynamic movement). Position hips up to opponent's, take an over and under grip, connect to your opponent and fall to pull opponent to his back then place in the second leg hook.

Pass 1 - In the butterfly guard, slide arm to hip (elbow by hip) and place head on opposite side under ribs. Place other hand on knee. Sprawl, flattening leg that hand is on, keeping that hand in position to prevent opponent from taking guard. Work way up to cross-side.

Pass 2 - Start as pass 1. Bring other hand (the one that would have been on the knee in Pass 1) under the leg to grab his belt. Bring other hand round to grab the ankle of his trousers. Bring weight up onto shoulder and walk around the legs, extending the leg you have hold of and take cross-side.

(Somewhere in Pass 2 (I think) I've missed a detail which involves switching a grip on the pants but need to run through it again to try and figure out where this is and how it works.)

After drilling these techniques it was time for positional training and here we mixed up training partners a bit. I found passing OK, but struggled on the bottom – everyone was very quick and precise. I was most impressed with a small blue belt – his sensitivity and timing were perfect and I struggled to do anything against him. Also, as if proof were needed that BJJ is effective for the smaller person against a larger opponent I got nicely tapped to a choke by the Brown Belt.

Then it was on to free sparring and this was solely with Scott. Scott was a strong guy and we ended up 2-2 from our practice and I was pretty pleased with how I fared as I tried to use the type of stuff we’ve been doing at home over recent weeks and was pleased with how it worked with such a big guy.

As we were practicing, Eduardo arrived so as we finished I had a chat with him – a really nice guy who genuinely opened his door to me anytime I wanted to train. My only regret is that my schedule didn’t allow any more than that one session, but I shall definitely be visiting Eduardo’s next time I’m over there. His accomplishments speak for themselves and his mettle is shown through the quality of his students – very technical and all great people. There are plenty of schools in the Bay area and some of them more well known, but I’m glad I went to Eduardo’s – I’ve no doubt it was the best choice. If you’re over that way look him up.

After downing as much Gatorade as my body could take, and whilst waiting for my lift, I was chatting to Scott and what was great, as with everywhere else that I’ve trained, was that we were both able to shoot the breeze about Jiu Jitsu, our hopes, ambitions, favourite moves, our philosophy on training and it’s always remarkable just how, even with so many thousands of miles between people, there is a commonality in Jiu Jitsu.

A big thanks to Eduardo, Jeremy, Scott and the rest of the guys for making me so welcome and allowing me another great Jiu Jitsu experience.

The week was amazingly hot but passed by so quickly. We visited Pier 39 which was fun and allowed us to catch many of the trademarks of San Francisco including an entertaining ride on the Cable Cars. Later in the week we also went to the Golden Gate Park – the Japanese Tea Gardens there were fantastic and a great backdrop to our trip as the photo below shows, although parts of the park were pretty run down and inhabited by drop outs and people who don’t seem to know that the 60’s are over. It’s also a pretty spread out city so getting used to the transport options is a good idea, but with kids it’s hard to fit a lot in to a day. Walnut Creek was fun – a charming little place if only it hadn’t been too hot to step outside of anywhere – one to investigate properly another time.

One major frustration on the trip was trying to get a drink on Jack’s Batchelor evening. Last orders in one very nice bar were 10pm, so, on to other late night bars only to not be let in…even with passports! They were really strict on ID – as if I look under 21!!! It was like the 1920s trying to get served alcohol in that place… or maybe a bunch of Brits just scared them… I don’t know. A passport gets you into their country but can’t buy you a drink. Marvellous.

Anyway, it was a great week – the wedding was perfect and I was so proud of my kids who were Flower Girl and Ring Bearer. A big thanks to Gene and Michelle – I’m pretty certain the week would have been a blur of sweat and tears if it wasn’t for them. Good times.

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