Monday, 19 November 2012

Whale meet again....(groan)

Pedro Sauer/Andre Galvao Training Camp, Reykjavik, 29 Jun - 1 Jul 2012

After the experience with the Professor in Essex, I was clear that I needed to train with him again.  Having checked his website, I noted that he was running a training Camp in Reykjavik in Iceland, with Andre Galvao as a guest instructor.  Through the usual mix of google and Facebook, I hooked up with Johann Eyvindsson - the instructor at Gracie Jiu Jitsu Skollin, a purple belt under Allan Manganello.  The chance to train with Professor Sauer - Tick.  The chance to train with Andre Galvao - Tick.  The chance to visit Iceland and experience the land of fire, ice and midnight sun - tick! It would have been dumb not to!

My accomplice on this trip was Steve H so we set off from Gatwick Thursday morning and after about a three hour flight, landed safely at Keflavik Airport.  A short hop to our Hotel and then straight out again to go Whale Watching in the midnight sun (we were really lucky with the weather whilst there - glorious sun the whole time).  Simply, this was an amazing experience.  After a couple of hours of seeing very little, we were suddenly entertained by a humpback whale pulling out all the tricks in its bag and with the backdrop of the barely setting sun, it was something I'll never forget.


The next morning, it was up bright and early to join a "Golden Circle" tour- the Golden Circle is a route that takes you round Iceland's main natural sites/sights - Gullfoss (the Golden Falls), Geysir, and ├×ingvellir National Park - site of the tectonic rift between the American and Eurasian plates and also site of the Viking Parliament.  It was a great trip and the sights well worth seeing.  A small oddity of the trip was a stop at a horse riding school and a tomato farm.  Tomatoes.  TOMATOES!!!????!!!!

The coach trip got back late so we then had a frantic dash to the Venue for the seminars.  On arrival, we went in and joined the first session 1800-2100 led by Allan Manganello. It was great to see him again and we went through some nice stuff.  Also accompanying the Professor was Mike Horihan , another of his Black Belts.  We also did a little bit of rolling at the end and my first training Partner was Halldor - a very capable blue belt, probably not far from his purple.  It was really nice to roll with a guy who wanted to flow and explore movement. The time went quickly and then it was back to our hotel for an early night ahead of a whole day of training on Saturday.

Saturday, and on the way to the venue we were picked up by Halldor who we'd met the day before and then into the first of the day's sessions.  The morning was led by Andre Galvao.  For the uninitiated, read about Andre's career here. He ran us through a really neat set up to a control and Kimura from cross-side. 

One of the things that struck me during this seminar was the Professor's involvement.  Quite often, I've seen Black Belts standing by watching the seminar host, nodding sagely as if they know the stuff already.  Not even a hint of this with Professor.  From the second that Andre was teaching, Prof. Sauer was one of us, right there at the front, learning new details.  After over 40 years of training with, and teaching, the best, he's still learning - a great example of humility to everyone.

Andre's instruction was clear and detailed.  His Jiu Jitsu was smooth,
strong and simple.  Yes, there are many clips of his aggressive and
acrobatic Jiu Jitsu, but from my observations, this is the icing on his
cake of some incredibly effective fundamentals.

At the break, were the inevitable round of photo opportunities with the Champ. During this, his personality "off" the mat shone through - a hugely friendly guy for whom nothing was too much trouble.  No ego and a genuine delight in meeting people.  He sometimes gets a bad rap because of his behaviour in tournaments, but I can only imagine that this is because he is a hugely competitive person with incredibly high expectations for himself.  As an everyday guy, he is generous, open and a fun person to be around.

Steve and I were lucky enough to be invited to a private lunch with the Professor, Andre and a few others.  One of the guys, Finni (a huge Viking of a guy) owns a few restaurants in Reykjavik so we were treated to a huge lunch of sausages, eggs, bacon, pancakes followed by heartfelt appeals to the professor not to cover any knee-on-belly in the afternoon!!!  Great food and great company!

The afternoon was the Professor's turn to teach, and, as in the UK, he invited questions on any and all aspects of Jiu JItsu.  We covered.....  We were also treated to a short break when the Professor retold tales of his training with Helio Gracie and his philosophy on Jiu Jitsu.  I love this stuff and could listen all day.  To me, the philosophy of Jiu Jitsu is as important as the techniques - it reveals the soul of the person and sets the context for our practice.  It's captivating.

That evening, we were treated to another fine meal at another of Finni's restaurants - meat soup followed by Lobster Salad.  The food was amazing. I'm not a big fan of shellfish so was a bit apprehensive, but also very hungry.  Simply, it was one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten.

Sunday morning - a thankfully slightly later start and the final of our sessions with the Professor.  During this session we mainly recapped all that we had learned previously which was a hugely beneficial use of time and before we knew it, it was time to go.  I was genuinely sad to be leaving.  I'd had an amazing time in Iceland, met some great people and had learnt some great stuff.
Steve, Pedro, Me
To make some summary thoughts about this special trip, I'd have to also mention Allan and Mike.  Having met Allan before, it was great to see him and spend time with him again.  It was also great to meet Mike and both Mike and Allan were great to have around to help us whilst drilling. 
I also have to mention Icelandic hospitality.  Everywhere we went, people were laid back and friendly and couldn't do enough to help us.  Johann looked after us, making sure we always had lifts, which was a great way to meet his guys and find out more about Icelandic life, politics and culture.

One of the conversations that has stuck with me concerned the Icelandic view of wealth and that it's not something particularly aspired to - everyone seems to have enough and not to particularly want for more - a very healthy mind set if they can keep hold of it.  Another was in relation to crime in Iceland, which seems very low.  Apparently there was a recent story on the local news about a car being broken into and a phone charger being stolen...can you imagine that being news in the UK!!!??  Oh, and one other thing which I thought was funny - our "Chavs" are internationally renowned!  One of our drivers was telling us about how they're reviled as much in Iceland as they are by us!!!  Anyone with any illusions of the grandeur of our former Empire should be aware  - it seems we are internationally known for two things...our comedy and our chavs!  LOL.

We really did not have enough time in Reykjavik.  We only saw a small part of the city and it looks like a great little place.  An old fishing town with great little restaurants and shops - the sort of place I can imagine just mooching around.  I also really wanted to visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal Spa, but we simply ran out of time.

Great people, great place - I really want to go back.  The midnight sun was a strange experience, but I think next time, I'd like to go back and try and see the Northern Lights and, of course, train again with my new friends!


Anonymous said...

Fantastic to see you are back. I started reading your blog shortly after you stopped updating it. Nice to read about someone who has the same battles to fit jiu jitsu into their life! Make sure you keep updating.

It is intriguing to see someone in the Uk training under Ricksons lineage. I'd really like to stop by your place one day to train but I never been able to find any details. It doesn't seem to be a place very interested in "self promotion". Any chance you could help me out?

Al said...

Thanks for posting and you're right, we don't really self promote...those that really want train with us tend to find their own way ;)

You can always contact us at


Anonymous said...

I e-mailed that address a couple of years back but had no joy. I don't give up easy though. I'll see you on the mats there one day!!