I'd been wanting to train with Professor Pedro Sauer for a long time and this opportunity came out of the blue - Steve H at our club had read about it and set it all up... It had been arranged by Laurence Sandum, a JKD (amongst many other arts) instructor based in Chelmsford who, through his connections with Dan Inosanto (who holds a Black Belt in BJJ from (I think!) the Machados and has worked extensively with Prof. Sauer) has hooked up with Prof Sauer's Jiu Jitsu Association.
Prof. Sauer is an 8th Degree Red/Black Belt under Rickson Gracie and the late Grandmaster Helio Gracie and was one of the few that accompanied the Gracies in their move to the US. His reputation as a technical instructor is well known and his deep connections to Rickson have always made him someone that I'd sought to train with.
A few words about the seminar organisation...This seminar was advertised on Prof. Sauer's website, so anyone interested in training with Prof. Sauer could have seen it. It wasn't widely advertised on the usual sites, mainly as the guys organising it were new to the UK BJJ "scene". After the event there were a few people whining on about how it wasn't publicised and then questioning why Laurence was aligning to Prof Sauer when there were already many UK based Black Belts around and then the inevitable "BJJ Police" started sniffing around too.
Let me say, I'm 100% behind the need to establish lineage. Laurence (and Paul Finn) have aligned themselves to Prof. Sauer as they too highly value lineage (this is hugely important to them in their JKD and the other arts they teach). Based on a recommendation from Dan Inosanto (and who would argue with his martial arts opinion?!) they sought out Prof. Sauer. In my humble opinion, short of Rickson Gracie himself, you will find no purer Jiu Jitsu lineage on this planet. Many will disagree because of their own lineage and loyalties (and I get that), but in my view, if you have the opportunity to learn from the source, then that's what you do.
And as for why these guys do not align with other UK Black Belts - why should they?! And why is what they're doing so very different from what many of today's UK Black and Brown belts did when they first pioneered Jiu Jitsu in the UK? There's no conspiracy here, nothing to hide, noone assuming unearned rank, so for doubters, your time would better served developing your own Jiu Jitsu. Peace.
Anyway, to the seminar itself. The sunday I went to was actually the second of two days (I now really wish I'd done both days!). There were around 20 odd people there - mostly white belts from Laurence and Paul's schools and a few other belts from a mix of academies. Professor Sauer had travelled with a few others from his association, including Allan Manganello, and Allen Hopkins (and his student Waylon - now a Brown Belt), both Black Belts under him. It was great to meet all of them - every single one of them treated us like long lost friends.
The seminar opened with a warm up led by Allen - all movements that were relevant to Jiu Jitsu...a great preparation and great just as drills by themselves. The seminar ran like an open workshop, with Prof. Sauer inviting questions from anyone on anything and then offering up solutions.
I got in early with a question on holding mount. Having asked the same question of Romolo, I was interested to see if there was a different view or other details. The Professor's instruction followed a now familiar format. He asked me to come out and asked me to escape his mount, whilst showing (and allowing me to feel) how he defended my attempts at escape. It was simply impossible. Every time I moved, he made minor adjustments with his hips. Every time I tried to frame against him, he disappeared. It was like fighting vapour. There's no substitute for feeling that Jiu Jitsu. I understood. That's different from me saying I can now do it, but I know what I'm shooting for. It's beyond technique..it's a feeling.
The same process was repeated across a range of other questions. But, more than techniques, three things stuck with me - over-riding principles and philosophy of Prof. Sauer's Jiu Jitsu: 1) Yield to win (don't fight - "flow with the go", as Rickson would say); 2) Control the Skeleton - this way of thinking about how to control an opponent opens up all sorts of possibilities and connections; and 3) White Belt mind - always try to find the simplicity in everything and never stop learning.
It was a great seminar and I met a lot of cool new people. The Jiu Jitsu was sublime, but more than that, I was left with the impression of what a genuinely nice person Prof. Sauer is. So generous with his time, his knowledge and he just has an aura of assurance, happiness and calm - the behaviour of a man who is at one with the world and has nothing to prove to anyone. Just great.