3 academies in 24 hours, plus a little culture
Continued thanks to everyone who is reading my blog, including but not limited to Aunt Harriet, Jennifer*, Todd, Tracy (who liked what I wrote about him, fortunately :), Colette, Noah, Melissa, and Fat Tony, who is providing much-appreciated and very Fat Tony-like running commentary. I aim to please, so I hope you are enjoying reading as much as I am enjoying writing. Now if I could just figure out how to make a living writing about myself! Well, stranger things have happened.
I am running on very little sleep. I got about 3 hours Sun night; couldn’t get to sleep and then when I tried I couldn’t stay there and woke up about 5. I guess I do that every now and then. Not sure why. Last night was better, but I still tossed and turned a little and woke up well before my 8am alarm. I’m thinking I got maybe 5 hours. Tonight is anybody’s guess; I’d like to be up around 8 to run some errands before I leave Denver for Salt Lake City, and I have some writing to do before I go to sleep.
It’s official: I must wear a BJJ shirt everywhere I go from now on. I have the most random encounters that way. Yesterday I was wearing a Carlson Gracie t-shirt (navy, but similar to the one in the pictures from my birthday). When I stopped in at Mailboxes, Etc., to buy stamps for postcards that may be headed your way even as we speak, a guy there asked me, “So how many people know who Carlson Gracie is when you wear that shirt?” The lady behind the counter said, “I guess you do, huh?”
Guy: You bet I do.
Lady: Who is he?
Me: He was my Brazilian jiu jitsu teacher.
Lady: I have no idea what that means.
Me: It’s a martial art. He has passed away, but he was one of the people I learned it from.
Guy: Did you train with that guy, what’s his name?
Me: Stephan Bonnar? (He’s a Carlson student who was on the UFC reality show.) I know him, but don’t train with him b/c he’s too big.
Guy: That dude’s a bad ass.
Me: He’s a good guy.
Guy: I really want to train but I have 3 kids and travel for my job.
Me: Well, maybe when they get a little older.
You get the picture. It’s a nice little connection.
Yesterday I futzed around some more and then went to Boulder because I love it there. I came to Boulder on a whim last summer; for some reason, I woke up one day and decided I needed to visit. I was convinced I was moving there and everything. It’s a great little city with lots of BJJ, and the weather and outdoor options leave Chicago looking like some kind of Siberian gulag. It may be obvious that I didn’t move there, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for the place. I had decided to go to the Dushanbe Tea House, which is a beautiful building in Boulder that came to it from its sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in 200 crates. Lacey said it sat in the crates for some time because the city didn’t want to shell out to put it together. I’m glad they did, though, because it’s beautiful, with all kinds of ornate tilework and carvings, and was a nice place for me to write some postcards and plan the next legs of my trip, including the Alaska legs! (Debbie, you can go to the ends of the earth, but I'm still expecting to sleep on your couch.) Here are pictures of the building itself and some of the ceiling.
Pretty, eh? Boulder is northwest of Littleton, so I took state highway 36 to get there, rocking out to Let’s Go by the Cars on the way. That song made me so happy it gave me the chills. Okay, I may not be seventeen, but I won’t give up. (Confidential to my sister: I also heard Cruel to Be Kind by Nick Lowe, and anything by NL reminds me of you. :)
Upon arrival in Boulder, I passed by a huge banner near the university (UC Boulder) of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, which Boulder sponsors every summer. I had wanted to take a picture of the banner or find a flyer for my sister and brother-in-law, because they would have loved it. They are both English professors and Chris especially is fond of the Bard. But it was a busy street and there was no place to stop, so I’ll try to find a picture online.
Fortunately, they get to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, in a couple weeks for the Shaw Festival, a theater festival celebrating the works of G. B. Shaw and his contemporaries. For the past two years, my parents and I have tagged along, but this year none of us can go, me because I’m itinerant and them because my mother’s going to have her radiation treatment (5 days a week for 5-6 weeks). It’s a shame, because we usually have a lot of fun: seeing plays, drinking wine, going to high tea at The Prince of Wales hotel. Even if you don’t like tea, try high tea some time. Yes, it’s dignified, but it’s not snooty; plus, you can get champagne, and the little finger sandwiches and scones are really tasty. Last year we had an awesome waitress named Octavia, who brought out a little tea service for my then one-year-old niece. She didn’t know to appreciate it, but we did. They also have high tea at Dushanbe, but I didn't get that. But it's a nice thing to keep in mind for the next time my family gets together.
Later in the day I washed my car. It’s the only home I have, so I want to keep it tidy. Plus, I’m convinced that cars have feelings. One time I was driving a friend around in the last car I had, and mentioned that I was thinking of getting a new car. Three days later, my car broke down. And the Triple-A guy who came to pick me up and tow it said that he had about 20 years of experience working around cars, and he believes too that cars have feelings. So if you’re going to get a new car, don’t talk about it in front of your old one.
I still think about what to name my car. It’s this burnished tan color, so I was thinking if it were a stick shift, I could call it the Gold Standard. Clever, eh? Maybe I still will call it that. Or Goldie Hawn? Brass Monkey? Well, I’ll figure something out. And in the meantime, it’s all clean, at least till I get on the road again.
I spoke to Danni too; she and her husband and son are expecting me on Sat. My change of plan is okay by them. They live in Hailey, ID, and I’m looking forward to seeing them! I probably haven’t in about 10 years. Danni is from New York, and John is from northern California. And they love Idaho.
Then, starting last evening, my life has been a jiu jitsu whirlwind: I attended class at 3 academies in 24 hours. It’s been absolutely terrific. First, I went to Amal Easton’s academy in Denver. Amal is a black belt under Renzo Gracie, and his Denver academy is relatively new; the flagship academy is in Boulder. I went to the Boulder academy last year when I decided to try Colorado on for size, but didn’t get an opportunity to meet Amal or his student instructor, brown belt Eliot Marshal. Fortunately for me, they were both there last night! As I mentioned, I have been noticing HOW instructors teach, not just WHAT they teach, because I feel learning how to teach is the next step in my own BJJ education.
Eliot taught both of the classes I took—beginner and purple belt—and his style is very methodical and step-by-step. It was helpful to have techniques broken down and to work the steps in unison with Eliot before we went on our own. I had two great rolls during the randori part of the class. Randori loosely translates as “anything goes,” and corresponds to the sparring, when you work with a partner to implement the moves you have learned in the class, among others.
First was with a brown belt named Sus, and he was compact and sturdy, but he let me move. We sparred for about a half hour, and he said I spar “beautifully.” Then I went with Eliot, who is as smooth as water. He is competing in the Mundial in a couple weeks, which as I have mentioned is a world jiu jitsu competition in Rio. Eliot has won at the Pan Ams at every belt level and is ready to take on the world. Good luck, Eliot!
Here are two pictures of me with Eliot Marshal on the left and Amal Easton on the right. I had a great time at their academy. Thank you for the hospitality, Amal and Eliot!
This morning, I went to Mauricio Zingano’s school in Broomfield, CO. Mauricio’s black belt is under Caique, and he is also a good friend of David Ruiz’s; the students at David’s school recommended him highly, so I decided to go learn from him! And learn I did: As usual, I sat in on both a basics and an advanced class, and came away with my head spinning from both classes. Even though I am technically an advanced student, I always try to attend basics classes whenever possible, both because I want to spend as much time learning from an instructor as I can, and also because no matter how well I think I know a technique, I always learn something new every time I go over it again.
In fact, the basics classes are more humbling than the advanced ones because they cover things I supposedly know. But the only thing I know is how little I know. I think that’s one of the things advancing through the belt system gives you: perspective on how complex BJJ is and how there is always more to learn. Amal even said he goes to basics classes.
Mauricio’s advanced class was great too; there were some really friendly guys in it, and he showed a nice sweep and a funky set-up for a triangle choke. I also got to spar with him, which was so fun! Those of you who do train know how great it is to get thoroughly manhandled by an expert BJJ player. Those of you who don’t train: just imagine being humbled and exhilarated at the same time, while being rolled around on the ground, not of your own volition, and that approaches it.
I attempted what’s called a figure-4 foot lock or a toehold on Mauricio. I didn’t get it, of course, and then about 5 seconds later, Mauricio slapped it on me instead. He did get it, of course. And I tapped like the little drummer boy, smiling the whole time. I got to chat with Mauricio too, and he is a laid back, friendly person. As I was leaving, he gave me one of his academy t-shirts, and you can bet I’ll wear the thing out. Thanks to Mauricio for a great class!
Here are two pictures of me with Mauricio.
Tonight I went back to David Ruiz’s academy and finally got to meet him. What a terrific guy. He has such a calm air about him, and as I told him, his academy and his students are incredibly welcoming. He had been out of town at a seminar run by Rigan Machado, and he came back with lots of great ideas. During one of our chats, I also found out that his training partner at the seminar was none other than Ryan Fiorenzi, a black belt under Rigan and also one of my very first BJJ instructors, in Michigan. I have lost touch with Ryan, so I asked Dave to give him my very best.
Plus, the technique sequence he showed was exactly what I need to work on: maintaining an open guard. And the way he broke things down was very useful; I may have intuitively thought about some of the things he mentioned, but having him describe them overtly was very handy. After the technique sequence, we did a drill to practice what we had learned, and that was a ball too. I also got to spar with David a little, but then we ended up having another great conversation. And talking with David is the only thing that would make me willingly give up the opportunity to spar with David!
Here are some pics of us:
I have a couple pictures with some of his students, namely Robert and Zack, that I will also post when I'm less sleepy (it's almost 2am). I can’t say enough nice things about David or his academy. I can’t say enough nice things about BJJ in Colorado. I’m excited to get on the road again, but I’m going to be very sorry to leave. My stay here has been terrific, and there’s no doubt that my BJJ game has benefited greatly!