More on life at the academy
I have a new roommate! Well, I guess I should say that I am a new roommate to the other guy who lives at New Breed but was out of town when I got here. So now it’s me, Sean, and Johnny Ramirez, a black belt under Rodrigo Medeiros who teaches with John now. He was actually at the New Breed academy in Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago, training with the guys there and doing a belt promotion ceremony. I know some of those guys, both because I have visited the academy and because some of them come to Carlson’s regularly.
I had my doubts about whether Johnny actually existed, because back in the spring when I was still living in Chicago, he was supposed to come and do a seminar, but had to cancel. Then back in the winter, I found out yesterday, he was in town for the one day of a visit by Fredson Paixao (an AMAZING black belt who specializes in wristlocks) that I couldn’t make it for. And finally, when I arrived here at New Breed a couple weeks ago (God, it’s already been a couple weeks!), he was in Chicago. Yesterday I met someone who claims to be Johnny Ramirez, but I haven’t seen any ID, so the jury is still out. Anyway, regardless of who this guy is, claiming to be Johnny Ramirez, the living situation is now kind of like a modified Three’s Company, only there are two guys and one girl, lots more tattoos, and two landlords, one who lives in the academy and one who is not Mr. Furley but rather a hyperactive Filipino surfer dude.
Yesterday I got invited to train with Cindy Omatsu, the first American female black belt, at R1, an academy in El Segundo run by Frank Trigg, a UFC veteran and Ricco Chiaparelli, a top-notch wrestler. I caught a glimpse of Ricco; Frank wasn’t there. I only got to spar with Cindy for a few minutes, but it was fun. I’m realizing that my style is a lot like hers; I move methodically and use my weight to secure position so opponents can’t move easily. The technical term is “smushing.”
Other people move quickly and continuously, using that constant movement to keep their opponents off guard. I would like to incorporate more of that strategy into my game, but it is taking some time. Part of it stems from my training in the Carlson Sr. camp; Carlson was all about what is known as “ground and pound,” where you get the person on the ground and keep them there while you look for a finishing hold or punch the bejabers out of them if it’s an NHB event.
The other part is that I’ve never been particularly acrobatic, and when I get a position I like to sit there for a minute 1) enjoying the fact that I have established the position and 2) figuring out what to do next. BJJ is about combinations of moves, though, so it’s also good to be thinking about what you’ll be doing next before you actually do it. Kind of like chess, only not really.
Anyway, Johnny and I drove to R1 together, so I got to train with him too. He is really really good, and plays with your mind by laughing and laughing the entire time he’s sparring with you. Actually, I think he laughs mostly because he loves BJJ, but if I didn’t love it so much too, and if he weren’t so nice, I could see how it could take its toll. He also will say, “Okay, now I’m going to take your back” or “Okay, now, I’m going to triangle you, and I’m going to put my right leg across your neck” about a second before he does it. Then when he catches you in the move, which he invariably does (at least with me), he says, “Didn’t you get the memo?” I “complained” about his antics to John, who laughed and said, “Where do you think he got that from?” I’m doomed.
After we trained, we sat around shooting the breeze, so before you knew it, it was 4pm and time to get back to New Breed for more training. John taught some takedowns and some ground techniques in his class, and then Sheldon, a former Olympic qualifier wrestler, taught some takedowns. As I’ve been saying, I need a crapload of help with my takedowns, and fortunately for me, both John and Sheldon are building on the same techniques, so I’m getting some much-needed reps in. Never enough, of course, but more than zero. So that’s good.
After class, Johnny, Eben (another black belt who teaches at New Breed and focuses on MMA) and I went for “dinner,” which is in quotes because it was about midnight. That’s one thing about living in the gym: my schedule is skewed late. That’s fine with me, as long as I get about 7 or 8 hours of sleep, but it’s just funny to be training till 10 or 11, eating dinner at midnight and winding down for the day at 1am.
I woke up today feeling pretty tired and decided not to do John's morning class in favor of sitting on my butt and getting some stuff done. Here's a cool example of the randomness of BJJ and how it can connect you to neat things: John introduced me to Mike, who was there for the morning class and is a police officer in East LA. One thing led to another and it turns out that Mike does ride-alongs for civilians (like me). So I may get to do a ride-along with Mike's colleague on Sunday. He said he hoped it would be interesting and that maybe there'd be a murder or something to see. Now I'm sure there are other ways I could have orchestrated such a thing, but only in BJJ would this kind of thing fall into my lap. I love the randomness of it as much as I love the fact that I might be able to do a ride-along!
I went with John and two students from the morning class named Joey and Brian for Thai food and am leaving in a little bit to train with Rey Diogo, who I mentioned in an earlier post is a Carlson, Sr. black belt. He used to live in Chicago, actually, and moved out here to LA about 8 years ago. Then tomorrow it’s more training at R1 and maybe training somewhere else in the evening. So far I have just been kind of going where the wind takes me re: training, and it’s working out really well that way. But there are other places I’d like to check out while I’m here, so I’ve decided to get a little bit strategic.
I will also take some pics of the academy/my current home so you can see and I can remember what it’s like to live like a mat rat! Gonna take some pics at Rey’s tonight too, so I’ll post all of them tonight or tomorrow.