Thursday, January 7, 2010

Leaving for Rio

I left Edmonton for Rio on what I was told later is the 2nd busiest travel day of the year in the U.S.: Thanksgiving eve. My connection took me through Minneapolis and Atlanta, which were absolutely packed.

After 15 hours of travel I arrived in Rio. The warm air greeted me when I stepped off the plane. Note there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground when I left Edmonton, so the warmth was very much appreciated. Customs was very smooth, but I was more than a little disappointed when the agent informed me they no longer require proof of Yellow Fever vaccination to enter the country - at least for Rio.

I made arrangements to stay at a place in Barra before leaving with a wonderful individual and fantastic BJJ player. Dennis Asche is a blackbelt under Gordo and runs Connection Rio. Dennis arranged for one of the senior blackbelts to pick me up at the airport. The Connection Rio headquarters is located in the older part of Barra and is exceptional. It's located in a safe neighbourhood, it's close to shopping, restaurants and, most important, training! Dennis made things easy for me to stay and train. If you're heading to Rio make certain you check out Connection Rio.

Here are some of the photos from the house.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Misty - Blackbelt

I hinted in my previous post about my greatest friend Misty Shearer (my BFF as our partners joke!) being awarded her blackbelt on December 5th. I can think of no more deserving individual. She has given a tremendous amount of her time, her energy and herself to the sport and those that she teaches.

I, for one, doubt very much that I would be where I am in BJJ (purple belt, doing a study on the topic & etc.) without her help and encouragement. In fact, she taught the very first class I ever took and it is her enthusiasm and passion that has helped to fuel my BJJ fire.

Not only is Misty an amazing coach, but is infinitely knowledgeable about the sport. Ask her about any Pan Am or Mundial match from the last couple of decades and she'll tell you who won and how. She has also watched and studied almost every BJJ DVD ever produced. If you're having a problem with your guard passing game, she can point you to a vidoe or a clip that will almost certainly clean up your problem.

She is immensely talented. The week following her promotion she traveled to Vegas to compete at Grapplers' Quest. She won both the gi and no gi divisions. Impressive, no doubt!

Congratulations, Misty. Well earned!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of you! I have a lot on which to post. I returned from Rio on December 4th. That was an unbelievable trip and I look forward to telling you all about it. The next day, my best friend and training partner, Misty Shearer, was awarded her blackbelt - awesome. We are developing and coaching the UofA sub grappling team.

There is much going on in my BJJ life right now. On the study front, I have a paper that is coming out in the next issue of BJJ Legends, a paper I'm presenting at an international conference in March and a paper on physiology and BJJ in an academic journal due later in 2010.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Off to Rio

It's been my dream since I started BJJ to travel to Rio. Wednesday I'll be leaving the snow and ice of Edmonton and heading south!

I was invited to give the keynote address at conference on violent youth being held at the Institute of Criminologie in Rio. I'll be speaking about the process through which young peoples lives become fully saturated by violence. Faculty members at the Institute have been fabulous. They have translated my paper into Portuguese and been unbelievably welcoming. I'm a little nervous about the whole thing, but I'm hopeful that the paper will be well received.

I'm also anxious about traveling to the home of BJJ. How will my skills measure up - if at all?

Despite the anxiousness I am super excited. I feel so very fortunate to have this experience and intend to make the most of the opportunity.

If you have any suggestions, please feel free to pass them along.


Monday, August 24, 2009

An Update...

I promised an update on my efforts to get martial arts generally and BJJ specifically recognized as a legitimate university field of study. For those new to this blog, I can tell you that this is an important goal of mine that I am pursuing in two interrelated ways:

First, this summer I approached Campus Rec about the possibility of having a BJJ club on campus. Given that BJJ is relatively new to the U. and there are no "official" classes being held on campus, they balked. I put "official" in quotations because I have been told, but have never seen them, that there is an unconfirmed group who have been practicing BJJ for a few years on campus. From what I have been told, they have been using the institution's mat space for some time - to the dismay of U. officials. Whatever the case, although campus rec balked at a BJJ club, they were willing to sanction BJJ classes. Small victories, eh?

Starting this Fall (September 12th, I think), I will be teaching BJJ classes on Monday's (4:30 to 6) and Friday's (3:30 to 5). Although the times are not ideal, I'm really looking forward to the opportunity. Originally, one of my main concerns was to ensure that classes were affordable. Successfully getting BJJ on the map at the University but making it inaccessible because of cost would be of little consequence. Truthfully, I wish I could offer classes for free. That being said, campus rec has honoured my request and is charging a reasonable amount for classes. It works out to about $140 for 4 months of classes 2 times per week.

Now, all I have to do is plan the classes. Elyse Goldberg over at Gringabjj is contemplating similar issues. Any advice as to how to structure classes would be appreciated.

I'll discuss the "other" strategy and my progress (or lack thereof) in my next post.


Friday, August 21, 2009

That Guy!

I knew he was out there, but I had not yet had the pleasure of his company. Oh, I had read about him on Sherdog and the UG, but I had never shared mat space with a “that guy” of his caliber. Sure, I had experienced the joys of a spazzy white belt and the splendor of the tapout tough guy. In my experience these characters often settle down shortly after being grabbed and quickly submitted by one of the senior belts. Nothing prepared me for the “my style is superior to your style and I’m going to prove it” (MSISTYSAIGTPI) guy.

This “guy” is incorrigible and will resort to whatever weapon in his arsenal he thinks may gain him an advantage. Better yet, he (in my experience it is most often a male) will bitch and moan about how his most efficient weapons are nullified by the customs and courtesies of BJJ. More to the point, if we were fighting under his rules, I would see some (and I’m quoting) “shit that’ll make my head spin.” Fair enough, I’d like to see this “shit”.

Not too long ago I had such an opportunity to witness such splendor when a MSISTYSAIGTPI graced us with his presence. At about 6’3 and 210lbs. or so he was hard to miss when he sauntered into the academy sporting a brown belt. I’ve trained at, and visited, a number of different schools offering other martial art styles other than BJJ and always assume that I should be wearing a white belt until told otherwise by the instructor. Whatever the case, the MSISTYSAIGTPI who I was later told holds a brown belt in Krav Maga (do they even have a belt system?) performed the warm up and drilled the technique, but seemed anxious to test his skill.

From the outset of rolling it was obvious that the MSISTYSAIGTPI had little fighting skill. But more frightening for the blue belt rolling with him, he was getting extremely frustrated. Not longer after I heard a “what the f**k are you doing” from across the academy. It seems that the MSISTYSAIGTPI thought it appropriate to start punching his partner in the stomach and then the face. He was politely told that punching is not allowed in BJJ and if he did it again he would be asked to leave. He mumbled about how such restrictions just proved BJJ’s ineffectiveness. Oh really?!

One of the senior belts saddled up to me and explained that I would be next to roll with the MSISTYSAIGTPI. No pressure, eh? This reminded me of times in my youth when my hockey coach would tap me on the back after an opposing player cheap shotted a teammate. I knew then, just as now, what my job was and there was not much point in arguing.

After complaining about the BJJ rules, the MSISTYSAIGTPI and I slapped in and commenced festivities. I arm dragged him and easily took his back and choked him. After doing the same thing over and over, he complained that he was handicapped by his inability to attack my fingers. Being allowed to do so would enable him to escape the choke by breaking every finger on my choking hand. Hmmmm… being a little more than mischievous, I encourage him to give that a try. Slap in, arm drag, grab the collar...grab my fingers...tap. I asked if he had anything else he’d like to try? He looked at me sheepishly and declared - “I’ve got to learn this shit”!

Now, about that brown belt…



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"either define the moment or the moment will define you"

I returned home last nite from Grande Cache and the Canadian Death Race. It's extremely difficult to put into words how amazing the experience was. In a way that I have never experienced, the race forces you to confront the limits of your being. Not only were the mountains formidable, but the heat was oppressive.

But we did it! Our team (Just 'Cause) had a blast and did amazingly well. I finished my leg in just over my goal time, which made me extremely pleased. A number of racers were injured on the first leg and a few were forced to "tap out". One memorable moment occurred on the very first major downhill section (there were many!) when a rather beefy man yelled from the top - "LOOK OUT; I'M COMING DOWN!!!" And down he came indeed! He figured he would sprint the downhill section to gain position, but overlooked the snarl of rocks and roots poised to trip up the careless. So, I was at the bottom of the hill when the would be Usain Bolt hit a root and tumbled all the way down, which left the racers ahead of him scrambling to get out of the way of this out of control freight train!

From what I saw, and for the most part, the Death Race seems to bring out the very best in people. The spirit and the vibe in the town of Grande Cache was palpable. I saw a number of racers stopping to help other racers and teams pulled together in the most incredible of ways. I am very proud to have been a part of all of this!!

Before my wife started her leg (at 2 a.m., no less) we were sitting around talking in a meagre attempt to the pass the time while we waited for our teammate to finish his leg. I was giving her a pep talk about how she was going to rock the race and how THIS was a very important moment in her life and for her. In the last year, we have suffered through 3 miscarriages - she more than me, of course. Nonetheless, this has been quite mentally and emotionally draining on us as we have attempted to cope with and understand this loss. For Jo, this race was really important for her psychologically and for sentimental reasons... and she owned it!

The Death Race, and especially her leg in the dark, was a metaphor for our last year. Although I have never run in the dark, I can only imagine that you have to take one step at a time otherwise you're going to trip and fall (like my friend who went for a tumble). And Jo did trip and she did fall, but she got back up and kept on running. That's the way we want to move forward - not only being fully in the moment, but embracing and owning the moment. Too often we, all of us, are caught looking too far ahead straining to see where the trail leads and miss the beauty and opportunities that are in front of us. Walt Witman very poignantly stated, either you define the moment, or the moment will define you. Jo and I will go boldly into the future one sublime step at a time, embracing all that comes. Like the nite-time trail, I can never know what is around the corner (another child? a blackbelt?) - all I know is that Jo and I will do it together and support each other in the spirit of the "Life" Race. I'm so very proud of you, Jo! Way to go!

Big thank you and congrats to my team. I'll be back next year ready to embrace a new challenge and test the limits of my being.