South Africa Sessions

I instantly knew that I should of been doing something for my cardio since my last session in the UK. I found PESFA, also called the Chris Bright MMA Academy, in a (pretty empty) mall of shops in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After some hellos and introductions I found myself getting tired during the warm up. Less of a gasping for air and more of a heavy muscles kind of tired. Soaking up sun in-between stints on the laptop had done zero for my endurance and the heat in the room was draining. Within minutes I was sweating hard (sorry training partners). Time to put my ego to one side, I don’t think this is going to be one of my better training session.

Luckily it didn’t matter that I was out of fighting shape, as everybody at PESFA was more than welcoming and friendly. If everywhere I visit on this roaming world tour is anything like here, then i’m going to be meeting a tonne of friendly faces.

My first session there was in the Gi. We worked some guard opening sequences as some of the guys had competed at the weekend and wanted to focus on moves to help with the next competition. It’s interesting the subtle differences in styles that a group develops. The guard pass from closed guard focused on lifting the guy off the ground and opening from there. It’s rare, if ever, we work this at my gym. We focus on popping up and, breaking the guard while the other guy is on the ground. Change is good though as this opener works. We drill this and a few variations for the first half of the class.

The rolls were really great even though I found myself getting tired all too quick. Everyone had amazing defence, or maybe I was just especially weak (or maybe both?). I think a big focus for me on this trip, as well as my entire game moving forward, will be on setting up submissions. I think I need to start thinking about the move, after the move and not just trying to force something. More flow. Arte Suave.

In my second session we worked positional training for competitions. Focusing on not giving up a point. (For non Jiu Jitsu readers, your opponent gets a point in competition when you concede a bad position. The amount of points is determined by how bad of a position you find yourself in. It allows competition matches to have a finish after a time limit rather than ending only when someone submits someone.) The game is really different from pure rolling as the urgency and aggression for a pass or to not give up a bad position changes the pace of the match. I also quickly found out how well certain sweeps work when you try them on a strong Judo black belt (spoilers: they don’t).

The subtle difference in ‘go to’ moves played out here. There are times when passing when I feel i’m (usually) safe. Places where I feel like i’m in a good position. However this is where some of the ‘go to’ moves of the guys I was rolling with kicked in. All of a sudden a safe position becomes trouble and in that moment I instantly realise the benefits of rolling with new training partners often. Unfortunately, I realise it as i’m falling to my back and conceding the point.

Luckily the same was true for me, as I presented a few different styles of passing. I was able to move well when the guy I was rolling with wasn’t familiar with what I was doing. However those moments were all too brief.

Always looking for that Kimura lock. Always.

The gym owner and black belt here Chris used to train with my instructor in the UK which is how I got the details for this gym. It’s a small world. I’m glad he recommended this place, it was a really popular gym with an amazing atmosphere. Everyone welcomed me like i’d been there for months already and I had a few good wars during some positional training with a few of the guys. I was completely wiped after the Thursday session, but I got a quick pic with Chris to send back to my instructor and then went in search of cold water to both drink and dunk myself in.

Things to work on: Cardio in-between new destinations and in-between session to adapt to heat. Setting up submissions.

Things learned: A sweet way to get in to deep half. When someones passing with a knee cut. Clamp their trailing leg and swim under their lead leg. (People caught me with this a lot, it turns that place where your almost passed in to a place where you might get swept).

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Home in the rearview

I just put my last training session in the UK (definitely for the foreseeable future and possibly for a lot longer) behind me. Gi, working full guard. Not my favourite place to play but sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to your weak points so they don’t become glaring holes.

This last session signals the end of a five plus year stint training Jiu Jitsu along the South Coast of the UK. From first being introduced to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Thailand (of all places) on a previous trip, I started training in my new home of Bournemouth a few years after. Since then it’s become a cornerstone of my training, and my life in a way that I didn’t see coming. A lot of other hobbies and interests fell by the wayside in order to get more time the mats.

The last session also signals the start of something new. A trip, starting in South Africa and with no fixed end point.

Starting something new, breaking a routine and just generally throwing out your old way of life can be really difficult. Often not for the reasons you expect. I dreamed about a life filled with sun, surf and jiu jitsu in exotic places while behind my desk in the middle of the UK’s winter. Especially on those grey days where it seems to rain for a constant week. Now during my last training session during one of those grey days, I find myself focusing on everything i’m going to miss. You make a lot of great friends training Jiu Jitsu, maybe it’s the common interest factor. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s impossible not to get to know someone when you’re both trying to choke each other a couple of times a week.

Either way between the comfort of a routine, and all the good bits about the training, the people, the work, the summers (I can live without the winters) of the life I have here are at the front of my mind and the road ahead looks scary, unknown and uncomfortable. I remind myself though, but this is exactly why you must go.

It’s easy to show up and do something you don’t care about, there’s no resistance, no fear. Doing something you love? That’s tough. When far off, it feels like you all you want to do, when it’s hours away, you’ll talk yourself out of it and question everything. That always seems to be trick of the mind for anything worth doing, and nothing is more worth doing than completely stepping out of your old routine, your comforts, your friends, your training partners in search of some adventure.

So i’ve packed the essentials. A laptop so I can continue to design and build websites from the road. Throw a Gi on top of the bag and i’m ready. Just twenty or so hours of travel away from a new continent, new weather and new days.

The last Gi session with these South Coast killers!
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