A little while ago, I traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden on business. Gothenburg is located on the west coast, in southwestern Sweden, about halfway between the capitals Copenhagen, Denmark, and Oslo, Norway. It is the second largest city in Sweden and enjoys a mild climate with quite a bit of rain.
This wasn’t my first time in beautiful Gothenburg, but it was the first time that I brought my training gear with me. Before leaving, I of course consulted with my friends and the internet and found an academy that sounded very open to visitors, had a well known prof and had the right training schedule that fit my timeline. I sent a message to Prof Pilo Stylin at the Yamasaki Academy located here, and asked permission to train on the Wednesday night that I was free. I got a very quick reply back allowing me to train.
As usual, I stayed at the closest Scandic hotel to the academy, which was only about 400 m away. This ended up being very good luck as of course, it was raining cats and dogs that evening!
I arrived to the academy about 30 minutes early so I could work out where to go but there was no need really. The facility was well laid out and everything was quite easy to figure out. I was greeted warmly in the reception when I walked in and that first impression was reflected by everyone that I met that night.
I proceeded to change and make my way to the tatami. It was a really large and impressive hall! There were going to be 2 classes that night running at the same time, beginners and advanced and there was plenty of room for both. I was permitted to train with the advanced group which was great. Some academies are very strict about their advanced classes, not allowing white belts of any rank in.
Prof Pilo started the class and we gathered for what I thought was going to be the warm-up but we all knelt and did some relaxing breathing and yoga style stretching techniques. That was a first for me and I really enjoyed it. We then broke into pairs and Pilo ran off to the side of the room asking us to wait for a second. He came back with a box full of small wooden balls and gave us 2 each…at this point I was perplexed, wondering what the heck they were for.
We were instructed to hold one in each hand and start sparring with our partner. The goal was to get the opponent down without dropping either ball. Well, I tell you, that was HARD! Try fighting in a gi and not being able to use hands or fingers for that matter. I absolutely loved it. What a refreshing, innovative way to warm up.
We sparred like this, changing partners every few minutes until we were all warmed up. It was time to practice drills. There was a tournament coming up and they wanted to drill double leg takedowns and double leg takedown defence. We drilled the double legs first with different variations, then started on the sprawl to counter it. I had no idea just how physically challenging it is to drill this relentlessly for 30 minutes straight…I was shaking after that workout!
We were given a couple of minutes to wipe off and get a drink, then right into 45 minutes of rolling. I was so impressed with the skill level of everyone there, no matter what belt they wore. I can also admit that I have never been “spider guarded” more in my life and I learned a valuable lesson that night…I have NO defence whatsoever against a good spider guard! (something I have been since working on) I left there that evening, purple as a plum but extremely satisfied.
All in all, it was an amazing experience where I met more new friends through BJJ. Pilo has been very active competitively and is a legend in his own right. He was so open and friendly, helpful and skilled in his teaching that I will definitely be back.
If you are ever in Gothenburg, Sweden, I highly recommend visiting the Yamasaki Academy for a great training session.
Stay tuned for my next article where I write about the next academy I visit on my travels!