Greetings From Dublin Ireland and Belfast Northern Ireland!
I made it to Ireland! But not without an adventure to get to the airport first. When I first looked at getting to the airport from Wigan, where I was staying for the weekend, everything seemed ok. But when I looked again while in Wigan planning my route suddenly the buses weren’t running at times indicated before. It seemed my only options to make it to the airport on time where to take an incredibly expensive taxi ride, or a long convoluted trek on the trains to make it the airport and hang out there over night. Neither one looked fun, so in the interest of saving a few dollars I picked the train ride. Having bought the tickets online I walked to the station and waited for the last train that would take me in the direction of the airport. And waited. After 15 minutes past the time the train should have arrived I walked up to information desk and asked where train was. I was told some upsetting news. The train was actually at the station across the street and I had missed it. You see there are actually two stations, one on each side of the street, and apparently the ticket, which says to show up at the station I was at, then tells you to walk across the street to catch the train at the other station. Showing up at the wrong station is a usual occurrence with people buying tickets online that have never taken this line before, from what I was told. I personally think it’s stupid to have the ticket marked for another station than in small print say to walk another station. That’s like saying for all plane tickets you first must fly to London’s Heathrow airport, so if you’re flying from New York to Florida, first fly to London then off to your destination. Just stupid.
So I missed the train. I only way to get to the airport in time for the flight in the morning now was to take the next train in the opposite direction, to Preston which is almost back to Blackpool, to catch a bus to the Manchester airport. Except that there would be a 4 hour wait for the bus. That wouldn’t be a problem, if not that for the fact that the station shuts down at night after the last train arrives. So with no coffee shops open overnight I was forced to wait outside in the damp chilly night until the morning bus. Great. I will also add that this detour was costing an extra $30 CDN. I was not happy but there was nothing I could do, I had to make it to the airport for my flight, although this adventure was almost worth spending the $150+CDN on a taxi in the morning instead. Anyways, the bus showed up and I was on my way to the airport, thinking back now the bus driver never checked my ticket, making me think maybe I could have gotten away without spending the $30 CDN on the second ticket after all. I caught my flight to Dublin and made it downtown, tired and sore, grumpy and feeling like shit, but I was in Dublin!
Wandering The Beautiful City
Before I get into the training and meeting all the cool people in Dublin let’s first go over all the cool places I got to see and take photos of. Like this giant unicorn horn the city has sticking out of it, called The Spire.
I made sure to wander down to the Guinness and Jameson distilleries, and if I was a drinking man I would have had a drink or two at each spot, something my brother says I still should have done anyway, but instead I settled for picking up a few souvenirs for some family members.
I found a lot of my walking around and taking pictures included finding cool looking churches and thinking back now that I’ve been to a few places I could probably get a whole photo album dedicated to churches.
And of course I walked by the Trinity College and checked out the Dublin Castle and stopped for ice cream at the beautiful St. Patrick’s park beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Too Drained to Stay at The Gym
So I told you about the ordeal of making it to my flight to Dublin, but my journey for rest wasn’t done yet. I showed up downtown on very little sleep and made it to where I was supposed to meet up with my host, Hugo. I was supposed to be staying at Hugo’s gym and was looking to meet him and his club and have a great time in Dublin, but I would need a nap first. I get to the gym, which is a garage on a side road, and it’s locked and no signs of anyone around. I try getting a hold of Hugo and see what’s up and I’m getting no response. I figure there must be some sort of emergency or miscommunication going on so I head down the street and grab myself a meal and use the wifi at the Burger King (if you follow my Instagram you know I’m a big fan of the Whopper). After a while of working on the blog I get a response from Hugo. Apparently he’d been having problems at the gym with electricity and has been frantically trying to get it fixed all last night and today, so I can see how he missed me trying to connect with him. I’m not sure the specifics but basically he lost power to most of the place and the front of the gym is an automatic garage door, without power they can’t open for class.
I made my way back to Hugo’s gym to meet him and the guys and finally drop off my bags I’ve been carrying around all this time. I get there and greet Hugo at the front gate to the parking lot beside the gym. As he was busy with a repairman he directs me to the back door, where a few others are hanging out. I meet the others and find out that they all live there with Hugo in the gym. The back of the gym is turned into a dorm of sorts, with bunk beds in each room and a community kitchen. Half the people trained Jiu-Jitsu and every one I believe was Brazilian, so they were all speaking Portuguese and I didn’t really know what was being said in conversation, but I was too tired to care. After asking where I could sleep one of the guys offered my his bed to take a nap. I was only able to get a little bit of rest but it helped a lot. When I woke everyone is out back setting up a BBQ, they were going to have a Brazilian BBQ for dinner that night, which was awesome because I love grilled meats! As the evening went on I was still really drained from being up all night the day before and all the traveling. I could see the place was really busy with everyone living there and having their own jobs, not to mention trying to sort out the front door. I would had loved to stay with Hugo and everyone at the gym but there was no way I would be able to get enough rest to be able to train, at least not with the plans I had to visit more than one club a day. So I made the choice to move to a hotel just around the corner from Hugo’s. I told him of my plans and Hugo totally understood, being pretty drained himself from the whole ordeal of trying to fix his gym, so we made plans to meet for the evening class the next day. I thanked everyone for their hospitality and left for the hotel.
2 Gyms a Day!
After a hot shower and solid night’s rest I was ready to start the day. It’s amazing how much a single night of good rest and relaxation can re-vitalize you. With feeling back to normal I started out on my way to visit the first of many clubs in Dublin. I was able to visit 4 of the total of 6 I had hopes of checking out but one evening I hurt my neck rolling weird during warm up. Although it was short lived, training twice a day was fun and I hope to be able to get into that kind of rhythm for a pro-longed time during this journey at some point.
The first club I visited was Team Ryano, which is funny since as a affiliate student of Prof. Kieth Owen I am a member of Team Rhino. Team Ryano is run my Prof. Andy Ryan, with Ryano obviously a play on words of his last name. The club is above a cross-fit gym that seems to run a lot of women’s conditioning classes from what I saw of the posers. The gym is a big open space with an MMA cage off the to the side of the mats and some heavy bags lining the mats as well. It was fun meeting the club members, everyone seemed happy to have a visitor and I guess it’s not everyday you have a Canadian passing through Dublin training BJJ. Those I partnered up with during training were helpful and rolling with everyone was competitive but friendly. It was a good first club to train at to give the feel for the Ireland Jiu-Jitsu scene.
During rolling after class I got to have a round with Prof. Andy, who is a big guy, probably about 6 feet or more and similar build to myself. I expected him to be strong and with the nickname ‘Ryano’ I figured he would crush me. What I was not expecting was his agility as he danced around moving from one side to the other. I didn’t just get crushed, I got destroyed on a whole new level! Prof. Andy’s movement isn’t just good for a big guy, he is seriously nimble. After class he thanked me for coming out and instead of giving me a club patch, as I usually trade a Panda Patch for one, he gave me a Team Ryano t-shirt! Awesome.
That evening I returned to Hugo’s gym, Fight Arena Fitness, for his class, there were actually 2 classes, with a kickboxing session in between but after his first class I was done for the day. Having trained earlier that day I just didn’t have it in me to go another hour or more that night. With the class being mostly guys who lived there I figured the class was going to be tough as lets face it, Jiu-Jitsu is in their blood. I was not wrong. Hugo had us start with repping out berimbolo’s and that 180 degree guard regain spin around that I’m sure there must be a better name for, either way both moves I had a lot of problem with, given my build and lack of flexibility for inverted techniques. We then moved on to our warm up drills which weren’t anything out of the ordinary, shrimping and front rolls etc. Most of class involved those first two movements, moving to an inverted state of some variation. needless to say I didn’t fare very well trying to drill out these techniques. After drilling we had rolling, and the guys did not let up on the new guy. I first rolled with Hugo and he simply had his way with me. He’s a brown belt, but a top competition level brown belt at that, he’ll have his black belt soon enough I’m sure. The one thing that got me the most was Hugo’s movements. I tried going on the the defensive and just try and survive but I couldn’t tell where he was moving to and all his set ups where foreign to me. After the round he told me I need to be more aggressive and I told him, I didn’t know what was going on so I was a deer caught in the headlights.
As it ends up one of the reasons Hugo’s movements are so fluid and different is they have a Capoeira teacher at the gym, they call him ‘Capoeira Master’ which he denies being but after rolling with him and watching him roll with others he’s body movements are next level. I was so lucky he was only a white belt as he was able to dance around me with ease but didn’t have the technique yet to lock in any submissions. He will be scary in another year. I wasn’t able to return to Hugo’s gym again on this trip, but thank you Hugo for the class and the offer to stay at your gym, maybe it’ll work out better next time.
Royal Grappling Academy
I was curious to visit the Royal Grappling Academy as it’s a Marcelo Garcia affiliate and I haven’t been to any of his gyms so I was really looking forward to see how they trained. The club was easy enough to find, it was in a block of industrial buildings and had a big sign out front, much like Team Ryano. The inside there were stairs up to the main training mats just as you walk in, with the front desk and smaller mat space just to the right. After introducing myself and changing I headed up stairs for the class and meet the rest of the class. It was a no gi class, which I could always do more of, so I was looking to pick some tips, I was not disappointed. It wasn’t so much as the techniques themselves that helped my game as much as some help with placing pressure and how to move transitioning. During warm up we worked takedowns, not just drilling one takedown over and over but actually working our own takedowns we want to sharpen and just drill the set up and entry for a minute or so then switch, back and forth for a while. I was happy with this warm up drilling as I find this aspect of people’s games aren’t worked on enough, actually working over set ups and drilling entries to takedowns. Every match in a tournament, or incident on the street even, starts on your feet, and the best offence isn’t just the technique itself, it’s having a smooth set up to it. And the best defense to any technique, especially takedowns, is knowing how it’s done so you can shut it down.
I picked up some great guard passing and top pressure tips during class and then saw how they’re really used rolling with the guys. I went in with the idea to just survive and see how their games are, see what they pick apart from my defense so I can work on that. Well, I can say from the start my no gi defense game isn’t nearly as good as my gi. I got destroyed pretty easily, but in a good way. I really enjoyed rolling with everyone there, it was a good vibe and everyone was friendly while also very sharp technique wise. After class I traded patches and again got a new t-shirt, this time a green one, which was exactly what I needed for St Patrick’s Day coming up!
Jorge Santos BJJ
That evening I was off to Jorge Santos BJJ which was just around the corner from where I was staying, on the other side from where Hugo’s gym was. I had heard good things about this club and was looking forward to visiting. Being that they’re right off the main street it was easy to find and I showed up early as kids classes were still on. I spoke to the front desk, Jorge Santos himself was sitting back there with the person working the desk, just relaxing before class. He was busy talking to someone else at this point but later on we spoke and he was a very friendly guy and happy to have a international visitor. I had showed up with the hopes to do both the fundamentals class as well as the intermediate but I was told the fundamentals was only for white belts and I’d have to sit out and watch. I always love taking part in the fundamentals classes because I love seeing how each gym teaches them, but being a senior blue belt I should start being used to intermediate or advance classes only.
The gym is a bit small and down in a basement lot, so there’s not a lot of mat space, but they use it very well, for warm up they do a set pattern of drills, doing one drill down one side of the mats and another set down the other side on the way back, like in a loop. There were all kind of warm up drills, front rolls, shrimps, side rolls, technical stand up, etc. and going through this loop keeps a good flow in an otherwise small space that would create a lot of stopping and not really getting people warmed up. It was a brilliant solution.
I must have stressed my neck on one on the side rolls during the warm up because as class went on it was hurting more and more and eventually I couldn’t go on and had to stop and sit out. I did manage to stick it out and work on a cool snap down to pull guard to arm bar chain but I had to miss out on rolling and the king of the mountain they had at the end of class. Watching the king of the mountain was fun, it was all starting from standing and getting the opponent down to dominate position with a timer on to push them to make a move. There was only one match at a time with everyone lined up along the wall cheering. It was a great way to end a class and I think something like this both keeps the competitive edge up and brings the class together more as they cheer each other on and push to make each other better. After class Prof. Santos and I, and some of the students as well, talked some more about traveling and training at different gyms and the usual questions of what I’ve seen or experienced. Jorge Santos and his gym were very friendly and caring people, in fact during my time sitting off he several times came over to make sure I was ok and even put a cold spray on my neck to help. It was a great time there, I just wish I didn’t get hurt and could have trained a more than half the class.
Sick In Belfast..
After hurting my neck I took the last day or so in Dublin off and went out sight seeing. It sucked not to be able to train and not to be able to drop by SGB Dublin or East Coast Jiu-Jitsu but I you have to listen to your body, and when it says you can’t turn you head in one direction, that means it’s time to rest. To add insult to injury I got into Belfast feeling like shit. I felt a little worn down when I got on the bus going up to Belfast and by the time I got in and made my way to the Air BnB I was staying at I knew I was coming down with something. I grabbed some tea and medication and hoped it would pass over. I still tried to set up going to class, thinking if it’d be better to have a class set up then scrambling last minute. As it happens I never made it out to any of the gyms. I met up with Mike Summers of Break, BJJ/sportswear clothing company and Podium, a Jiu-Jitsu news site. I met Mike on Facebook through one of my first friends I’ve made through BJJ Globetrotters, Luke. Luke’s in Australia and I’ll meeting up with him eventually, but in the meantime I might as well meet some mutual friends along the way. We had a great chat about all sorts of Jiu-Jitsu topics one afternoon, I was looking to do an interview and talk about his brands but we didn’t have a good spot to do it when we met so we decided after class the next day, which I of course never made it to. The only thing I did make it out to was the St. Patrick’s day Parade, but then went promptly back to bed.
St. Paddy’s Day
Here are some picture’s of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Belfast. From what I’ve been told the bigger one is in Dublin but this was still a fun parade to watch. I can’t tell you what some of the groups were in the parade, I have no clue how the caveman rock band playing on a float looking like a dinosaur skeleton has anything to do with St. Patrick’s day but, hey, it was fun to watch!
By the end of my stay I was feeling a bit better, but my respiratory system was still pretty raw feeling and I had a horrible voice. I was off now to Glasgow Scotland to meet Giles and Christiana hoping this could wouldn’t get in the way anymore. Little did I know how well they would take care of me and get me back on my feet! But that’s for next time.
Until next time, see you on the mats!
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