Greetings From St. John’s Newfoundland!
After an early morning check out and taxi ride I was on my way to the last stop in the Canadian Odyssey: St john’s Newfoundland. This stop had several reasons it was special to me, not only was it the last stop in Canada and I’d be seeing friends I haven’t seen in 5 years but also it was the first place I was training at when I got back into martial arts. In a way I had come full circle, back to where I started.
Back on George Street!
‘The Strip’ George Street, every building in this picture has at least 1 bar in it, probably more like 2 or 3 actually.
During my stay in St John’s when I was in college George Street, the world renown street known for having the most bars crammed into a little stretch of road, was a usual hangout spot for the weekends, and sometimes the week nights too (Thursday’s 3 for 5 anyone?). As the partying life is behind me now I didn’t feel the need to spend much time down there, but I couldn’t help but visit it one evening. You see even if you don’t drink, there is something about the street, the young party goers running wild on the streets, the pubs filled with locals singing along to the live bands playing all the hits, that’s fun to at be part of. There’s something there for almost everyone. One pub that a few others from school and I would frequent was Shamrock City. There’s not another bar like it, the people that go there all looking for 2 things, 2 cold drinks and good tunes. The bar has live bands every night and you be can sure at some point most the bar will be singing and dancing along with them. It’s a fun atmosphere and I spent many a weekend there. It was fun to check out whichever local band was playing that night and watch everyone have a great time and reminisce about the old days, but without my usual friends the nostalgia wore off pretty quick. After walking around the street to see what has changed since I was last there, which wasn’t much, I was done walking down memory lane and called it a night. My priorities have changed since I was last there, I don’t care about drinking and pubs and staying out late watching the college kids get into fights and the end of the night, although part of me does find that hilariously entertaining. I care about training and gyms now, creating memories with conversations fueled by Jiu-Jitsu, not alcohol. It was still fun to check out, I recommend it, especially if you like a pint of 2 and take in the local scene.
Watching the band at Shamrock and the crowd dance and sing along.
Staying With Carla…Kind of…
Carla and I met when I was training in St John’s during college. She was quite shy and timid, intimidated by the nature of the aggressive sport, but still eager to learn. I remember training with her and she barely said a word to me at first, which is funny now considering how much we have kept in contact with one another and become great pen pals. Although I met her from training together Carla doesn’t train Jiu-Jitsu anymore, instead she now has found a love for fitness training and competing in fitness competitions. I applaud her for the dedication she has and the transformation she has had with this new found passion. After I left St John’s and moved to the west coast her and we kept in touch online, following each others passions and transformations, me becoming obsessed with Jiu-Jitsu and planning out the Odyssey and her body building and setting competing goals. One day Carla sent me a message asking if I had a place for St john’s I did not, in fact I had overlooked St John’s while contacting other cities where I knew no one, so I happily accepted her offer to let me stay at her place.
We set up when I’d be flying in to St john’s and Carla was at the airport to pick me up, she even had a stocked the fridge and picked up a brand new air mattress for my stay. I was looking forward to having nightly conversations of my journey or her training regime, catching up on the times, things that go on when staying with a dear friend, but as it happens Carla was hardly ever home, busy with her own career and life I was practically left alone with a house full food. It was both great and disappointing at the same time, haha. Although I had the place to myself for most the stay we did actually hang out at some point and catch up on everything, and it really a great visit, thank you for everything Carla, you went way above and beyond looking after me!
Thanks again Carla for everything!
Mike Foley’s Academy
I’ve always known that there are other clubs in St. John’s, all run by brothers, The Foley’s, each having their own place, as far as I know, but I’ve never made it out to any of them or met them before. This time around I decided to change that and drop by one night for a class. It worked perfectly with the schedule, one night there weren’t classes going on with Mike and his club so I made my way over to Mike Foley’s Academy. I got a bit turned around getting there and ended up a few minutes late, which I absolutely hate doing. They were already half way through their warm up when I walked in so I quickly changed and jumped in.
The place is on the second floor of a building and built in a ‘L’ shape with both corridor being long and narrow. The whole class was set up as a chain, starting with one move and adding to it, so that in the end it was a series of counters to each other, all starting with a failed shoot in. The people at Foley’s gym were all friendly, in fact I trained with a blue belt who is a big BJJ Globetrotter fan and so absolutely loved my story of traveling. in between drills he would ask questions about traveling and going to different clubs and how I set it up etc. I was happy to answer him. After class a few other students started asking questions and next I knew we were having a big Jiu-Jitsu philosophy discussion in the parking lot. It’s funny how conversations can break out anywhere. I wish I had more to write but I only stopped by for the one class and wasn’t able to take any pictures. I will say the students and staff were very welcoming and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in town.
St John’s BJJ and Judo
I first went to St John’s BJJ and Judo because I saw a poster for them in the school. I figured with me on course for the Canadian Navy I was on a stable schedule that left the evenings open, it was the perfect opportunity to get back into martial arts. I was not wrong. The training helped center me and get me through college. When it was time for me to leave for the West Coast they alerted me to Fierce Studio, where I now call home, and the rest is history. When I returned I was really looking forward to seeing the old friends I had made, Mike, Dave, Jimmy, Blair, Brian, the small group of regulars that made the core club when I trained there. Seeing all them again was like stepping back in time. It was great feeling.
The club had moved a few times since I first met them, now it was out by the mall in a renovated industrial space turned into a martial arts club. The new space is bigger than the old one I remember that was a rented room at a gym. This place is simple, washrooms to the left when you walk in, change rooms to the right, and the rest of the space is covered by a big square mat space on a floating floor. It’s perfect for the Jiu-Jitsu and Judo clubs that train there.
A shot the mats before class.
The club had expanded since I left. I kept in contact on Facebook and seeing the increasing membership over the years I was eager to meet everyone. It always great to see both old faces you remember and new faces to meet, it shows both the members staying and the club growing. A club that’s been around for a long time but only has white and blue belts raises questions, as does a club with no white belts. Mike and guys are good people, I happy the club is growing and succeeding.
The first night I came back Mike was busy with work, as it’s not his usual night, it was Blair’s night to teach Judo. Blair has been teaching and training Judo for years and years, he’s an older fellow and he’s not up for endless rolling with the young guys, in fact I think I’ve only rolled with him once. I remember it now, we were in class and it was time to roll, everyone else had paired up and Blair looks at me and asks “Robert, would you like to have a match?” I was surprised as this is usually when he would sit back and watch, so I eagerly accepted. We start, on our knees, and Blair instantly grabs traditional Judo grips, gets me off balance and next thing I know I’m in scarf hold, or Kesa-Gatame and I’m being crushed by the pressure and control he has of me. I try fighting to get out but I can’t move and finally I have to verbal tap from the pressure. “Not bad for an Old guy, eh?” he says and goes and sits and watches the rest of the class. The thing took maybe a minute. So anyways, first night back to St John’s and Blair is teaching his Judo class, showing me all these little details to off balance your opponent and how to better enter the throw, all these little details that make sure a big difference. I watch and listen intently, because it’s those details that so easily humbled me those years ago.
Mike teaching no gi class.
The rest of the week the classes were BJJ, with my last class with them being no gi. It was great seeing and training with everyone. One class a few of us went out for food afterwards and caught up on life. Another day Mike and I grabbed coffee and talked Jiu-Jitsu philosophy for what was probably an hour or 2 before he had to get back to work. The small things like that, the off the mats times, make all the on the mat times more fun. You’re not just training with a club, you’re training with a group of friends. It felt like I had been away for so long yet only yesterday with them. Thanks Mike and all the rest of the club, it was a lot of fun seeing you all again and training together, the perfect last stop in Canada.
Interview With Mike Samson
After one of the classes Mike and I sat down and did an interview. Talked about all sorts of things and it wasn’t until after I had uploaded the video to edit it that I realized we had spent an hour talking away! It was some good conversation going on, talking about Mike’s martial arts journey and coming to the point of running his own club. We also covered the work that has gone into keeping the club going, changing places and finding a black belt to be training under. It’s a great insight into the steps and trials involved in going from student to coach.
If the video doesn’t load you can watch it by heading over to the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel and watching it there. Make sure to show some love and like, share, comment and subscribe please!
That’s it for St. John’s Newfoundland, and Canada in general! Before I knew it I was on a plane for London and Finally get to see Europe and start the European Odyssey!
I’m on my way to the UK!
Until next time, see you on the mats!
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