The country: Serbia
Gyms visited: Kimura Academy, Old School
Atmosphere: Instant friends
Read anywhere online and the forums will tell you Belgrade is party central Eastern Europe with floating clubs and women like goddesses. I was most excited for this stop on my summer trip around Europe, but for a different reason. That reason was Kimura Academy. After hearing about this gym through several traveling bjj sources I knew I had to make a stop there. I wasn’t disappointed.
Kimura Academy is tucked away in the middle of the city with a large mat space that’s filled up each class. There’s a lot of heart on the mats and I had to push myself to get rolls in till the end of each class. I’ve noticed they also train much later here than I’m used to in Eastern Europe with classes easily beginning later than 9pm and going until 11 at night. The real gold in this gym for travelers lies with the efforts of the instructors to make you feel welcome and have a great experience. I feel very fortunate to have met Professor Gile who has an excellent reputation in this part of the world and in the BJJ community.
I definitely indulged in some of the nightlife with the cheap booze and floating clubs. One of my better nights spent off the mats was at a Kafana which plays local Serbian folk music that I didn’t understand but had a welcoming crowd cheering out the words of every song. There’s also a great place to look out from the giant old fortress and plenty of river reflected lights surrounding the city. Belgrade is full of great views if you search for them.
I was able to get a private lesson with very talented Serbian black belt Uroš Čulić. In a short 90 minutes I learned more than I could in weeks. I was very fortunate to have this opportunity as it changed my perspective on a couple parts of training. After, he invited me to train at his gym Old School which is located a short drive from the city. Old School is filled with very tough guys that might have tried their best to friendly take a limb or two off me, but I left with all still attached.
Serbia taught me a lot and gave me new friends. There was so much value in this week long trip I can’t recommend it enough. Thanks to everyone that helped me out!