Greetings from all over the World!
It’s been a while since my last posts, so long in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought I gave up on writing these or fell off a cliff or something. I promise I’ll get back to the Odyssey and finish telling you my story of traveling around the world, but first let me tell you about the adventures I’ve had recently and the reason I haven’t been posting lately. Over the summer I’ve been to several BJJ Globetrotters camps, 4 to be exact, as well as visited a few friends in between. In the last few months, between May and August I’ve been to 5 countries, knocked off some items from my bucket list, met some awesome and amazing people and also got to visit old friends to catch up with on this past year’s events. Also I recently held a couple seminars for the first time ever, but I’ll cover that story another time.
I figured as the Odyssey was coming to a close I should finish it off with a bang and what better way than to do it by hitting several BJJ Globetrotters camps in a row. There were a few places I wanted to visit that I could have done at another time and probably done it in a cheaper fashion. When the 2018 schedule for BJJ Globetrotters camps came out last Nov/Dec with camps at those same places I made a decision to re-arrange the Odyssey. Now labeled version 5 but most likely closer to version 50 in reality, the plan was made to visit these places with the camps for maximum fun training and visiting. I was not disappointed. Since attending 4 camps and visiting friends in between is a lot to write about and try to fit into one post I have broken up all the adventures into 3. Let’s begin with being back in North America, the USA Camp and visiting Toronto!
US BJJ Globetrotters Camp (Maine, USA May 30 – June 3 2018)
The first camp I attended after I finally got back home in Canada was in the USA, a summer campground in Maine, just a few hours south from me. I got back to my home town I grew up in of Petawawa, Ontario, Canada at the start of May. It was four weeks before the first camp and although it was great being home, seeing my parents and friends and resting it was also weird being in one place for four weeks straight. Before then the longest I had been in one place in the past 18 months was 10 days. I had time to rest up, heal some injuries I had and try working on getting into a routine and sorting out my life and again. All and all the four weeks went by pretty quick.
The BJJ Globetrotters USA camp has become a staple in the yearly schedule, with it being at a kids campground of log cabins next to a lake with bonfires and S’mores every night it’s easy to see how it’s so popular. It’s always been a camp I wanted to attend, being so close to me, but timing has always been an issue before. This year around with a few fellow Canadian friends making the trek and me being closer to it than ever I had to make it out. We quickly planned out a fun road trip to get there and back from Montreal. My teammate Brock flew in from the west coast and we both met with Valerie, piled into her car and headed south to the US. A few hours later, and many, many American flags sighted along the way and we were at the campgrounds.
As part of my prize for winning the 2017 BJJ Globetrotter of the Year I was awarded a free camp, but as I had bought all the tickets to all camps I could currently attend Christian and I came up with a different prize. The campgrounds in Maine are on a small slope down to the lake, the cabins are by the lake with the gym on top the hill on the other end of camp, which could make running back and forth throughout the day tiring. In exchange for a camp ticket I couldn’t use Christian got me a golf cart to drive around during the camp. This not only made it easier and more fun to get around the camp also created way to meet other campers. Before the camp I came up with an idea, if I was going to be the only camper, other than staff, driving around on a golf cart I’m going to need to have a cool golf cart driving outfit. This of course will give the image of me being an important person, a persona if you will. All this was of course an ice breaking tool to cause people to ask me why the cart and the outfit and an opportunity to tell my story and meet cool new people at this camp. I think the leopard print robe and captain’s hat worked quite well, but maybe the jean speedo was a bit much for some people.
This was my second camp I attended so I knew what to prepare for in terms of schedule and social activities. I had never been to this campground or any part of Maine before I didn’t know what to expect for sights or scenery, although I had a picture in my head, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The drive to and from the camp was beautiful and filled with lush nature surrounding the road. I wish we had more time to explore more of Maine. I had a lot of friends I made from traveling, or met online, since attending the first camp so I was excited to catch up with them here. The first few hours after arriving to the campgrounds was a stimulus overload of meeting everyone and getting settled and ready for everything to begin. Old friends, new friends, bunk mates, friends or teammates of my friends, people who read my blog, or people who are just showing up alone and for the first time, there was about 170 people attending and by the end of the camp you know most all of them. By the last day it’s sad to say goodbye but that first day is always an overload as you get into the swing of things. The set up for the cabins was great, Christian made good use of available cabins and limiting the camp number so we weren’t absolutely packed. It would be no fun attending a camp where we are all crammed in together using all the beds in the cabins we have available. Christian could have easily got over 200 people and filled the cabins but having 20 people, their sweaty gear and bags to navigate around in and listen snore all night for a week in a cabin with only 2 showers would not be a fun camp. Instead the cabins were roughly half full and that seemed the perfect amount of space and occupancy for the camp. We all got along quite well for the week, I know all things were good in my cabin at least and didn’t hear of any problems in the other cabins either, only of the many good times that were had.
The morning yoga classes were, as usual, exactly what I needed to start the day and get ready for hours of Jiu-Jitsu classes and open mats. Being my second camp I now knew more about the importance of pacing myself, after burning out like I did in Heidelberg last year. The goal was 3 hours a days, 2 classes and an open mat. Any extra time spent on the mats in open mat would be bonus but I also didn’t want to go too hard and burn out again. I did quite well although I did have a slow day where the heat and humidity got to me. I hit a morning class then had a few rolls at the mid day open mat and then realized I may have a problem when I was tired and still dizzy after almost 10 mins of catching my breath from a match. I had been good on staying hydrated but had been sweating so much in the first few days I hadn’t replaced enough electrolytes. I went to the corner store and picked up a good supply of Gatorade, the best option I had at the time, and headed back to the camp to watch the afternoon classes. I needed to rest and recharge for the day so I could catch up on rolling and drilling throughout the camp.
As the camp went on I turned my sights from training to rolling. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to learn from the many teaching black belts, quite the opposite I wish I could train in their classes all day, but I realized I had been using most my energy on learning and drilling and missing out on rolling with everyone. After rolling with Kyle, a Canadian brown belt I finally met after a year or more of following each other online, he gave me advice on recovering electrolytes (add salt to your meals and water) and keeping hydrated when I started to get dizzy. We also had a talk about the opportunity these camps bring, we have the opportunity of training and rolling with people from all over with all sorts of different techniques levels, body sizes and different competitive games. As much as it’s great to learn from all the black belts and gain as much knowledge from these camps as possible, it’s also equally important to roll with as many people as you can to get used to playing against different body types and game styles and it also is a great ice breaker for socializing.
A new aspect to the camp that Christian also added to all camps now is the lecture hall. The camp in Maine had a separate theater hall that we used to watch movies, have a comedy night and attend lectures from different black belts teaching at the camp. Christian’s speech about his business mindset and the steps he practices to keep BJJ Globetrotters moving and coming up with fresh ideas was both a wonderful look into his eclectic mind as well as inspiring to fellow entrepreneurs. Other instructors hosted lectures on many interesting topics like competitive mindset and training with injuries, they were all very well received so Christian has made it part of the camps. The lectures did run during the day when classes were also on so you had to pick and choose which to do, but it gave those choosing to rest at that time an another option from watching class during their down time. Between the training, rolling and the nightly socializing at the camp fire eating S’mores and sharing stories the US camp was another amazing experience with BJJ Globetrotters, one that I wholeheartedly believe anyone of any experience level should attend, especially if they’re in North America and unable to get over to the Europe camps.
Toronto Before the Camps
The next camps I had lined up were the Greenland and Iceland camps, back to back, but first I decided to spend a week in Toronto to visit my brother and get some rolls in with guys I met at the US Camp. I lived in Toronto for 10 years, ironically I wasn’t training BJJ then, being more focused on partying at the time, and missed out on training in the biggest early Canadian BJJ scene with a lot of high level guys who have now all spread out across Canada. Now that Jiu-Jitsu is my life, and Toronto has many gyms throughout the city, I always look to check out clubs I’ve never been to before while visiting. This time around I had a whole new group of friends to visit and take up their offer to come train with them.
Team Guvna BJJ
I met a bunch of people from around the Toronto area when I was at the Maine camp and one gym that welcomed me out was Guvna BJJ. They have two locations, one in Scarborough and one in Pickering, I was able to make it out to the Scarborough location which is a nice big space with other classes for MMA and Kickboxing with a ring, a cage and a bunch of heavy bags in their gym. Lots of killers putting in hard work there. Although I had met Prof. Adrian at the camp I mostly spoke to Rob, a purple belt who taught kids classes, to figure out a good time to come visit. Training with the gym and seeing Rob and Prof. Adrian again was great, being able to see how they train and hanging out with the club and feel the love they give to a visitor is why I travel. Rob and I met up before class and had a chat about traveling and seeing different gyms and how they train and “living the BJJ life” secret: it’s not nearly as glamorous as it seems but it’s still awesome.
After warm up we got into drilling guard passing and then added ending with taking a dominant position. One thing Prof. Adrian focuses on in all his teaching is the importance of flow and moving with a purpose, not stopping until you’ve passed, or swept, and achieved a dominant position and doing it in a realistic manner. We were drilling at a higher, more aggressive pace, not being tough and forceful but moving in a way you would for competition, faster and without pauses for each step or in a slow passive way. As class went on we added more to the chain and then added resistance. I worked with a white belt so he wasn’t at the level some were going, and really neither was I, but we worked up to a pace out of our usual drilling comfort zone to simulate competition, it was an interesting drilling session that really showed where I am with movement. At the end we worked Judo entries in the same manner, setting up groups of three with one person working entries between the two others, back and forth in constant movement. It was an interesting way to drill throw entries and added the element of explosiveness to them. I believe in training new techniques slowly to get the core movement down but I also agree with Prof. Adrian: How are you ever going to pass someone or get a takedown if you only ever drill slowly and without resistance?
Prof. Adrian got straight into running class as soon as he showed up so I didn’t get to chat with him until after training. We did however have a thorough roll after class where I completely fell into Prof. Adrian’s trap. From training guard passing with a purpose all class and with his stiff grips I fell into playing a faster pace than my usual game looking for a pass. It was a fun 2 minutes that quickly became my death. The match turned to me now on bottom trying to defend while Prof. Adrian, who’s not a big guy, felt like a ton of bricks on me, controlling me and giving me just enough to move to the next position in his series of control. This went on for at least 10 minutes as he sapped all the life out of me while coaxing me not to give up and to keep moving. I was completely dead by the end of his show of superior control then I was honoured by his kind words to me as an ‘ambassador of Jiu-Jitsu’. It’s funny when people call me that but I guess it is what I do. Anyways I was revitalized to have one last roll with Rob, or so I thought. I worked my usual game looking to use my top pressure to pass, and then quickly found myself in a reverse triangle. I had nothing left to get out or continue so after tapping to the submission Rob and I chatted a bit about training some different techniques before calling it a night and giving me a drive back to a nearby subway station. It was truly a great visit and I hope to return in the future.
Matt is another guy I met in Maine, he was in a cabin next to mine with the other guys, it was the ‘Canadian Cabin’ although they forgot to add Brock and me. Matt has been training for a long time, I think he had his brown belt for 4 or 5 years before being awarded his black belt at the camp by the “Council of Traveling Black Belts” and he really knows his stuff, particularly the mental mindset for the long game of training martial arts. It was great being able to meet up with him again in the Toronto area, meeting his group and training together. Because of club politics Matt doesn’t train at a local gym anymore and instead has mats set up in his garage. I dropped by on the weekend for some rolls with Matt and his group and I must say the garage gives a real old school Jiu-Jitsu feel.
Good times were had meeting and rolling with the group, we had a round robin of rolls and then went over some techniques afterwards. No one was there to be a local hero or mat bully, everyone was there just to roll and have fun and share knowledge, no drama, no politics, just Jiu-Jitsu. After rolling with everyone Matt went over the smaller details of the Rear Naked Choke (RNC) and some foot lock details. I, with his permission of course, added some variation details I picked up while traveling and it snowballed into some great talks about different games and body types and the basic elements behind the techniques. It’s amazing how many ways you can come up with to finish a RNC. If I lived in Toronto I would drop by Matt’s for the garage open mat every weekend.
I set up my GoPro to film some of the rolls we had together, head over to the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel where you can watch it and all my other videos as well. While you’re there show some love, like, share, comment and subscribe!
Toronto After the Camps
After back to back camps I was very tired when I got back to Canada at my brother’s place in Toronto but also at the same time I was so energized from the experiences and full of stories to tell. I hung out with my old friend James and regaled him with the (mis)adventures and tales of me fighting a giant viking, visiting the isolated town of Nuuk Greenland, and of course all the beautiful people of Iceland, most of which thought I was a local (More on that next post). Sometimes it’s hard not to boast about what kind of a crazy life I lead but I’m so glad my friends take the same interests and love to hear of the stories, actually James is one of the guys I would have my childhood talks with about what places we would go train at to be ‘the best fighter in the world’. Other than that I just relaxed with my brother at his place and had a quiet few days before heading back home and staying in my room for a week to decompress and rest for the last camp: the return to Heidelberg Germany.
I did manage to make it out to one class while resting in Toronto. My friend Steven, who used to teach English overseas and helped me out greatly when planning out my visit to Taiwan, used to train MMA and even fought smokers on the weekends in the malls in Taipei but since getting back to Canada gave that all up. Recently Steve has gotten back into BJJ after many years off and trains at a local club very close to him and my brother. I remember seeing Body of Four BJJ opening up a few years back when visiting and have always been curious to drop by, now with Steven training there it seemed the best time to make the visit. We talked and decided on the Friday evening No-Gi class, my last night in Toronto. I met Steven outside and we made our way upstairs to the BJJ mats to find out the No-Gi class had been cancelled. Instead the gi class was continuing and there was an open mat session that I was more than welcome to attend. It being a gi session and Steven and I only bringing No-Gi attire we were thinking of declining but the head coach, Prof. Marco Costa offered to lend us gis to wear. Happily I accepted and got changed. There were no blue belts available for me to wear but I didn’t care, I wore a white belt with the white gi I was lent and everything fit fine. I was just happy to not have to cancel my only chance training with Steve.
I was tired and aching from the 2 weeks of camps I just got back from and as much as I was happy to finally be able to train with Steve I was hoping for a chill night with light rolls and decided to play mostly defensively. I did not know how much work was awaiting me. Everyone there just did a class on passing with the Prof. so all the white belts sent my way were excited to try their skills they just drilled against new big guy. The only break I got was against the purple belt who was way faster than me, I played a bottom defensive game looking to counter hum, that seemed to get to him psychologically and most of the match was stalled with him over thinking how to get around my defenses for a submission. I was no match for him if I tried chasing him down in his own game so I was happy for this draw. Steve and I also had a few matches were he worked to getting me into a crucifix, several times in fact, I was both surprised and kicking myself to land into it both times. Really though I was happy to see him training again and for us to get to roll in a gym finally, the last time we rolled was years ago on a drunken Saturday night on my brother’s hardwood floor. We were both very sore the next morning. This time around worked out much better for our bodies. Thanks Steven for bringing me out and thank you Prof. Costa for having me at your gym, I’ll return again one day!
After Toronto I returned home for a week to rest before heading to Germany, but before that and between my short visits to Toronto I went on one of the best trips in all of my travels: visiting both Greenland and Iceland with the BJJ Globetrotters. I can’t wait to tell you about all the adventures we had but you’ll have to wait for the next post, BJJ Globetrotters Camps Part 2: Greenland & Iceland.
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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