Greetings From All Over the World, Part 2!
I’m back again to fill you in on my summer of BJJ Globetrotters camps I attended as the ‘big bang’ finale to the Odyssey. I’m not done writing about the Odyssey itself, only half way really, but I’ll return to those adventures shortly. I last left off with telling you all about my adventures at the USA Maine Camp and visiting Toronto, the stop in Toronto happened both before and after heading out on an epic Nordic adventure, one that may be long to tell but also is full of pictures and videos, otherwise called BJJ Globetrotters Camps Part 2: Greenland & Iceland.
Greenland Camp (Nuuk Greenland, 20-22 July 2018)
I originally wanted to go to Greenland and Iceland as part of the Odyssey on my way back to Canada but when the camps were announced I changed my plans to go to them instead and see these places and experience the different cultures with the Globetrotters. I figured going with a group to explore and train and party (re:lots of partying) would be more fun than going on my own. I was not wrong. As I planned out the back to back camps I also decided to get some visiting in at Toronto, which I covered last post. I decided I would show up a few days early to both Iceland and Greenland as the space was open to us all week in Nuuk and I had a friend to visit in Reykjavik. I would have to fly to Iceland from Toronto first before heading to Greenland so I figured I might as well visit friends at each stop. At the Greenland camp we were all staying in a school which the local club uses the gym for their classes. Even though the camp was on the weekend, there were 6 of us on the flight when I flew over on Wednesday and already a few people there from earlier in the week when we landed. Jason, the coach of the local gym, Inuit Martial Arts, and some of his students met us at airport and drove us to the school.
I got a small tour of Nuuk on the way school as we drove from the airport on the other side of town, pointing out where the grocery store was and the library, where the only WiFi in town was. Although it’s the capitol and biggest town in Greenland, Nuuk is small and everything was nearby where we were staying. The local bar and restaurants were across the street from the school, the important WiFi at the library across from that and the grocery store just down the street from them. There’s not a whole lot to do in Nuuk but it’s a nice view of the Arctic Ocean from the shore and there’s a small village museum and all sorts of Inuit statues throughout the town. As well, driving around to the views, hiking up the beautiful mountain ranges or going on whale watching and iceberg sighting boat trips are the real the attractions.
The social aspect of the Globetrotter camps really shone through at this particular camp, being smaller in numbers and more relaxed with no set schedule for classes or open mats. We averaged one class of at least an hour a day with a noon time and evening open mat, and even a post bar, middle of the night open mat if you were more adventurous and in, how shall I say ‘in high spirits’. I set up the GoPro to record some of the open mats and classes and put together this video of the awesome time I had training with the 25 or so of us that came to visit this isolated club to help grow the art and sport in Greenland. To watch the video head over to the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel where you can watch this and all my other videos. While there be sure to show some love, like, comment, share and subscribe!
Once Christian and the last of the visitors arrived we got into full swing with some classes and rolling and sightseeing. The locals were very happy to have us come and train with them and eager to roll with everyone, being the only club in such an isolated area they don’t have much outside exposure for comparison and only have each other to train with or roll against. One student was telling me that recently a few of the members left for work so the club was down to half its usual numbers, so classes were slow. They were very happy to have us to roll against, and to have black belts there to teach. The rolls were aggressive, but more in an eager way than any manner of proving dominance. I had a lot of fun hanging out the local members and wish they didn’t have to work during the day so we could have socialized more.
During the days people in groups set up going on whale watching or iceberg cruises and a group of us climbed a mountain, only to be covered in fog and unable to get a cool picture of overlooking the entire city as the view usually is from up there. During the nights we all headed out to the bar, which on week nights was a quiet pub with pool tables and closed by midnight but come Friday and Saturday they open up the dance club in the back that doesn’t even get started until after midnight and runs until 4am. We showed off some crazy dance moves (some good, mostly bad) and got away with even crazier antics at this bar, since it’s agreed that what happens with Bar Team stays with Bar Team I can’t go into any details but it’s safe to say the staff there didn’t mind us doing almost what ever we wanted. I guess that’s the bonus of us being such a large group spending money there on their very expensive drinks.
Food was a big part of this camp, not just because everyone wanted to try a whale steak or blubber or seal but mostly because since we all stayed in the school together we also all cooked and ate together. Throughout the time visiting Nuuk we would all chip in and pick up needed groceries to make the agreed supper or breakfast, lunch was usually on you own as we were usually out and about or just not waking up til noon anyways for some people. All in all we worked quite well together making meals and getting fed. One particular night and morning stands out, where a camper made a boast of being able to make us all ‘Spanish omelettes’ for breakfast. This camper then preceded to get quite drunk, which concerned all of us wanting a tasty omelette for breakfast. I woke up at some point late in the night, our self acclaimed cook was at his usual post bar open mat with no sign of being able to wake up in the morning. I walked into the kitchen to grab a drink of water, to find the place was a disaster!
It looked like a hurricane ripped through the kitchen, dirty utensils were all over the place, there was a giant mess on the stove and all over the counter. It looked like all the would be breakfast food was used in a food fight, and then I opened the fridge. Right there sitting in two big pans was some sort of beautiful, perfectly cooked egg and vegetable and various meats concoction. I couldn’t believe me eyes, I shut the fridge door and went back to sleep, stunned at what I saw both in the state of the kitchen and of what waited in the fridge. When I woke most of the mess had already been cleaned and the egg dish already sampled and approved by all those awake. I had some myself and it was great, I don’t think it was actually a Spanish omelette, in fact I believe the quote was “It’s not Spanish and it’s not an omelette but it’s something” I still don’t know how he pulled it off in his state, or how the kitchen got so destroyed, but Stevie you are one beautiful pain in the ass, hell of a guy. I both immensely enjoyed and hated every minute with you, thanks for all the laughs and the great breakfast. I hope I never have to room with you again, or until the next camp.
The local dishes of cooked seal or cured blubber weren’t my thing so I passed on them but the idea of whale steak did intrigue me. Unfortunately the day we decided to have the camp BBQ there were no whale steaks available at the grocery store so we all just settled on normal steaks instead. I’m not complaining but it did feel wrong to come all this way just to eat an ordinary tender loin steak. While wandering the city some of the other campers tried some of restaurants, I heard good reviews for a pizza place and a Thai or Chinese restaurant but I tried the local burger joint. They had a ‘monster burger’ challenge that included 5 patties, each topped with cheese and bacon, that had to be eaten within 15 minutes. I will post the pics to let it speak for itself but I just want to say it looked a lot smaller and more manageable on the posters than when I served this monstrosity. I gave it a valiant effort and regretted it later during the mountain hike that happen to be on the same day and right after eating this thing.
As the object was to help the Jiu-Jitsu community grow in Greenland and it’s quite expensive to get so such an isolated place Christian only charged a reservation fee as opposed to selling camp tickets. The reservation came with a condition though, the only way to get it back wasn’t just to show up and have fun but also to agree to jump into the arctic waters with the rest of the group. While this may have frightened some of the other visitors I was actually really excited to take the plunge and test my frozen Canadian blood. Although I couldn’t feel my legs by the time i got out of the water it wasn’t that bad, I thought anyways. Here’s a video of us make the run in and out of the ocean while locals looked and on and took their own pictures and videos of us being crazy stupid visitors. You can watch the polar bear dip and all my over videos I’ve uploaded as well over on the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel.
Iceland Camp (Reykjavik Iceland 23-28 July 2018)
One aspect of the Greenland camp was that it was back to back with the Iceland camp, another place I’ve wanted to visit since starting the Odyssey. When the camps came out I had to re-shuffle my budget and schedule for the Odyssey to make it out to both, there was no way I could pass up this chance. Flights are limited both from Canada to Iceland and to Greenland in general, so I worked out stopping and visiting a friend so I wouldn’t have to rush or stay in the airport for long time and it allowed some time to get out and see some of Iceland and hopefully train before the crazy schedule of the camp. I met Halldor back when I was in Hamburg Germany and flew over to London for the weekend of Prof. Keith Owen’s seminar to surprise my head black belt with a visit, which you can read about Here. That was an amazing weekend and can’t believe I pulled it off.
Anyways Halldor is a big guy and of course since big guys gravitate to one another in class, we trained a little, made a bunch of jokes at Mr. Keith’s expense and become good friends instantly. I have kept in contact with Halldor since the seminar and had talked to him about different ideas for visiting Iceland and his gym. When the camp came up we worked out me coming for a day or so before heading to Greenland. I can’t compliment Halldor enough, he was always willing to help and host any time I threw any ideas of coming to visit Iceland, picked me up at the airport at an ungodly early hour in the morning, showed me around in between his shifts and taught me the hot tub sauna culture of Iceland, and most importantly taught me how to master the water slide (you have to go to Reykjavik and meet Halldor to find out). It was a short time we hung out together but an awesome time, and although we didn’t get to train together there that just give me a reason, not that I need one, to return to Reykjavik.
Pretty much all of my sight seeing happened during the short stay with Halldor as the camp was a whirlwind of training, socializing, eating and sleeping. I didn’t get a chance to get out of Reykjavik to see the great attractions Iceland has like the hot springs, black sand beaches or waterfalls, but there’s still tons to see in the city itself. I’ve added a few of the shots I taken but you can see all pictures, including some beautiful panoramic shots of Greenland and Iceland, over on my Flickr Account.
When I returned for the Iceland camp it was non-stop action until I left. Between the camp classes, socializing after the day’s training, socializing with my hostel roommates and trying to fit in meals and proper sleep I was so burnt out by the end of the week. In fact with the culmination of the Greenland and Iceland camps back to back, added with visiting and training in Toronto before and after the camps I was so socially over stimulated that I basically just stayed in my room for a week to decompress and prepare for the Germany Camp. I don’t know how I managed to travel at the rate I did for 18 months straight but after 2 years I finally found my social stimulation limit: 2 non-stop weeks of Globetrotters. During this hectic week I managed to take a few pictures with everyone, or as many people as I could.
On top of the usual all day full of classes packed with cool black belts teaching all kinds of awesome techniques the Iceland Camp was held in Mjolnir Gym, home to UFC fighter Gunnar Nelson, who also taught a class for us during the camp. Apparently in the start of his MMA career Gunnar fought in an event Christian ran and they’ve kept in contact throughout the years. When Gunnar showed up to teach it was with an all star entourage of his and Connor McGregor’s trainer John Kavanagh and non other than BJJ legend Master Carlos Machado! That is one way to make an entrance, and did it ever blow away the camp meeting these guys. Gunnar’s class on pressure passing in an MMA format defending strikes and his tricks for baiting his opponents for underhook control was very interesting to watch and digest. This was not the first time I’ve had a class taught by a UFC fighter, or even a class directed to defending strikes but the games of strikers in grappling are just as varied as the submission game itself and it’s always cool to see how people, especially an athlete at his level, defend and attack.
Attending a class by Master Carlos Machado, who just so happened to train the one and only Chuck Norris to be an even more lethal ass kicking machine, was something I never thought would happen and certainly not while at a BJJ Globetrotters camp in Iceland. As luck would have it, Carlos was vacationing in Reykjavik with one of his student he was preparing for World Masters and when they dropped by for the weekend open mat they found out about the camp happening that week and decided to stick around for it. Not only that but another black belt who has supposed to teach had to cancel last minute and so Christian approached Master Carlos who was more than happy to jump in and take over. “I see you all doing 1 hour classes, I have a problem with that, you need least 2 hours to see and drill a technique to really learn it” and so Carlos ran his class into the open mat time and we all had 2 hours of learning some incredible details from one of the highest ranked Jiu-Jitsu masters.
Learning from Master Carlos was an amazing experience, you could easily see the years of experience in not only teaching but also keeping a large group interested and captivated with how he described all the details and used jokes and stories between techniques. He kept to the basics and every technique started off with me saying ‘OK, I know that one” then quickly turned to “Wait, how is he doing this?” Every technique he showed had an aspect to it I’ve never ever seen before. Most of the details we all took away from Master Carlos was the way of control he used. It was a loose cupping like motion, not tensing up and using hand strength, placed perfectly so that if you need to apply pressure it was a simple muscle flex. I know it sounds weird and it’s hard to describe, some of us campers talked about it all week, but the easiest way to describe it is he showed us a butterfly sweep where he just hung his hands on the arms instead of griping or wrapping anything, just lightly cupping the triceps. This way he could control any posts with just a pull on the triceps or swing of his elbow, not using any strength and the partner feeling they still have free range of movement but unable to post. Hard to describe but mind blowing to watch.
Another amazing class that the camp had, and one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Iceland, was a local giant viking, Gudmundur, teaching the Celtic and Nordic wrestling styles of Backhold and Glima. I was first alerted to Glima a few years back and only starting the idea of the Odyssey when a Facebook friend posted a video about the viking wrestling style. It only took that one video to make me put Iceland on the list of places I have to visit. For the record there are several styles of Glima throughout the Nordic countries I’d like to go and visit Norway, where I’ve heard it’s really big, to learn the differences and details one day. Backhold and Glima have a lot in common, both being a grappling art that focuses on taking the opponent down to the ground with the rule set including having continuous grips on each other. In Backhold you lock your hands together in an over/under hold on your opponent, that is you have one underhook and over overhook and then clasp your hands together on their back and they do likewise. Glima on the other hand you wear a leather belt around your waist and your thighs and while you do the same over/under you are gripping the belts, one on the waist and one on the thigh. Both styles showed me so much about controlling an opponent in the clinch and working different up close takedowns. Fireworks were going off in my head the whole time, like it was finally being showing the proper way to use my body. I played with some of the concepts and ideas I got from training with Gudmundur’s classes and have come up with some great takedowns, controls and defenses from these classes.
The camp ended with a final event in the ‘Viking Pit’ behind the gym where we laid some tatami mats for a ‘Vikings vs Invaders’ showdown in a the form of a Glima competition. There were a total of 5 defending Vikings against what seemed like 20 of us ‘Invaders’. Gudmundur gave us all a crash course in Glima and then we started the competition, with the Invaders learning as we went along, which seems totally fair. The home team were taking 2 or 3 of us out each before wearing down enough for the Invaders to score a takedown. We had at least 10 of us left when we got to the final member of the Vikings team, the giant Gudmundur himself. He ripped through us like child’s play, throwing full grown men around like dolls, with the average Invader only lasting 10-30 seconds trying to move this massive man before meeting their end. Only 2 Invaders lasted over 30 seconds and into a minute against him, 5th degree Judo black belt and British Olympian Sophie Cox and myself (Yay me for being heavy and too stubborn to go down easy!). We fought hard and tried our best but we just couldn’t move him and the Vikings had successfully defended their land.
You can watch the video of our epic match over Here.
Impressed with my performance (He complimented me on my strength and defense so I made a Panda’s Odyssey T-shirt to commemorate the whole event) Gudmundur and I talked more about the small details of Glima and Backhold and moving your opponents around. He then mentioned a special open mat that takes place in Reykjavik where all the biggest vikings come in for the Giantroll, an open mat where you have to be over 90kg to participate in that takes place on the first Sunday after a full moon. There happened to be a full moon that week, and not just any full moon but the Blood Moon. This invitation to the Giantroll was extended to rest to the camp online but as it happens no one from the camp or any of the locals I met could make it. I really wanted to go and be in an open mat of giant vikings just smashing each other, and probably be the smallest guy there, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me this time around.
I was sad to leave Iceland at the end of the camp, in fact I ducked out of the camp end party early because I got depressed and didn’t feel like saying goodbye to everyone. I had one more day in Reykjavik to wander around before leaving and as it happens there were a bunch of campers still around. We hung out at the Lebowski Bar, themed after the great cult hit movie ‘The Big Lebowski’, where most of the night’s shenanigans happened during the camp, for one last night out before leaving the next day. In an attempt to draw my stay out longer I made an open invitation to all those still around to come join me for coffee and pastries the next morning at a coffee shop nearby my hostel. Slowly a small group showed up, we laughed over the past weeks events and shared our plans for the coming weeks and months. For some this would be the only camp I would see them, others we would be meeting again soon. Some were wondering why I was heading back home only to return for the camp in Germany in 2 weeks time, which I’ll explain next post. I left with a smile on my face, thinking of all the good times and friends I had made over the past 2 weeks. It was a happy ending to the camp, which was a nice change from the usual sad to go feeling.
The Iceland camp was an amazing experience of a lifetime and I will go as far to say it’s at the top of the best BJJ Globetrotter camps, not that there’s any bad ones. Reykjavik is very expensive, one of the most expensive cities I’ve ever been to (campers posted their credit card bills from the bars after camp and it was scary), but Christian and the Mjolnir Gym were able to get us all sorts of discounts at restaurants and even free sandwiches for the day at the gym, you had to be quick on those though. The fact that most of the camp, a much higher percentage than at other camps, was visiting Iceland for the first time also meant lots of group socializing, the Facebook group was constantly being flooded with people posting to fill up cars and go exploring as a way to save money, or inviting everyone out for food or evening drinks and take up the local businesses on their discounts and not be going out alone. Also, the gym had a sauna, a hot tub and a cold tub that we all made good use of at the end of the day after training and that alone was a great spot for socializing and meeting new people. I had such a great time in Iceland I have said this many times already, it has moved to the top of the list of places I want to go back to and even find work at when I’m done schooling. I just hope there’s another camp there next year and I’m able to attend.
And with that I was on my way back to Toronto, as you read in Part 1. After a short rest and recovery I was back on the road, or plane, again to my last stop outside of Canada. Next time I wrap up my camp reviews with BJJ Globetrotters Camps Part 3: Return to Heidelberg!
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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