I thought the team in Moscow was big. Turns out Serbia is the real home of Europe’s largest grapplers.
In mid-September I began a rail journey across Eastern and Central Europe, starting in Greece, then heading to Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Czech Republic.
Kimura Jiu Jitsu Academy in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, was my first stop. The club is located in the bottom floor of a gym with a weights room above and crossfit below. It’s a super well-equiped and maintained site with murals and plenty of staff.
Guillaume the coach is brilliant, he was very welcoming and even did the lesson in english for my benefit. The class was very thorough with detailed warm ups, followed by takedowns, drills, techniques and rolling.
The team has a lot of big guys, I was arm-rest height for most of them, but they were super technical and did not need to rely on their pressure or weight. There’s only one thing scarier than a big guy on the mat – that’s a big guy who rolls like a small one.
Next was Jungle BJJ in Split.
These guys are a pretty new club, very warm and welcoming. It was a team of mostly white belts but super motivated and hungry to learn. Their gym offers a number of combat sports and wrestling was happening when I arrived.
My final stop was Hungary’s Carlson Gracie Team in Budapest.
It’s a large city, so I expected a strong team, but they surpassed my expectations. They are super professional but also really good mates.
Everyone who came through the door greeted each other with a handshake, kiss or hug. Not a small undertaking, when there are 40 or 50 people on the mats. There was a lot of smiling and joking but total focus when training began.
The gym is a large hall, white and very clean, located in the corner of a sports park. It has a vast floor covered in mats marked out for wrestling. There was a strong team of women who traded partners, guided and translated for me. The techniques we worked on where closed guard passing, very clever, slow and heavy, which is what I appreciate.
If you’re a travelling women wanting to roll I would highly recommend this club. I couldn’t get over the kindness they showed each other and myself, one of the girls even dropped me home afterwards.
This Tuesday I land in London for my biggest test yet – picking a team not for a casual roll – but the one to become the next full-time home for me and my pink gi.