Life in a suitcase.
It’s a weird feeling packing your life into a suitcase. It’s nerve-wracking but strangely liberating freeing yourself of possessions that you don’t really need. What should I take? What should I leave? Surely I can just wear less clothes, and take more training gear? Surely.
After about 4 re-packs I’m done and ready to fly.
All of my possessions ruthlessly limited to a suitcase’s contents – half of which are gis, rash guards and shorts. The essentials.
I say my goodbyes to the family, give my dogs an extra-long hug, check my bags and take a deep breath. 12 months of working 6/7 days a week and saving every penny I’ve earned have come down to this. It’s a nice feeling when you finally get to set off on journey you’ve daydreamed about for so long.
My first stop is Thailand – not for long, just a couple of days to break up the travel to Europe. I’m staying just around the corner from the Bangkok Fight Lab, so I spend most of my time there training and acclimatising to my lack of routine and responsibilities. And the humidity. My GOD Bangkok is hot. Not like Australia, where it’s a dry heat that’s manageable. It’s a suffocating heat, worsened by the intermittent rain storms. But hey, at least I’m not in the office!
My first class at the Fight Lab is taught by Morgan, a Pedro Sauer Black belt. I can’t speak highly enough of Morgan and his teaching style. I really enjoyed the class and his attention to the details, and emphasis on the importance of technique. We drilled a sequence that I’d been having trouble with, added some cool submissions and then decided to roll.
It was then I realised how important it was to focus on technique in Bangkok. Wearing a gi in the midday heat in Bangkok gave me some serious weight cutting flashbacks. A humbling experience.
That evening’s session involved some fine-tuning of the positions, some drills and then some great rolls. After training we all went down to the food markets, had some food and chat. I love how welcoming jiuijteiros are. You’re exposed such a diverse cross-section of people, from all walks of life: people with different backgrounds, occupations and stories, who all share a common passion. I was made to feel very welcome by everybody for which I’m greatly appreciative. We shared stories and food, a pleasant night cut short by some heavy tropical rain.
The next day I go set out from the hostel and wandered through the urban jungle that is Bangkok. I love how big cities in Asia embrace make chaos work. You’re confronted by so much stimulus as you walk down the street. Smells, sounds, heat, trucks, chickens, food, street vendors. So much crammed into a small place, yet there’s a weird harmony in the way that it all works. I’m struck by the melting pot of cultures too. Small buildings with giant satellite dishes attached. A street vendor selling fruits, vegetables and local food outside a 7/11 selling ice-creams and Coca Cola.
That evening was Nogi taught by Thien, before I flew out. Thien is a brown belt who’s trained in London. The night before we’d chat about leg locks, and he was nice enough to tailor the session around single-leg X guard, Ashi Garami and some cool high-guard sequences inspired by Nathan Orchard. Again, it was an opportunity for me to work on and make adjustments to weaknesses in my game – and work on positions that I love.
I’ve only been away for two days at this point and I’ve already learned so much. Being exposed to different training partners and teaching styles is already benefiting me greatly. After class we rolled for about an hour and a half, working on techniques and doing some cool positional sparring. It was a great class, a great experience and I made some great friends in a short time.
For anybody travelling through Thailand, I’d definitely recommend stopping in at the academy. They’re welcoming and have a great style of teaching for all levels from beginners through to advanced. After nogi it’s straight on the sky-train to the airport, to begin the next stage of the Journey… Stay tuned.