I trained across Southeast Asia for 4 months and English was spoken in every gym. Now, in Belgrade, I have to rely on my existing bank of BJJ techniques and principles to make sense of the Serbian instructions… I love it. Eight years of mechanically setting up armbars, repping guard passes and shrimping across the mat has prepared me for classes where I don’t understand a single word.
Seeing How BJJ Cuts Across Language Barriers
My first weekend in Eastern Europe started strong with a visit to Kimura Academy for nogi class. The first thing I noticed was how massive everyone was. I feel like child walking down the street among these Serbian horse-sized men… Now I get to fight them.
The second thing I noticed was that no one was speaking English. The Asian gyms I went to had lots of expats and all the lessons were in English. I was looking forward to training in foreign environments my whole trip and I felt like was finally getting to experience it.
I was a little worried at first that I would just be completely lost, but I quickly realized that I understood just about everything in the lesson without comprehending a word. Eight years of training under different instructors across America had given me everything I needed to know that the professor was telling me to use a gable grip for the seatbelt and to scoot by butt out to the side if I needed room to get a hook in.
It’s amazing to experience how BJJ can break through cultural and language barriers. Someone across the world is learning the same things I am and even though we can’t understand each other, we can communicate through training. This was a major reason that I wanted to go on my trip.
Learning what Cool Noises My Elbow Can Make
After my first successful Serbian BJJ class, I decided to check out Gracie Barra Srbija during the week because their classes fit my work schedule better. Once again, they were in Serbian and I was loving how I could catch minor details just by watching things like hand placement.
The gym was on the second floor of a badass semi-abandoned looking warehouse.
I was starting to feel a little better after I just got over a two-week-long cough and my rolls were feeling a little more natural again. I just got done sparring with a feisty teenager and I was moving onto a 6’5” Judo brown belt. He was my training partner for the first class and I had a fun roll with him before. The round started light and he caught me in a kimura. As I rolled out of it, he quickly transitioned into an arm crush. It was locked in immediately and before I had time to tap, a loud crunching/popping noise burst from my elbow. I was actually impressed with how loud it was.
Knowing that I was traveling and training for a whole year, I assumed I would get injured eventually. Luckily, nothing broke and it will only keep me off the mat for a week or two. In the meantime, I’ll just have to spend my recovery time in some of Belgrade’s many pubs and riverside nightclub spavs.