It’s really been quite a whirlwind over the past couple days, replete with sleep deprivation, missed connections and uncomfortable car rides. My travel buddy has been holding up remarkably well, and I’m glad to have him along for this trip. I suppose he’s the one who asked for an adventure, and that’s pretty much what he’s been getting thus far. I’ll come back to some more of this here shortly while I still have a little time to write, but let me first highlight a fairly significant milestone in our trip thus far.
Robert Drysdale recently wrote an article about how coaching BJJ actually really sucks. His reasoning is that you pour your heart and soul into your students but in the end you don’t get much back from it. While I appreciate his candor and I do empathize with him on many points he made in his article, in the end, I feel that coaching BJJ really isn’t for everyone. Sure, I’m no Robert Drysdale and there’s a good chance that neither any of my students nor I will ever achieve the competition accolades of Team Drysdale, but I think that if that is your only criteria for success in Jiu-Jitsu as a sport, art, discipline or even lifestyle, then your coaching experience very much might suck in the end.
Not many admittedly amateur-level BJJ coaches are lucky enough to have the opportunity to see their students all the way to black belt. There are still fewer, if any, who happen to be lower in rank than their students when they receive their black belts in one of the most difficult, yet efficient, martial arts in the world.
Two days ago I was able to be present as one of my first students in BJJ reached the black belt level, and I can’t put into words what an incredibly rewarding and non-sucky experience it was. Perhaps it is because I’m actually not a world champion and a BJJ nobody that I felt this way, but regardless, it helped to renew my drive to want to see more of my students doing positive things with their lives, and the lives of others through jiu-jitsu, regardless of whether or not they ever make it to the black belt level.
I think what makes this story even better is that Sandu doesn’t want to leave his home country. Who knows how many Moldovan BJJ black belts there are out there in the world? Sandu and I tried to name the ones we knew about, but it’s probably only a small fraction. As I explained in a previous post, Moldovans are absolutely almost everywhere, and many of them excel in their new communities across the globe. What’s so great about Sandu’s situation is that he’s chosen to stay at home and develop BJJ in his own country, in his own community. Luckily, he’s not alone though. There are now probably at least 200 Moldovan BJJ fighters who continue to train and be a part of the development of BJJ in Moldova.
So, back to one of my other students: I really can’t say enough about how flexible and easy-going my travel buddy, Greg, has been this whole trip. He’s really turned out to be a valuable asset and not just a tag-along partner on our Eastern European adventure. He’s done everything from being smashed into a back seat in a vehicle for hours at a time, to haggling unsuccessfully with surly train ticket people, to getting almost eaten by Romanian street dogs and everything in between. I knew very little about Greg before we set out on this adventure, but I’m glad that he’s the one who’s with me (although I do miss my wife of course ;)).
All right. I’d love to expound on some of the adventures we’ve been having, but we’re going to need to be setting off on yet another exciting Eastern European past time: international hitch hiking. Greg has been fairly insistent on his desire to hitch a ride with random people, so today we’re setting out to snag a ride over the Romanian-Moldovan border. We’ve made it to the border town of Galati, Romania which is where I’m writing from right now. We have a loose plan of wandering down the road with our hand extended (and not the thumb, as is the custom here) flagging cars down and crossing our fingers we can get to Cahul in time for my seminar tonight.
I’ll be conducting two seminars in Moldova, one in Cahul and one in Chisinau, and this will be my first-ever paid gig. Sandu’s charging roughly $3 per person, so I guess you could say that stuff’s getting pretty serious for me now. But, this is all contingent on us getting through the border, presumably not hitching a ride with some sort of high-level smuggler or something. So this has to be it for me for now. Stay tuned!