In July 2017, I was lucky enough to travel up to Wellington for work to take part in the New World Wine awards, I know it’s a tough job, but someone had to do it! With New Zealand being a small place and probably home to about 4 degrees of separation, I already had family and friends living there to catch up with and of course, one of them trains BJJ! My good friend Ben Venn moved there from Christchurch for job working with the Phoenix football team (another amazing job) so I made contact with him and arranged to train with Geoff Grant at the GSW branch in Wellington. Geoff is affiliated to the Will/Machado team and so is our head instructor in Perth, Stacey Wilson so it is nice to join up with extended BJJ family plus I had met one of Geoff’s black belts Brad Kora a few years back when Hayden Wilson had a match with him in Wellington at the Artaxias event. Another top dude and an example of the team/family that each BJJ school builds so I already knew it was going to be a great time at the gym. Actually I think you all need to check out GSW’s website and Facebook page as the team have some classic videos showcasing Geoff’s training style and use of language! Very similar to the Kurt Osiander training I experienced in San Francisco and also the same way I like to train and coach, if everyone is having fun they will continue to train with you.
Caio Terra once said something along the lines of in BJJ the coaches all teach and do the same things, it is only HOW they do them that defines them.
So, with contact made I was set! It was again a super friendly team who told me I was welcome to join in and I took the chance to hit a double class. I made it in for the 6:30pm beginner class and asked if it was cool if I did this one and the next as rolled it into the advanced class afterwards. Geoff was super cool and let me do both, he even laughed when I offered to pay a drop in fee! I was super stoked, a double class!
Great facilities in the gym, huge mat area and changing rooms etc. All set up very professionally and open. I went and got changed and thought sweet, I will warm up and my good buddy Ben will be here soon. He had been through shoulder surgery so was not able to train but was going to be there for a hi 5 and standard shaka.
I put my mouth guard down with my water and phone, glasses into the case and bowed onto the mats. Now, for those that know me, once my glasses come off I am basically blind. I have the long distance vision of Mr Magoo and I squint intensely to try and focus on what blurry shape I am looking at to gauge an idea of what it is! I could not see anything, phone was in the corner but accessing this is a no-no unless you are the coach and you are using it as a timer! I just assumed he would show up and casually watch until the end. I cannot see so would just hear him and then catch up after training. I would later find out that when I checked my texts, Ben had stood me up for the Game of Thrones episode, yes, I was played second fiddle to the Mother of Dragons. In hindsight, it was an understandable reason, but it did not stop me telling Geoff this though and pushing Ben under the bus! You’re welcome buddy!
The class kicked off, nice warm up, good drills to get hips ready and we went through far side arm bars from the side control position. Geoff took this and explained how to really cement the position and keep control before advancing to the submission. We did a number of variations through how to get the same result which is awesome, I really like the use of the concepts to learn techniques. This was a 1 hour class and was a really good one. We stayed on the mats for the advanced class. This was taken again by Geoff.
Now, I do get hit in the head and also have blood supply to my brain restricted at times but I am pretty sure we went through positional sparring for guard passing in the advanced class (?) It was quite a few rounds on this with points and advice given to each of us during the live practice, and again, the same instruction level was given by Geoff for all the students. However it was more the attention to each person as an individual as opposed to blanket teaching the technique that really hit me in the feels, as we all know, everyone is different in BJJ – body types, sizes, learning ability and confidence so it is really good to see people learning this way, makes it feel as though it is a personal lesson for us all and this is a difficult thing to achieve as a coach!
Last up, we went had rolling rounds. This are always fun and difficult to gauge as a higher grade visiting a gym. I always aim to play a good defensive BJJ game working on control and not necessarily submissions solely so I am happy to roll my normal way but it is pre-empting the way the partners will roll and how much they will attack that is the conundrum. Top players here. No stress on people looking to hurt each other, very high level of rolling and control used. I really enjoyed myself, it was 10 minute rounds so very tough time limit to work in but it’s part of the game and we all hard the same parameters! I got to roll with a great range of grades and people sizes, being 5’9″ and 73kg I am not too small but I am definitely not big either so it was great to have such a variety of training partners. I got to roll with Darren Brown who is a black belt at the school, amazing open guard and x guard player and this was great fun. Also a very funny man so it is always a better roll when we are having fun and sharing laughs – plus I had to have something I could do as his skill level was very difficult to try anything on him! I really enjoyed rolling at the gym and thoroughly recommend people making contact or just coming down to train if they are in the area, either visiting or living! Great learning environment, all good dudes and dudettes that I met, really embodied the jiu jitsu lifestyle and showed great character! I put in a photo from their Facebook page, it shows Darren Brown and Geoff that I trained with, also has Brad Kora when he got his black belt, Patrick Te Tau and Phillip Stenhouse (I forgot to get a photo when I trained!) I missed out training with Phil Stenhouse and Pat Te Tau unfortunately. I have watched Pat compete many times and met him at competitions as well, another man with crazy jiu jitsu and I would really like to get a chance to train and roll with him at some stage, another trip must be in order when I return to New Zealand! Thank you for the hospitality that Geoff and his team showed me, I hope to be back in the near future, OSS!!!
“Greatness and madness are next door neighbours and they borrow each other’s sugar.” Joe Rogan