Greetings From Sofia Bulgaria! (28 August – 2 September 2017)
After the amazing BJJ Globetrotters Fall Camp I wish never ended I was on a plane back to Eastern Europe, with my next stop being Sofia Bulgaria. I was looking forward to Sofia because there are a few clubs there I had heard great things about, Twisted BJJ which it seems every Globetrotter that travels this part of the world ends up visiting, and Battle Club Bulgaria, a place my friend Matthew Kaiser connected me with to get an introduction into Submission Wrestling. With an uneventful flight from Frankfurt to Sofia and no problems using the trains or finding my hostel I was ready for some rest before checking out these gyms, the post camp blues and post camp flu is real after all so best not to push it too much in the first few days.
I was actually dealing with an incredibly painful ear infection that started at the camp, and I believe it was more due to some cartilage damage that I got at some point (I seriously believe grapplers break more ears than anything else) so I had to deal with this problem first. I tried some beeswax candles in case it was an impacted wax build up before figuring out I had some damaged cartilage. I really don’t know how those things work, the candle just created more of a mess than anything else in my case. Luckily I had picked some more tea tree oil while at the camp and with the care package I finally received from my Mom I was all set for dealing with the problem. After a few days of rest and checking out the city I was ready to start training again.
Sofia is a deceptively big city that sprawls out with lots to see and some great museums, which sadly I did not visit. There is a long complicated history to the city and a few different walking tour companies offer a 2 hour tour to explain it all while checking out the historic sights and buildings. While I did go on a similar route to see the places I passed up on the tour, more interested in the architectural design than the history lesson. Here are some of my photos from walking around the city.
Of course you can see more of photos from this and all my other stops over on my Flickr Account.
When searching the BJJ Globetrotters community for anything on Bulgaria there was a lot of great reviews for Twisted BJJ so it was on the list of gyms I must check out while traveling and as it happens another Globetrotter Nick would be in the area at the same time. I wish I had more time to chat with Nick and maybe do an interview together as he’s been living the dream of a BJJ Globetrotter for some time, having lucked in with a career in a field that allows him to constantly travel and see the world and train all while making a few dollars. In the short time we talked after class it seemed like Nick had a story for every continent and plans to keep going. I’m sure we will meet again one day and I look forward to hearing his stories.
Nick and I both spoke to the club about coming in and agreed with each other when to meet up for a class together. I found the right streetcar to take and got to the club, which is outside of town, a bit early and found the club up above a grocery store easy enough and had already introduced myself and changed by the time Nick showed up. We jumped into no-gi class and moved around training with and meeting members of the club. The place is pretty simple, you walk and there’s the front desk and change rooms on the right with a long mat space stretching far back in front of you. For class we worked a few different technique involving the X-guard, like stuffing it and passing or taking the opponent down for a leg drag to back take. Fun stuff, I’ve been going over some of these techniques again with other classes I’ve been in and it all makes way more sense, like having them sit and thought over for the past few months and now revisiting them puts them in a new light and gives me a new understanding of them. Anyways it was good class and rolling with everyone after was equality as good, but I never got a single chance to try anything from class, instead I was crushed by all the beasts there. Tough rolls with good guys, be sure to check them out if you’re ever in Sofia.
Battle Club Bulgaria
Another club I checked out was the Battle Club Bulgaria, which isn’t a Jiu-Jitsu club or a place that any Globetrotters recommended. No, this is a Submission Wrestling club that my friend, Combat Wrestling Canada Champion and World Combat Wrestling Team Canada Captain, Matthew Kaiser set me up with by putting me in contact with the head coach and Team Bulgaria Captain Kamen Georgiev. Combat Wrestling is very new, only a few years old, so I haven’t much experience with it, or Submission Wrestling (other than no-gi BJJ classes) for that matter. Even though a lot of my no-gi techniques are wrestling based techniques I’ve hardly been in wrestling classes, in fact I would say the classes I’ve had the pleasure of attending on this journey around the world are the only real wrestling classes I’ve had. I was very intrigued and a bit intimidated so this seemed like a great chance for an adventure. An adventure in being mangled that is.
The gym is quite a bit out of town, way more than Twisted which is just on the outskirts. This place is way out down a street that only one streetcar goes down, and not terribly often, so if I missed it I would have to deal with taxis, which is not an option for me. It also took a bit to find as the place is back from the road with an old rusted gate out front, making it look more like a haunted house than a combat gym. All part of the deception to the unknowing masses. Once I found the gym and walked in the only person there was a guy sitting out front smoking, after explaining to him what I was there for he assured me there would be class and pointed where to get changed. The gym has a main entrance with all sorts of posters and news articles of the club’s achievements in various sports. When you move into the gym area you see there’s a MMA cage as well as a boxing ring in the back with mat space and bags to hit on the main floor. From the articles out front killers were created here.
Apparently even with all the problems finding the right streetcar and the gym itself I still got there early. I got changed and started stretching out, Kamen showed up and introduced himself to me. He’s a big solid guy and I knew from the start I was going to get ragged-dolled that night. But in a good way. Kamen asked me about my experiences in grappling in different styles and told me some of his achievements, which are many. Once we were done stretching Kamen had me enter the cage (yes, class was held in the cage) with him and start some light rolling from different positions to see where I was at. Basically he chose a position like turtle or bottom side and had me attack him for about 20-30 seconds before effortlessly sweeping and submitting me. I was in awe of the pure gentle power this guy has.
As we rolled more people showed up and class begun, working drills like pummeling, arm drags and neck ties. Kamen worked with me for for a bit showing me some take downs he figured would be good for my game, like the low single. I worked in with two other guys for the rest of class working different drills then working take downs. We would have a round of working for advantage and going for a take down on each other, once we got to the ground it was done and we’d switch out. I was gassed and my ear was killing me by the time the went for full rolls so I just stood out and watched. These guys were all beasts who could roll at top aggression, while maintaining total control, for what seemed like forever. I was dumbfounded by it and realized just how small I really am compared to some beasts out there (as the picture shows I was the smallest guy there). Thank you Kamen for having me and thanks to your club for the great wrestling session.
Combat Wrestling, you must be wondering what it is I was talking about earlier. It’s a new sport that combines the point system of wrestling for take downs and pins with the submissions of Jiu-Jitsu and other submission grappling styles. I truly believe in the next 10 years it’s going to catch on and end up in the Olympics. I really like the idea of it and because of my friend is involved in it so deeply I watch along with it growing and evolving. Maybe I’ll try my hand in it when I get home. For more information on the specifics of the sport and who’s in charge in your area check out the Combat Wrestling website.
After another stop of making new friends, seeing a new city and learning a new grappling art it was time to head off to the next stop for more adventures. I was off to Macedonia, another country with rich history and solid grappling skills.
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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