I was particularly excited to head to SF next for two reasons: it was an opportunity for me to reunite with some friends from my Yoga Teacher Training and I was looking forward to training at Caio Terra’s Gym in San Jose. Caio was one of the first fighters I watched videos of when I just started BJJ; Marcus used to show me his videos all the time, using him as an example of how techniques can win over size and strength – as a feather-weight female I used to have to fight against bigger and stronger opponents all the time and I would often get frustrated.
We were lucky that one of my friends, Mina, had a spare room for us in her beautiful villa in Pleasanton, an easy 45 mins drive to SF. On our first night there, Mina planned a reunion with other friends from the Yoga Teacher Training Course, who were also based in the Bay Area. It was incredible to be able to gather all over again in such a different context. Mina cooked an amazing Indian meal and we spent the evening bringing to memory funny, embarrassing and emotional moments we had shared in Rishikesh and chanting Sanskrit Mantras – think we lost Marcus somewhere between a Shanti and a Om.
The next day we visited Caio’s Gym. We decided to buy a one week pass which cost us only $75 dollars each after speaking to Nick, the Manager. Caio was in Russia for a seminar that day so class was taught by another world champion, Yuri Simoes. He went through a rolling omoplata from lasso half – a technique I had studied before but that I always had trouble using during sparring. He gave me some tips on getting my ear closer to my opponent’s knee to make that granby roll happen which helped a lot.
We spent the rest of the weekend doing some sightseeing; we visited Mount Diablo, which at 3,849 feet (1,173 m) provides amazing views of SF, Central Valley and Sierra Nevada. We also hiked in Park Reyes and enjoyed some really fresh oysters out there.
On Monday afternoon we went back to San Jose. As we stepped into the gym, I saw Caio at reception; he welcomed us with a big smile, asking where we were visiting from. He mentioned he wasn’t planning to teach class that evening but that he would, just for us. He taught a technique from half guard top to counter a Faria grip, and countering with a spiral armbar. Again, it was a variation on a technique I had seen before but Caio provided an incredible amount of detail to it which put it in a whole new light. He allowed the students to deduct the logical steps to the technique rather than just showing it to us and made sure to check on every pair to see that we were executing it properly. We then finished the class with technical sparring but it was split between males and females, so I didn’t get to roll with Caio but Marcus did.
Over the week we visited Caio’s gym a few more times and I really enjoyed sparring with their female black belt, Kristina Barlaan. Her bottom game is sick and she is super flexible, having a background in ballet and hip hop dancing.
On our last day we decided to venture to SF city. We followed the scenic 49 mile drive, a designated scenic road tour highlighting much of San Francisco. It was stunning and we particularly enjoyed the views from Lands End and driving down Lombard Street. After a quick drink in Hayes Valley we drove back to Pleasanton to pack up and leave the States for our first stop in South America: Colombia.