I made my big, scary, indefinite move overseas knowing that if the UK BJJ community was anything like Australia’s – it would provide a great deal of support, friendship and maybe even a surrogate family.
We all have that special connection to our home club. It’s the place where solid friendships and even relationships are forged, and where we record so many milestones in our Jiu Jitsu (and overall fitness) journeys…
“On the 7th September, our gym in Chippendale was destroyed by a criminal act of arson. It was our home. As a show of support and family spirit we continued our training in the park the following day.”
“Even if you’re 20 minutes late to class, I’ll know you have work, just get here.”
My new instructor puts it simply.
We all have those nights, weeks sometimes even MONTHS when we struggle to drag ourselves to the gym – right now my 40 minute tube ride home from the office poses a mental challenge.
I sit (if I get a seat) calculating my ETA back in East London and how long it will then take to power walk .. will I make BJJ class? The kickboxing session after that? Did I even pack a sports bra with my gear this morning? Maybe it’s all too hard and easier to head home, eat, and collapse into bed with episodes of The Walking Dead.
Back in Melbourne I had my drive home from work to debate turning right at the roundabout toward the gym, or continuing straight ahead to my dinner waiting in the fridge. I’m ashamed to admit the indicator frequently remained off.
It’s the best feeling being on the mat – punching a bag, sweating it out in a circuit – but what keeps you away sometimes? Is it just the end-of-the-day exhaustion feeling like me?
Or do you have more pressing obligations, like little humans to take care of before you can indulge in your love of BJJ?
Ok, at 72 kgs I’m not ‘little’ – but right now I’m happy being a noob on the mat … mostly because I’m just happy to be rolling!
One month after arriving in London, I finally got my big butt to an MMA gym. Why the delay? A few stressy ‘life’ set up things I had to prioritise – but I have also been enjoying the slight break that packing up and moving overseas has afforded me.
It’s this irresponsible, inconsequential feeling akin to the first little moment you have as a grown up, when you realise you don’t need to ask for permission to go somewhere or to eat dessert before dinner … just being away from home again is so freeing.
It was actually the second time I ate a whole tub of ice cream for tea that I decided I’d better get back to BJJ. Judging by the tightness of my gi pants, it’s lucky I didn’t leave it much longer.
I walked in, then straight back out of one MMA gym I found quite close to where I’m living. There’s something about a big dog lounging around on a visibly dirty (black in parts) mat, that’s just not very appealing.
Marco Canha(Checkmat) is head instructor, with beginner and intermediate/advanced BJJ classes on offer.
There’s also the all-important S&C along with Muay Thai, Boxing and MMA.
You get the family vibe as soon as you walk into this gym, kids classes obviously help amplify the feeling – as does the sight of adorable gi-clad littlies burning off post-class energy, running about inside the cage!
There were a good 30 people on the mat in my first beginner lesson including four ladies, which was fab.
I’m told white belts regularly stay in the mix for the intermediate/advanced class that follows, but I’m happy hanging in the newbie sessions for now. While not ‘new’ I’m inconsistent, so have a lot of basics to work on along with overall fitness.
Friday night I hit class then stayed back for the open mat – just music, me and a bunch of guys who were pulling moves all over the place while I did something hopefully resembling defending!
I was a red faced, sweaty, crazy-haired, blissed-out mess by the end.
I have a new-found appreciation for hostels that sell ear plugs and eye masks.
For cost effectiveness and the social aspect, I chose to base myself in backpacker accommodation when I first moved to London. I’ve never been a fussy traveler, and have previously only had really great experiences staying in hostels. Girls dorms, mixed six, eight, sixteen bed – they’ve been fine. Rowdy on party nights sure, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
After this past fortnight though .. I may be putting conditions on my future bunk bed stays.
From randoms crashing – to dorm mates screwing randoms in bunks at night, in the middle of the day, in shared bathrooms.. I thought I was finally free of the shenanigans when I switched hostels after the first week. But the final straw came (heh) on my first night in the second hostel … when half asleep I automatically handed up a dress that had fallen from the top bunk onto mine.
I later realised the girl above me had a friend, and wasn’t just changing into her pyjamas.
Really, I should have seen it coming when I saw this in the ladies loos.
And this in the stairwell.
Though this message was on the dorm room door – “We have a strict one person per bunk policy.”
Just a tad hypocritical, you know.
** On the jits front – I am FINALLY getting to trying out a few clubs this week! Finding a share house and starting some kind of work has been the priority, then I picked up a cold .. but now I’m kinda settled it’s time to roll – and find me a new home club. *rubs hands together in anticipation*
I scheduled my flight to London via the Thai capital to see the lovely Marissa, who has moved there for work. I can honestly say Bangkok would not have been on my radar otherwise.
Rather than rush around doing the touristy thing I made no plans, there more to hang out with my friend and relax. In hindsight a few things I should have pre planned, like an empty suitcase for all the cheap shopping and tailor made clothes!
But I had a great time getting to know Marissa’s bustling neighbourhood in the embassy district, window shopping in Siam, having a spa treatment, riding the incredibly efficient BTS (skytrain) – mustering the courage to take a short ride on the back of a scooter (yes I’m a scaredy cat) and of course a spin in a tuk tuk, which I thought was definitely going to tip over the way we were screaming around corners at 1am!
Watching Muay Thai fights at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is a great experience, not just for what’s going on in the ring but it’s one of the few places in Thailand where gambling and betting is allowed – so there’s a lot of action in the stands.
Being driven from the airport by a drunk cabbie – not such a great experience, truly I don’t know how we weren’t involved in a crash with another car – or the concrete freeway barriers.
There are many hilarious, sober tuk tuk and taxi drivers in Bangkok though … like “Mr Big” who earnestly revealed he’s gay while showing us posters, physical photos and snaps on a digital camera, all while navigating Friday night traffic and trying to pitch himself as our personal city guide. (For the record, checked out Khao San Road but no ping pong shows!)
I hadn’t even planned to do a BJJ class during my extended stopover, but on a whim I hit google and found Bangkok Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy was only one BTS stop from where I was staying.
Located in the Trendy Building on Sukhumvit Soy 13, the hardest part was finding the Soi (street) as it wasn’t signed. A few extremely friendly locals pointed me in the right direction.
Pat Aphaisuwan took the 7am class – a small turnout that Friday (I think other regulars had a late one the night before) of mostly western dudes, but I’m told a few women also train at the club.
Warm ups, live takedowns, Pat demonstrated some handy back escapes before ending the one and a half hour session with comp rounds.
He says they get travellers passing through quite regularly – my one-off class cost 500 Baht (about $17 Australian) and I believe they have pricing plans for short term training periods.
No shower inside the Academy, though Pat says they’re building one – and there are ladies and men’s toilets on the same floor, so somewhere to go to change/freshen up after training.
A really friendly academy that is worth a visit, if you ever find yourself in Bangkok.