Scramblers Jai Joshi and Tom Barlow are currently at the Mendes Brothers Art of Jiu Jitsu academy fine tuning their jits.
Jai is not just a handsome, occasionally-mustachioed face, he is also a pretty good writer. And he has great taste in clothes. And a nice moustache (in November.)
Guest blog – GO!
Anyone that’s ever played the game of Jiu Jitsu can imagine how you would feel when one of your best friends and BJJ coach Tom Barlow, says to you “I’m going to train at the Mendes Bro’s academy in California for a month, wanna come?” Like questions involving bears and woods, there are a some that don’t require an answer. This was one of them.
I’ve trained Martial Arts for years, pretty inconsistently but enough to know when you are about to go somewhere that is very special. Tom is realising a long term dream to train at a top academy in the build up to a world tournament in No-Gi grappling, and he’s taking me along for the ride. Cue some serious overture and dramatic music…here is my blog.
I sit here in our hotel room (the fifth in almost as many days) having arrived last weekend with the excitement of a small hungry child in a free sweet shop. My muscles are screaming, my mind is running jiu jitsu technique, and my spirit is happy. I recall the day that we flew out. Tom and I set off over the Atlantic to start an epic trip of BJJ awesomeness I don’t know if that is a kosher English dictionary word, but it’s the only way to describe the gravity of the situation. It’s not long before our conversation turns to the love of the game as we sit on our Boeing en route to Los Angeles.
I won’t bore you with the details but one thing that Tom says that made me excited about this trip is an aspect of training that I think is overlooked, train the intent and not the result. Your submission, your goal, your strategy, will naturally occur if you have a strong foundation of the technique. The component parts of a technique like a transition, or a set up, are key. Drill the correct aspect of the technique then you will get your result. If you drill the kimura for example but not the steps of how you get there, then you will not get the kimura. Training and drilling the foundation of success will soon become our daily fix.
The weekend we arrive our first BJJ port of call is the Masters and Seniors world tourny at Long Beach. I have never been at a world competition before. Simply walking towards the Walter pyramid at UCL (University of California at Long Beach) I have an over whelming sense of being starstruck. That was nothing like the moment I stepped into that arena. The atmosphere is electric, the Black Belt division is already on running over 12 mats. We stand at the rafters looking down at all that old school knowledge, Professor Draculino behind us high fiving and fist bumping students and fighters, Xande Ribeiro warming up in the bull pen, and Andre Galvao watching on with that charismatic smile and mountainous presence.
Tom points out some major people in the world of BJJ every 2-3 minutes. He was like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, I need to get this dude to Vegas. On a side note I like to think I’m an adaptor, in the sense I blend into the local environment like a ninja. So don’t be alarmed if I start throwing out the words ‘dude’, ‘rad’, or even ‘duuuuude’, like totally.
I find it’s all a humbling experience, the relaxed atmosphere where under one roof there are so many respective celebrities, the common thread being the love of BJJ. We watch Robson Moura to name but a few glide through his matches. One of my favourite highlights though is watching Saulo Riberio compete. His book changed my BJJ life. It gave me a good starting point and understanding on how you should approach BJJ and make the most out of your journey.
When he steps onto that yellow square he shows why he is one of the best, using effective basic techniques arm barring, choking, winning. He takes both his division and the Open, as did Xande.
After watching the tournament my excitement towards training at the Mendes Bros Art of Jiu Jitsu academy is only increased. I can’t wait to get onto the mat.
We arrive into Costa Mesa on the Mon, another hectic day changing hotels, it’s been one per day. I feeling pretty jaded from jet lag, and nearly catching the daily Winky Woo show. I am only spurred on by the thought of walking into that academy.
We check in and head straight down there to introduce ourselves and sort out the next 3-4 weeks of training. If you can ever get close to encapsulating the zen ideal then you can be pretty sure it’d be something like the Art of Jiu Jitsu on 411 East 17th Street, Costa Mesa, California. If Carlsberg made a BJJ academy it probably wouldn’t touch this place.
We walk up the steps through the doors into the reception. I am washed over by this sense of what I can only describe as tranquillity and crispness. Everything is a calming shade of white, and helps convey the sophistication in simplicity in the academy design.
After meeting Griffin the academy manager we are given the tour. Everything is pretty much open planned, the reception desk is hip height and brilliant white sits in the middle of open floor plan. There is no clutter, only countless medals and trophies acquired by the two Professor siblings along the back wall. Central to which is a very cool timeline of Jiu Jitsu with pictures appended to major milestone years. With that, the development and history of the Mendes Jiu Jitsu biography is incorporated into the timeline with some cool stories about their lineage and teachers. It finishes at the present with a very humbling and inspiring mission statement. You’ll just have to visit the academy to read the whole thing, but the last few lines strike my mind with inspiration, “believe and achieve”.
There are two main mat areas again covered in white, which are specifically designed with technology that aims to soften the after effects of a session of throws and takedowns. The smaller of the two mat areas lies next to a nice seating area where students are chilling out, chatting, joking and getting ready for the first No Gi class of the day. Featherweight world champion Ed Ramos is sitting there playing on his Apple Mac, calm and ready to train. It ain’t no thang, just another day at Mendes right?!
This area is where they run some of the kids classes. YouTube their kid students, and you will see the early stages of champions in the making I kid you not. We watch on in awe as kids as young as 4 and 5 are repping out drills better than I’ve seen a lot of adult BJJ players. I utter to myself these kids are badass and wish that I started training young.
Dotted around in amongst various pictures of the Mendes Bros training, competing, and holidaying, are large TV monitors along showing their matches and major bouts. I look on at the BJJ technique performed ‘in the field’ where you can easily see why these guys are taking the game to the next level. It’s a great motivator pre training.
We move on to watch their No-Gi sesh, After watching the first 15 mins we have to drag ourselves away otherwise we wouldn’t eat. We both leave enthused and excited about the up and coming training.
We start that evening with a Gi class run by both Gui and Rafa, they take us through specific drilling for guard passing technique. The thing that I instantly notice is the excellent structure to the classes. We start by clear cut and detailed instruction on the technique, and build up by drilling over 3-5 minute rounds with a partner, each round adding a detail or variation to get to the common goal. It’s a simple and logical structure but it works. The Professor times each round of drilling urging students to keep hips low, explode, do not rest or rep lazy technique. Competitions are won on the mat where you train. It echoes what Tom was telling me as we flew towards the West coast days before.
I leave that session almost in disbelief. The class gave us a taste of what is to come, in an environment filled with highly knowledgeable charismatic professors, and egoless students that reflect the skill level and quality of coaching that the Mendes brothers provide.
The following morning we begin the No-Gi camp competition training. Again we warm up and drill in a high volume structured fashion. When we spar that morning I lose count of how often I get leg dragged, berimbolo’d and generally have my glutes (as firm and tight as they are) handed to me. These guys are good. Really really good. The best thing about it is that they are there to learn and develop, and it shows.
I also find out that competition training is nothing less than brutal. The conditioning at the end of the class is ridiculous, jumping jacks into squat jumps to sprawling burpees, all done together as a team. We are fired on by the words of Gui that if you have the desire and heart of a champion then you will not stop, you will go through to the end.
Quads screaming like teeny boppers at a Justin Bieber concert, I walk along the class line to pay our respects and shake hands with all the other students. We have finished the first session of the day only due to be back no more than 4 hours later. Tom and I look at each other, slightly broken, barely able to walk, covered in friction burns. We smile as if to say “Duuuude, this is totally rad”, and bump fists. This is going to be our lives for the next month and we are going to love every single minute.