Thursday, after meeting with the wedding photographer, I went to try out my first class of BJJ. The guys were all great and the instructor was a really nice man with obvious talent and experience.
The class started with some technique work. It has been so long for me since I drilled a specific “technique” that the experience was instantly unrealistic for me. Probably until this day I have never really appreciated just how limited technique based training in this fashion is.
The point was to practice freeing yourself from an attack to the legs. The previously familiar approach of: Step one happens so you practice step 2, then 3 then move to 6 unless 4 happens in which case you do 5….was just…
it’s hard to describe. I want to say it is an absurd way of training for a realistic conflict, but I do not wish to appear scornful or disrespectful of the BJJ guys who are most definitely really cool people, and have a great attitude to training in general.
As I was a guest there, I obviously did the drills as told and didn’t behave badly by just doing my own thing. Even in the last minutes of free sparring, I still basically took the attitude of letting the guys do their thing and then seeing if I could get out of it and/or put them in trouble, but the whole time I was playing completely by their rules. Which I have never encountered before.
When free wrestling with a guy that was good, the chances of me doing something to them or them to me was about equal, as long as I essentially waited for them to initiate and then only tried to do my own thing later. That is, I never initiated anything, so not sure how they would do if I did. Against a guy that is not so good, I could do what I wanted. My sense of it though was that if I could play by my rules (or rather, the Systema much-reduced rules…essentially no real rules beyond not crippling your sparring partner) I would be perfectly comfortable with any of these guys attacking me.
I had a nice random meeting later with one of the guys from the Gym as we happened to go to the same coffee shop. He’s a second generation JuJitsuka, having learnt from his dad and his brother, he’s a black belt (not sure which grade, probably at least second dan I would guess) and he’s been training since he was 14. He’s a good guy and we will meet up on Monday to go and try out another BJJ place that has some really famous BJJ person. Apart from Rickson Gracie I am not that familiar with the key BJJ people, so I don’t know what to expect.
I wish I could have free-sparred with the teacher, because he was good, and it would have been interesting for me to see what sense of competence I would have had in myself when compared to a guy who is really good at his art.
Wrestling is my worst skill too, so this was really a good experience for me, when you consider that I have never had a single session of formal Jujitsu or even other grappling techniques beyond about 3 or 4 hours total of some introduction to it by our karate teacher some 10 or 15 years ago, which basically focussed the whole class on just doing 2 arm-locks.
If I knew how to do even just one or two leg-locks with my legs, I really think your average BJJ guy would have a rough time trying to lock me up with anything. This is of course where learning the basics of a technique like an arm-bar or leg-lock are very useful things to do, but beyond practicing this a few times to get the jist of it,
I feel the drilled repetition of the specific technique is mostly a waste of time.
The new friend I made laughed incredulously when I said I had never done any formal training in BJJ or anything similar, he just thought I was trying to mess with his head. I still don’t think he believes me, but we talked a bit about Systema so maybe now he at least knows there is another side to things.
Anyway, I am looking forward to Monday and seeing if I can get some more free sparring in. This time with a few more black-belts, so I can test Systema a bit more. My recovering leg does not really allow me to do breakfalls safely though, so I will have to ask that we begin from the ground mostly, and that they kindly avoid the nastier foot and toe locks on that leg as it’s still pretty fragile when compared to a normal leg.
In any case, regardless of the techniques etc. I really enjoyed the training and the extremely cool attitude of all the students and their teacher. So, my deepest respect to Gracie Barra school in Florianopolis (They have no web-site otherwise I would link them). I will try to pop in again to play more with them, as the class atmosphere is something they should try to bottle and
export to all martial arts clubs around the world.