Jul 08 2012

Disciple Dojo - JMSmith.org: My Renzo Gracie Academy trip 2012 (part 5)

Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/renzo5/

[Click HERE for part 1] [Click HERE for part 2] [Click HERE for part 3] [Click HERE for part 4]

Day 3: Lunchtime class

Today I decide to sleep in and skip the 7:30am class. That’s such a great decision!

I wake up around 10am and am able to rest, eat and check email before heading to class after lunch. It’s John Danaher’s gi class again today and we spend the first part of class going over set ups to various judo throws (O goshi, tai otoshi) and then a few off-balancing entries from sitting.

As usual, John just puts on a gi top and belt over his fight shorts/rashguard attire and does assumes his grappling-Yoda position on the side of the mat.

Mike and I are the only two in class today, as Derek did the morning class and Chase’s knee is still jacked up. We do a round of rolling together and then finish the rest of the rounds with other RGA students.

I can’t remember the individual rounds honestly because everything is starting to become a blur. But I do okay this class. I get to roll with a brown belt, who catches me with something that I can’t remember. But I do okay other than that. I roll with a young blue belt who was a high school or college wrestler and has crazy good takedowns (the weakest part of my game by far!). I can’t remember if he caught me with anything or not, but he definitely won the takedown game and passed my guard a few times as well. I end the class by rolling with a white belt who looks a lot like Terrell from the first episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but taller and with a much better De La Riva/Spider Guard game!

After class it’s time for lunch and laundry…and today Nick and I decide to live large. So once our gis are in the wash, we head over to POPEYE’S CHICKEN! AWWW YEEAHHHH!

Now you have to understand, we live in Charlotte. And in this town, Bojangle’s has a stranglehold on the fried-chicken-and-biscuit market. After all, when Renzo was in town cornering Roy Nelson (the first time I met him), the fight took place at BOJANGLE’S ARENA! But I’m a Georgia boy at heart, and in Georgia Bojangle’s plays second fiddle to Popeye’s…and I miss me some Popeye’s!

So Nick and I get there and are filled with schoolgirl delight as we place our order. And to make it even better, Popeye’s is the only place I’ve seen in NY that serves sweet tea (which, as we all know, is what will be served at the Heavenly banquet when Jesus returns)…

If you’re not from the south, then you probably won’t understand how giddy we were. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

After our bellies are filled with sweet tea, biscuits and fried chicken goodness, it’s back to the seedy laundromat to grab our gear and then across the street to the apartment to rest before evening classes.


Day 3: Evening class

I’m now rested and ready for class tonight. I decide to head over a little early. It’s not unbearably hot out today but I still stop for a few minutes to sit in the shade at this nice little outdoor patio area between our place and RGA on 30th. Since I’m sporting my “Chocolate Al” shirt, I decide to snap a quick pic for my fellow UGers

As well as one more before class…  :)


One really cool thing that happens today is that, as I’m walking in, I see Rob Constance,  aka. “Black Rob” in the other room with some of the other RGA instructors and he gives me a wave and a nod. It’s awesome being recognized…especially by one of Renzo’s top guys…who could literally rip my torso in half if he wanted to!

He asks where Derek is. I tell him he’s back at the apartment and will be here for evening class.

“Man, tell him to come train with me!” Rob says.

I text Derek the message, and a few minutes later I see him and Rob rolling on the side mat.

After all, one does not simply turn down an opportunity to roll one-on-one with a top RGA black belt…especially when that black belt is Black Rob!

I head back to the locker room and change for class. It’s a gi class taught by Luciano and I don’t remember every detail of what we covered, I must confess. This is not due to Luciano’s teaching; he’s fantastic. It’s just that at this point my body is on autopilot and everything is blending together into a sea of sweat-soaked cerulean blue mats and joint locks.

We partner up to drill escapes from side control. After the first round, I look down and my gi top is covered with blood. I check to see if it’s mine; it’s not. I look up and my partner has a big scab on his head that has come off and blood is trickling down his face.

“Dude, you’re bleeding.”

“Oh,” he says, as he wipes it with his hand.

“You wanna go get a bandage for it?”

“Nah, it’ll just come off again” he says, as he gets into position to continue drilling.

What I was really asking is “Dude, you wanna go get that cleaned up so I don’t end up with a pink gi?” but he seemed oblivious to the fact that his partner may not have wanted to go home coated in his DNA. But it’s all good. Like everyone I’ve met at RGA, he’s a nice guy and was just focused on training and wasn’t going to let a little scratch get in the way.

We change partners and switch to drills from turtle position, I’m partnered with a young white belt who is definitely in Hulk-smash mode. When he gets my back (the starting position, as I’m turtled), he cranks back on my face as hard as he can after I defend a few choke attempts. Since we’re just drilling, I don’t have my mouthpiece in. My upper lip gets crushed against my teeth, as my mouth is partly open (mostly from exhaustion of 5 classes in 2 days!) when he yanks my head back.

When that round is over and it’s time to roll, as I’m washing the blood out of my throbbing mouth I decide that if I want to train at all tomorrow it’s time to call it an evening. So I slip off to the side and flop down against the back wall. I’m done for the day.

As I’m sitting there, some of my teammates arrive. Derek’s doing the advanced class (which is now a competition team class, I believe) that Gregor Gracie teaches and Michael is doing the 8pm beginner class. Brooke has just finished the women’s class and Mike finishes out our class.

They’re all changing (either to come or to go) and I’m hanging out in front of the main mat as I hear a familiar voice behind me.

Renzo has just walked through the door.

He talks to a few of the kids who are there after their Kid-jitsu class and then comes over and gives me a hug. “Good to see you my brudder!” he says.

“I’ve got something for you. Don’t move!” I say as I go over to get my sketchbook.

“Oh yes, the picture!” he says, thinking I’m referring to the portrait I did of him that he told me he’d sign so I could auction off after the trip.

“No…I’ll have that one tomorrow night. This one is a special gift just for you. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece that I’m not making prints of our anything. You’re the only one who’ll have it. I wanted to do something special for you as a thank you for your hospitality whenever we’ve come up here, as well as your support of my art in general.”

I take out the portrait of Ryan I had just finished that afternoon and give it to him. He looks at it intently, with a big smile on his face.

“It’s beautiful” he says, as he shows it to those who are standing around looking, “Thank you so much.”


My body is almost dead, but my spirits are lifted.

It’s been a good day. But one more thing makes it even better.

As the others classes are starting, Zed comes over and we start chatting. He says that he’s so impressed by my work and asks if I’ll be here tomorrow.

I say that we’ll be here for morning classes and then for the promotion ceremony tomorrow night.

“Okay. I’ll be here for lunch classes. How about we meet at 12:30?”

Zed goes on to say that after watching me work on Ryan’s portrait yesterday and talking with me about what I do, he wants give me a private lesson as a thank you.

I’m floored! An instructor at Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan just asked if he could give me a free private lesson!

“Ohh, it will be my pleasure my frien’” he says, “what you do, could never do. It’s amaaaazing!” (you’ll have to read that with a Brazilian accent to get the proper effect)

“Now you know how I feel when I watch you guys roll!” I say, giving him a hug. “I’ll see you tomorrow at 12:30, sir! Thank you so much!”

We snap one last pic with Renzo after classes finish up and then it’s back to our pad for the night.

It’s been a good day, indeed.

[Continue reading Conclusion]



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