I have a buddy that lives in Cabarete a few months a year and he is always telling me how cool the Jiu-Jitsu team is there and how there is great surfing there so, when I got into the States from Dublin, Ireland and had a spare week to burn before travelling up to visit my home school I decided to burn some frequent flyer miles to check out the surf and Jits in the Dominican Republic.
A note on surfing: When I was in Bali I spent around 6 days intensely trying to learn this sport. I had planned on surfing the entire month I was there but day six, essentially, scared the life out of me!
My instructor was, to put it plainly, not very good (it was mostly an ESL issue), and took me out to the line-up for my first time on a day the swells built up to about 3-4 meters. After two near death experiences (crushed and held down under a couple big waves – twice) I had had enough and quit. I had no business being out in those “advanced” wave sets and my instructor should have known that. It’s kind of like you’re Professor signing you up for the “Pro MMA” division after giving you that first stripe on your white belt. F-that!
So, anyway, I was obviously a little nervous about trying out this surfing thing again but, I went ahead and signed up for three days of surf lessons at Encuentro Beach and am really glad I did!
The waves were perfect for beginner to intermediate with the primary break coming in at about 2 meters and the secondary break around 1- 1.5 meters it was perfect for working on basic skills like paddling out, catching a wave, getting up, steering, etc. It definitely changed my mind on giving up on surfing. I was hooked from the three days of surfing I did and I can’t wait to go back! (Which I am doing and bringing a bunch of you with me! Check it out HERE )
Of course…there was Jiu-jitsu too!
Cabarete is home to “Jiu-Jitsu de la Costa” a small team under Black Belt Thomas “Papo” Sone. I trained three nights with these guys while I was there and had a great time. Classes were typically taught in Spanish, but Papo had no issue translating to English when necessary (Papo’s English is excellent).
The academy is small, with about 300 sq. ft. of 1 inch puzzle mats (half the space had a double layer of 1 inch puzzle mats). There is, fortunately, a lot of ventilation with multiple LARGE windows on three of four walls, and a couple of wall mounted fans. It can get pretty hot in the D.R. especially in summer so the ventilation is very welcome!
The team consists of several white and blue belts as well as a couple purple and a brown belt too. All the guys are into rolling hard but with a smile on their faces at the same time. I felt pretty comfortable rolling with them all (which isn’t always the case when you travel / train full-time). I had the good fortune of rolling with Professor Papo and had a really great time each time we rolled.
Papo has a very interesting style and I was amazed how he “seemed” to be giving up his back to me, only to find I had been tricked into some sort of bad position! This happened several times over the several rolls we had. I saw him do it with other guys too. I asked him about it and he explained how he wasn’t threatened by turning his back because he only did it when he had certain hip availability and that it was a deceptive tactic. Even though I knew he was going to do it, I couldn’t stop it.
While I was there, one of Papo’s students (and my pseudo-host) Joe showed me around Cabarete, bought me a delicious burrito from Gorditos, and even had me over for a day of pool, beach, and drinks with his family visiting from the States. Now, I have had some pretty friendly welcomes as I have traveled across the globe, but this one had to be the BEST, most friendly welcome I have ever had at a gym!
I was introduced to Joe via facebook by my buddy that trains in the D.R.and, no sooner had I gotten to my hotel than Joe messaged me and said “I’m coming to get you…wear your bathing suit.”
Joe was like my own personal concierge for the 4 days I was there. He was amazing! On one outing he took me over to where Papo and his students are building a new academy. Yes, they are building it, themselves! It is an awesome, open air palapa style with what will be about 1800 sq. ft. of mat space! It is elevated about a foot off the ground (built up groundwork) to keep it dry when the heavy rains come and it has 360 degree, full ventilation. I really can’t wait to see it when it is finished! (come train here with me and Papo at our Surf-Jistu Camp!)
I will definitely be heading back to the Dominican Republic to get some more great training and, of course, some more surfing in Cabarete! Anybody want to join me? Just let me know 🙂
*NOTE* Since I originally wrote this post, I have decided that I MUST go back ad do this again so I have set up a BJJ / surfing training camp for all of us to go to!! Check it out here Surf-Jitsu Camp
Until then, OSS and Good Training!