When I rolled into Phnom Penh, Cambodia I was DYING for some BJJ!!! I had spent the last three weeks in areas where there wasn’t any jits and so I was, possibly literally, dying for some mat time. No joke, the first ten days (spent Skydiving and beaching in Langkawi, Malaysia) went pretty well. Then, by day 15, I started to develop an eye twitch that seemed to get worse as each day passed. By day 17 the headaches started. These weren’t your normal, behind the eyes type of headaches. These were the back of the neck, running over the top of your head, tension style headaches. It’s no joke when I say that I get physically ill when I don’t have some BJJ in my life. (Seriously, I went through more flexeril trying to get rid of that headache than I have in the past two years combined!)
So, when I headed into Phnom Penh I was totally stoked to know that I would be training as soon as I got into town! After a 6 hour bus ride down from Siem Reap (where we stopped for two weeks to work on our lovely, U.S. taxes and explore the mysterious Angkor Wat temples) I was totally ready for this!
We got to our Hostel, the Mad Monkey – Phnom Penh, at around 4:00 pm on a Monday. (I’ll do a separate write up on where to stay and the Mad Monkey is a pretty decent option.) We drug our bags up the flight of stairs to our room and I immediately started packing my bag for training that night at 7:00 pm. I was tired, and – if I am honest – I had been “not training” long enough for that old devil the “excuses bug” to start creeping into my thoughts….”Oh, It’s our first day, we can just chill at the upstairs bar tonight” popped into my head. Then the…”Man, I’m just tired from a long day of travel, I’ll just rest up tonight”, followed by the timeless…”no one can blame me for taking a day off because of travel…right”?
Bullshit. There was no good reason not to go train and, in fact…I just KNEW these headaches would go away once I got on the mats again. so, I packed up my gi and double checked my messages with the gym I was going to be visiting. *Still following those rules of travel training!
I had messaged BJJ Cambodia via Facebook a week or so before getting here and had gotten the go-ahead to come on in and train! As always (almost always) I had booked a place within walking distance of the gym and so I left the hostel about 1/2 hour prior to class time.
The location for BJJ Cambodia is, mainly, located at the “Prokout” gym next to Aeon Mall, across from “Boss” club (Tuk Tuk drivers will only know the ‘Aeon’ mall – so tell them to go to Aeon to get close). Let me tell you, my first impression?….HUGE! Prokout gym is an all-around fitness facility complete with MMA cage, aprox. 160 sq. mtrs (about 1750 sq. ft.) of mat space, an equal amount of “crossfit box” and a boxing / Muay Thai ring along with men’s and women’s locker rooms. (UPDATE: BJJ Cambodia has since taken the BIG LEAP and opeed their own academy under the “H/art Academy” Banner – see the facebook page link below to get details).
When I walked in I saw a group of guys hanging out in gis over by the side of the MMA cage so I knew I was in the right place. I said hi to everyone, introduced myself and was introduced to the head of BJJ Cambodia, Vivaddanha Khou.
Vi (as he is called) is a young guy who has taken a big task upon his shoulders. A blue belt under the Axis Jiu-Jitsu banner, he has taken it upon himself to bring BJJ into the cultural awareness of the Cambodian people. When I spoke with Vi a couple of days later he explained the cultural issue surrounding sports and how it is that he wants to change that. That however is a “whole ‘nother story”, which I will write about in a few days.
Class that day was awesome! Vi is EXTREMELY technical and, likely, the most technical instructor at his level that I have ever seen. He had a handle on so many details for guard passes and armbars that I certainly didn’t have when I got my blue belt! I was, to say the least, very impressed. Now, on to the class itself.
One thing about classes at BJJ Cambodia that set them apart from almost every other gym I’ve been to: The Warm-up.
With the exception of De la Riva’s academy in Rio de Janeiro, every gym I have been to has pretty much the same warm-up: running around the mat, running with knees high, running with feet kicking back, outside shuffle, inside shuffle, etc, etc…
Vi runs his warm-ups very differently. “Drills are my warm-ups” Vi said. So we started with some leg-drag drills (in three variations), a toreador-pass drill, x-pass drill, etc…
After about 40 minutes of drills we moved into the technique portion of the class. For techniques, in the two weeks I trained there, we went over a broad variety of techniques from X-pass, Cross-side armbar transitions (one I have never used but really liked from S-mount), Knee-slide passes, and on one night-we had a special visitor from San Diego: Ivan Alba. Ivan is a Brown belt under Jeff Glover and we were fortunate enough for him to stop by BJJ Cambodia while I was there. He taught a great “mini-seminar” on the bow and arrow choke, with a bunch of variations and some tight details! (check out Ivan’s “round-the-world” trip at “Alba family world tour”)
After technique we had about 40 minutes left to just roll. Over the course of the two weeks (I believe I went to all but one evening class) I rolled with everyone in the gym. Everybody there is tough and they are all representing their team very well! Carlos was probably my main rolling partner while I was there and he is a strong blue belt. We had a lot of good rolls.
I think I rolled with Vi just two times, Vi is an Energizer bunny and is always pacing the mats helping and coaching everybody – he probably gets the least mat time of anybody on the team. But don’t be fooled. Vi is just as technical rolling as he is teaching. Add in that limitless energy and a good dose of speed and he makes for a hell of a roll. I think we rolled to a draw both times we rolled and I wasn’t holding anything back.
The guys at BJJ Cambodia are, truly, Jiu-Jiteros of the best sort. They aren’t training for the glamour of belts that’s for sure, with no black belt instructor to routinely stripe them up or promote them; you gotta know that they are in it for the love of Jiu-Jitsu. That was something that really won me over about them. That and their genuine, friendly nature. In my first class it was announced that Mahroz (one of their Blue belts) was moving to Barcelona and that he was having a going away party and, by the time I got back to my room, there was an invite sitting in my FB feed! (yet another write up coming soon 🙂 )
I strongly suggest that, if you happen to be traveling SE Asia you have a stop by BJJ Cambodia and get some good training in with some awesome people. You can reach BJJ Cambodia at their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/bjjcambodia
They have classes every single day (twice on some days) and Vi runs all of them (I told you he was an Energizer bunny! – *note: When I called him out on this he said: “Hey, when you live your passion everyday it’s easy to have the energy!”
Oh…and by the way…headache gone after first class! Thanks to everyone at BJJ Cambodia for keeping me healthy and on the mats 🙂
Till next time…Oss and good training!