Athens…All I can really say is WOW! My mind is still absorbing all of the awesomeness it inhaled during my three weeks in the Birthplace of Democracy!
There is so much history there, and so much to see and experience I never felt like I was at a shortage of things to do and see, even having been there for three weeks.
But, this post is about the Jiu-Jitsu so let’s get to it!
While I was in Athens I trained exclusively with Gracie Barra, Draculinho team. You may have noticed that on several occasions (namely here and here) I have mentioned that, while almost every school I have trained at has been friendly, warm and welcoming there are a few that just make you feel like a part of the family from the get-go. Well…add Draculinho team – Athens to that growing list of extended family: These guys are GREAT!
The school is headed by Aris Chajiiakovou and he is there all the time, although different classes are run by different Professors.
For starters, I will say that GB Athens has a very spacious mat-space at around 13m X 15m (40ft X 46 ft) but it has some of the hardest mats I have trained on. They are the square block style, framed by wooden beams to keep them together, kind of like those I remember from Triumph BJJ in Grand Rapids, USA, but not nearly as soft.
It was firm enough that I was wishing I had brought my knee pads with me on my trip but, alas: space was tight in my suitcase and they didn’t make the cut 🙁
My first night of training was a small class with only about 8-10 people in it. I had arrived in Athens during the beginning of the August Holiday season and almost everyone is heading out of the city for two or three weeks to visit the islands. Anyway, Professor Aris led us through the usual suspect of warm-ups, plus an additional two rounds of abdominal exercises (100 crunches, 100 seconds of leg raises and 100 planks) – I was totally not expecting that!
When it was time for techniques I paired up with a newer white belt named Mike. Mike was really friendly and we struck up conversations very quickly. He has been training for a short time but is as “bitten by the bug” as anyone I have met. He has also lost something like 40 kilos thank to BJJ!!!
We went over a couple techniques from 50/50 guard, one very cool sweep and a nice ankle lock as well and then it was time to roll. I paired up with Mike for the first roll and was pretty much caught off guard by his speed and strength on the mat. Mike was really gunning for me! He was working arm-bars constantly from his guard and was always pushing the pace.
I rolled with a beastly purple belt and a blue belt in the next two rounds and I was discovering very quickly that these guys are GOOD! I feel safe in saying that there wasn’t an easy roll in the room and I got crushed by several purple belts and finally Professor Aris as well 🙂
We trained for about an hour and a half in total and I came away feeling great and excited to get in for the next class.
Things didn’t actually work out that way…but that is another story.
I can sum up the first night of training as one of those moments where you just “Remember” why you do it all anyway…why you push your body through the grind, why you endure the swollen knuckles and the Icy/Hot, forehead cuts and the achy joints. Professor Aris and his team made it FUN. Yeah, they gave me a hard ass work-out, but they smiled when they tapped me and they laughed when I pulled off the rolling back-take Professor Samuel Braga taught me so many months ago. And in between rounds we laughed about our mistakes and complimented each other on our successes. That’s the way I really like to play!
Being the “visiting purple belt” in the room, sometimes I feel like everybody is just trying to “test-out” my belt…or maybe testing out theirs, or whatever. There can be just a little too much sense of competition…without the friendly camaraderie to go along with it. I really needed a good reminder of the “Keep it playful” mentality which helped me to start this whole “Quit your job and travel the world training Jiu-Jitsu” undertaking in the first place!
but…More on that in the next post.
In the meantime, make sure you check out GB Athens if you get out that direction and be sure
to tell them YoloBJJ says hello! Here is their contact info (so you can keep on following the 5 rules).
Facebook: Gracie Barra Athens on Facebook
Until next time, Oss and Good Training!