I went in to De La Riva’s last night at my usual 4 pm time, ready for the usual, stretching, technique and “open roll” type training we normally do. Things didn’t go as planned.
Professor De la Riva got us stretched out and went over a quick technique (a nice, single-leg takedown from bottom turtle). Then it all went sideways!
Someone came to the door of the BJJ room and Professor DLR stepped out. After just a moment, he stepped in, whispered something to Professor Maurinho and then left. Now, before I go any further, I should stop and make a few comments so that the significance of this story becomes apparent.
If you have been training for any decent amount of time, maybe three years or more, you have probably discovered that there are a couple different types of BJJ’er. There’s the Hobbyist: That guy that comes in once or twice a week, maybe he misses a week, or just works a lot and comes in whenever. There’s that guy who is the BJJ Disciple (I would put myself in this category). This guy has discovered the meaning of life through BJJ. He comes regularly three or more times per week, refuses overtime at work because it conflicts with Jiu-Jitsu, and generally thinks, dreams, and lives the lifestyle all the time. Then there is that guy who is the BJJ STUD! This guy comes everyday. He trains hard everyday. Between rolls he is doing granby rolls or jumping up and down working sprawls! These guys crack me up! Not because it’s silly, on the contrary! I laugh when I see these guys because, at 44 years old, I’ve lost track of where that kind of energy comes from, and I LOVE to see these guys feeling so passionate and excited.
Well, I am now beginning to realize that there are also different types of Professors. The two types I have nailed down so far are types A and B.
Professor A is a laid back, friendly guy. Not very formal. Let’s you call him “Profe” or, in some cases by his first name ( or in Brasil, by his nickname – everyone seems to have one here: At DLR we have Professors Barra (He’s from Barra), O Barao (The Baron), Marreta (Sledgehammer) etc…). This Professor doesn’t worry too much about old school rigamarole like belts and gis and bowing, etc. If he says…”Hey, you want to train this round”? You can pretty much do whatever…”Sure” or “Next time” and he’s cool with either.
Then there is Professor B. Professor B is old school. He believes in the small physical actions that represent respect for the Mestres like Bowing on and off the mat, turning away from the mat when grooming your belt, having your belt tied CORRECTLY, rolling every time Professors asks you, etc, etc.
I will tell you right off Professor De La Riva is the Professor A type. He’s super easy going and never really makes a single demand on anyone. He kind of reminds me of my Professor: He doesn’t care if we stand or sit during instruction, whether we fix our kimonos between rolls, Most of us call him by his first name (My Professor, Not Mestre DLR ). It’s cool, no worries 🙂
Professor Maurinho, on the other hand, is definitely the Professor B type. Now, I don’t know why Professor DLR had to leave, and I don’t know what he whispered to Professor Maurinho, but after Professor DLR left, Maurinho had us all line up along the wall and gave us a solid “talking to”. I’ve only been here in Rio about 2.5 months so I was missing some of what he said but there was a lot of “Fix your Kimono”, “Sit with your feet crossed” and “Mestre shouldn’t have to tell us ten times” (That one I caught clearly 🙂
After his short but stern lecture, he started picking people out of the line-up and it was time to roll. The clock was set to six minutes and off we went. I got paired with my good friend Paulo Roberto who runs the BJJ Traveller’s Hostel here in RIO . Paulo is a white belt and is quickly on his way to blue. He elected to play guard and was pretty aggressive, but not at all spazzy. I managed to pass his guard and gave him a little shoulder pressure to slow him down a bit (or “take the piss out of him” as my Brit friends might say).
After that roll, it was back in the line-up and Professor Maurinho was pairing people up again right away. This time I got paired with a brown belt that I have rolled with before. He was super cool with playing to my level and we had a very technical roll with a lot of me working my omoplata game and him not letting me sink it 🙁
Again, immediately after the roll, there was no asking “do you want to roll”? It was just…”You, Eric…here.” This went on for an hour. At the end of the class, Professor Maurinho had us gather up at one end of the mat and started the second class without a break. He showed the single-leg technique that Professor DLR had shown earlier and we worked it for about 5 minutes and then we were back on the mat. The next hour was more of the same. “You, Here”! and then go time!
Right off of the bat I got paired with a really technical Blue belt, Anderson, visiting from another DLR affiliate. This guy is the “BJJ stud” type guy that I mentioned earlier.He is all go, never gets tired and performs, IMHO, well above his 1 stripe Blue belt level. I started in guard and was trying to play a Spider / Omoplata variation when he snagged my pant leg and passed my guard pretty easily. I managed to get to half-guard and we fought it out hard for the remaining five minutes. I almost managed a lapel-guard sweep several times but his long legs and excellent base prevented it. When the timer went off I was exhausted. My lungs were stinging and I felt like I couldn’t get a full breath. Just then I heard Professor Maurinho say something about “If you are tired come sit at this wall”. My grasp of Portuguese being what it was I thought he meant the usual, “come over here if you need a break”.
Just as I started to take a step forward toward the wall my good friend Claudinha grabbed my leg and said…”No, it’s not for you”. I thought to myself…”Hell yeah it is! I’m tired as shit.” I looked around and saw everybody huffing and puffing but nobody moving towards that wall. That was when I realized what was going on. GUT CHECK.
We’ve probably all been there. That night when Professor just decides it’s time to toughen up and remember that, while BJJ might have been designed for the weak and frail, it is not for the weak of heart and spirit! Walking over to that wall was a matter of personal pride, a testament to your fortitude and, to a degree, your respect for the other 20 guys pouring sweat onto the mat!
The next 45 minutes were just like the first. Roll after roll. I got paired with two more brown belts, one of them my friend Claudinha, another tough purple and two more blues. With ten minutes left in class Professor Maurinho looked at me and said…”C’mon, you’re with me”. You would think that I was dreading it, but at this point in the session I had remembered something about myself that I might have forgotten for awhile.
Jiu-Jitsu has taught me that I am almost ALWAYS capable of doing more than I feel like I can. It’s the reason I quit my job and sold everything to travel the world and train BJJ. It reminded me that, if left to make the easy choice, I will often do it. Choosing comfort over improvement, I will allow myself the luxury of not pushing myself. But that isn’t how you grow in Jiu-Jitsu or in life. And after tapping to Professor Maurinho about 6 times I was smiling and thinking about how crazy it was that I was here, in Rio, getting smashed by a 4 stripe Black Belt, running a BJJ gi company, travelling the world. It certainly wasn’t the “comfortable” choice, but it has helped me grow as an individual, which is what BJJ is all about (along with choking the shit out of people 🙂
I am really thankful that Professor Maurinho was in that mood last night. Otherwise, I might have sat on the far wall and come away with a little less from my training yesterday. It is a good reminder that comfort is something better achieved and then abandoned than something to be coveted as a goal in itself.
BTW…At the end of class, Professor Maurinho decided we should all do fifty push-ups. So, Okay…my chest is hurting today 🙂