Gracie Adventure Camp 3-2011
The Gracie Adventure Camp wrapped up today, Sunday March 21st 2011. It was a success and a great training experience. For the first time, probably in many years, several members of the Gracie family where on the same mats teaching together. Roger Gracie, the best jiu jitsu competitor of all times, taught every day. He also grabbed me during one of the live sessions and beat me up. His teaching was very methodical in that he repeated key points from different angles so that it was easier to understand the position as a whole and how it connected with other positions. It seems like this is part of his genius; he sees and is able to covey details without loosing the larger perspective of the position. For a rather simplified example, during his teaching of side control Roger emphasised controlling opponents arms so that once he past to mount his knees where already in the armpits in his deadly high mount position. It was also evident that Roger studies Judo with world class judo players and has picked some of their strong points that work well with jiu jitsu. Alex Shum of Storm Gis (a 4 stripe blue belt under Renzo Gracie) helped me understand some of Roger’s teaching better. He has worked with him before and studies film obsessively. Alex came in from Hong Kong.
There where people from all over the world. Renzo Gracie Ottowa had many students representing well including Matt “Hammer” Hache. Matt and I had lots of good rolls. Look out for him at brown belt in tournaments this year! There where many schools and associations represented including Renzo Gracie New York, various Gracie Barra affiliations, Fabio Leopoldo’s Gracie Morumbi, Piet’s Triton Fight Center, Mauro Sergio Panama, Rillion Gracie, and of course, Renzo Gracie Pittsuburgh just to name a few. Seth Schraff (of RGA Pittsburgh) represented well on the mat. There were also a few local Costa Ricans attending, including my old friends Ricardo and Leo. Ricardo, John Gibson (of Amal Easton’s Colorado BJJ) , Seth and I spent two afternoons between training sessions about 15 km south of the Gracie Adventure Camp location at Esterillos beach. We surfed, although the wind was on shore and the break crumbling. We knocked back a few beers at Low Tide Bar, a funky place decorated with crocodile, whale, and cow skulls. Our bartender was former member of one of the top Punk bands of the 80’s. I did catch a few waves on my 9’4” longboard on the south end of Jaco beach my first afternoon out in the surf. Gregor and I where cruising a wave together. Nightlife in Jaco is a little seedy. We when out a couple of nights, once to “ladies night” at Backyard bar in Hermosa Beach which is about 4 km south of Jaco. I brought Mario (Renzo Gracie Mexico owner and UFC Latin America) out for a drink that night. He is the Joe Rogan of Latin America, although he is much more knowledgeable about jiu jitsu (sorry Joe..). Seth also represented well off the mat. I don’t think he missed a night out, and he almost never missed the morning training session. One of the things I miss most about Costa Rica, where I used to live, is the fruit. I got several fresh fruit smoothies every day. Papaya and milk is my favorite. Rolles, Rillion, and I had a a cass drink for lunch one day at the little soda (Costa rican name for a small restaurant) near Amapola hotel where the camp was held. Cass is a seed that is tangy and crunchy when made into a drink. It is very unusual and a good recovery drink in the heat of the afternoons. Nights where cooler and sometimes clear. It was clear enough to see the Super Moon early in the evenings as it was rising.
It was motivating and educational to see some of my primary mentors in jiu jitsu, Rolles, Igor, and Gregor Gracie bringing their expertise and perspective as current top competitors. Gregor and Rolles have MMA fights coming up. I was fortunate to be asked to be a training partner for there intense fight training after Friday’s jiu jitsu lesson. It was the only time I did any no gi training at the camp. Although the weather was not especially hot it was still warm in the room with 30-40 people attending each session. The gis at least soaked up some of our sweat.
Rillion Gracie taught daily also. He has a quiet but intense demeanor. I had the privilege to train with him one-on-one a little in 2002 at his Leblon Brazil school. Because of this experience and because he is one of the more unknown Gracie family members who is reputed by other of the Gracies to have the best guard in the family, I really looked forward to seeing him again. Everyone moved a little closer when he taught to hear his low, quiet voice. The technique he taught was solid “basics” and I noticed he emphasised having several options branching off of the main techniques which anticipated opponents reactions. For example, he built off of the reaction many opponents have to Roger’s crushing transition from side control to mount. It is common for opponents to turn away. Rillion attached the near arm and branched off of that to either re-attack with the mount or triangle, depending on the opponents reaction. This series of techniques reminded me of a theme John Danaher (St. Pierre’s head trainer and one of Renzo New York chief instructor) has emphasised; that is, putting opponents in a dilema where all choices are negative for them. I recently read in “The 33 Strategies of War” by Greene showing that many great military generals think along these lines. Kyra’s perspective was interesting. As she said she almost always has to train and compete with people (both men and women) who are bigger than her. I think this showed in her technical perspective, which, can give insight into some of the “invisible” aspects of jiu jitsu. For example, in passing knee through the middle to the far side she showed a grip that put pressure on an opponent’s windpipe if they tried to escape to the most power oriented angle. The technique used pain to force an opponent into the direction Kyra wanted.
I hope some others weigh in on their experiences here as well. I didn’t get to participate in all the extra activities such as rafting. I’m sure everybody had unique experiences. Costa Rica can certainly be a paradise. I may write more about that in a future blog. But, what really made it so for me, at the Gracie Adventure Camp, was being around a great group of people, with worries of normal life far away, doing what we all love, Jiu Jitsu.