Bangkok, Emac Bjj with guest instructor Oli Geddes.

15676085_10154778940965645_9102220721736138678_oBangkok at first glance is a busy city just like the rest, sky scrapers, daily commuters and the unbearable drone of constant traffic, horns and questionable smells. It’s easy to become jaded when confronted with the concrete jungle that is Bangkok, but it has its own beauty, sometimes you just need to get lost to find it.

7:30am I arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok, lucky to get through customs in less than 10 mins, unlucky to have my luggage arrive last. Bags loaded up I made for the exit, Vara, from the bjj globetrotters, is already waiting, sign in hand with a welcoming smile. We make our way to the train system, I’m lugging two bags that virtually have everything I own in, totalling just shy of 30kg for my world trip and its clear that I’ve too much. Cutting weight for travel turned out to be harder than cutting before competition!

We get to Vara’s around 10:30, she offered to put me up on her sofa bed which was incredibly kind of her as we’d never met before. With the bags dumped, I change into clothing more suitable of the 36 degrees oven that is Thailand then head out for some local food. I follow suit and pick out what I presume to be chicken and rice but turned out to be fish cakes, swing and a miss day 1! Shortly after we head to a local massage parlour, having injured my shoulder a few weeks before leaving I opted for the head, shoulders and back combo…later regretting my decision when the masseuse begins to 12-6 elbow me in the shoulder. Too stubborn and not wanting to offend, I clench my teeth and grimace through the pain until the end.

After being savaged in the massage parlour we made our way to Lumpini Park. Getting there is a shock to the senses, food stalls and pop up shops line the streets. I keep my eye on where Vara walks, I’m about 50% deaf in both ears after 2 long haul flights. Crossing roads seems to be the biggest challenge as the traffic defies all known laws and regulations that I’m used to back in the UK. Vara tells me one simple rule  ‘Cross when the locals cross’.

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Arriving in Lumpini Park we’re greeted by the locals, komodo dragons,  they casually stroll around like guardians. I managed to clock one of these beasts catch lunch for the day, pulling an unsuspecting fish from the water. Lumpini is a welcome sight after the initial shock of being in Thailand’s capital. We wander around killing a few hours taking in the scenery, then call a tuk tuk and head to Emac Bjj. After giving myself a week off training before travelling I was itching to get back on the mats and excited to roll in a new gym with people I’ve never met before.

The guys in Emac are very welcoming and I can feel the inevitable ‘size up’ looks around the room when you’re the new face in the gym. After a few days, there is a little crew of us meeting in the mornings. We drill for about an hour and a half each of us taking turn to show a technique we know then try to absorb what the next person shows. It becomes a bit of show and tell session, we each bring something to the table and then spar for 8-10 rounds. I feel very privileged to have been made so welcome at Emac.

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(Left to right) Mangkorn Phetsringam, Narongrit ‘Noom’ Sombatsompop, Champ Sirote

Timing seemed perfect as the week I arrived in Bangkok Oli Geddes happened to be guest teaching at the time. Recently I’ve been playing with half guard and 50/50 position so this was a perfect opportunity to gain some insight from someone with a very technical understanding of these positions.

Throughout the course of my week training at EMAC, we cover a well of techniques, alot of which were new to me, notably the ‘octopus guard’ which took some work wrapping my head around! Oli is exceptional at dissecting techniques, breaking down and compartmentalising each section,then slowly re-piecing them back together. At first it was a bit overwhelming being fed so much information so quickly, however Oli has such a deep understanding of the positions he teaches that when drilling finishes and sparring begins the techniques start to flow because of his attention to detail.

We spend a couple days breaking down spider guard into two parts, using the lasso to defend on one side and controlling the bicep to set up offensive positions on the other. Oli demonstrates some strong sweeps and omoplata submissions, I’ve always struggled with the spider guard, but with a few adjustments in the grip style its apparent that was one of the details I was missing.

Next up shin to shin guard sweep into a straight footlock, anyone that’s done a bit of research knows this is one of Oli’s most successful techniques in recent competition. Onto the cockscrew footlock he showed earlier in the week, favoured by Dean Lister, this is hands down my favourite position that I’ve been lucky enough to absorb during my time here. Do yourself a favour if you haven’t seen it before check out this great breakdown with Oli Geddes and Nic Gregoriades: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVfNI9zaXZM

Oli is one of the most informative instructors I’ve had a chance to learn from and I count myself fortunate to have had the chance. Being out of my comfort zone back in England, adapting to the humidity in Bangkok, a new gym and new training partners. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and a great start to my journey, I’m fortunate to have met such welcoming people in my time there. I’d also like to extend a special thanks to Vara Poorisrisak for putting me up and taking me on some wonderful adventures. #askvara

– The Fist Beard Way

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Masakazu Imanari ‘Ashikan Judan’– Sharing the mats with a living legend

Masakazu Imanari ‘Ashikan Judan’– Sharing the mats with a living legend
Heel hooks, leg locks and toe holds. Oh my!

Heel hooks, leg locks and toe holds. Oh my!

For as long as I can remember being interested in jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts, Imanari has been one of my favourite fighters with a style like no other. Coined as ‘Kamikaze jiu-jitsu’ his grappling is incredible to watch, high risk high reward.  You only have to YouTube any of his fights to see where the name comes from. It’s safe to say if you let him anywhere near your legs in a fight you better have brought a pair of crutches.

Imanari is a quiet man, his reputation precedes him and you can tell just by looking around the mats that everyone has the utmost respect for him and his abilities. Everybody here knows who he is, we are all here to try and take away some of the secrets that help make him one of the best in the game when it comes to leg attacks.

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Imanari demonstrating an ankle lock from 50/50 with Ronnie Mann.

There are roughly 40 likeminded grapplers in the gym, true mat rats, eager to absorb some of this legends knowledge. We kick off with one of Imanari’s warm up drills rolling from leg to leg with our partners; later to learn how many different attacks Imanari can throw out of this movement is bewildering. For the first few minutes there is a seed of doubt and I think ‘shit what am I doing here’ but after a few failed attempts and chuckles I started to settle into the techniques. Looking round the room it’s reassuring to see grapplers at various levels having fun trying out the new techniques, many of which none of us have ever used before.

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Imanari takes special care to get round everyone, allowing a good amount of time for us to absorb the techniques. He’s a man of a few words, I suspect he doesn’t speak much English, but jiu-jitsu is a universal language and it’s great to see that even with few words he can get his teaching across to us with ease. Throughout the 2 hours we cover knee bars, heel hooks, toeholds and ankle locks, some come naturally but some will need a lot more work to get technique just right.

It was a huge eye opener just how many submissions there are from 50/50 guard, by the end of the seminar the room is filled with good vibes with guys who travelled from up and down the country to make the most of this opportunity.

For me, that’s one more jiu-jitsu experience checked of my bucket list, with many more to look forward to, very grateful to have learned direct from Imanari. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to showcase what I’ve taken from this incredible session next time I compete.14856077_10154255524062730_149120785813692185_o.jpg

A special thanks to Ronnie Mann of Iron Man MMA in Evesham, England for hosting, Scramble jiu-jitsu/mma clothing and apparel for helping set up the seminar and of course to Imanari himself, it was an absolute honour to be part of and I hope to train with you again along my travels.

-Mark  ‘Techno Viking’

Belfast, Booze, Buddies and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

My last visit to the homeland before I venture across the world.

Belfast – Northern Ireland

One last trip to the Homeland before I embark on my jiu-jitsu adventures around the world. Catching up with family and childhood friends with a few visits to some of Northern Ireland’s classic spots like the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

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Old friends on Carrick-A-Rede island

If you ever make your way there, these old sites rich in history and folklore should be on your bucket list. When the weather’s just right, the coastal route to the causeway is a breathtaking sight well worth the journey.

 

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The Edge of the Giant’s Causeway

Whilst back home I had a nice surprise to find out one of my childhood best friends Jordan had recently dawned the gi. Jordan’s trained in karate(brown belt dentokan) and competed for several years, recently taking up jiu-jitsu around 6 months ago. For a big guy (at 100+kilos!) he’s picked it up quickly, has great top control and a speed to match his ferocity. I have no doubt that in the future he’ll be competing at a high level in the sport.

Straight Blast Gym – Belfast

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SBG Belfast

Jordan invited me along to an open mat session at Straight Blast Gym in Belfast, so with a chance to roll with some fresh partners off we went. The guys in SBG don’t let up for a second and welcomed me with tough scrambles and a fast pace, with a 2 hour sparring session. Five minute rounds quickly blurred into ten and it was easy to see everyone thoroughly enjoying themselves . Their gym is littered with medals from competitions around the globe and they sport a very high calibre of jiu-jitsu. Always good to head into new territory and roll with new partners.

Good luck to everyone competing at the Cork BJJ open on the 9th of October.

-Mark