Bangkok 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’.
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.
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