Hi everyone! My name is Colin Leigh and I am a Canadian living abroad in Riga, Latvia now. I am a one striped white belt under Vladislavs Čerņavskis, training at LEWC- Giudici BJJ in Riga. I have been training since the 1st of September, 2015, train at least 5 times a week and I’m 47 years old!
I travel all the time with work and find myself in many different cities around the world. When I travel now, I take my kit bag with me and find an academy to train at in the city I am visiting. It has become a bit of a ritual now and I have met so many wonderful people!! The BJJ community is one of the most open and friendly groups I have ever experienced!
What I plan to do in this article is write about my experiences with the academies I visit, the profs and instructors and to help create an awareness of the BJJ community as a whole. It is also nice to get the word out there about the academies for anyone that decides to visit the cities that I write about in this blog. I hope you enjoy what I write and any feedback is always welcome.
A little while ago, my lovely wife decided that we would travel to Pärnu, Estonia to a huge water park there for my daughter’s 6th birthday. Once confirmed, I immediately went online to see if I could find an academy to train at. (I also used this time to figure out how I was going to escape the festivities to train BJJ!) One of the hits that came up was Hilti BJJ Academy and I clicked in to check it out. As is my practice, I checked out the instructors and the Prof that ran the gym ended up looking VERY familiar! His name was Prof Robert Tomingas and I had already met him when he stayed at our academy in Riga to prepare for a tournament, so that worked really well for me!
I sent him a message asking his permission to train at his academy, and he got back to me within minutes with a resounding YES! It seems that he was really good friends with my Prof and they have trained together often, so that was both really cool and comforting.
So we drove up to Pärnu the following week and checked into the hotel attached to the water park. I checked out the Hilti Facebook page to see if there were any changes or news and saw that he announced my visit on their wall like I was a visiting superstar and man did it feel good!
I was somehow able to convince my wife to let me slip away for a few hours that evening after dinner to go and train. I sent an sms to the Prof asking him the best way to get to his academy. He called me right away and offered to come pick me up. Another wow moment! He came and collected me and we drove to the site, which ended up being an old school…a pretty cool venue in my opinion but really hard to find if I was on my own. We changed and headed up to the training room to get started. I received a very warm welcome from everyone and I felt like family right from the start.
We started the warmup and it was a unique experience for me. It was a yoga based warmup and I loved it! It stretched us out, warmed us up and also made me feel calm and relaxed at the same time. After the warmup we went into drills and techniques.
After the basic drills, arm bars, triangles etc, we move to techniques. Prof showed us a crazy kimura transition move to mount. To be honest, all I could envision at first was my arm getting ripped off in a horrible fashion! It ended up being a really slick move once you got past the initial fear factor! We drilled this for a bit, then we went into his speciality of deep half guard. This was a first for me and I found it challenging but very cool once I got them working.
After that, we took a small water break and prepared for rolling. The first guy I rolled with was a brute of a man! Strong as an ox! I was able to get him into an early kimura only to be lifted off the ground like I was a Gucci handbag and tossed to the ground where he subsequently destroyed me. I then moved on to roll next with Kristi, a higher ranked girl. At first I thought, “I better be careful here, she’s smaller than me, and a girl”. Well, was I wrong! She was so fast, I had no idea where she was at any point in time and I had to fight off submission attempts one after the other…the only way to stop her was to lay on her like a wet mattress and hope she passed out before she got free!
At the end of the training session, I was fortunate enough to experience a grading where some of the students received stripes…an honor for me to witness.
Since my trip there, I have noticed that they treat ALL visitors to their academy with the same level of reverence that they did me. I am absolutely humbled to have met these wonderful people and I will keep the amazing experience with me forever. Whenever in Pärnu, Estonia, I would absolutely recommend a visit to the Hilti BJJ Academy (https://www.facebook.com/HILTI-BJJ-P%C3%A4rnu-843932935624277/?pnref=story ).
Stay tuned for my next blog where I write about my trip to Bergen Grappling in Bergen, Norway! Ossss!