My friend Carl Fisher, head instructor at Combat Base Bolton, UK has recently moved to the UAE to train and teach and has been writting his impressions on his blog. There are a huge amount of black belts available there as the local government has employed them to teach the locals the gentle art. Check out Carl’s journal and follow his adventures.
TUESDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2012
Abu Dhabi Adventures – another Idiot Abroad!
Commenced my forty second year of life, driving down to Heathrow Airport to catch a plane headed for Abu Dhabi, where I have landed a job teaching BJJ in the schools – some birthday present! I was joined on the trip by black belt Henrique Santana and we stopped at Muscat International Airport in Oman, before joining a connecting flight to Abu Dhabi.
A few rows down from the two of us, sat Samuel Camargo Pavan and we were all greeted at the airport, by one of the company’s representatives from Palm Sports, who provide all the coaching staff for the schools and military schools.
Henrique and Samuel were to stay in Abu Dhabi and I was driven to Al Ain, in the east and after meeting supervisors Fernando Gomes and Romero Rocha in the evening, I was taken to my apartment in the Al Jini district of Al Ain. The block of apartments are used for many of the coaches in the schools and my neighbour Marcio Eduardo Silva, made me feel right at home, showing me around the place and kindly donating some cutlery and utensils.
After much needed sleep I was picked up Tuesday morning by Fernando and went on to complete much needed red tape, rubber stamps and signatures, to enable me to have a full working visa, which will let me open a bank account and obtain a drivers licence. I was advised by Fernando to take on board the word ‘patience’ as things are done here a lot differently to the UK, though I would beg to differ.
That said, we managed to obtain a UAE ID, drive to a Government building and get the ID stamped and attend another government building to have my blood taken and chest X-rayed, all part of gaining a full working visa. You have to have a car out here to get around, for work mainly as I will be teaching in schools all around the area and for general day to day activities; it’s a foolish man who walks to the supermarket in the heat of the day, which hit 43C today and in summer time can hit 57C – air con transport is de rigeur.
I rounded the day off with my first training session at the black belt open mat, full report coming along in the next few days; internet is hit and miss at the minute until I get sorted in my apartment. After the open mat came regular class and as I type, I am winding down and heading for an early night, as I start my first day at work in the morning.
Take care guys and keep training!
WEDNESDAY, 3 OCTOBER 2012
First day at school!
After a superb first night’s training, it was shower, eat and an early night, ready for my first day teaching; the schools begin early in the morning, when it’s a lot cooler and my supervisor Romero picked me up at 630am and drove me to the school, where I’ll be working from now on.
The drive to work took me through the desert dunes on either side of the road, quite a difference from the streets of the UK and after a fifteen minute drive, we arrived at the Aladel Scool in Al Yahar, a region in Al Ain.
As I arrived, I met my black belt coach, Jiddu Bastos, who I met the previous night and he introduced me to the Prinicpal, who made me feel very welcome and as the children filed into the covered playground, I met the PE coach, Osama Elbatrawy and most of the teachers in the school.
Before classes commenced the kids lined up and listened as the Prinicpal spoke to his students and after five minutes or so, I heard the words, ‘Coach Carlos’ and over 750 kids turned to look at me and started clapping and cheering like Wayne Rooney had scored a last minute winner at Old Trafford. Beat that for a welcome! After the introductions, all the staff and students stood in front of the UAE flag as their National Anthem played from the microphones located in the playground.
Since being here, I have learned it is far easier to call myself Carlos, instead of Carl, as my dulcet Boltonian tones can be sometimes hard to understand, so Coach Carlos is my name from now on at the schools and plain Carlos at the training centre in the evenings.
The jiu jitsu tuition is set out like any other coaching programme and I had a chance to read the coaching manual, detailing the technical side of the jiu jitsu instruction; this covered the basics of breakfalls, shrimps, and many other warm up exercises specific to BJJ and progressed to simple techniques and guard passes, as well as a large reference point for jiu jitsu related games.
Like anywhere in the world, kids are kids. Loud. Boisterous and full of beans. Here in Al Ain , there was no exception, as the kids came into the room, changed into a wide variety of UK Premiership football tops and track suit pants and ran round the mats. All the students approached me with wide smiling faces and greeted me in English and Arabic and I returned the favour, together with much shaking of hands. This was repeated throughout the whole day in all the different classes.
All classes followed the same format; I was introduced to the children again in each class, again to much applause and started the class with break falls and forward rolls. Depending on the age group of the class, a few different techniques were demonstrated by Jiddu and myself, namely Americana from mount, arm lock from mount and double leg takedown. Translation was given by the class teacher and Jiddu, who can speak enough Arabic to get by and I was learning myself at a fast rate.
After techniques came their favourite part of the class – sparring, what else? All the kids had a grapple with each other and any promising kids were told to give their names to their teacher to join the after club class.
At the end of the class, the kids lined up and after a loud Ooos, they came to shake hands with the coaches and each other in traditional BJJ style; most of the kids shook hands and over a dozen approached me and did things their way, which involves the touching of noses and a quick kissing sound. I’d noticed this at the airport, waiting at the immigration desk, between two adults and I asked Jiddu what it meant. He told me, if they really like a person they greet each other in this manner and this happening in my first my first day, I felt very privileged indeed to say the least. After handshakes and nose rubs, it was a short break before the next class and before you know it, my first day was over. Jiddu and I went to speak to Osama and handed in observation sheets and headed back into Al Ain for more red tape adventures, before returning home and getting ready for class.
After settling in at the apartment and managing a quick power nap, I was picked up at the apartment by Romero and taken to my first training session, the black belt open mat at 6pm. This class is solely for the black belt coaches to have one hour’s training before the regular class and now the coaching staff has taken on brown belts, I was warmly welcomed onto the session by all my new team mates.
The training centre is located at the Al Ain Football Club (Al Qattarah Branch), one of three football clubs in the Al Ain area; the black belts started to arrive at 545pm and I was introduced to each one as they arrived and by 6pm, there were over 20 black belts ready to train – WOW! Many different academies are represented here in the UAE, a real melting pot of styles, probably unique to anywhere else in the world and I was bang in the middle of it, so all that was left was to get the gi on and get cracking.
To give you an idea of the broad range of clubs represented at the training club, a few names of the black belts:-
Gilberto Cerqueira – Ryan Gracie, Jose Lopes Zelo – Gabas Jiu Jitsu, Leonardo Lopes – Pitbull Academy
Junior Borsato – DLR
Paulo Melo – Bolao BJJ
Polyana Lago – Alliance
Leopoldo Pires – Alliance
Filipe Alvaranja – Carlson Gracie
Erik Cardoso – Alan Club
Jiddu Bastos – Checkmat
After a warm up, the guys partnered up and started of rolling for 8 minutes and I managed 5 rounds during the session, not bad going considering it was 34C outside and it was my first class. Each roll was different from the next, some guys were crushing guard passers, others encouraged me to attack them 100% and black belt Tiago Bravo was super cool and we had the most technical roll out of the lot.
The guys didn’t smash me up and take limbs away with them, they rolled hard and tough but when in position for the submission , they applied it with enough time for me to tap, without causing injury, pretty sensible really as everyone is teaching in the schools the following day.
3 stripe black belt Erik Cardoso and Leo Pires took the regular class at 7pm and Erik started the class with the regular drills found in any BJJ class and showed a sweet series of sweeps from butterfly and a cool transition into x guard and after specifics and sparring the session was at an end and I was still in one piece.
First class was over and after a quick stretch off, I was dropped off back to my apartment and prepared myself for my first day teaching class, which will be my next post on here. For now, I am getting ready for another training session, so see you on the mats and drill to won!
SATURDAY, 6 OCTOBER 2012
No gi training session!
After training with the kimono the last few days, the week was rounded off with the addition of a new no gi class, that started at 5pm; Nilson Pokemon Lopes came in an hour earlier and trained positions with a number of black belts, as he is preparing for an upcoming MMA fight on the Abu Dhabi Warriors event, November 2nd, that boasts one million dollars in prize money.
I took a taxi over with my next door neighbour, Marcio Eduardo Silva and we arrived just as Pokemon and the guys were rounding off their session in the MMA room, so we all entered the main training room and started to change into shorts and rashguards and started warming up.
Leopoldo Pires took the class once again and we drilled a nice way to kill the knee over thigh pass from half guard and the old school classic arm bar from guard and what to do when the opponent starts to stack. I had the pleasure and privilige of partnering up with Leandro Polinio Cordeiro and I felt the technique from a black belt’s expertise and boy was it ten times tighter than mine.
After drilling the techniques for a good half hour it was time for rolling, six minute rounds; my first roll was with black belt Tiago Bravo, an under 74K powerhouse, extremely technical, yet great fun to roll with. Like all the other guys here, Tiago could smash me into pieces without even breaking a sweat, but what’s the point, as we are all team mates and on the coaching staff together? This atmosphere and thinking can only lead to accelerated development and in my roll with Tiago I could experiment and even ended up with a kimura locked in, but as you’ve guessed, Tiago escaped with a smile on his face, saying ‘almost’ then whipped me up in the air with a sweep and choked me out. Awesome.
Next roll was with Pokemon, which was a different experience altogether – this guy is slick! With a vice like grip, Nilson, was all over me like a cheap suit, throwing in subs from all angles; the guy was like water, flowing all over me, tapping me out left right and centre. After each sub, Nilson showed me where I was going wrong and showed me a brutal submission that’s only allowed in MMA comps. Thanks Pokemon!
Overall I had five rolls, with three other black belts whose names escape me, suffice to say, I had great fun with all of them, each guy having a different game from the next and of all them encouraging me to go for it. You hear on the forums about mat etiquette, saying that a lower grade should never ask a black belt to roll with them. Not the case here. I’m a lower grade and the mat is packed with black belts, so when it’s time to roll I have no option than to ask a black belt to roll with me. Awesome.
Session over and all that remained was a team photo and cool down,then it was back to the apartment with Eduardo to get ready for a pool party at the Al Ain Rotana Hotel, which I can say went down very well and am looking forward to the Poola Palooza pool party at the hotel next Saturday.
SUNDAY, 7 OCTOBER 2012
Just another Sunday session!
If my first training session wasn’t enough to set me into BJJ overdrive, then this evening’s class blew me away – twenty seven, yes twenty seven black belts on the mats for the Open Mat session! Everywhere you turned there was a black belt, absolutely crazy and I’m bang in the middle of it all.
Three stripe black belt Flavio Serafin had arrived earlier in the day and after a quick introduction, I was his first guy to roll with at the start of the class, so no pressure Carl 🙂 Flavio hails from Nova Friburgo, south east Brazil and is a well respected MMA fighter and is joined here in Al Ain with a number of guys from the same town.
Post training photo
We shook hands and started to roll and I was on a six minute roller coaster ride; I’ve never had my guard smashed and destroyed like it and I’ve rolled with some of the best on the planet. Flavio moved one way then the next flattening my legs like a windscreen wiper jammed on full power. We never paused for breath throughout the roll, only stopping when Flavio subbed me, then it was a quick handshake and we went at it again. A most amazing experience to feel a guy crush you so easily and the guard passing from Flavio was something to behold and experience at first hand.
Second roll was with my twin brother Rogerio Teixeira; those of you following the action on Facebook can see a photo of the two of us and all the Brazilians said we look like brothers, so it’s kind of stuck at the gym. Rogerio was more playful and encouraged me to attack, which I did to the best of my abilities, only to find myself at the receiving end of a submission, all with a smile on his face, as most Brazilians are wont to do.
Higor Polonio was next on the cards, a light weight black belt with an athletic counter game, as soon as I started a sweep or reversal, he’d flip his legs in the air and land on the opposite side from me, pinning my legs and hips to the floor, before passing my guard and basically giving me problems from every angles.
Another newcomer was my fourth roll, a beast of a guy called Alexandre Carvalho, aka ‘Baby’ and let me tell you there’s nothing baby like about him; two gnarled cauliflower ears and a rippling physique was staring across at me as we shook hands and I thought RIP to myself, I’m a goner. Not so. We had a right royal tear up, again giving me the chance to open up and experiment and give things a go I’d normally do in class in the UK, but now against seasoned black belts. It’s been a tough six days here in class, but hey, I’m swimming with the sharks and soon enough I’ll start growing some sharp teeth of my own.
Last roll came by way of my favourite black belt to roll with, Leandro ‘Polinio’ Cordeiro; I don’t really like to say I have a favourite, as all the guys are awesome in their own right, but every time we roll, I have the most technical rolls with Polinio, he really is a great guy to roll with and before you know it, the open mat’s over and it’s photo time.