Follow by Email

Sunday, 21 April 2019

The Dreaded Knee Injury!!

The Dreaded Knee Injury

It's a long time since I last posted an article about my travels. It will a bit longer still as this article focuses more on something that plagued me for the rest of the Odyssey and still today at times.
It happens to the best of us in the Jiu-Jitsu community, especially those who always grapple at high aggressiveness or compete, hell it just happened to Gordon Ryan arguably the best of best of the Jiu-Jitsu competitors. Sooner or later we get injured on this path of the Jiu-Jitsu Life. It's not about if we will get hurt but more rather when and how and can we mitigate and minimize those injuries through smart training, which is whole other topic. It just comes down to it that injuries come with Jiu-Jitsu, like all combat or full contact sports, and at some point you're going to have a back problem, a popped elbow, a torn shoulder or of the one thing everyone fears the most, a popped or torn knee. Through my Jiu-Jitsu life so far I have been very lucky with no major injuries sidelining me from training (excuse me while I now dawn every possible ward and hex to protect me after making such a bold statement) but while traveling I was met with a serious enough injury that kept me from the mats at times, or at least learning to adapt and cope so I could continue to train, and at one point almost made me just quit the Odyssey all together.

No that's not me, I stole a pic of one of Gordon Ryan's updates on his knee injury to emphasize the point most everyone goes through a serious injury at some point.

Let's pick up where I last left off in the previous article I wrote a while back. Since It's been awhile click the link to read about my time in Auckland and Taupo NewZealand if you haven't already or want to recap the previous adventures. I had just finished teaching and rolling with the fine bunch of eager killers at ROC Taupo and was about to head back to my hostel for the last night there before taking the bus in the morning to meet up with a long time friend from Canada who now lives in Wellington. The class I taught all focused around the half guard and with that so did the rolling afterwards. This means there was a lot of knee action involved throughout the session. At this point I had been wearing knee pads for a while. I came to terms that wearing protection isn't about being old or weak and first picked up a pair at the first BJJ Globetrotters camp I went to in Heidelberg Germany. I have for a long time had problem with patellar bursitis on my left knee that comes and goes when I train a lot. Luckily I don't get swelled up kneecaps like in the link but there is a little swelling and a lot of tenderness right under the kneecap on the patella. This makes it impossible to use that knee on the mats (as in direct contact to the mats like pushing off or kneeling etc.) without incredible pain at times. It started to flare up when I was at the camp and I decided I didn't want to miss out on training and rolling with everyone so caved in and got a pair of knee pads, like I was admitting I'm some old guy now or something. Best decision ever, in reflection I think anyone who trains aggressively or trains a lot in general should get knee pads just to protect the longevity of their working knee joints. Jiu-Jitsu is hard on our knees for a number of reasons after all.

Anyways back the story, so I finished class with everyone and we all slowly packed up and were leaving together while still chatting about Jiu-Jitsu and traveling, my left knee, the hurt knee, being a knee intensive training session it was quite sore. This is something I noticed coming in waves while I was traveling, if I had good aggressive sessions or a lot of training days in a row, my knee would tend to hurt, and a rest day from the mats just meant more sight seeing which meant more hiking and not really resting my legs. A point I overlooked for the longest time. So we're leaving the gym and standing on the sidewalk, I say my goodbyes and pivot to walk down the street away from them and *RIP* I feel this horrible cutting/burning sensation from the inside of my left knee. I instantly stop and say to the guys 'I think I just tore my meniscus' to which they just laugh and walk away and get into their cars, thinking I'm joking. I gave it a few seconds and tried to shake it off, maybe it was some sort of nerve reaction to the training, it hurt like hell and wasn't going away. I slowly limp down the sidewalk toward the hostel thinking what the fuck do I do now?! I couldn't believe it, It wasn't during some competition match or some life or death situation on the streets, or even an aggressive roll in a gym, of all things I hurt my knee from walking down the street...

I love Taupo, would glad visit there again, and hopefully not leave limping down this street. Also wish I had a team photo from that day to add in here instead. 

Looking back I can see now there were all kind of signs of the knee hurting from all sorts of different actions, telling me to take better care. It's funny really when I think back of all the times I would just foam roll things out and do light yoga and think that fixes everything. Really I may of helped my back and relaxed all my aching muscles but nothing I was doing was taking care of the joints. It wasn't until this point that I even thought about what to do in this situation, and really it wasn't even until much later on that I even began to do anything for it to really heal it other than just rest. One thing I know I still don't do enough is ice my joints after training. Through my travels I had the privilege of being able to try some cold baths at a few places, most notably the cold tank at Mjolnir Gym in Reykjavik Iceland during the BJJ Globetrotters Iceland camp, the Chill'n Out cryotherapy chamber in San Diego during the Free Rollers San Diego camp and of course jumping into the Arctic Ocean in Nuuk Greenland at the BJJ Globetrotters Greenland camp. They all work amazingly well, I felt so good after training, joints not hurting near as much and all muscle cramping gone. Really folks, we need to ice our joints and make ice baths a usual thing at gyms.

At Chill'n Out in San Diego with the Free Rollers (Andy in the back). I really liked the cryo-sessions and wished they were here as well. great way to ice the body after training.

So I make it back to the Hostel and I rest and stretch out and ice my knee. I was in a torrent of emotions that night as I thought out my options. What if it's worse in the morning? What if I can't train anymore? Should I go to the Doctor's? Or just got home and get it check out it? What if I have to quit the Odyssey? All sorts of questions went through my head that night, I decided ice it and get some rest and figure it out when I get to Wellington. In morning it actually didn't feel too bad, I felt like I strained something but I really never know when I tear things until I finally get it checked out and I'm told. I definitely wasn't doing anything strenuous on that knee anytime soon. I say as I continued to hike around with my 25kg backpack. After a few days my knee still hurt but I still trained without rolling. Only going to classes for drills without any rolling really sucks, especially when you're visiting the gym in what might be you're one and only time ever being there and meeting these people. But it was better than nothing.

Tom, my old buddy from back home. Was great hanging out with him, but I'll tell you all about it next time.

At this point for the next few months I was trying to continue training like normal until something hurt, then I would stop doing that one thing but continue on. I did this through Singapore and Cambodia and most of South East Asia where I would try this trial and error method, often doing things I shouldn't be doing in the first place, until I would hurt myself again then say no more of that one action, trying to find my limits with this injury without missing too much training. It's a weird concept to explain now but it's all made sense back then. I want to see the world, I want to meet and train with as many people as I can. This injury prevents all of that but if I can just find ways around it I'll be OK. But really I'm just hurting my knee more and more while I travel. In Cambodia, which was shortly after New Zealand, I was there for the holidays and took a week or so off to rest and heal. I then decided I would join in on the class warm up running and doing a leap frog type drill, for some reason I was thinking I could hop on that knee that I can barely do more than walk with. Hurt again. This obviously wasn't a great method to dealing with an injury while traveling and really I should have have stopped and put up with the fact I was missing training until my knee was healed. Sometimes you're just caught up in the moment.

New Years in Phnom Pehn Cambodia, this was early in the night so things were just getting started, the whole river front turned into a giant mob of people and a wall of fire works. Not a bad resting stop to heal the knee up.

It wasn't until I was in Vietnam weeks later after Cambodia that I began to even think about doing anything other than just rest and stretch and ice. I hurt myself yet again trying to do the drills in class that the instructor, an American expat wrestler who has a lot of experience with this type of injury, told me about rehabilitation methods for the knee to strengthen it. The thought of rehab never occurred to me but as the same time I knew I should have been looking to it as soon as he told me. At this point it had been around 2 months since first hurting it in New Zealand and as the instructor said, whatever got injured is healed, now it's about making it work right again. 3 years ago, the year before starting the Odyssey, I had an operation on my neck to remove a tumor causing all kinds of tension on my neck and shoulders. That operation led to months of rehab in my neck and shoulders to get the posture and strength back to be able to roll again. It took very little time for the neck to heal, but it took a lot longer to get everything working right again so I wouldn't have neck and shoulder pains from light rolling. Having gone through that I should've have been thinking the same thing for my knee but instead of looking for ways to make the joint stronger I was treating it like it was a continuing injury to be dealt with later, which just led to it to hurting more and more not getting better.

This is Saigon Luta-Livre. I was really looking forward to my first class of Luta-Livre but hurt my knee during the BJJ class beforehand. Here is where I got put on the right path for rehabilitating the knee. 

So I get put on the right path in Vietnam and start looking at different rehab videos on YouTube. Slowly I start putting together what I can and can't do for training and a rehab sequence I can do while staying in hostels. The hardest part was keeping within my limitations for training and continuing to do the rehab workout consistently. I would do the routine for a while, as in the whole week while visiting a city, then it would feel better and I would forget about it the exercises the next stop and my knee would start aching again. This cycle of 'fixed again, hurt again' happened over and over until I finally got home and got into a regular routine to fix the knee and make it feel better and stronger. As of today I would say my knee is still a little messed up if I train hard or a lot over a week but it also feels a hell of a lot better and I no longer worry about doing most warm ups or rolling several rounds in a row. I don't think it will ever be 100% and I'm sure at some point I'll end up having to get an operation done down the road but the more aware of my joints, all joints not just knees, and the more I work toward keeping them healthy then hopefully that day won't be for a long time.

Back home in Canada I got onto a steady routine of working out and rehabilitation. When the machines are down for maintenance you have to improvise to get your session done.  

So remember folks, keep good care of your joints. I'm not a professional on this stuff and there is a plethora of videos and articles on joint and muscle care for BJJ out on the internet but a few steps I've learned, some too late. Ice them after training, especially long and aggressive sessions. Take rest days, I know of some people who schedule a week off just to let their joints and ligaments reset and relax. Of course always tap early and be kind to your partners, my elbows have suffered from ignoring both of those facts, not taping during competitions and partners who think your arm is a stick shift and needs to be slammed into 5th gear to get the tap. But most importantly, always be careful of doing anything strenuous after class when your muscles and joints are sore and tired and cooling down and tightening, never know, you just might tear your knee walking down the stupid fucking street. 

I'm glad I never quit the Odyssey early. If I had I would never of had awesome pictures like this to show you.

I'll be returning to retelling all my tales and adventures of traveling the world, training Jiu-Jitsu and meeting awesome people in the next post, where I meet up my old friend and fellow traveling Canadian in Wellington New Zealand.

Until next time,
see you on the mats!

Buy a shirt at Panda's Jiu-Jitsu Store.
Follow me and other traveling Jiu-Jitsueros at the BJJ Globetrotters blog section.
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
Check out my full photo albums for each article at my Flickr account.
Add me and follow along on most social media @pandasodyssey

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Auckland & Taupo New Zealand: Sails and Waterfalls

Greetings from Auckland & Taupo New Zealand (28 Nov - 8 Dec 2018)!

It has been a while since I last posted about my travels, a lot has been going on here now that I'm back home and have a full time job. I'll have to make a concerted effort to write more often and get these adventures out to you sooner as it's already been over a year since these stories have taken place. Just have patience and faith I will not quit on this blog and leave you hanging. Now, on to our next adventure!

Since I had always planned to visit Australia it was of course natural to follow that up with visiting New Zealand as well. I was hoping to spend more time there and be able to hit up both North and South Island but I was unable to find any contacts for the South Island and with other visit dates (Singapore at the end of Dec and Cambodia for the holidays) I needed to make sacrifices so this visit was only to the North Island. I will have to return and explore the South Island one day.

All my visits in New Zealand were because of the kindness of the people there. I was invited into their homes and their gyms and shown the greatness at is New Zealand all because they liked what I was doing. I'll be forever grateful for experiences like this I have had while on this Odyssey. With that let me first describe to you how and ended up in these visits and where I was staying before I tell you about my training experiences. One spoiler though, my pictures just don't do any justice to conveying the beauty I was surround in and the fun I had visiting New Zealand.

Arriving in Auckland

Early on in my planning of the Odyssey a student of the traditional art of Kokodo Jujutsu contacted me. As I had practiced this art a little in Canada I was naturally looking forward to meeting others in this small circle. Sensai Jules Robson is a student of my friend Hanshi Michael Seamark, who is plainly put the right hand of the head of the entire Kokodo Jujutsu Organization, Soke Irie. Sensai Robson had seen my early posts about my intention to travel and train in different arts around the world and so contacted me with the offer that his dojo is open any time to visit and I am even welcome stay if I need a place. Almost 2 years later I was finally in Auckland ready to meet Sensai Robson and his dojo and take him up on his offer.

Sensai Robson and I spoke online and arranged to meet at the airport when my flight arrived. After a quick tour while driving through the city we arrived on the other end of town, or rather in the small community of Laingholm, outside of Auckland but easy enough to travel to and from by car or by taking the bus. Sensai Robson has a nice cozy place that seriously reminds me of Mr. Myagi's home in Karate Kid. I don't know if he moved his dojo into Auckland more as there was talk about moving to another place when I was visiting but the dojo I stayed in was next to his house, far back from the road almost right into the forest surrounding the area. It was a small place and the shower and toilet were separate, inside in a fully plumbed outhouse, but with all the dojo floor space padded in tatami except for the little kitchenette it was all they needed to train. Sensai Robson had some extra mats and a sleeping bag and pillows for me to use on the tatami as the spare room in his house was occupied with another guest. It was more than enough for me and I was comfortable in this my own training house. Staying in the dojo actually made me think of all the old 80's and 90's action movies and their training montages.

The Addition of Taupo

Originally I had only two stops planned for New Zealand, with no contacts coming up for the South Island and me not knowing much else of New Zealand it was just going to be a short visit. I had an invitation to Auckland and an old friend in Wellington to see so those were my planned stops. I was always planning up to three months ahead and posting my projected itinerary online. I posted my plans to visit New Zealand after Australia and I got a message from Mark about making time to come visit Taupo. I checked the map and bus routes and just as Mark said Taupo was right in the middle of the two places and I'd be traveling through there anyways. Really this was a great addition as the bus from Auckland to Wellington is 9-10 hours in one go so a break to enjoy the beautiful lake, waterfall and scenery of Taupo was greatly welcomed.

As it is happens Mark and his family have a spare bedroom in their house and Mark likes to invite traveling Jiujitseros to come visit. Given that there's only one gym in the small town they don't have a big group to train with or get much for seminars coming their way unless they take off to Auckland or Wellington for a visit. I arranged visiting Mark for a few days and made my way down on the bus from Auckland. It was a 4 or 5 hour bus ride but it felt longer, it was boring driving down the single road the whole way and you get tired of the green field scenery pretty fast. I got dropped off in the middle of town at the tourist center and met with Mark's wife who brought me to their house. Taupo is amazing and I am honoured that Mark invited me in and let me visit for a few days and showed me around to the beauty of New Zealand.

Auckland Sights

Although Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand there's not a lot of sights inside the city other than the harbour (it is called the City of Sails after all), the Sky Tower and museums. The true gems to see are outside the city and unfortunately I was limited in my methods of traveling around town. Here's some of the pics of the little I did get to see.

Taupo Sights

Taupo is a small town built on lake Taupo which basically in the middle of North Island. The scenery of the town wrapped around the lake is absolutely beautiful, I was told there's a volcanic fault line that runs under the lake from Taupo Volcano in the center of New Zealand that keeps the lake warm. In fact, Mark and I jumped in the lake a few times during my stay and one of the things he loves to do is slowly drag his feet around to find a hot pocket, where you can feel the hot water shooting up from the sand, to stand in and warm up.

There's also the Huka Falls along Waikato River which is the big attraction of the area, with the water so clear and sky blue the likes I've never seen in a natural setting. It also runs at a terrifying speed that is very deceptive of the calm river itself, which has claimed lives in the past.

As always you can see more pictures from this and all my other stops throughout the Odyssey on my Flickr Account.

The Gyms

And finally what I'm sure you have been waiting for, my review of training at the few gyms I visited in New Zealand. With the three I cover in this post there is a big difference between each one, one being a traditional art school, one being a big competition team and them gym in Taupo being a small isolated gym. Again it's this kind of experience getting to visit different gyms in different settings and seeing all that's out there that is why I did this trek.

Auckland Kokodo Jujutsu Dojo

Training with Sensai Robson and his small Kokodo study group was a spiritually satisfying experience. There was no challenge of strength or athleticism that comes with rolling at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or wrestling classes, instead we dove into the aspects of balance and control of posture and stance. This might seem like something completely far fetched or not related to grappling but when you understand the movement of your and your opponents body and how to control or restrict that movement you have both a weapon to attack your opponent with and a tool for defense of their attacks. I always look to refine how to move and control the body and I'm interested in new and different ways.

Since it's been a long time since I spoke of this style let me remind you, Kokodo is an art of control and studies on the refinement of the methods of controlling and disarming the opponent. Kokodo's use of control and manipulation is virtually all done, or begins with, the wrists. That's right, it's a martial art based solely on the study of the dark arts of wristlocks. This art can be very tranquil and educational as you learn more about the human body, how it moves and how to control it without relying on strength or it can be blindingly painful as pressure is applied to joints and nerves at different angles causing you to become painfully incapacitated. I have experienced some of the more painful locks in this art and I was instantly moving involuntarily, mostly jumping or falling in pain, and suddenly sweating profusely from the shock to the nervous system. Luckily Sensai Robson is not as evil as Hanshi Seamark and was more interested in the study of the former description of art.

In between classes with Sensai Robson's dojo I enjoyed sharing different theologies of the grappling arts with him and his students. Sensai has a very insightful and intriguing description of the history of Jiu-Jitsu and what is now one of the most popular martial art, BJJ (spoiler alert, it's all Judo). Over food and drink we would quite regularly talk of the different styles of martial arts and grappling arts and the cultures that they come from. One common theme was that in the traditional arts there is a big focus on being a proper person, training in etiquette, something that seems lost or of a lesser importance on in the styles of modern sport. It was a visit that trained the mind while letting the body rest, at least from the thrashing the city would give me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you so much for inviting me out and hosting Sensai Jules Robson, I hope we meet again!

Tu Kaha BJJ

I managed to make it to one class in the city, I was hoping to visit another gym or two in the area but was unable to make it out to their classes because of conflicting scheduling with the class times and bus routes. It was difficult to get to classes unless they were midday as evening bus routes heading into and out of the city were scarce. I did however make it to Tu Kaha BJJ which holds their classes in a massive fitness community made of several buildings connected together, hosting a series of large training rooms. I was shown around and where to go for the class and get changed but I was on my own leaving and I made a few wrong turns before finally making it out, amazing place. I don't know if Tu Kaha is still there now, they may now have their own gym so contact them on Facebook for proper details.

Anyways, I made it out to the no-gi class and had a great time training with the crew. The place was packed, the mats were surrounded in a low fence with squat and cross-fit racks bordering all around on the other side, with how busy the place was you would figure every person in Auckland was training at this gym. There were all sorts of people hanging around the fence watching class as well so it was a bit of an overwhelming experience walking into this at first, luckily I'm not shy although I have met many people who might not have been comfortable enough to train in this sort of environment. The funny thing is though once you're on the mats, anywhere in the world that may be, everything else melts away and it's just you and the class drilling, rolling and having good times. Tu Kaha BJJ was no exception.

Like I said the class was no-gi, working various positions and submissions, lots of movement and control. The drilling during class made you work but not in a kill you in reps sort of way, more the make you work for the dominant position and submission, lots of sequences and chains to get to the final point rather than just rep out one technique. Good stuff with great students. I can't fully remember exactly what we worked on but I do remember rolling the partner over from turtle to attack from the back, but then again I also remember being in a crucifix, which was drilling and which was rolling is hard to distinguish now. After drilling we got to rolling for a while and I pretty much just got killed by everyone. I think I had one good roll of being the aggressor and attacking but mostly I was in survival mode. All good though, no one there was interested in destroying the new visitor, everyone just wanted to roll and work their own game. I would gladly come back next time I visit Auckland.


There's just the one gym in Taupo as I mentioned earlier and you won't even find it online as it's actually a kickboxing place that had no advertising of BJJ when I was there, which is why I never thought of stopping there to begin with. Without Mark inviting me and introducing me to ROC Taupo I would have totally skipped this place and missed out on the beauty of Taupo and the great training with these guys. Mark works online for some American businesses so he holds some different working hours from the usual 9 to 5, this of course means he has to get in his training in when ever he can. Lucky for him the club owner is accommodating and he has some teammates who are always up to train so he's able to get some impromptu noon time classes or open mat sessions through the week.

One day between showing me around to the beauty of Taupo Mark set up a class with one of his teammates who's a very game grappler and always up to roll. It was just the three of us at the gym, we drilled for a while then started having matches, Mark and I taking turns rolling against his teammate who's name I totally forget. I think he sat out one round for Mark and I to have a roll but took us both on two or three times each before we finally called it quits. This man had quite the stamina, rolling twice as long as me and still having more energy than Mark and I combined while also beating us each round. This would be the only time I was able to train with either man as their scheduling kept them from the usual class time that I attended. Mark also had relatives showing up so I ended up switching to a hostel in so really this was the last hang out for the three of us.

The next time I returned to the gym was for the evening class, where I met with the rest of the guys training there. Mark had passed on word of me being around so I didn't have much to do for introducing myself and really everyone was so chill they just gladly accepted me in. During the day session there was nothing else going on at the gym so we were on the main floor, you see the gym is set up with a front desk and weights in the front with puzzle matted floor for a big mat space in the back and a smaller matted space upstairs. When I showed up for the evening class there was also a boxing class going on so the main floor was taken up and the BJJ class was upstairs until they finished. So I'm stretching out and chatting with the class about my travels and then one of them just asks "So what are you teaching us tonight?" um, what? Well apparently as soon as I walked in they had all silently decided to have me teach that night. As I have said before the gym is quite isolated from the Jiu-Jitsu scenes of Auckland or Wellington so they are very receptive of visitors. They were also a very new club so everyone was young to BJJ so any chance they get to learn from visitors they jump at the chance. So I guess I was teaching now.

On the fly I decided I would work my half guard game I call my own version of the Bear-Trap only this class was no-gi, which I wasn't as confident in teaching. It was a learning experience for sure, I probably learned just as much dealing with their questions about what I was showing them as they were watching me teach. As they say you really don't fully understand the technique until to teach it. It was a great class, everyone was very attentive and asking all sorts of questions to dive deeper into the half guard game and in the end I think we put together one very strong sequence. In fact I'm sure we did as not only did they put my half guard game to the test but also put my skills trying to shut down my own game to the test as they used it against me. After drilling for a good hour or more the main floor was open to us and we went down for rolling. I don't know how long we were rolling for but we were all tired by the time it was over. I thanked everyone for the awesome time and was on my way back to the hostel for one last night in Taupo. Little did I know how much making one step outside the gym would impact my future of traveling and training...

I had one last stop in Wellington with an old friend but before I get to that I have a story about an injury that nagged me from this point on to fill you in on: The Dreaded Knee injury.

Until next time,
see you on the mats!

Buy Panda's Odyssey Patches at The Gi Hive.
Buy a shirt at Panda's Jiu-Jitsu Store.
Follow me and other traveling Jiu-Jitsueros at the BJJ Globetrotters blog section.
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
Check out my full photo albums for each article at my Flickr account.
Add me and follow along on most social media @pandasodyssey

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Sydney & Sunshine Coast Australia: Low & High Points of Traveling

Greetings From Sydney & Sunshine Coast Australia (14-25 Nov 2017)!

Here are the last two stops I had in Australia, polar opposites to each other but both packed with adventures. I had my lowest points of traveling through Australia that at one point had me thinking in Sydney "Screw this shitty place I'm never coming back" and then followed it by the most glorious high points that made me think "I love it here, I want to move here now!". But that is the way of traveling, never in a straight line, always with twists and turns and highs and lows. So let's get the low points, or most of them, out of the way, there were few and I'd really like to vent about them right now so I'll understand if you skip to the awesome pictures and gym write ups below.

Low Points of Traveling

The first low point was the hostel in Sydney, the worst hostel I've stayed at in the entire Odyssey. First I will say I've been really lucky with where I've stayed while traveling, all thanks to and using the filters and ratings they have. Unfortunately nothing is 100% and sometimes shit holes like the Kanga House Backpackers get through. I've experienced places that maybe weren't nice aesthetically speaking but had everything I needed, if even the showers were shoddy and ugly. I've also experienced places that were beautiful and had all amenities but were just not geared to my type of crowd, overrun by college or expat party animals making it more a dorm than a hostel. But the Kanga House Backpackers ended up being so far off from it's rating and description that I quickly found out I had run into dealing with both problems, a run down cockroach infested shit hole filled with drug fueled party people who were also the staff. The first night it wasn't so bad and I figured I could put up with it, each night got worse and worse until finally one night the staff were up doing drugs and drinking and blarring music loudly throughout the entire place all night. Then it happened, a cockroach, one of many I had seen skitter across the floors and walls, fell off the ceiling, right onto my face while I was trying to sleep. Fuck that, I was done!
I already wrote about the kitchen spaces being overrun by packs of people living at the hostel while working (il)legally in the past article, this was even worse as they treated it like it was their own place. They were claiming all utensils and pots to cook then leaving a whole mess all over the space for whoever was on duty to clean so the place was constantly a mess and unable to cook in. The owner would drop by each day for about an hour to see how much money she was making then leave again without actually looking after the place, it was a total shit show. I checked out early, used the credit I had on Expedia and only paid an extra $20 from what the night at this hell hole costed to check into a proper hotel. I grabbed some pizza from Dominos across the street from the hotel, had a long hot shower to get the dirty feeling from staying at such a place, and relaxed on the bed watching movies for my last night in Sydney in an attempt to balance out the stress and negativity the Kanga House had inflicted on this stop. I put a very negative review on and even had someone like and find my review helpful, but sadly this place is still operational and not getting more negative reviews or lower ratings. Please, if you visit Sydney and are looking to stay at the hostel, not matter how much extra you have to spend, DO NOT STAY KANGA HOUSE BACKPACKERS!!

I don't have any pictures of the shitty hostel or much of the gyms for this post so here's some crazy Australian stuff like this big o' lizard that crossed my path one day. 

I would love to say that was the only real low point to my visit to Sydney, and really other than it being expensive and having an unpleasant experience at a gym, which I will get into later, Sydney was a fun place to wander about. But leaving Sydney for Brisbane I used a cheap airline, and paid for it. Much like Europe there are some discount airlines where you might find the cheapest ticket but then find out that luggage and checking in and water and every little thing is extra, and they really make you pay. Some times it's a gamble and you actually find a decent flight that even with the extras it's still cheaper than a 'luxury' ticket. I tend to gamble with this and I had been doing quite well, until I got a ticket with Tiger Airways. Tiger Airways and Jetstar are the cheaper airlines in Australia and the Oceanic region and I had good experiences with Jetstar so how bad could Tiger Airways be? Apparently a lot.

Christmas trees in summer heat, this is weird.

I understand lower costumer service and the staff being just short of unpleasant, after all it's a budget airline, you didn't pay for that, the down right underhandedness of entrapping your customers with extra fees is unforgivable though. So I check into my flight, drop off my bag and proceed to the proper gate. While waiting for the gate to open I see the staff standing and talking, then 20 minutes before our take off time, right before opening the gate, they bring out a scale to weigh everyone's carry on. The woman came over to me and asked to weigh my bag and what do you know, it's now 1kg (2lbs) over and it will cost me exactly the same as it did to check my entire 25kg bag to carry on my computer bag. She even went as far as to say I could maybe quickly run back to add a few things to my checked luggage, knowing full well check in is closed so I'm now stuck with paying extra for a bag was is now suspiciously just over the weight limit or giving up my non-refundable ticket entirely. She got half the boarders with this, claiming it's because they're full and there's a weight and space limit, then we boarded to see the flight was half empty. I've said it before many times and I will say it again, I think less of anyone who works for an airline or airport.

Back to the Awesomeness of the Odyssey

OK now that I've gotten that out of the way this go back to telling you about how awesome it is to backpack around the world and explore Australia. I took a train from Melbourne to Sydney which was a smooth fun ride with nice scenery along the way. We even passed a few kangaroos who were just sitting in the shade as the train passed, kind of a let down really when you hear the country is overrun with them roving in packs, I hoped we'd see one of these packs hopping around instead of these lazy guys but we were unlucky. Getting to the hostel  when I arrived and around Sydney while visiting was quite easy as much of what I wanted to see was within walking distance from the hostel and everything else I could use the subway system for, which was quite efficient. Sydney is spread out but all the big attractions are in the downtown area and close together which in the heat of early Australian summer I had no problem walking as much as possible.

Hyde Park is a really nice place to go for a stroll in Sydney.

As for the Sunshine Coast, I was staying at a gym just south of the city but the easiest way to get there was fly to Brisbane, which is about 2 hours south of Sunshine Coast, and take a shuttle bus up. That seemed straight forward enough but was far more of an adventure than I thought. About half way there the bus pulls into an amusement park, Aussie World, where we split up into smaller groups taking mini vans. This was night time and the park was closed by the time we got there so this seemed a lot more shadier than it really was, I followed the locals and just went with it but part of me was reminding myself this is how horror movies start. As it happens I was the last stop on the list, so I sat back and watched as we zipped around the area dropping the other three passengers off before finally making it to the gym. I'll get more into how awesome everyone was for setting me up with staying there and taking care of me later. The Sunshine Coast didn't exactly live up to it's name as it was raining most the time I visited so there wasn't much exploring but when I did manage to get out there was a bus straight up to city so getting around was easy. 

The Sights

Between the two spots were was plenty to see, I know I only scratched the surface of what there is to see in Sydney, and you can spend weeks wandering along the coastline in Sunshine Coast, but I saw as much as I could and took as many pictures too. Here's some of the pics I took, you can check all my pictures from this and all my past visits over on my Flickr account.

Sydney Tower Eye.

ANZAC Memorial.

One of the several giant Bodhi trees around the gardens and shore. 

Sunshine coast, just beach as far as you can see.

Meeting with an Old Friend 

Throughout the entire visit to Australia I was hoping to run into some of my old Australian football teammates from Toronto as practically everyone from the original group has moved back to Australia now. Ends up most were busy with work or unreachable, having fallen out of communication with each other over time. One good friend did get a hold of me though, Torrey and I were two for the original first five people to show up for the first ever practice for the Toronto Central Blues. We hadn't seen each other for years, I left for the military 7 years ago at the time we met up and he left Canada before that, so almost if not 10 years since we hung out, Torrey and I had a lot to catch up on.

The famous Sydney Opera House.

Sydney is split in two by a river that has a series of coves and bays all along it, I was on the south end where a lot of the bigger attractions like the opera house were, Torrey lives up north just outside of Sydney and with me not exploring that way yet it only made sense to take the ferry across and meet him there. I got to be shown around and explore the Manly Beach area while catching up with Torrey, it was quite the adventure. It was a hot sunny day over on Manly Beach and there happened to be a beach volleyball tournament going on as we walked around the beach and chatted, making for an entertaining view. It was awesome catching with Torrey, we have had quite the different lives in the past 10 years, him returning and starting a family while I joined the military and got shipped all over. Meeting up in Australia and reminiscing about the good ole days playing football in Toronto was a great walk down memory lane while exploring one of the top attractions of Sydney, hopefully it won't that long until we meet again.   

Manly Beach.

Quite the volleyball tournament going on when I showed up.

So great seeing Torrey again!

The Gyms - Sydney

Jon, of Jon and Daphne the 2016 BJJ Globetrotters of the Year, connected me with many gyms in the Sydney area. I met them in Germany at my first BJJ Globetrotters camp in Heidelberg and we kept in touch ever since. As it happens Jon and Daphne are from Sydney and were more than willing to help me out with some suggestions. Of the long list of the gyms Jon alerted me to in Sydney most were spread out from where I was staying and with the schedule I just wasn't able to make it out. I did manage to check out two gyms while there though, I'll have to make it back to check out the others. Thanks Jon for all the help connecting me with everyone for this visit.

Apparently these ugly things are called Ibis's but Aussie's call them...a number of other things..

Higher Jiu-Jitsu

One of the many gyms Jon connected me with was Higher Jiu-Jitsu. I contacted them and was met with a very welcoming response with the schedule for classes during the time I was in town. The gym was really close to where I was staying, just a 10 minute walk from the hostel. They hold classes inside a community center where they have a nice big room the floor is covered with puzzle mats. The community center actually gave me a bit of a hard time signing in, making sure I completely filled out all personal and contact information, I even had to go back to the hostel to get all the necessary information, good thing it wasn't far away. After singing in I made my way upstairs to the room where the BJJ club trains and met John the coach who was very happy to have a fellow member of the Pedro Sauer lineage visit.

Thanks John, you have a great gym! 

John is a friendly brown belt who's teaching style is very familiar to those of the Pedro Sauer lineage, where the focus is purely technique over strength or aggression, a style that focuses heavily on the exploration and refinement of the art of Jiu-Jitsu. This of course made me think of my home gym and miss my good friends there. Throughout class I switched up a few times drilling with different members of the club, all of which were very friendly to have a visitor to train with. After drilling we had a few rolls and all were a lot of fun, most of the class there were blue belts or higher so all my matches were very technical. After class John and a few of the members and I had a small chat about the etiquette of visiting at visiting gyms and a few experiences of mine. It was a great experience and I wish I could have made it back for another class John invited me out to, I think it was an open mat class, to meet more of the gym but it wasn't in the cards and this was my only time dropping by. Thanks for the great class John!   

Legacy BJJ Academy

Another gym I visited, referred to me by a few people, was Legacy BJJ Academy. I had heard from others as I traveled across Australia that Prof. Thiago Braga, the head instructor at Legacy, was a great coach and definitely a must to check out when visiting Sydney. I spoke with Thiago online about my visit and he was happy to have me and told me which classes to come out to. Unfortunately he and some members from his club were away on a big tournament that weekend, the Australian Open, or Pan Pacs I think. Still, with it closer and easier to get to than the other options, I was looking forward to checking the gym out for a class. I made my way out to the gym, which is in a square space that may have been an old warehouse or garage space originally, being in an industrial area. As Prof. Thiago and a few students were away competing and coaching classes at the gym were small, with only a few white belts there the night I showed up.

More of the Sunshine Coast.

As I showed up early to do the necessary paperwork the previous class, a large group training in kickboxing, was just finishing and all the sweaty bodies had made the place a sauna. It was the beginning of summer in Australia so days were starting to get pretty hot, at least for a visiting Canadian anyways, so an even hotter sweaty gym was death to me, but probably normal to the locals. The reason I'm mentioning this is because I had a very unpleasant experience this night over this very topic with the instructor, who was a last minute fill in and not a regular stuff there I was told. As training went on, working different sweeps from De La Riva and other open guards I was finding it hot and humid and needed to take some water breaks between drilling. When it came to rolling the instructor, who had been quite short with me all through class, yelled at me "No water!" which had me confused, if I'm sweating a lot and overheated what am I supposed to do? I asked him so, telling him I'm a visitor and not used to the heat there. "No one else is drinking, no water during class!"

Black swans, until now I just thought it was the name of a weird movie with Princess Padme, not an actual bird.

I couldn't believe it, I know a lot of old school lines of thought are not to drink water while training but modern science on dehydration and acclimatization clearly shows how that's not a good idea. I understand if I'm training for a competition or a fight then getting used to not being able to re-hydrate until afterwards makes sense, but I'm just a visitor coming in for some friendly training. This fill in black belt teacher and his old school views soured the visit, I sat the rest of class out and then left, not wanting to be around such an negative person. Once I got back to the hostel I sent Prof. Thiago a message about this unpleasant experience and re-calling the events and my reasons for it being such a bad training method. I was assured this was not a usual idea of training at the gym and that the black belt in question was not a usual instructor there who filled in last minute when the usual coach showed up sick, which I did see take place before class. To his credit Prof. Braga even asked me to come back and make it up to me to have a good experience with is gym before I leave, unfortunately I was leaving the next day. I hope to meet Prof. Thaigo Braga one day, he was kind and helpful throughout all our conversations, it's too bad that this one experience with the fill in coach soured my visit but the training was good so I tried not to let it ruin the image and my memory for the gym but this along with the bad experience with the hostel make me dislike Sydney, at least at the time.     

The Gyms - Sunshine Coast

My connections for Sunshine Coast I also met at the Globetrotters Germany camp. Black belt Chad Wright, otherwise known as 'Fat Jesus', and his brown belt student Josh, who was away while I visited but now runs his own gym in the area, both these guys I met in Germany and were amazing and helpful. Actually, while I stayed and trained at their gym both of them were away backpacking but I was connected with the two black belt instructors still there, Robbie and Paul, who took great care of me. In fact this stop was the epitome of what BJJ Globetrotters is about, I had met Chad at the camp, talked briefly about my travels and from that small interaction Chad opened his gym to me to stay and train at, with the guys there needing nothing more than a brief introduction from Chad to accept me in and take care of me. One night one of the students, having talked with me during previous classes, offered me over to his house for supper before the class that evening saying "it's just spaghetti but it's better than the corner store food I see you eating" he wasn't wrong. I was more than happy to have a home cooked meal. Just a perfect kind of stop for the Globetrotter's experience and how to end my travels across Australia.

Infinity Martial Arts - Kawana Waters

It was late evening by the time I arrived to Infinity Martial Arts - Kawana Waters, Paul had stayed after class to meet me and give me the full tour of the gym and the nearby area. The gym is in a strip mall in a big rectangular space with a wall in the middle dividing it. The wall separates the two big square mat spaces, with the washrooms and showers in the back space which also had a couch and fridge and kitchenette counter along the back wall so it was a perfect spot for me to set up camp. Paul even set me up with a mattress and pillow that I would stow away every morning before classes started so that my camping out wasn't in the way.

I met Robbie the other black belt later on that night, he and his wife were training at another gym they were friends with when I showed up. They had just moved there to run the gym and were staying in the office for the time being, with the head instructor showing up later in the week the gym was a full house of travelers. Paul would teach the evening classes and Robbie during the day, I got to train and roll with both of them and had a blast the whole time. Robbie was a killer with some great drills and Paul had a more sneaky game and was great at keeping the classes captivated and entertained. The students ranged from pure killers to more friendly hobby rollers, all of which were happy to have me and interested to hear my stories. I can't say I attended as many classes as I'd like to or rolled with everyone in the classes but any time on the mats with this gym was a great time.

The only picture I have left of my stay with Infinity Martial Arts.

One student had a match on the weekend, part of a MMA event that had matches and tournaments during the day before the main show that night. During the week I let him use me for drilling and honing in his game. It was pretty cool to be part of that, helping a team out and then going and watching the matches, being a part of a gym again. The head instructor had come down in time to watch the matches as well, he was going to be in town for a while and there were belt gradings the next week that the students were preparing for so it was a very active week of drilling. I wish I had more pictures to show you of my time with everyone there but they got corrupted and I lost most of them. I still have the memories though of the great times I had on my last stop in Australia, thanks again Chad, Josh, Paul, Robbie and all the crew at Infinity Martial Arts!

And with that last awesome stop finished it was time to say Good bye to Australia and head off to the next destination, Auckland New Zealand.

Until next time,
see you on the mats!

Buy Panda's Odyssey Patches at The Gi Hive.
Buy a shirt at Panda's Jiu-Jitsu Store.
Follow me and other traveling Jiu-Jitsueros at the BJJ Globetrotters blog section.
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
Check out my full photo albums for each article at my Flickr account.
Add me and follow along on most social media @pandasodyssey