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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

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Melbourne Australia: BJJ Central

Greetings From Melbourne Australia (8-14 Nov 2017)!

Moving from Geelong to Melbourne was the fastest and easiest travel between two stops on the Odyssey, it was literally just an hour or so train ride to downtown Melbourne, Geelong is really just next to Melbourne after all. This stop was my first time staying in a hostel in Australia, which I can say looking back I'm not a fan of them overall, but I'll get into that shortly. I made my to the hostel, checked in and found my room without any problem after getting used to the transit system and finding my bearings. I had to quickly find my way around downtown and the area surrounding the hostel as when I checked in my one and only pair of shorts I've had since Paris decided to blowout and ripped practically in two. I bent over to pick up my bags after checking in and, in front of a packed lobby, my shorts ripped open showing off my ass to everyone, good thing I was wearing underwear that day. Finding my bed I dropped my bags off and changed into something that didn't leave my ass hanging out and headed out to find a clothing store. While searching for a new pair of shorts, which I found easy enough, I was able scout out various interesting places to eat and stores of interest. This ended up actually being a really good turn of events since I later realized there was no way of being able to use the kitchen during my stay if I wanted to also make the class times.

As I mentioned before I did enjoy staying at the hostels in Australia. This stop was one of only two places I stayed at a hostel in Australia but I have heard that what I experienced is similar all or most of the hostels there. I had no problem with the bed or the room itself at this place, I was quite comfortable sleeping there, my problem is more with the kitchen. Not only could I never use the kitchen to cook but there was no space in the fridges to keep any food either. The reason for this is that in Australia getting temporary work visa is apparently easy, or a lot of work places seem to be lax for paperwork. I overheard people talking about spending a weekend to pick up a white card to work general labour but nothing about getting a work visa, in fact a few even said it wasn't needed. So the hostels are packed with people all working, mostly illegally, living and eating in packs together taking over the entire kitchen space as if it's their own place. I was unable to cook or keep food in either hostel and I don't think anyone staying there for a short stay was either. I was forced to eat out the whole time and I went really over budget because of this. At least Australia is beautiful and has awesome Jiu-Jitsu. 

The Sights 

I got shown a lot of Melbourne outside the downtown area one night when I met up with Ian, a purple belt I met on the Globetrotters Facebook group and kept in contact for my visit to Melbourne. We met up to train a few times during my stay and both times Ian told me about the history of Melbourne and the area. My favourite thing about Australia, besides the amazing beaches, is the Australian Football League (AFL) and Melbourne is a big AFL city. Each district of Melbourne has it's own team and they're huge fans, it changes the feeling of each area, especially when one of them won the Championships recently. Think of being in New York and walking through Yankees territory who just won and crossing the street into Mets territory who just lost, and there's six teams in this same city. Driving around with Ian explaining all this to me was awesome, I wish I had pictures of the different team banners and signs in restaurants and bar windows.

Melbourne Old Gaol, where infamous Ned Kelly was hung.

Other than checking out another big botanical garden again I did some walking around to some of the different monuments and historical buildings. Here are some pictures of Melbourne and a video I made. You can also check out all my pictures of this and all my other stops over on my Flickr Account

Royal exhibition Building

During my stay in Melbourne Remembrance Day occurred, I almost forgot as there wasn't much posted for it in the city, not like back in Canada where we sell poppies everywhere and have posters for the various services in the cities. In Australia Remembrance Day seems a smaller affair with Anzac Day being the bigger occasion. As it happens the day I was out sight seeing and filming was Remembrance Day, as you saw above I caught a bit of the service at the Shrine of Remembrance which is greatest monument honouring their fallen I've seen so far in my travels.

Clifton Hill BJJ

Melbourne is the Jiu-Jitsu central of Australia, there are many great gyms in the big city and I tried visiting as many as possible. Ian trains at Clifton Hill BJJ which is held in the Collingwood sports center, which closer to the Carlton Football team than Collingwood's but who am I argue names. I arrived by train and with Ian's directions I found the center without problems. I was a bit early so I was confused where the classes were held as there was no signs for it and when I looked inside there were no mats. One by one people showed up, greeted me and then started pulling puzzle mats out of the storage room. In no time the hardwood gym floor was matted and the class was warming up. By the time Ian showed up I had already meet Chris, the black belt and head instructor, who introduced me to everyone else.

I think we trained for 2 hours that night, I know we had a full hour of drilling before rolling and we rolled for a while. The gym really made me feel welcome, they're not a big club but they're all very kind and open people and most of them travel a lot themselves so we had all sorts of stories to share. Chris especially had a lot of stories. I can't remember what exactly we drilled in class but I do remember sharing some little details with Chris who showed me an awesome quick shoulder lock from mount that surprised the hell out of me when he suddenly threw it on. It was great, however brief, meeting the Clifton Hill gym and training with them. Thanks for making me feel welcome, the fun chats and the cool sneaky move you taught me Chris!

Thanks again Ian!

Melbourne Budo Academy/Jean Jacques Machado BJJ Melbourne

I'm glad I was able to meet up with Ian, who not only brought me out to this gym and showed me around but to also brought me another place for open mat, Jean Jacques BJJ Melbourne. The gym is in a dojo, the Melbourne Budo Academy, which holds other classes.  The dojo is a big open square space with tatami mats and classical dojo tapestries and weapon racks on the walls. I got dressed and started warming up as Ian introduced me to everyone, they seemed welcoming enough, if a bit quiet, I figured maybe it was the traditional martial arts influence creeping into the Jiu-Jitsu culture. Either way we had fun rolling with each other.

It was a small group that showed up but everyone was there to drill and roll. The head instructor Jon wasn't at the open mat but Ben was, a very skilled purple belt who I believe recently received his brown belt, and he totally destroyed me. I'm glad he has his brown belt now, I'm sure it won't be long before his black belt either. Ian and I had a good 10-15 minute roll of just flowing back and forth and working on moving and defending, trying new things and seeing where it went. It was lots of fun, Ian isn't just a great host showing me around and bringing me out to the gyms but also a great partner to train with. Thanks Ian for everything, you really made this stop a blast!

Ben the killer

Academy BJJ

Academy BJJ was a last minute addition to this visit. A friend from the UK, Can (Jon) contacted me connected me to a former student of his that is now living and training in Melbourne, small world! I wasn't able to meet up with the student as our schedules didn't match up but I did make it out to class to meet and train with the gym. The gym is was easy to find with it being on the ground floor and big signage, as soon as I walked into the gym I met Prof. Dan the head instructor who greeted me openly and welcomed me into his club. I showed up early so while the white belt class was running I watched and spoke with Prof. Dan about the Odyssey between his teaching points to the class. The night I came out to class isn't a big night for senior belts so most of the class were white belts, which was actually good for me because not only was I tired from the hectic schedule but that meant I can just follow along and work on refining fundamentals without the fear of being tested and crushed by senior belts. In all seriousness it was nice training at Academy BJJ with Prof. Dan's students, we worked guard passing and retention concepts for different open guards I worked with some senior white and blue belts on their game for passing, I think there was a competition coming up. I felt welcomed and comfortable and would love to visit them again one day.

Thanks for having me at your gym Prof. Dan

De Been 100% Jiu-Jitsu

Another gym I checked out while I was in Melbourne was De Been 100% Jiu-Jitsu. I found them on the Free Rollers site list of affiliate gyms that welcome visitors. I was only able to make it out to the noon time class, I think it was the same day I went to the evening class at Academy BJJ, hitting five gyms in one visit while also sight seeing meant some busy days. The gym is in an upstairs space, with the mat area is a long rectangular room, separate from the rest of the gym. The space is really nice, it's too bad I could only make it out to lunch time class where only a few people come out instead the busy evening classes, either way I had a fun time. As there were only four or five of us we just went over one technique, I believe it was working De La Riva guard, or spider guard, retaining and passing drills. After the drilling for a short while we got to rolling round robin, I'm pretty sure I rolled with everyone at least twice before we ended the session. I wish I could say more but I didn't connect with anyone online before dropping by like usual and I have no pics from this visit so I'm pretty empty handed other than my memories of having fun training and chatting with the small group who showed up. I know it doesn't make for a great story to share but it was a good time none the less.

Absolute MMA

The last gym I checked out on this visit I had already been to before, Absolute MMA St Kilda held a seminar the week before and I attended with guys from Geelong. It was an awesome experience and I'm glad I did it as that was the only time I was able to meet Craig Jones, Kit Dale and Lachlan Giles as none of them were around for the only class I attended. Well, Craig Jones was hanging out in class but he wasn't teaching or training as he was taking off right after for his trip to USA to compete in EBI and hold some seminars. Instead another instructor named Lachlan, who is a celebrated competitor, was teaching the morning class. This class was the only one I was able to show up to, I had plans to return for the evening classes but ended up oversleeping on a badly planned afternoon nap. Sometimes you just have to listen to your body and go with the flow and rest.

Anyways, I showed to Absolute MMA for the morning class, it's an impressive space with two sizable mat spaces, one with heavy bags, and a weights area for conditioning. The BJJ classes are held in the larger back mat space. I got changed and, with permission of the instructor, set up my GoPro before class to capture the training session. During class we focused on guard breaking and passing then added more details and more moves to the sequence. After drilling we got into positional rolling in a 'King of the Mat' format. Pass or sweep, winner stays on the mat and loser goes back in line. A universal favourite drill among Jiu-Jitsu gyms. Of course positional rolling then turned to free rolling rounds that went pretty much until no one could roll anymore. It was a great time, I had some good matches and fun conversations along the sidelines. I wish I could have come back for more but there's always next time.

This is actually from the seminar the week before but I figured I'd re-post it here.

Here's a video of my time training at Absolute MMA below, if it doesn't load or if you want to see all my other videos head over to the Panda's Odyssey YouTube channel, while you're there please show some love, like, share, comment and subscribe!

After a really busy and way too short visit I was off to my next visit where I got to see more sun, beach and of course Jiu-Jitsu, Sydney!

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

Monday, 22 October 2018

Adelaide & Geelong Australia: BJJ &...Gardens?

Greetings From Adelaide and Geelong Australia (Oct 28- Nov 8 2017)!

I left Perth and flew to Adelaide quite uneventfully. The directions I had to get to where I was staying in Adelaide were quite concise and easy to follow. I was on my own in Adelaide, having picked up a room with AirBnB. I had credit to use up that I had been saving ever since the problem in Heidelberg/Mannheim where AirBnB froze my account inexplicably and took their time to unfreeze it, causing me to miss out on the perfect place and costing me a lot more for the visit. I had been holding on to it for Australia, I heard places aren't cheap so having credit for a free stay I might as well use it here. I rented a room from a quiet Asian couple who were very kind but with our different schedules we didn't see much of each other. The place was in a quiet neighborhood away from downtown but close enough to make it easy to get around, finally having my own room in a quiet setting was bliss and I managed to finally catch up on some much needed rest from the past crazy weeks.

Geelong was a different story. The flight into Melbourne and bus out to Geelong was easy enough, well actually getting to Geelong was a bit tricky but luckily I had help. Instead of a hostel or AirBnB this time around I was staying with Globetrotters who were fans of my stories, Jeremy and Annie. I although I had some time to myself to wander and see the city I was mostly just following Jeremy on his plans to visit different nearby gyms with me. It was an awesome time being taken care of so well by them and having a blast sharing stories and training together. While I was visiting Geelong Jeremy and I and a bunch of guys from another gym all piled into a van and heading into Melbourne for a seminar at Absolute MMA, but I'll get into that story later.

The Sights & The Gardens

One thing that I noticed most all the cities in Australia has is a botanical garden, which kind of stand out given the beach setting on the coast or desert like scenery outside the city. In places like Adelaide and Geelong where there's not a lot of tourism set up in terms of tours or attractions spending my time walking around these gardens seemed the best way to get out and relax. I guess you could say these stops really put the use the whole warrior and gardener mindset into action. I had some great meditative days. In a park in Adelaide there was a Japanese Zen garden, The Himeji Gardens, that was gifted by Adelaide's sister city Himeji. I spent the afternoon slowly walking around this place enjoying the pond and different plant arrangements and the perfectly raked rock gardens.

Geelong's larger Botanical Gardens in Eastern Park was quite the walk with all sorts of trees, plants and flowers displayed from from all over the world. One minute you're walking through a miniature desert looking at cacti and the next you're in a flower bed of roses and other exotic colourful flowers. It's one of the oldest botanical gardens in Australia and is really interesting to walk around, I'm glad I made it out.

Trinity MMA

As I said earlier I was enjoying the rest at my nice and quiet AirBnB in Adelaide and actually end up skipping a few training sessions. One place I did make it out to though was Trinity MMA to finally meet up with Dan Dwyer. I met Dan in the Globetrotters group, connected by my good man Luke, and we kept in contact while I planned out my visit, helping me look for a place to stay and figuring out the gym schedules. Making my way out for the open mat to meet a few of the gym members and finally meet Dan was a great time, if a short lived one. Looking back I wish I was able to make it out to a full class or visit the other gyms Dan gave me information on but having some down time to rest was probably the better decision in the long run. Anyways, I took the Adelaide city buses across town to where Trinity MMA is set up, the gym space was upstairs, an all matted floor with an MMA cage off to the side.

There were a few people already around training, being 'a friend of Dan's' was good enough for them and I started to get changed and warm up. Dan hadn't shown up yet so I made friends with the guys while waiting. Amongst the cool people I met there was Brodie, who at the time was a keen white belt, now a blue belt, who also liked to travel. Brodie gave me some great tips for Japan and it's been fun watching his updates on competing this past year. It's too bad we couldn't meet up in Japan but we had fun training and chatting when I visited. Dan finally showed up on the mats and we had some good rolls, he helped introduce me to everyone I hadn't meet yet and tell them about my travels. The group were very welcoming, every Australian I've met loves to travel so sharing stories of backpacking is was a good time and the easy going attitude of Australia makes you feel at home both on and off the mats. Training with the gym was a good time, we had some good hard rolls and some great knowledge shared on the mats as well. Like I said, I wish I was able to come out to a full class another night to meet more of the gym. Thanks Dan for inviting me out!

DC Jiu-Jitsu

In Geelong Jeremy brought me out to the gym he trains at, DC Jiu-Jitsu where I met Prof. Dan Cherubin, a big guy who has been training in BJJ for a long time, one of the first Black Belts in Australia and the highest ranked Australian under Master Ricardo De La Riva. It was a blast talking to him and hearing all the knowledge and history of the art. Training there for one day wasn't enough but it was unfortunately all we could fit in with the seminar and visiting other gyms in my short stay. The gym is a big square space with the mat space in the middle and there being a low wall around it. Change rooms were in the the back and there was another small space for warming up or other classes back there too.

The class was big and I didn't have much time introducing myself to them, talking a lot with Prof. Dan and Jeremy. The few I did talk to while training were nice enough to me visiting and I had a good time training and rolling. There was a portion of the class where we fought from positions, getting out of side control, that my partner and I probably were rolling a little more stiff than we were supposed to, but all in good fun, beating each other up is how you make friends. Prof. Dan taught a class that was all about the crucifix and all the small details for keeping control from each option the opponent has for defense. I never knew how technical the crucifix actually was, I mean I knew how deadly a position it is especially for MMA but all the fine details for controlling your opponent, particularly the arm you catch with your legs, was eye opening. I've forgotten a lot of the details Prof. Dan taught that night but any time I'm in a potential crucifix position, like from turtle, I always have a few of the things he taught that day flash through my head. I'd like to think it's helped with defending being in a crucifix but that would be a lie, it would be better described as knowing exactly what I'm caught in and when to tap.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it back to Dc Jiu-Jitsu for another class, I had hoped to do an video with Prof. Dan but with all the over things going on and places to see it never happened. I did thoroughly enjoy myself training there however and hope to make it back one day, thank you Prof. Dan for having me!


Jeremy also brought me out to Sub MMA, a gym that was working on their new space when I visited them. There was no sign up yet and the front still under renovations but the mats were all down and on the walls so the important part was ready. I met Jamie there, the gym owner and coach, hes' a great guy and very friendly, just a few words to tell him who I am and next I knew I was family. The training area was a square space with blue and black mats with the walls matted as well, the guys were already training in there when we got there, doing kickboxing or MMA, so the place was already hot and sweaty. Warm up and training only make it worse, these guys really put in the work. The gym is entirely no gi, more set up for MMA or submission wrestling, I imagine with all the news Craig Jones was making at the time no gi was getting incredibly popular across Australia. We had some good training with lots of drilling, I can't remember the exact details of what we were drilling but I do remember having a lot of trouble shooting to try and catch up to them. I also had some good matches with a few of the guys, even got to roll with Jeremy one last time, there were some killers that could easily run circles around me and a their leg lock game was definitely more extensive. I'd like to think I did well defending.

While training at the gym we went over a little of what was covered at the seminar a few of use were lucky enough to attend in Melbourne on the weekend before. This is how I first met with Jamie and few guys from his gym. One morning Jeremy and I drove out to Jamie's and piled into a van with everyone to head to St Kilda on the far side of Melbourne. The Absolute MMA HQ was holding a seminar to collect money for Craig Jones' brother who had just injured himself. The whole day was an awesome experience, hanging out with fun people, having a road trip to Melbourne, and meeting the likes of Craig Jones, Kit Dale, Lachlan Giles and Livia Guchowska, not to mention learning awesome Jiu-Jitsu, all in one day. We left Geelong pretty early so we would be sure to have time for finding parking and get to the gym without missing anything. I think maybe we gave ourselves too much time as the gym wasn't even open when we shown up, people were waiting actually outside.

We were one of the first few people inside once the gym opened but it got busy quickly and in no time we were sitting along the wall stretching watching the instructors hang out in the middle of the mats. I have followed Kit Dale for a long time now and I've been a fan of Craig Jones since I first saw his highlights, and I had talked to Lachlan and Liv a bit online when Luke connected me to them for my visit, to meet them all in person at the same time was awesome. The seminar had six instructors each teach a short session and I loved everything they taught, even Craig Jones' crazy Z-guard to heel hook that a lot of us couldn't get. One thing I noticed about the seminar was the open camaraderie among everyone there, I know a lot of them were Absolute teammates but there was a lot of joking going on and no one there seemed too serious. It was a great first impression and I looked forward to returning during my visit to Melbourne.

Once the seminar was over we all piled back into the van and headed home, not before stopping for some KFC which is like 1000x better in Australia then back home, and all we talked about the entire time was the awesome seminar we were just a part of. Even during class a few days later we couldn't stop bringing it up. That's what going to a good seminar feels like, it's the Jiu-Jitsu equivalent of being the first in your bunch of friends that sees the newest blockbuster movie out. If there's one way to describe the guys at Sub MMA other than a friendly bunch is passionate, Jamie and his gym loves training and learning, thanks for having me guys!

Thanks again Jeremy and Annie, it was a blast hanging out with you and I'm grateful you let me come crash at your place with nothing more than a few lines in Facebook, the power of the internet and Jiu-Jitsu bringing people together. And after an all too short and busy stop meeting and making all sorts of cool friends I was off for my next adventures in Melbourne.

Until next time,
see you on the mats!

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