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Monday, 15 October 2018

Return to the Odyssey: Perth Australia

Greetings From Perth Australia ( 23- 28 Oct 2017)

After a lengthy detour I'm back to telling my adventures of traveling the world once again. When I last left off, before the BJJ Globetrotters camp reviews, I had met up with the Free Rollers in San Diego for a week of training and shenanigans. I followed them back to Perth Australia and we all met up at the airport. The coincidental timing that everyone got in at was uncanny, Andy got in during the day and had enough time to get home and shower and rest up before coming back and picking up Luke and myself who got in at roughly the same time but on different flights. I was tired from the long flight over but excited to finally be here in 'The Land Down Under' and I was really looking forward to training at the home gym to all the guys I just hung with in San Diego.

The guys from left to right, Zack, Reece, Charlie, Luke, Andy and myself. Xande in the middle of course. 

Originally I was supposed to stay with Luke, who runs Free Rollers and put together the whole trip to San Diego (Which he's doing it again next year in March!), but he suddenly got called into work while we were flying to Perth so I was left still trying to plan out where I'd be staying on the way there. Andy, being a stand up guy despite what all the others say, offered me a room to crash in at his place until he had to take off for work in a few days. That was awesome, a few days was all I needed to sort out things out. As it happens it ended up being a bit of bad time for everyone so I was only staying a night or two at each place. Andy's for a few, Reece and Sharaine's for a few, then Christy's, who I had just met, but more on that later. The important part is I was finally in Australia and ready to fight a kangaroo (Didn't happen and no kangaroos were harmed in the making of these adventures).

'Being Australian'

I got out to see a lot of Perth and the surrounding area, thanks Andy and Sharaine for the drives and pointing out different areas, I got no photos of these trips and actually I'm lacking pics for a lot of this visit.  One thing I do have pics of is the food I ate. During my short stay with Reece and Sharaine it was decided that since Reece was out at work Sharaine was going to show me around and have me try all the quintessential 'Australian Things' or Australian foods anyways, I had already mastered the art of wearing no socks at any time and scandals, or 'pluggers', whenever I could so I was only a mullet short of being an honorary Perthian. During my time living in Toronto I played in an AFL league and so was introduced to the greatness that is Tim Tams and salted licorice, separate of course not together, but there's tons of other candies and foods in Australia that I had never heard of before and still I haven't tried even after this trip (Fairy Bread, seriously 'straya WTF?!').

With Sharaine's help I tried out whatever I could, I had the Rocky Road Bark and Australian Licorice Allsorts, which were quite big compared to what I was used to, and she introduced me to the Golden Gaytime, which was Ok but no ice cream sandwich in my opinion. One day I tried Vegemite, did not enjoy it one bit. I also went to Hungry Jacks, the Australian Burger King which was much better than that shit toast spread but just not as good as the original back home. The all time most Australian thing I did was get sausages, or snags as they call them, at Bunning's Warehouse where every weekend they sell their 'Bunning's Snags' for charity, called a Sausage Sizzle. All in all I'd say trying these foods was a cracka of a time! (did I say that right?)


Call it what you want, I'm always down for BBQ!

Gemina MMA

After training with the lads in San Diego for a week it was time to meet the rest of their club, and watch them try some of the techniques we picked up, and fail. As it happens all the real Alphas stayed back and waited for us at their home gym of Gemina MMA (inside joke from the trip). The gym, one of a few locations under the Gemina and Legion XIII banner, is in a warehouse space with room for a big matted space in red and black mats and a kickboxing ring in the front. First night of classes I showed up with Andy and met up with Charlie but Reece and Luke were away with work and Zack was apparently out injured from San Diego but still around to teach the kids. I can't remember the order the classes I attended while training there but one night I met both Aaron, who's the owner, BJJ black belt and Muay Thai coach, and Josephine, also a black belt and I believe the head BJJ instructor. They were both really friendly and helpful and happy to have me visiting, I felt very welcome there despite most the guys I knew not being there.

I remember having a gi class where we worked attacks from different positions. I had a smaller partner and I tried going really light with the attacks from top position and not crushing them but half the movements were new to me so it just ended up being kind of awkward for most the class. I also remember a no gi class where I just couldn't get the movement from guard pass to hip control down and Josephine was really patient trying to help me get the concept and technique working. To be honest after the week in San Diego and the long flight to Perth I was quite tired and jet lagged and learning just wasn't working for me that week. I'm thankful everyone was helpful as I fumbled through classes. At least the rolls were fun. I guess that's part of traveling, sometimes you just have off days. I know I've had many, in fact since being back home now there's been weeks where I just rest and don't bother training at all. I didn't really have that luxury moving around at the pace I was so I just had to try and work through it and get back into the swing of things on the mats. I think I did quite well all things considered. 

There was a guy whose name I forget, a blue belt, who was an absolute beast. I watched him destroy everyone before having a roll with him. I met the same fate as everyone else but the funny part was afterwards when he was very humble and shy asking me, with my traveling experience seeing world class athletes, asking me how he did and if he were to compete in a larger platform like the Australian Open or Worlds how do I think he would do. I have never met such a humble person with so much gifted ability, I'l have to check in on him once in a while because I'm sure he'll go far. I had a blast training with everyone in both the gi and no gi classes, I'll definitely have to come back and next time do it while Luke is actually home to visit. Thanks again guys for having me!

Wilkes Martial Arts

There are several BJJ clubs across Perth and the surrounding area and it seems a lot of the people there like to cross train and hit up open mats at different gyms. One day Charlie and Christy brought me to Wilkes Martial Arts in the city, until now I was mostly around the Rockingham area which is south of Perth where everyone lived so so technically this was my first and only actual time training in Perth. The gym they brought me to was a matted rectangular space which I think other martial arts also used the space for. It was no-gi and the class was very casual and relaxed, everyone seemed like good friends just meeting up to drill and roll rather than a real structured class, which seems to be the way of more modern no-gi gyms from what I've gathered lately. Anyways it was some good fun rolling with everyone and meeting some new people at another gym. It's too bad that it was a small showing so I didn't get the chance to meet and see more of the team structure to tell you about. It was still fun all the same and I greatly enjoyed training and rolling with those who did come out.

Although I don't have much for notes for this visit I will say though that it was great getting out and training no-gi with another gym. With the exception of visiting 10th Planet it was all gi training in San Diego. I am more of a gi person for training and competing and was almost completely just gi when I first started traveling. In fact any time I hit a no-gi class while traveling across Canada I would usually get the comment of "you train mostly gi, right?" after a roll because of how I moved and reacted, and usually paused and thought 'no grips now what?' I wasn't horrible in no-gi but definitely wasn't very comfortable and actually probably wouldn't have agreed to coming to this class if this was two years ago, or at least feel very anxious about it. As the Odyssey has gone on I have trained more and more in no-gi and maybe even have trained more in no-gi overall, given all the other grappling styles I've tried don't wear a gi. Anyways, being able to roll with the killers that were at Wilkes and be able at least hold my own and defend or understand where I'm getting caught was a moment of clarity in seeing the progression I at times thought maybe I wasn't making while traveling. Progression while traveling, that is another topic to cover another time.

Australian Hospitality and a Small World

Luke has been one of if not the first person to reach out to me when I first started posting about my plans to travel the world. Since then we've pretty much become brothers online and had a great time hanging out together in San Diego. I was a real shame he suddenly got called into work and wasn't around while I visited. Of course with previous plans to stay at his place it now meant I needed to find a new place to stay during the visit. As mentioned before this ended up being a bit of trouble as it seemed to be bad timing for everyone all around. Most other places I would have ended up staying at a last minute and overpriced hostel or hotel and going way over my budget for it. That doesn't seem to be the Australian way to let that happen to a guest like me. Instead the guys who I had just met a week ago were there to help me out without any hesitation.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pics of hanging out with the gym guys or the party at Chirsty's, so here more training pics.

I met Christy while training at Gemina, a very deadly student and good friends with the guys from the San Diego trip. She was awesome to train with and I was pretty much on the defense most the time rolling with her. After class one night a few of us went out for food, Josephine and Christy joined us and Charlie, Andy and I told them all sorts of stories about San Diego, I had a few from my own travels as well. As I mentioned I could only stay at Andy's for two nights before he had to take off for work, and with Charlie already busy working and Luke away that left Reece and Sharaine who gracefully left me stay for another few days at their place. The problem was I had one more day I needed a place to stay at before my flight to Adelaide and I was running out of options. We had only just met a few nights before but when she overheard the problem Christy offered me her spare room no problem. Christy is a hell of a good person, it saved me from looking for a last minute, and really expensive, room downtown and also meant I would be at her birthday party.

The birthday party, I knew about it and was ready for it even though I had an early morning the next day to catch my flight off to the next destination, any chance to socialize is worth taking after all. I got to Christy's early before the party started and hung out while she put the final things into place and got ready for her guests. As the night went on more and more people showed up and I tried to talk with everyone to introduce myself and meet them. I found out that not only is Christy in the Navy but the majority of their guests were too, being former Navy myself that gave me a great ice breaker with everyone. As we were talking I noticed the popular drink with everyone was the Canadian Club and Ginger Ale pre-mixed drinks, as we call them 'C.C & Ginger' back home. That somehow moved the conversation of them talking about drinking these drinks with a Canadian Navy ship while it was in town, and not just any ship but my old ship, the HMCS Ottawa! Imagine my surprise learning these newly made friends had partied with my old shipmates, and my jealously when reminded that I missed that amazing sail because I was on course that summer. Such a small world, always running into people and connections where I least expect it. Anyways, it was an awesome last night in Perth, Christy threw a great party, had a wonderful birthday and I was off early the next morning. I totally owe her, and the rest of the guys, one for helping me out at such a last minute problem.

And while everyone slept off their hangovers or were away working I quietly left Perth and headed for the next destination in Australia: Adelaide, or as the locals in Perth say 'Why the hell are you going there?!'

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, 8 October 2018

BJJ Globetrotters Camps Part 3: Return to Heidelberg Germany!

Greetings From Around the World Part 3!

Here's the last article covering the BJJ Globetrotters Camps I attended over the summer. I'll be back to sharing all my stories and adventures while traveling around the world shortly. I last left off telling you all about the BJJ Globetrotters camps in Greenland and Iceland and before that the first part to this trilogy covered the USA Camp and visiting Toronto. Now I bring you the final part, BJJ Globetrotters Camps Part 3: Return to Heidelberg Germany!

I hate, hate, hate unicorns!

BJJ Globetrotters Fall Camp (Heidelberg Germany 13-18 August 2018)

Heidelberg was my first camp last year, to return to it for my 5th camp and my last stop outside of Canada was a roller coaster of emotions. I was going back one of my favourite places to see all sorts of friends I’ve made along the way but at the same time it also meant the Odyssey was over and there would be no more traveling outside of Canada any time soon. I wish more friends could have been there for me to see one last time at this final camp but a group of them choose the Leuven party camp instead, and if I still drank I would totally have been there with them. There was still a large number of friends I'd made along the way attending the camp, with lots of new people to meet and make friends with as well. This time around I was now a veteran camper and knew what to bring, what to expect and how to pace myself for the week, this was going to be a good last stop.

On my way!

Last year I planned my arrival with the start of the camp but left no room for error and was in a rush, showing up a bit late and tired for the starting classes. This year I tried to correct that and planned on arriving in the morning. The event of the Frankfurt airport taking over 90 minutes to unload luggage and having only 5 minutes to rush for the bus to Heidelberg aside, I showed up on time but completely exhausted. The flight over to Germany from Canada was an overnight flight, and while I usually deal OK with those and can get some rest I got no sleep this time around. There was a woman and her teenage daughter sitting next to me, I had the aisle seat, and the teenage girl seating the middle decided she would not only lean on me at times while sitting sideways but also constantly restlessly move around back and forth. Any time I was about to find some rest I'd get a nudge waking me up, so instead of showing up to the camp, on time and rested and ready to start off on the right foot I ended up showing up completely exhausted and jet jagged and unable to partake in anything that first day. I was in worse condition than last year, once rooms were available I had a hot shower and a nap before the evenings celebrations.

One thing I really like about this camp is that it's at the University sports arena where, if we buy the full ticket, we have a room and meal plan all taken care off. Actually, of all the camps I've been to the Iceland camp was the only one where dealing with lodgings and meals was separate. I much prefer the full package, not just because I'm lazy and don't want to deal with cooking or finding a decent hostel or that the meal plan is a more responsible diet than what I'd be eating my own but we hang out and socialize and bond more having our meals and rooming together. The convenience factor of being at the sports hall and not having to deal with transit to and from each day is also a big bonus. Some people stayed at the nearby hostel and I'm sure that went by great with so many of the campers staying in the same spot and it only being a 10 minute walk away, but others ended up in places on the other side of town either dealing traffic driving to the sports place and back or walking 45 minutes each way. I did that in Iceland and would much prefer skipping that adventure again if I could.

The Blackpool club, so glad they made it out and was able to catch up with them.

Had a blast hanging with the Heidelberg group again.

For this camp the schedule was changed slightly, there were only 2 or 3 classes together then a 1 hour open mat as opposed to past camps where there would be 4 classes together and a 2 hour open mat. I found that small change made the day of training and rolling easier and I'm sure others found that too. The new schedule keep a more active flow, not as much down time if you were skipping the open mat for the classes, or classes for the open mat sessions. Throughout the camp I would focus on 1 or 2 classes a day and spend another 2 hours or so rolling, making sure to train with people I haven't trained with before both to make new friends and continue training with different body types and rolling styles. Of course I also made time to roll with old friends and catch up with them, or more like get choked out by them again.

Fun times at the camp. Thanks Jack (center) for the morning Yoga!  

These girls are killer Judo players and destroyed everyone standing, I was too scared to ask to go a round with them!

Made a new friend from Blackpool, so fun hanging out Linsey!

Don't think I'm ever around Dave without him drinking or only being half dressed.

Training and hitting as many classes as I could was a blast, I had a real problem picking and choosing classes so I didn't burn myself out. One day I was tired and looking to watch the afternoon classes, Charles Harriott came up to me and asked to use me for his class on darces and neckties to show 'what to do against big guys'. Then after his class David Morcegao, showing off some big guy techniques from the scarf, used me for a demo as well. I just wanted to watch, maybe drill a little and roll later, ends up I would be fighting for my life defending from those techniques the rest of the day, and week. Really though it was awesome getting those diamond details from both those guys, it really brought my game up. Another day I had the pleasure of rolling with Daniel Bertina and feeling first hand his top pressure class he taught after the open mat and then watched Heather Raftery teach a crucifix class. Some many great instructors, from Jack's morning yoga classes to Christian's 'super string theory of Jiu-Jitsu', another amazing experience and great knowledge gained at a BJJ Globetrotters camp.

So nice meeting Heather and great seeing Daniel and David again. 

Charles Harriott, thanks again for the D'arce tips.

Cristiana, Katla and Karla. great seeing you all again!

Can (Jon) of Artemis BJJ, a pleasure chatting as usual. 

The first night in Heidelberg we held the pub crawl as usual, it's a great way to socialize and get all the party energy out of our system so we can focus on training during the week. This year there was an added bonus to it, a couple were getting married at camp, that's right BJJ Globetrotters very first Jiu-Jitsu wedding, and the pub crawl was their stag and doe party. Last year the pub crawl was about 30 or so people and was a blast dressing up and hanging out at the different pubs while getting to know the other campers. The crawl through the city also showed me where some of the good parts of town for food and drink were, if you could remember where you were after that night. This year however it seemed more like only 30 people didn't show up for the crawl. We flooded the streets and the bars where ever we went, trying not to be too loud and failing miserably. At one point an old woman opened her window to see what the commotion was, only to instantly gasp, cross her heart and quickly shutter her window and lock it. Apparently our crawl was intimidating to some of the locals.

Finally an occasion to wear my harajuku shirt.

One thing I didn't get around to doing last time I was in Heidelberg was visit the Heidelberg Castle, this time I wasn't going to miss it. The view from the castle over looking the city and the Neckar River is quite breath taking. Here's some of the pictures taken from our walk around the castle and area as well as around the camp in general. You can see more of my pictures from this and all my other articles other on my Flickr Account.

It's ok, it just apple juice, I swear!

Throughout the week groups of campers would return to some of the pubs we visited on this crawl, most notably 'The 4 Euro Bar'. That's not really the name of the pub, we dubbed it that name last year when we found it during the pub crawl. The pub, actually named Bob's Burger Bar, is the favourite spot for the Globetrotters, just like the Lebowski Bar in Reykjavik I mentioned in the last article we pretty much took it over for the duration of the camp. In fact the Globetrotters tend to have a favourite bar at every camp, I like to think having us in town is good for business. This year the bar had an impressive menu of pub food that was missing last year. Lots of us dropped by at night to socialize and grab some food and the camp end party was held there. They even let us hold the crazy event of 'body building posing' there, I'm sure we'll be back to take the 4 Euro Bar over again next year.

Hanging out at the '4 Euro Bar'

They have great burgers there.

One event of the camp everyone was waiting for was the Jiu-Jitsu wedding. This was a first for the Globetrotters camps and only started to be planned since the Iceland camp two week prior. I remember sitting at the kebab place with Christian, Giles and Cristiana, scrolling through Facebook as they brainstormed making a last minute t-shirt for the Germany camp when I saw the announcement. Alex had just proposed to Katya and they had only just posted it maybe 10 minutes before I saw it and showed the table. Instantly Cristiana was telling Christian he should get ordained and they could plan the wedding for Germany. A lot of work must have been put in within that short busy time because it ran without a hitch. It was amazing to see everyone come together and help out and share in Alex and Katya's joy. I had the honour of being the one to give Katya away, which was completely unexpected when she asked me but I was more than happy to do. Although it was lovely watching two friends get married in the first ever BJJ Globetrotters Jiu-Jitsu wedding, Christian's opening speech was amazing and I wish it was recorded (see everyone at camp 100 on the Moon!). Afterwards we watched them have their first roll as the newly married couple, and with Katya's newly awarded blue belt, as everyone had cake and drinks and began the camp end open mat. It was truly the perfect happy ending to the camp.

Katya the bride and me ready to give her away.

Nothing like getting promoted during your wedding!

The married couples' first roll together.  

With the end of the camp came the end of my travels, for now anyways. It was great to see everyone, to make all the new friends I made and be apart of the first ever Jiu-Jitsu wedding, as well as all the awesome training of course. Attending all the camps was the perfect way to spend the summer and this camp was the best bittersweet ending. Even if this was my last stop outside of Canada all the great memories I was bringing home washed away any regrets or sadness. After a little confusion on where to catch the Sunday bus I was on my way to Frankfurt to catch my plane back to Canada. This wraps up my summer adventures of attending the BJJ Globetrotters camps, I'll be back writing about the Odyssey next time picking up back in Australia.   

Always fun seeing Giles and Cristiana. 

One last hangout with Christian.

Body building competition, we meet have gone too far at this camp...nah! 
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, 1 October 2018

BJJ Globetrotters Camps Part 2: Greenland & Iceland

Greetings From All Over the World, Part 2!

I'm back again to fill you in on my summer of BJJ Globetrotters camps I attended as the 'big bang' finale to the Odyssey. I'm not done writing about the Odyssey itself, only half way really, but I'll return to those adventures shortly. I last left off with telling you all about my adventures at the USA Maine Camp and visiting Toronto, the stop in Toronto happened both before and after heading out on an epic Nordic adventure, one that may be long to tell but also is full of pictures and videos, otherwise called BJJ Globetrotters Camps Part 2: Greenland & Iceland.

Greenland Camp (Nuuk Greenland, 20-22 July 2018)

I originally wanted to go to Greenland and Iceland as part of the Odyssey on my way back to Canada but when the camps were announced I changed my plans to go to them instead and see these places and experience the different cultures with the Globetrotters. I figured going with a group to explore and train and party (re:lots of partying) would be more fun than going on my own. I was not wrong. As I planned out the back to back camps I also decided to get some visiting in at Toronto, which I covered last post. I decided I would show up a few days early to both Iceland and Greenland as the space was open to us all week in Nuuk and I had a friend to visit in Reykjavik. I would have to fly to Iceland from Toronto first before heading to Greenland so I figured I might as well visit friends at each stop. At the Greenland camp we were all staying in a school which the local club uses the gym for their classes. Even though the camp was on the weekend, there were 6 of us on the flight when I flew over on Wednesday and already a few people there from earlier in the week when we landed. Jason, the coach of the local gym, Inuit Martial Arts, and some of his students met us at airport and drove us to the school.

Ready for Greenland!

The plane we flew from Reyjakiv to Nuuk on... 

I got a small tour of Nuuk on the way school as we drove from the airport on the other side of town, pointing out where the grocery store was and the library, where the only WiFi in town was. Although it’s the capitol and biggest town in Greenland, Nuuk is small and everything was nearby where we were staying. The local bar and restaurants were across the street from the school, the important WiFi at the library across from that and the grocery store just down the street from them. There’s not a whole lot to do in Nuuk but it’s a nice view of the Arctic Ocean from the shore and there’s a small village museum and all sorts of Inuit statues throughout the town. As well, driving around to the views, hiking up the beautiful mountain ranges or going on whale watching and iceberg sighting boat trips are the real the attractions.

Flying over the Artic 

The social aspect of the Globetrotter camps really shone through at this particular camp, being smaller in numbers and more relaxed with no set schedule for classes or open mats. We averaged one class of at least an hour a day with a noon time and evening open mat, and even a post bar, middle of the night open mat if you were more adventurous and in, how shall I say ‘in high spirits’. I set up the GoPro to record some of the open mats and classes and put together this video of the awesome time I had training with the 25 or so of us that came to visit this isolated club to help grow the art and sport in Greenland. You can watch the video below or head over to the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel where you can watch this and all my other videos. While there be sure to show some love, like, comment, share and subscribe!

Once Christian and the last of the visitors arrived we got into full swing with some classes and rolling and sightseeing. The locals were very happy to have us come and train with them and eager to roll with everyone, being the only club in such an isolated area they don’t have much outside exposure for comparison and only have each other to train with or roll against. One student was telling me that recently a few of the members left for work so the club was down to half its usual numbers, so classes were slow. They were very happy to have us to roll against, and to have black belts there to teach. The rolls were aggressive, but more in an eager way than any manner of proving dominance. I had a lot of fun hanging out the local members and wish they didn’t have to work during the day so we could have socialized more.

During the days people in groups set up going on whale watching or iceberg cruises and a group of us climbed a mountain, only to be covered in fog and unable to get a cool picture of overlooking the entire city as the view usually is from up there. During the nights we all headed out to the bar, which on week nights was a quiet pub with pool tables and closed by midnight but come Friday and Saturday they open up the dance club in the back that doesn't even get started until after midnight and runs until 4am. We showed off some crazy dance moves (some good, mostly bad) and got away with even crazier antics at this bar, since it's agreed that what happens with Bar Team stays with Bar Team I can't go into any details but it's safe to say the staff there didn't mind us doing almost what ever we wanted. I guess that's the bonus of us being such a large group spending money there on their very expensive drinks. 

This is 2am in Nuuk.

Food was a big part of this camp, not just because everyone wanted to try a whale steak or blubber or seal but mostly because since we all stayed in the school together we also all cooked and ate together. Throughout the time visiting Nuuk we would all chip in and pick up needed groceries to make the agreed supper or breakfast, lunch was usually on you own as we were usually out and about or just not waking up til noon anyways for some people. All in all we worked quite well together making meals and getting fed. One particular night and morning stands out, where a camper made a boast of being able to make us all 'Spanish omelettes' for breakfast. This camper then preceded to get quite drunk, which concerned all of us wanting a tasty omelette for breakfast. I woke up at some point late in the night, our self acclaimed cook was at his usual post bar open mat with no sign of being able to wake up in the morning. I walked into the kitchen to grab a drink of water, to find the place was a disaster!

No pictures of food, or the disaster, but here's some of the cool statues and sights from around town.

It looked like a hurricane ripped through the kitchen, dirty utensils were all over the place, there was a giant mess on the stove and all over the counter. It looked like all the would be breakfast food was used in a food fight, and then I opened the fridge. Right there sitting in two big pans was some sort of beautiful, perfectly cooked egg and vegetable and various meats concoction. I couldn't believe me eyes, I shut the fridge door and went back to sleep, stunned at what I saw both in the state of the kitchen and of what waited in the fridge. When I woke most of the mess had already been cleaned and the egg dish already sampled and approved by all those awake. I had some myself and it was great, I don't think it was actually a Spanish omelette, in fact I believe the quote was "It's not Spanish and it's not an omelette but it's something" I still don't know how he pulled it off in his state, or how the kitchen got so destroyed, but Stevie you are one beautiful pain in the ass, hell of a guy. I both immensely enjoyed and hated every minute with you, thanks for all the laughs and the great breakfast. I hope I never have to room with you again, or until the next camp. 

The local dishes of cooked seal or cured blubber weren't my thing so I passed on them but the idea of whale steak did intrigue me. Unfortunately the day we decided to have the camp BBQ there were no whale steaks available at the grocery store so we all just settled on normal steaks instead. I'm not complaining but it did feel wrong to come all this way just to eat an ordinary tender loin steak. While wandering the city some of the other campers tried some of restaurants, I heard good reviews for a pizza place and a Thai or Chinese restaurant but I tried the local burger joint. They had a 'monster burger' challenge that included 5 patties, each topped with cheese and bacon, that had to be eaten within 15 minutes. I will post the pics to let it speak for itself but I just want to say it looked a lot smaller and more manageable on the posters than when I served this monstrosity. I gave it a valiant effort and regretted it later during the mountain hike that happen to be on the same day and right after eating this thing. 

The burger is bigger than my large drink.
 This was as far as I could get in the 15 minute time limit.

As the object was to help the Jiu-Jitsu community grow in Greenland and it’s quite expensive to get so such an isolated place Christian only charged a reservation fee as opposed to selling camp tickets. The reservation came with a condition though, the only way to get it back wasn’t just to show up and have fun but also to agree to jump into the arctic waters with the rest of the group. While this may have frightened some of the other visitors I was actually really excited to take the plunge and test my frozen Canadian blood. Although I couldn't feel my legs by the time i got out of the water it wasn’t that bad, I thought anyways. Here’s a video of us make the run in and out of the ocean while locals looked and on and took their own pictures and videos of us being crazy stupid visitors. You can watch the video below or head over to the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel and watch it and all my over videos I’ve uploaded.

The shore where we ran into the water.

How could I pass up posing on a waterfall?!

Iceland Camp (Reykjavik Iceland 23-28 July 2018)
One aspect of the Greenland camp was that it was back to back with the Iceland camp, another place I’ve wanted to visit since starting the Odyssey. When the camps came out I had to re-shuffle my budget and schedule for the Odyssey to make it out to both, there was no way I could pass up this chance. Flights are limited both from Canada to Iceland and to Greenland in general, so I worked out stopping and visiting a friend so I wouldn’t have to rush or stay in the airport for long time and it allowed some time to get out and see some of Iceland and hopefully train before the crazy schedule of the camp. I met Halldor back when I was in Hamburg Germany and flew over to London for the weekend of Prof. Keith Owen’s seminar to surprise my head black belt with a visit, which you can read about Here. That was an amazing weekend and can’t believe I pulled it off.

The view flying into Iceland.

Anyways Halldor is a big guy and of course since big guys gravitate to one another in class, we trained a little, made a bunch of jokes at Mr. Keith’s expense and become good friends instantly. I have kept in contact with Halldor since the seminar and had talked to him about different ideas for visiting Iceland and his gym. When the camp came up we worked out me coming for a day or so before heading to Greenland. I can’t compliment Halldor enough, he was always willing to help and host any time I threw any ideas of coming to visit Iceland, picked me up at the airport at an ungodly early hour in the morning, showed me around in between his shifts and taught me the hot tub sauna culture of Iceland, and most importantly taught me how to master the water slide (you have to go to Reykjavik and meet Halldor to find out). It was a short time we hung out together but an awesome time, and although we didn’t get to train together there that just give me a reason, not that I need one, to return to Reykjavik.

Halldor, what a great guy, thanks again my friend!

Pretty much all of my sight seeing happened during the short stay with Halldor as the camp was a whirlwind of training, socializing, eating and sleeping. I didn’t get a chance to get out of Reykjavik to see the great attractions Iceland has like the hot springs, black sand beaches or waterfalls, but there's still tons to see in the city itself. I've added a few of the shots I taken but you can see all pictures, including some beautiful panoramic shots of Greenland and Iceland, over on my Flickr Account.

Views along the shoreline.

Leif Eriksson Statue and the Hallgrimskirkja Church

Reykjavik prime minister house

When I returned for the Iceland camp it was non-stop action until I left. Between the camp classes, socializing after the day’s training, socializing with my hostel roommates and trying to fit in meals and proper sleep I was so burnt out by the end of the week. In fact with the culmination of the Greenland and Iceland camps back to back, added with visiting and training in Toronto before and after the camps I was so socially over stimulated that I basically just stayed in my room for a week to decompress and prepare for the Germany Camp. I don’t know how I managed to travel at the rate I did for 18 months straight but after 2 years I finally found my social stimulation limit: 2 non-stop weeks of Globetrotters. During this hectic week I managed to take a few pictures with everyone, or as many people as I could.

Ger, met his brother Graeme at the USA camp, both cool dudes. 
Good friend Steph who I met last year in the Germany camp.

My hostel room mates, out dipping our toes in the water and watching the blood moon, or sunset at least. 

Hot tub life in Iceland 

The Iceland Punk Museum with Giles and Cristiana from Glasgow. 

Garrett is always the life of the party. 

Making new friends after a long day of training.

On top of the usual all day full of classes packed with cool black belts teaching all kinds of awesome techniques the Iceland Camp was held in Mjolnir Gym, home to UFC fighter Gunnar Nelson, who also taught a class for us during the camp. Apparently in the start of his MMA career Gunnar fought in an event Christian ran and they’ve kept in contact throughout the years. When Gunnar showed up to teach it was with an all star entourage of his and Connor McGregor’s trainer John Kavanagh and non other than BJJ legend Master Carlos Machado! That is one way to make an entrance, and did it ever blow away the camp meeting these guys. Gunnar’s class on pressure passing in an MMA format defending strikes and his tricks for baiting his opponents for underhook control was very interesting to watch and digest. This was not the first time I’ve had a class taught by a UFC fighter, or even a class directed to defending strikes but the games of strikers in grappling are just as varied as the submission game itself and it’s always cool to see how people, especially an athlete at his level, defend and attack.

Thanks for having us at your gym Gunnar! 

Attending a class by Master Carlos Machado, who just so happened to train the one and only Chuck Norris to be an even more lethal ass kicking machine, was something I never thought would happen and certainly not while at a BJJ Globetrotters camp in Iceland. As luck would have it, Carlos was vacationing in Reykjavik with one of his student he was preparing for World Masters and when they dropped by for the weekend open mat they found out about the camp happening that week and decided to stick around for it. Not only that but another black belt who has supposed to teach had to cancel last minute and so Christian approached Master Carlos who was more than happy to jump in and take over.
“I see you all doing 1 hour classes, I have a problem with that, you need least 2 hours to see and drill a technique to really learn it” and so Carlos ran his class into the open mat time and we all had 2 hours of learning some incredible details from one of the highest ranked Jiu-Jitsu masters.

Learning from Master Carlos was an amazing experience, you could easily see the years of experience in not only teaching but also keeping a large group interested and captivated with how he described all the details and used jokes and stories between techniques. He kept to the basics and every technique started off with me saying ‘OK, I know that one” then quickly turned to “Wait, how is he doing this?" Every technique he showed had an aspect to it I’ve never ever seen before. Most of the details we all took away from Master Carlos was the way of control he used. It was a loose cupping like motion, not tensing up and using hand strength, placed perfectly so that if you need to apply pressure it was a simple muscle flex. I know it sounds weird and it's hard to describe, some of us campers talked about it all week, but the easiest way to describe it is he showed us a butterfly sweep where he just hung his hands on the arms instead of griping or wrapping anything, just lightly cupping the triceps. This way he could control any posts with just a pull on the triceps or swing of his elbow, not using any strength and the partner feeling they still have free range of movement but unable to post. Hard to describe but mind blowing to watch.

What an honour Meeting Carlos Machado!

Another amazing class that the camp had, and one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Iceland, was a local giant viking, Gudmundur, teaching the Celtic and Nordic wrestling styles of Backhold and Glima. I was first alerted to Glima a few years back and only starting the idea of the Odyssey when a Facebook friend posted a video about the viking wrestling style. It only took that one video to make me put Iceland on the list of places I have to visit. For the record there are several styles of Glima throughout the Nordic countries I’d like to go and visit Norway, where I've heard it's really big, to learn the differences and details one day. Backhold and Glima have a lot in common, both being a grappling art that focuses on taking the opponent down to the ground with the rule set including having continuous grips on each other. In Backhold you lock your hands together in an over/under hold on your opponent, that is you have one underhook and over overhook and then clasp your hands together on their back and they do likewise. Glima on the other hand you wear a leather belt around your waist and your thighs and while you do the same over/under you are gripping the belts, one on the waist and one on the thigh. Both styles showed me so much about controlling an opponent in the clinch and working different up close takedowns. Fireworks were going off in my head the whole time, like it was finally being showing the proper way to use my body. I played with some of the concepts and ideas I got from training with Gudmundur’s classes and have come up with some great takedowns, controls and defenses from these classes.

Gudmundur makes me look like a wee child!

The camp ended with a final event in the ‘Viking Pit’ behind the gym where we laid some tatami mats for a ‘Vikings vs Invaders’ showdown in a the form of a Glima competition. There were a total of 5 defending Vikings against what seemed like 20 of us 'Invaders'. Gudmundur gave us all a crash course in Glima and then we started the competition, with the Invaders learning as we went along, which seems totally fair. The home team were taking 2 or 3 of us out each before wearing down enough for the Invaders to score a takedown. We had at least 10 of us left when we got to the final member of the Vikings team, the giant Gudmundur himself. He ripped through us like child’s play, throwing full grown men around like dolls, with the average Invader only lasting 10-30 seconds trying to move this massive man before meeting their end. Only 2 Invaders lasted over 30 seconds and into a minute against him, 5th degree Judo black belt and British Olympian Sophie Cox and myself (Yay me for being heavy and too stubborn to go down easy!). We fought hard and tried our best but we just couldn’t move him and the Vikings had successfully defended their land.

Trying my luck against a viking

Impressed with my performance (He complimented me on my strength and defense so I made a Panda’s Odyssey T-shirt to commemorate the whole event) Gudmundur and I talked more about the small details of Glima and Backhold and moving your opponents around. He then mentioned a special open mat that takes place in Reykjavik where all the biggest vikings come in for the Giantroll, an open mat where you have to be over 90kg to participate in that takes place on the first Sunday after a full moon. There happened to be a full moon that week, and not just any full moon but the Blood Moon. This invitation to the Giantroll was extended to rest to the camp online but as it happens no one from the camp or any of the locals I met could make it. I really wanted to go and be in an open mat of giant vikings just smashing each other, and probably be the smallest guy there, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me this time around.

Sophie trying her best against the giant 

Great meeting you Sophie!

Gudmundur and Frosti, such nice friendly guys as you can see. 

I was sad to leave Iceland at the end of the camp, in fact I ducked out of the camp end party early because I got depressed and didn't feel like saying goodbye to everyone. I had one more day in Reykjavik to wander around before leaving and as it happens there were a bunch of campers still around. We hung out at the Lebowski Bar, themed after the great cult hit movie 'The Big Lebowski', where most of the night's shenanigans happened during the camp, for one last night out before leaving the next day. In an attempt to draw my stay out longer I made an open invitation to all those still around to come join me for coffee and pastries the next morning at a coffee shop nearby my hostel. Slowly a small group showed up, we laughed over the past weeks events and shared our plans for the coming weeks and months. For some this would be the only camp I would see them, others we would be meeting again soon. Some were wondering why I was heading back home only to return for the camp in Germany in 2 weeks time, which I'll explain next post. I left with a smile on my face, thinking of all the good times and friends I had made over the past 2 weeks. It was a happy ending to the camp, which was a nice change from the usual sad to go feeling.

When Sean and I party this always seems to happen.

One last night out.

The Iceland camp was an amazing experience of a lifetime and I will go as far to say it’s at the top of the best BJJ Globetrotter camps, not that there’s any bad ones. Reykjavik is very expensive, one of the most expensive cities I’ve ever been to (campers posted their credit card bills from the bars after camp and it was scary), but Christian and the Mjolnir Gym were able to get us all sorts of discounts at restaurants and even free sandwiches for the day at the gym, you had to be quick on those though. The fact that most of the camp, a much higher percentage than at other camps, was visiting Iceland for the first time also meant lots of group socializing, the Facebook group was constantly being flooded with people posting to fill up cars and go exploring as a way to save money, or inviting everyone out for food or evening drinks and take up the local businesses on their discounts and not be going out alone. Also, the gym had a sauna, a hot tub and a cold tub that we all made good use of at the end of the day after training and that alone was a great spot for socializing and meeting new people. I had such a great time in Iceland I have said this many times already, it has moved to the top of the list of places I want to go back to and even find work at when I’m done schooling. I just hope there’s another camp there next year and I’m able to attend.

The last gathering for breakfast before finally leaving.

And with that I was on my way back to Toronto, as you read in Part 1. After a short rest and recovery I was back on the road, or plane, again to my last stop outside of Canada. Next time I wrap up my camp reviews with BJJ Globetrotters Camps Part 3: Return to Heidelberg!

Until next time,
see you on the mats!

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