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Monday, 26 December 2016

Regina SK Canada: Sweepscience and Complete MMA

Hello from Regina Saskatchewan Canada!

Getting here was a bit of a pain. I had originally bought my ticket to leave at midnight from Edmonton and show up at Regina at 10 in the morning, with a transfer at Saskatoon. The transfer ended up being the problem. For those of you not in Canada, this country is huge and spans over several time zones, and when daylight savings comes around it gets a little confusing who switches to what time. Apparently the bus company's online ticket system doesn't have this taken into account. When I first bought the ticket I was set to transfer over to a bus at a station in a different time zone than the one I left, which for part the year, the part when I bought the tickets in advance, this works out. But now, with daylight savings time changing the time zones that doesn't work. Apparently only one time zone, where my bus would be starting, changes while the other stays the same time, making it so that the bus now shows up too late to make the transfer. Annoying and confusing right? Why don't they change the bus to leave an hour earlier to make the transfer? Why doesn't the transferring bus leave an hour later? Why doesn't the online system take these things into account? Lots of questions could be asked but it doesn't help any.

My view driving through Saskatchewan, the prairies are very flat..

I arrive at the Edmonton bus station and get told this fact and that I now will have to wait for 5 hours in Saskatoon for the next bus and that I wouldn't get in until 4 in the evening, which would pretty much make me have to make it to class. More annoying added to an already annoying and inconvenient situation. As it happens there was a way around it. When I got into the station, ready to wait out my 5 hour layover, very tired from not a good night's rest on the bus (you figure everyone would be looking to sleep on an over night bus, some people figured it was a party bus) I was informed of a bus that shows up in half an hour and with another transfer to a third bus I could be in Regina by 1:15 in the afternoon. It would be a longer bus ride than the one going straight to Regina later but I'd get there way sooner. It was a no brainer. I jumped on the early bus and, being a quiet ride this time, made up for lost sleep and was ready to hit class when I pulled into Regina.

The bus station in Saskatoon had the original Capcom VS Marvel, which is awesome, but I was too tired to bother playing it. If I had to stay there for the full 5 hrs I would probably have my name on the scoreboard!  

Regina BJJ - SweepScience

The club that got back to me with a place to stay, which Dylan trains at, is also the newest club in town, SweepScience. I was really looking forward to meeting Coach John and thank him for connecting me to Dylan to make it possible to have a place to stay in Regina, and first day in town I got in early enough to head to class that night and do exactly that. SweepScience is hidden pretty well, as of right now there's no sign on the space to let you know it's a BJJ club inside and it's tucked away in the industrial area. The only thing giving it away is Google Maps and the address on their website. I'm sure they'll have a sign up soon enough but trust me either way it's worth finding.  The club on the inside is all white and grey, with a lobby in the front and a change room on the side before an entrance to the mats on the left. The lobby has a half wall so parents can watch the kids class from the lobby, and the staff can watch the front door from the mats. Coach John, who is a gifted long limbed brown belt, runs a relaxed class with the focus being on reps and drills rather than conditioning exercises to warm up. The class is designed for everyone to get maximum reps in, with a timer set for 5 minutes for each partner to run the technique over before switching. The techniques all follow a common position so you get lots of work on a position and become comfortable working from there. When we rolled we did starting in the position we were going over so there's a situational awareness to work into rolling while trying to execute, or defend, the techniques we drilled.

The SweepScience guys, minus Dylan the host that day. I really should have got a pic with him.

Rolling was chill and a lot of fun with everyone, I managed to get a round with Coach John and his sweeps and set ups were really smooth, I was clearly playing into all his setups. I got a real peaceful sense of Jiu-Jitsu harmony on the mats there. Everyone was great to talk to at SweepScience and seemed really interested in my journey and were always up to asking questions and talking about it. One day after class a few of us, Coach John and Simon, a student who is from Wales and is also a black belt in Karate, went for sushi and hung out. We talked all about martial arts stuff, etiquette on the mats, when visiting, places I've been to and should visit, the differences and similarities between different martial arts and of course movies. It was a great time, I love these hang outs with Jiu-Jitsu people after class I've been having, so many great people and amazing conversations.  
Coach John. Was a blast training with him.

Complete MMA

The front door, the club is in the basement. 

Complete MMA is the other gym I decided to visit in Regina. Being a Nova Uniao affiliate they have connections to Xtreme Couture in Toronto, which my friend Mariya trains at and I visit every time I'm in town. With the fun times I have training with Wagnney Fabianno and his club in Toronto I had to visit Complete as well. I e-mailed them and spoke the coach Prof. AJ Scales and told him all about my journey and when I planned on coming to visit. I made it out a Friday evening gi class and a weekend no gi open mat and both times I was greeted warmly. The gym itself is in a basement space and has a old school boxing gym feel to it when you first walk in. It's long and narrow with a front desk greeting you and then a weights area behind it. A cage wall separates the weights area from the mats and on the right side of the space there's the office, change room and washrooms. There were some heavy bags and a wrestling dummy on the side, what I assume is for the MMA and kickboxing classes. The mats are a bit worn, lots of drilling and rolling has gone on in there over the time. It was a good space for Jiu-Jitsu.

At class Friday night, during rolling session. 

Class was cool with some techniques and transitions from having a self belt locked in. Afterwards we had some rolls and they were decent, I was fearing they might be beasts on the mats being a competition club, and an MMA club at that, and maybe I'd get run through, has it happens everyone was a lot of fun with some spirited but not too aggressive rolls. Aggressive rolling is something I'd like to keep to a minimum, for now anyways. Anyways, everyone seemed happy to have me and class was great. Lots of rolling was had and at the no gi open mat there were a few black belts who were happy to show me some cool techniques after catching me in them a few times. I wrote a few of them down afterwards, and I've have to remember to try them rolling at another no gi class again.

Another pic from class.

Even though I wasn't able to make it out to one of Prof. AJ's classes I was luck enough to meet him on Friday night. He welcomed me to his club and we spoke about my journey and where I was heading to next, it was a short but good talk. We took a picture together and swapped patches, I got both a Complete MMA patch and a Nova Uniao Canada patch, as a patch collector it was a score. I made a few new friends, learned some tricks and even was on a live feed to China at some point, one of the students likes to show his friends and family and other Jiu-Jitsu people in China how he trains, apparently he has quite the following, it was a good time training there.

Prof. AJ Scales and I, he's a big guy, kinda glad I didn't meet him on the mats haha. 

Dylan The Host

This is another story about the Jiu-Jitsu community being awesome. Regina was one of the last places I was still looking for a place to stay and not having many friends from the area or any in Regina at this time it didn't look like I was going to have any luck. I sent out a last attempt e-mail at the two gyms I was looking to train at and luckily one of them responded that one of their students would be wiling to host me. That's awesome! I didn't hear back from the club or from Dylan until 2 weeks out when I asked for his number so I could text him. We spoke a little and everything was good, and the night before and day of traveling I kept in contact with him to let him know the whole debacle with the bus tickets. As I was coming into town it occurred to me we've never met, and we're not on social media together so we have no idea what each other looks like. I gave him a brief description of "I should be easy to see with my greenish backpack and leather jacket" which seemed to work. We met in the station, had a short chat, mostly me thanking him for letting me stay at his place and him asking about my travels and telling me about his experience training. Dylan took me back to his place, set me up in the spare room and showed me around his house, the basement has mats down and a small gym set up, excellent for stretching out in. After a good shower to wash the dirty 'I spent the night on a bus' feeling off, a quick run to the grocery store and a few mins to relax we were off to my first BJJ class in Regina.

Dylan and I sat down and had an interview before I caught the bus out of town for Winnipeg. It was cool to sit down with someone who has only been training for a year to hear what impact and changes it has made on his life already and what goals he has at this stage in the journey. Check it out below:

If the video doesn't work head over to the Panda's Odyssey YouTube Channel and watch it there. Maybe like a few of my interview and subscribe to my channel too, thanks!

Shana and POW

I was first introduced to Shana from my friend in Toronto, Mariya, and quickly learned that she is not only a hard working Jiu-jitsuero with a busy personal life but also runs a women's self defense course named Power Our Women, or POW. Following her on Facebook I became intrigued and decided to do an interview with her. Unfortunately our schedules didn't match and I wasn't able to meet her on the mats or do a video interview. But since she has a great story of showing that women too can excel in a physical and male dominated sport and also how important it is to give back to the community. Here's my interview with her via e-mail.

Panda's Odyssey: Thank you Shana for tkaing the time to do this for me, I know you're busy. Let's start with your training, can you tell me your martial arts experience and how you got into BJJ?

Shana: I am a blue belt and have been training for the past 6 years in mixed martial arts. Mostly Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. I started BJJ to gain self defence and a healthy life, bored of the usual treadmill run and weight lifting. My first day learning BJJ I was hooked, I learned an Americana and RNC (rear naked choke), very empowering. I lost 30 lbs in one year of BJJ training and most importantly Jiu-Jitsu helped me make some positive changes for my life and family.

PO: Wow that's impressive! Way to jump right in and make the changes! Some people train for self defence, some train for exercise or purely to compete. What is your main focus when you're training?

S: It depends, I do it for all three! BJJ is a good foundation for any fighter or person in competition and life. I highly recommend BJJ for self defence because many fights will go to the ground and you will like to know what to do on your back! If you do BJJ for exercise, you will get results and wont notice you are working out because you are enjoying yourself and learning while working out your body.

PO: Great points! I agree full heartedly! So you run a woman's self defence course called POW, right? Can you tell me more about it? How did it come around to be? 

S: Power Our Women has a mission to help women and girls see the power they already have within themselves. I am not someone giving them anything, I just see an opportunity to share what martial arts and self defence has done for me. Women are strong and powerful, our communities will be a better place with confident women and girls. We teach self defence, bully management, goal setting, balance in nutrition and fitness. 

PO: That's awesome, I love seeing self defense course like that! Have you found it hard to get people out to the courses? Do you find its hard to get the word out? Or are people generally interested? 

S: We have great interest and amazing feedback with the workshops we deliver. All our instructors are certified and have experience working with people. We pride ourselves in what we can do for others and it is so rewarding to see how confident they after a day with POW!

PO: Nice! Getting women involved in martial arts is a big accomplishment, that's great hearing all the positive feedback, I hope it continues to grow and get more women involved! 
Being a woman in a male dominated sport what has kept you training? What tips can you give to those women thinking of training or just starting now? 

S: Being a woman in a male dominated sport is definitely empowering, if you can get passed looking at them as sweaty stinky men, you will learn so much! All the men in the gym have generally been respectful and encouraging. It really matters what gym you choose to be apart of because this will be your family, you will help each other grow. If they don’t help you grow and are inappropriate, find a different gym! My word would be- Jiu-Jitsu will be tough, every roll will be different, that’s how you grow AND Stay humble, we all start as a white belt.

PO: Great advice! Do you have any role models that you look to for inspiration for BJJ? 

S: My team mates. My family. Nova Uniao. 

PO: Nice, thank you so much for doing this, you are a great inspiration to women starting out in martial arts and I look forward to watching you and POW grow! 

I hope you liked the interview, I think it's utterly important to have a safe pro-women environment to help show women what they can do so we can grow together. Martial arts is not just a male thing, and I hope this interview showed that. As usual it would have been nice to have more time but then it would take forever to see the world as I've set out to do. 

And then it was time to take off for my next destination, Winnipeg Manitoba Canada!

Until next time, see you all on the mats!


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