Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Gracie Barra London Bridge!

After my trip to Eddie Kone's academy, I was kindly invited to train over at Gracie Barra London Bridge, in the Tuesday night advanced class. One of my old students Nick Briely is now a resident in London and trains at the club and after a quick visit to Bolton at Christmas, Nick dropped in for a few training sessions and when I told him I was in London, the club instructor, brown belt Arya Esfandmaz, who is standing in taking the classes for head instructor Eduardo Carriello, kindly invited me along for a training session, which turned out to be one of the toughest sessions I've faced in a long time, thanks to my creaky back.

I was walking to the Tube with my training bag over my shoulder, with a large bottle of water inside and the bag was swinging left to right, as I was on the phone chatting to a friend; as I stepped onto the Tube and took my bag off, it hit me like a bullet.  Back spasm!!!
I've not had a bad spasm for many years and this one was in the top ten, it looked like I had been Tasered, people were giving me a wide berth and some sideways glances were exchanged by the commuters, all highly embarrassing.  It didn't end there either.

I managed to sit down on the Tube and another fresh spasm coursed through my back and again there I was squirming and wriggling about, oohing and ahhing and cursing the Gods of Back Pain; this was all I needed, on my way to a training session of all times, for one to happen!
Thankfully the spasm stopped after ten seconds or so, then I had to get off the Tube and pick my bag up, with a cast iron tensed up back and negotiate the escalators and busy rushing commuters.  Just walking was a huge challenge it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other, never mind walk at the breakneck speed like the rest of the Tube commuters; God knows what they thought of the slowly shuffling spectacle in front of them, as they all rushed past me, some pushing me out of the way as they raced towards the escalators, wrapped up in their own bubble of business and rush, rush, rush.  As they pushed past me, I wished them a long and lingering, preferably painful ailment to befall them in the not too distant future.

I was met at the Tooley Street exit of the Tube by Nick, who took one look at my broken posture and said, 'what the fuck's happened to you?!' We walked the short distance to the Tokei Academy, well I say walk, I just carried on shuffling as best as I could, deep breathing all the time, desperately hoping my back would settle down and allow me to do some training.

We arrived and signed in and went to get changed and in the mirror I took one look at my lopsided frame and thought, 'I'm fucked!' No way am I going to train tonight unless a miracle happened and slowly started to change into my gi; we took our training gear out with us and sat waiting for a Judo class to finish and when they Judoka's left the mat, I put my bag down and flopped down onto the mats and started to stretch out and rock my knees from side to side, desperate to work out some of the tension in my back and hoping and praying to the Gods of Warm Ups that please, please, please, let there be no running in the warm up.
With Arya Esfandmaz
Sadly, my fervent calls to the Gods went unanswered and as we lined up, yes, you guessed it, we started to run around the mats; after one lap of the mat, all the students lapped me and were all looking at me, wondering just who the hell had invaded their mat space.  I couldn't run to save my life, every foot fall was agony, so I just plodded along, praying that I wouldn't get another spasm and thankfully this time I was heard, I managed to get through the running and then it was onto the ground for some drills and stretching.

I was partnered with a young blue belt who was prepping for the Euros and he asked me if I was OK to carry on training; I explained what had happened and I took it easy and as I got warmer, the back eased off and I could drill the techniques and I started to relax more and enjoy the class.
With my old student Nick Briely
We drilled a guard jump that moved into an omoplata sweep and from the sweep, a number of moves followed, as well as counters and counters to counters and before long there was a hazy steam of hard work on the mats, all the windows steamed up.  Brilliant.

Arya went to great lengths to get the best out of the students and was on hand to answer any questions anyone had and after a quick break for water it was time for specifics and sparring.  With the specifics I was hopeless, too much back tension and pain and couldn't really push myself or my opponents, so I had a couple of attempts and sat the rest of the specifics out, stretching out instead.

I managed a couple of rolls with a huge Iranian blue belt, who goes by the nickname of Crush and once in his side control I had a fight on my hands; even though I was severely limited in my movements, I still managed to roll with the guys and decided to play a defensive game that night, no way was I going to be the hammer and that's just the way it goes sometimes.  Not every night are you going to be king of the mats, tapping everyone out left, right and centre; sometimes you're going to have be the nail and absorb all your opponent's energy and just survive and playing that game's just as much fun as tapping everyone out and I learned quite a lot about defence and survival that night, so the moral of the story is, don't duck the mats just because you've got an injury. 

Turn up and train around it, unless you've broken bones or some other serious injury; put yourself in bad positions and see if you can get out and if you get tapped, ask your partner how they tapped you and then you'll learn how to better defend that position next time you roll.

I'd like to thank Arya for being a kind host and welcoming me to the club and the rest of the students for being very hospitable and understanding about my little setback, next time I hope to be fighting fit on my next visit.

Address - Tokei Centre, 28 Magdalen Street, London Bridge SE1 2EN
Nearest Tube - London Bridge (Tooley Street exit)
E- info@gblondonbridge.com
W - www.gblondonbridge.com

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