Atlanta, X3, Olympics, Two Girls One Statue?

Last month, after years in the works, I finally made my way down to the Resurgens city: Atlanta, Georgia.  I had intentions of visiting my old friend from college, Mike Beyer for quite some time.  Mike was the guy that actually first introduced me to “submissions,” or jiu-jitsu back in 2005.  I was toward the end of a year of brutal physical rehabilitation to my shoulder after a serious surgery.  It was an injury from pro-wrestling, and being on the shelf for twelve months I was not in a good place.  My years in college, and most especially that one single year was the most unhappy time of my life.  Jiu-jitsu saved me in a way, changed the course of my life for the better.  Looking back now I can see the path I was going down, and I am so grateful I chose the other road.  For that I am forever grateful to Mike. 

I had always stayed in touch with Mike to some extent over the past six years, but I hadn’t seen him since college.  He had been living down in Atlanta ever since, built up and managed a successful gym chain, married a beautiful Lebanese girl and bought a nice house. X3 Sports was the name of the gym, with his brother, Tony Tucci at one location, Midtown, and Helio Soneca black belt Ranieria Paiva at the other in Marietta.  Now, recently Mike had knee surgery yet again (on the third round for both knees I believe), so he was rehabbing it, strengthening, preparing, and waiting to go under the knife with the other knee as well.  Mike was in a rough patch, even more than I or even he realized, so my timing was perfect for the visit. (read more in Mike's own words here, The Real Deal: A Must-Read Testimonial

I flew in Thursday the 17th of February, got in around 11am, rode the Marta train up through town and Mike picked me up.  Bam, we nail a Brazilian Steakhouse for lunch.  Immediately I’m on a high, it was good to finally see my old friend, the weather was amazing, and my belly was full of Taste of Brasil!  Well needed, I rested until Mike and I hit the local “Hulkamania Gym” (the equipment was colored radical yellow and hot rod red).  Even after traveling and low on sleep, I was amped as I always am in a new gym environment, and I got a great workout in.  Following, Mike took me to RuSans, a local kickass sushi joint, multiple year Zagat rated, and conveniently right next to X3, to refuel before evening gi bjj training.

Mike introduced me to a couple of the guys at the gym, everyone was very nice and Ranieria started everyone going with warm-up drills.  The class was full, really good to see, and there was a diverse belt level too, from white to brown.  It was a great warm-up, including shrimping, rolling, shuffling, even sprinting.  Next I got Ranieria educated 101; he simply said to me, “stay with me the whole time.”  First we worked grips, establishing your own and breaking your opponents.  Right away I felt like I had the grip of one of those bullshit win a toy machines, you know, where you try to drop the claw down into the pile of stuffed animals to bring one back, but its a scam cause the claw has no grip at all?  Ranieria’s grips felt like just the opposite, iron clamps - reinforced, welded, bolted, and padlocked! Unbelievable. 

After some drilling of takedown fit-ins, we then went live with some takedown attempts.  Ranieria was very good off his feet, it was refreshing to see such a traditional jiu-jitsu high-level guy concentrate so much on grips and standup.  Even with my good balance and strength, his far superior grips and judo again embarrassed me, took me off my feet and flat to my back numerous times.  I was completely humbled and loving it, but reassured of a hole in my game needing attention.  Training then progressed into live rolling, and still with Ranieria, I proceeded to be swept and tapped, tapped and swept, over and over, and over and over again!  I was obviously at a different level, a much lower level, and at the mercy of Ranieria’s skill and technique. Muito respeito. Much respect. 

From there I rolled with Ranieria’s other students and held my own.  The skill level was high however, and having trained at tough gyms across the country, I was impressed.  It was a great atmosphere, great intensity, and great skill at X3 Sports.  I really enjoyed the two hour gi training session, and I most certainly learned a good deal in just that short time.  I talked with Ranieria again before I left, and unfortunately he was leaving town, going to compete and coach the rest of the weekend so I wouldn’t be able to work a one-on-one private session with time! 

Friday morning I slept in and caught up on some rest, and then hit the noon nogi class at X3.  With only a handful of guys, I did well against the 
crowd, and felt much better about myself not having to roll with the monster, Ranieria!  I showered and couldn’t resist RuSans for some post-training grub.  All-you-can-eat sushi bar for only $9.99!?  Absolutely!  I devoured a small towns worth of rations and afterwards tested my Japanese language skills with the cooks.  Turns out however, they almost all were from Tibet, and had just as little or less Japanese than I! 

I picked Mike up again around 4pm and we hit a different gym today, one of those ridiculous rich and fancy club-type gyms that has a strict code and rules to be sure no one is offended!  It was great scenery however, and had a plethora of various equipment, perfect for leg day!  I hadn’t hit legs at all last few weeks, so I smashed them with some moderately heavy super-setting.  Mike followed, impressively, and we talked about foot position and rep strategy for his knee as I felt in general he was going too heavy, too fast for his recovery.  It was a great workout, and as I said before I really feel great in foreign gyms, and just tear it up with fresh ferocity.  We hit the hot tub and stretched, had some protein at the cafe and then drove to a local Italian restaurant where Diana was waitressing to help out a friend.  With my metabolism at a recent all-time high, I couldn’t get enough calories in.  I ordered the house special, a very large tilapia filet in a butter-wine sauce with whole green beans and spiced potato cubes.  It was amazing, hit the spot.  Still hungry, and hearing stories of this place’s famous pizza, I had to order one for dessert...and they didn’t make anything smaller than a large!  I had one slice just to top off the tank for the time being, and it was the most genuine Italian pizza I had ever tasted!  Spectacular!  I was in a new city, reminiscing and reconnecting with an old friend like we had just seen each other the day before, just crushed a leg workout, and was then eating amazing authentic food...what a Friday night, perfect if you ask me.

Saturday morning I cooked up some delicious healthy custom omelets with hearty meats and fresh veggies for Mike and Diana.  They seemed impressed, and boy can Diana eat for a small girl!  We all drove to the other X3 location in Midtown where Mike’s brother Tony would be running the 11am class.  A good class with some lower-level belts, and we were off to see the city!  First some Cuban food downtown out on a patio, enjoying the beautiful February 75degree Atlanta.  It was the best day yet, weather-wise, but the absolute worst traffic-wise due to some cheerleading convention held right downtown near Centennial Park.  We walked around, I saw the CNN building, Turner building, all the
big company prefectures down there, but my one goal was to find the exact spot where Kurt Angle won the Gold for the U.S. in the Olympics held in Atlanta back in 96.  Turns out they turned the Olympic center into Turner Field (baseball), so I had to settle for snapping a pic at an Olympic stone heading inside Centennial Park. It was special to me to just do that, I am a huge Kurt Angle fan.   The real special moment that unfolded however, was when we were leaving past the edge of Centennial Park.  There is a statue of a man, obviously some historical figure because everyone is posing and snapping pictures with it.  Well, as we sat in heavy traffic, passing the statue for the last time I happen to glance over and these two young girls, probably no more than fifteen or so begin to giggle and simulate grabbing the man in stone...well, stones, if you will.  As soon as they dared such a lewd, inappropriate act on this very important reincarnated statue (I would later find it was the city’s beloved mayor of the past, who was famous for fighting for equal rights) they continued their adolescence giggling and immediately upped the ante and started simulating fellatio, cupping the stones and all!  We had started to finally move and drive off, I bellowed out, and got Mike’s attention, he turned and witnessed the obscene gesture just in time.  We both started laughing uncontrollably about what we had just seen, and could only presume that the two young girls continued to disgrace themselves and the city’s cherished history by further jumping guard onto the statue and...well, you can imagine which sex act is next.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, the “two girls one statue” and the sheer idea of it all just baffled me!  

That Saturday night, we ate at a traditional Persian restaurant, accompanied with 
authentic belly dancers and music!  I tasted Persia for the first time, and of course, loved the simplicity and the taste derived from it!  Now on my Atlanta trip, I wasn’t to leave without meeting up with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen since high school graduation day.  Mike, Diana, and I met her at a local pub and we proceeded to talk for a good hour or so, like we had just talked the day before!  True friends!

Sunday, my return flight day, Mike and I stopped by X3 to grab some things, and I was blown away to see a kickboxing class going on, and like 30 people participating!  On a Sunday!  Nowhere in the Midwest would you ever find that!  Mike and I hit one last workout at the Hulkamania Gym (I was amazed it took us an unprecedented 45min to reach the gym only a few miles away, due to traffic), a great arm workout.  It was a great feel good workout with high energy levels and my spirit soaring.  It was a goodbye cap for now to my friend and this new city I had just met.  The four short days were an absolute blast for me, with nothing I can think of to go any better than it did.  Old friends, new friends, new city, sites, high-level training bjj, gym time, and delicious worldly foods...what I live for!

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