I took an afternoon flight Thursday and finally arrived in Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood, FL late after a connecting flight in Atlanta. This trip I took with friend and KCBJJ training partner, Charlie Hiersche. Thanks to my good friend Ethan Day, who drove around four hours round trip to pick us up from the airport, we arrived back in Vero Beach to sleep that night in preparations to hit Friday morning training at Renato Tavares’ American Top Team school in it’s new location inside the Indian River Mall. I have known Renato for a little while now, visited and stayed with him for ten days late last summer (http://www.ungd.tv/blogs/journeyman/15454729-underground-visits-florida-bjj-renato-tavares), and couldn’t be happier to see my friends again. Ethan just earned his black belt from Master Renato last month at the Florida State Championships. A well-deserved and incredible eleven year journey of a guy from Tennessee who made it happen primarily training in the overlooked, unknown BJJ region of Kansas City, KC being a reject to other great neighboring regions in the Midwest. So first priority, I wanted to see my friend and teacher, shake his hand and congratulate him on the amazing achievement that many try to obtain their entire lives only to fall short.
Renato’s new school was amazing, a store front space inside a giant indoor mall, with shoppers and onlookers passing by, gazing in to see what was happening inside. The new space was great, a comfortable training atmosphere that you could really get busy hitting some intense BJJ training in. I felt totally at ease and comfortable, while feeling an incredible sense of pride and happiness for Renato in regards to his new school. Charlie and I trained gi Friday, getting the opportunity to meet and roll with a new black belt, Igor Almeida, local student Larry, and of course Renato. The warm-up and conditioning were great, we went right into a few techniques and then rolled for a great while. I ended up rolling with Renato for some seemingly unlimited amount of time, feeling really well until probably between 15-20 minute mark I got caught. Renato and Joel (the Muay Thai instructor) got right into a conversation in Portuguese which I gathered was about me (I assumed it was good), firing my desire to learn the language all the more.
At Renato’s house that afternoon I laid out by his pool, soaked in the Florida sun and napped a bit, in anticipation of our 60 minute nogi and wrestling training session that evening after Ethan got off work. The opportunity to sit and literally soak in the sun, breeze and overall surroundings is a great feeling that I cherish and remember. I remind myself to take it in and enjoy the present, knowing it is limited, and a gift from above to be able to combine my two favorite things in life; travel & training. The nogi session that evening was great, a Central Florida wrestler was there, brown belt Andy, Abe, and others. We did six-ten minute rounds.
That night Renato asked Charlie and I to help with the in-house tournament he was hosting at the school. We were glad to help the next morning, however Renato made us fill out forms and enter into the tournament. I was fine with it, helping to promote his school and give some competitor a match they wouldn’t have had otherwise. I was unhappy that Renato tricked us, as he needed no help, and we laid around for about two hours until the tourney started. Sneaky Brazilian! Charlie had one opponent a purple belt from another school, won gi and lost to him in nogi. I subed my one opponent in both divisions. The real victory was the turnout, with tons of kids and their parents in the new school. Again I was happy and proud of my friend Renato.
I believe we hit the beach for awhile with Ethan, then went back to the academy to train once more before UFC 115 started. ATT member and UFC fighter Din Thomas was doing a seminar at Renato’s, showed great beginner and MMA-targeted submission grappling. Before the pay-per-view at the local bar and grill, Ethan, Leanna, Charlie and I drove down to Fort Peirce to eat some famous oven baked lobster and mac-n-cheese down on the water. A great meal with great company, topped with watching Rich Franklin viciously KO Chuck Liddell on a big screen outside amongst a garden of palm trees.
Sunday morning 10:00am Charlie and I did a seminar with 1999 ADCC champion Jeff “The Snowman” Monson. Now I had preconceived
notions of Jeff, read and heard the stories of him, and I knew he was an oddball, but it didn’t change the fact he was an accomplished grappler of more than a decade. Charlie and I were reluctant, hoping he would indulge his half-guard game which was basically all we were interested in. We didn’t get that however, as it was more beginner based, but we did pick up an excellent guard pass detail which was worth it. Jeff was great and showed techniques for over 2.5 hours!
After another beautiful night with Brazilian-style steaks poolside at Renato’s, Leanna, Charlie and I drove down to Miami that Sunday night, our short four day tour in Florida was nearing the end. We had one more key stop though, Roberto Abreu Cyborg’s for training Monday morning. Cyborg has twelve World jiu-jitsu titles and is a 3x PanAmerican Champion among other things. He was runner-up at last years ADCC, and I trained with him last September as he was preparing for it. I am a big fan, and was stoked to test my skills at his tough school again. It wasn’t a disappointment as Cyborg took us through some great open guard drills, that were challenging, creative, and fun! It forced us to continuously move our hips, use our minds to keep our guard. Cyborg is known for his inverted guard, which I have the ability to play from years of gramby rolls in amateur wrestling, and was more than happy to learn details of it from a world champion. We did quite a bit of drilling, then did three different rolls. I performed really well, and felt I had vast improvements from just eight months ago, last time I was there. My last round however, I rolled with Cyborg himself, and has totally humbled to say the least. So much so it put me in a funk for days, tying to fathom how somebody could be that good. The answer to that deserves a separate blog topic.
After training I took Charlie and Leanna along to my business meeting with Nutritox owner Scott Myers. We met at Fogo de Chao, an amazing Brazilian steakhouse and had a great talk and discussion of future relations with our two companies. Scott dropped us off at the airport and that’s it, another Florida BJJ tour done. It’s amazing, every time. Simply put: Good training, friends, food and beach. What else could you possibly ask for?