“When the dust settles and normality returns the memories and experiences will forever remain” – Unknown
“We`re not here to f**k spiders” – Free Rollers 2017
On Monday the 9th of October 2017 a ragtag bunch of BJJ practitioners from Australia embarked upon a journey of a lifetime. We left from Melbourne and began the 14 hour journey across the Pacific and descended upon Los Angeles before making the 2 hour drive down to San Diego, where they would spend the next 10 days living and breathing everything that has come to be known as the BJJ lifestyle. The package consisted of return flights from Melbourne, Accommodation, Training, Vehicle and a Brand New Lightweight Gi supplied by Braus. The accommodation was in the form of a shared house which comfortably held all 7 of the guys on the trip and their aromas, and had the added convenience of being located within a 5 minute drive from University of Jiu Jitsu HQ, the Home of Saulo & Xande Ribeiro, not to mention numerous other world class academy’s we had the pleasure of training at while on the adventure.
The fun began when the team arrived in LA at 0600 in the morning and jumped into their Dodge Caravan (Soccer Mum Car) with two bald eagles under the hood. Driving out of Inglewood and into peak hour LA traffic was met with screams of “Fuckin Send It” as the driver planted his foot and made the way onto the Pacific Coast Highway. The first stop came when the boys decided food and photo recreation was required and the signs directing them to Huntington Beach were followed. Much to one of the guys surprise he wasn’t going to bump into Nate or Nick Diaz as he was under the impression that this was their local haunt. He was corrected in what set the tone for the trips banter, “Are you serious? You stupid prick they are from Stockton, ages from here dipshit”. The locals that were around that conversation were a little shocked, however when their concerned looks were observed, we assured them that in ‘Straya that’s how we spoke to people we get along with, they simply replied “Wow, you must really love that guy”.
After a quick stop for breakfast and a cold brew coffee or mimosas, the trips 2nd catch phrase was coined, after the 7am mimosa order, “Well Im not here to fuck spiders mate” the boys were back on the road toward San Diego. After what was a relatively uneventful yet scenic drive the energy in the car picked up as the crew drove into San Diego around 1 that afternoon, they arrived at the accommodation parked and went in to quickly claim their territory in regards to beds and rooms. Not realising that they had parked in another resident’s car park (so much for land of the free) there was knock on the door, when it was answered there was said resident and his pit bull telling us about our mistake. . . He wasn’t all too impressed when his tool of intimidation was greeted with a big pat and a “hello little puppy” as I went out to move into our designated car park. That afternoon we had to swing past San Diego airport to pick up Bob Barker aka Panda aka The Canadian. This was the first time I had met this guy after a few years of talking online. His first greeting was telling us how much it was to see it, to touch it, to watch him touch it or to suck it. I expected nothing less. On the way back from the airport we swung past University of Jiu Jitsu to introduce ourselves to the guys at the academy there was only one person in and that was Gustavo Dias Black Belt and Manager of the Academy. From the moment I introduced myself we were instantly made to feel like part of the family and look forward to getting in nice and early the next morning for the 0700 class, which was run by 3 x World SJJF Black belt champion Victor Barreto.
The class was a small and convenient introduction to what was coming up over the next ten days, minor corrections to the most basic of movements had the guys learning even in the warm ups. Traditional warm ups were completed before every class with all of the movements we had come to expect, along with a few new ones we had never really done previously. The first class was such an eye opener to what was coming when Victor showed a pass from deep half that he used to secure his gold at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. So much detail was passed on with nothing being spared it was clear that we were going to learn so much from the team at the U. After 45 minutes of drilling the move and its variations or what ifs, we were invited to line up on the warriors wall and called out one by one for a roll with Victor. Welcome to University, thanks for bringing your energy.
Over the next 10 days we were exposed to 3 sessions a day that generally looked the same as in makeup of people in the classes and styles of instruction. Morning sessions were generally smaller in size and consisted of white belts, blue belts and the odd purple, with a couple of out of town visitors popping in from time to time. The morning professors included Victor, Paulo and Gustavo. The sessions were generally technique and drilling finished up with some sparring. The lunchtime sessions were a competition style of class generally frequented by Brown and Black belts preparing for their next battle, needless to say these classes were brutal the warm ups were intense the session was full on and the sparring was like nothing we had experienced previously, the level of grappling was as expected and the control shown by the higher level guys was nothing short of amazing. These session were generally run by none other than Xande, and who better to run these classes then the 7 x World Champ. The evening classes were also a technique class generally run by Xande or James depending on what class was running on the other mats. The highlight of the training however would had to of been BJJ library on our first Wednesday night at the U where, Sensei Xande went over the “Matrix” armlock that he used in his recent ADCC wins. What a class it was. Xandes instruction and attention to the finer details is in my opinion what sets him apart from anyone else I have learnt from. The ease of answering the “what ifs” and whys that were thrown at him shows why he is one of the best in the world. If you ever have the chance to learn from him go for it.
As amazing as the training was, for most of the guys on the trip it was their first time to San Diego, so there was of course the down time in between training where we got to act like tourists. Initially the mornings we trained and then took off on various adventures, including exploring downtown and USS Midway, taking a drive down Imperial Ave and taking in the sites followed by a tour of Petco Park all with the sounds of West Coast hip hop blaring through the sound system provide in the Freedom Van. We went over to Coranado and enjoyed various ales and food at the Coranado brewing company. We tested out every place we could get an Acai bowl until we were recommended a little café run by an absolute legend and his wife. As typical Aussies we nicknamed our new friend Flippa short for Felipe who was an absolute legend, came highly recommended from everyone at the U. Not to mention Flippa and his Acai bowls are hands down the best I have ever had. If you are within 2 hours of Pacific Beach make sure you take the drive to Ocean Café San Diego and grab yourself a bowl, be sure the journey is worth it. After checking out most of the tourist sites in the first week the second was spent training, eating and taking the piss out of each other with a new level of banter that some weren’t quiet used too. We also spent time in a cryo chamber at a little spot ran by Black Belt and all round nice guy Bryan Dyer, who also invited us to train with him and his crew at Victory MMA, home of Dean Lister, Jeff Glover and Jocko. At $15 a session the Cryo helped us recover and spend as much time on the mats as possible, it’s a shame it’s still ridiculously expensive in Australia.
Due to our accents, Jiu Jitsu tattoos and clothing we piqued a lot of interest from people within the community, “You guys did what? Traveled all the way out here to just train? Crazy Aussies” or from those within the Jiu Jitsu community, “That’s fucking Cool as, yall need to come train with us” We made it in to 10th Planet to train with Boogey who was preparing for EBI, we made it out to ATOS for an Open Mat, Thanks to Heather aka @jiujitsugypsy for the invite and the roll it was so much fun and we also got into Victory to train with a bunch of savages under the instruction of Bryan and his counterpart Keeling.
When the weekend came around so did the Opening round of the San Diego Gulls Ice Hockey season which was accompanied with $2 bud lites, and well seeing as though I had no plans of having intercourse with arachnids I decided to attend at the last minute. The following night saw most of the lads attend their first American Football Game where we watch the SDSU Aztecs go down to Boise State Broncos. The loss didn’t deter any of SDSU`s newest fans as the proudly yet drunkly proclaimed Aztecs for life. We boarded a train toward Pacific Beach and spent the night at one of the many bars along the famed strip.
As the time in San Diego came to an end we made our way back to LA for one night prior to heading home. On the way up we stopped at Venice beach to check out all the madness that comes along with it. We took a look at some Jacked dudes pumping weights much to the delight of our self-proclaimed “Alpha”. Might I add that this Alpha was also the youngest member on the trip who spent more time on the side of the mats with an “injury” rather than training through it like the real men of the trip, (Glad to hear he is healing up now we are back in Australia). While cruising along Venice taking and literally breathing in the uh “atmosphere” we bumped into none other than Gordon Ryan (Zack was quite surprised at how much bigger Gordon was then himself, he thought they were about the same size) who happened to be in town with his partner for Garry Tonons EBI appearance the next day. Gordon approached us with a little shyness not expected from the King and mentioned he had seen our trip and demanded we got a photo together for his social media. . . We are still waiting for him to post it. After the night in LA we headed back to LAX saddened, knowing that 3 training sessions a day were all but a memory and that we were about to return to the real world, but with so much more knowledge and the added bonus that these trips will happen once a year it would only be another 10 months before the countdown begins again.
If you would like to join us on next year’s San Diego adventure please get in touch with us and put your name on the list. The trip will be limited to 12 people and spots will fill up fast. I look forward to travelling and training with everyone and if this trip is anything to go by you do not want to miss out.
Free Rollers – We are not here to f**k spiders!