Every March, I travel to Los Angeles to both attend and work an International Trade show relevant to my line of work, and this year will be no different. The other day, I was thinking about my trip to Los Angeles next month, and where I might train while visiting the “Left Coast”, for I’ll be out there for about a week. This caused me to think about March 26, 2007, the day I visited the Gracie Academy in Torrance, CA founded by Rorian Gracie.
Prior to my trip to the birthplace of Gracie Jiu Jitsu in the U.S., I had decided that I had to visit this academy, if nothing else, for the experience of meeting some of the Gracies who teach there, to get some invaluable instruction, and to pick up a few souvenirs.
So I made a point to visit, I extended my trip over the weekend, hung out on the beach in Santa Monica on Sunday, and bright and early Monday Morning, March 26, I arrived at the Gracie Academy.
I arrived at approximately 8:30 and the Academy was still locked. In about five minutes this fairly tall kid, probably in his early 20s walked up to the front door, gave me a hearty slap across the back, and welcomed me to the Gracie Academy. Rener Gracie, one of Rorian’s sons, is one of the instructors at the Academy. Rener’s really well known for his technical approach to the Jiu Jitsu game, and I hear he has some pretty nasty foot and leg locks to go with an amazing triangle choke which I soon experienced. I had arranged to take a private lesson with Rener prior to taking a class with students. Once again, I did this primarily for the experience of being taught one on one by a Gracie. To be honest with you, private lessons with a Gracie at this Academy will run you about $300 and up. He’s an excellent teacher, but at that stage of my BJJ journey, I could have been taught by a blue belt and learned just as much as I learned with Rener. But I threw down the cash for this amazing experience.
The lesson was Gi oriented, and we spend probably the first 30 minutes with him showing me four fundamental positions for defending strikes from one’s full guard. At the time, I had never worked this self-defense series from my back, and was amazed how affective these series of movements are for the guy on the bottom. Within 30 minutes, Rener was raining down some pretty decent shots and changing his positions making me work the four different positions that he had shown me. The most difficult of these positions was when someone stands up in your guard, and this is still a weakness in my game today.
The next 20 minutes was spent by Rener helping me to properly adjust my angle when throwing up a triangle choke, and shifting my body to finish the choke. Rener’s got fairly long limbs and can lock down a pretty sick triangle—to be sure, my ears were ringing a little bit during this part of the lesson. We conclude by rolling a bit, and I finally asked him to “smash me” at a blackbelt level so that I could experience it. He asked me if I was sure, and absolutely wrecked me—I’m sure he was still holding back. This was the first time that I’d rolled with a world-class blackbelt, and it was (and I’m sure still would be) entirely overwhelming. We ended the private lesson with this photo session of Rener sinking in the rear naked choke—check it out! If all worked out well, you should see the photo on this page, but I warned you all in my first blog posting not to expect too much out of a blind guy trying to post photos!
At the conclusion of the private lesson, I went to a class taught by Rener. Class was good; I went to a beginner’s class where we worked some basic self-defense. The one thing that I do remember about the class was making the mistake of not “standing up in base” while on the mats. As I stood up, Rener walked by and as I was in the process of standing up, he unceremoniously shoved me to the mat and exclaimed: “What’s up with that, bro? What if you’re in a park somewhere and you’re trying to stand up while some punk is trying to smash you!!!!?” He was mildly upset that I didn’t stand up in base without prompting, and I took his correction to heart and always, out of habit, try to stand up in base in class, and sometimes, just whenever I’m getting up off the floor at home, etc.
I concluded my visit by visiting the gift shop picking up some shirts. It was really a great time there—the facilities were clean and the staff (including Rener) were all very nice and helpful. I’m a bit torn as to what I should do next month—last year, I was a bit tied up and couldn’t train anywhere in Los Angeles, but this year, I’ll have some time to do so; there’s so many decent places to train in that part of the country. I’m actually interested in maybe taking one day and visiting 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu where Eddie Bravo teaches his “rubber guard”, a style that is fairly foreign to me, but is something that I’m interested in gaining more exposure. I’ll report back on what I decide to do, probably after I’ve trained out there, the week of March 16.
Larry the LTrain