Wednesday January 20 2010

Despite being fatigued from a good rasslin’ practice I’m going to do my best to post something…what about? why not rasslin’? Of all the things I love to do, there is nothing I love more than to grapple. This includes any form, from Olympic freestyle, to BJJ, to Judo, to Sambo, to submission wrestling. Whatever. I love them all. Any time you see me on the mats even if I’m getting the life choked out of me, I’m always smiling. On the mats is where I am most at peace. The dojo is my sanctuary.

In addition to the many aspects of the sport that make it so great, I love the bonds of brotherhood that exist between fellow grapplers. Everywhere I’ve been, if I know I’m going to stay for more than a few days, I always seek out a grappling gym (I always travel with my gear). And everywhere I go I am welcomed as a brother and I am still good friends with everybody I’ve ever trained with.
This is a big part of grappling culture. I have been welcomed into gyms all over the world and have never been asked to pay a dime to train (if I’m just visiting). Try that at a health club! Guys who open gyms are not doing it for the money, there is very little money in it, it is a labour of love.
I have not grappled in 18 months because of back problems and touring but finally I could take it no more and I needed to rassle, like a musician needs to play and a poet needs to write. When I go too long with out grappling I don’t feel centred. So Markus asked his coach if I could train at his gym while I’m here. As soon as I walked in he greeted me as though I were a long time member. He let me know that so long as I’m in Berlin I can train at his gym whenever I want and use whatever equipment I wanted. This was music to my ears. I wanted to run over and wrap my arms around him, and go for the german suplex (because we’re in Germany), then transition to a shoulder lock (that’s how we show affection!)
The gym is called MMA-Berlin and is set up similar to a Japanese dojo. It is very clean and a good size (unlike a Japanese dojo, which is usually slightly bigger than a living room!) When you walk in, there is a space to take off your shoes, and put on slippers. Any time you are walking off the mats you need to put your slippers on. It felt nostalgic for me because I trained for 5 years in Japan. Then you walk across the mats (slippers in hand) past the small warm up and weights area to the change room. Once you’re changed, put your slippers back on and walk to the mats. Take off the slippers, step on the mats….and the fun begins!
Everyone was very friendly and welcoming and I had some good sparing sessions. I’ve managed to grapple 2 days now with only muscle soreness: the good pain! Ok, well maybe that pinched nerve in my neck doesn’t feel that good, but I’m happy! Can’t wait to go back tomorrow!

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