by Sensei Mike Pepe

Through the graciousness of the association and with donations from it's members, enough money was put together to allow Sensei Mike to travel to Brazil to meet and train with Rilion Gracie (now in Florida). Rilion is the son of Carlson Gracie and Royce Gracie's cousin. Here is an essay relating to Mike's training sessions. Enjoy

By the time my first group lesson came around I had already had 2 private workouts. I felt ok but I had a nervous feeling about being matched up with a Brazilian. Arenít they all undefeated in every contest? That plus the fact it was 85 degrees and humid added to my nervousness. The class started harmless enough, and I was eventually paired with one of my peers.  We started in the guard and worked from there. He blocked my advances and I blocked his attacks also. I tried moving to the side. And couldnít get a hand in to apply a choke. But when he moved I tried to move faster to beat him to the block. To show him I knew the move he was trying and he better not go there. I knew my technique would work since it works at homeÖBut I wasnít at home. Now I could feel the heat. The room was a sweat box. No AC. Hot and humid. With all the excitement I hear myself panting. Must catch my breath. Why am I so tired? Sweat dripping in my opponents eyes trying to drown him. But no. Heís not even looking at me or my attack for that matter. Heís looking at the ceiling. He looks at the wall. At the others next to us. Heís not concerned with the match or its outcome. Heís just blocking and attacking. Learning. Iím trying to win. Heís relaxed, Iím anxious.

     I notice this fact in all the young strong men in our group. They are so relaxed they donít seem to even sweat. They use muscle when needed and rest when they can even if the opponent is still trying. Sometimes it looks like both are resting in the middle of their match. It didnít take me long to figure it out and I fell in step trying to relax. When I did, my hips sank and I used my weight more. When I didnít think about how to win, I did better. I even started to look at the ceiling. My future would be much different. I was learning by watchingÖ

 Ö.The Brazilians are a strange people. They drive like a bat out of hell. There doesnít seem to be any speed limit. On narrow streets cars zoom by the curb at 50 miles an hour. My first taxi ride was exciting to say the least. I fit right in being from the fast pace back home. But for every yang there must be some yin. People saunter down the street without a care for the time. The street along the beach is closed to cars on weekends and people amble along for exercise, for site seeing or to chat with a friend. The beach itself is a plethora of people. For us a mall would be fine to meet friends but here the beach is the place to meet, play volleyball, sit in a lounge chair, chat and relax with friends. The heat and the beauty of Brazil must have something to do with the laid back atmosphere of the natives here.

    It didnít take me long to fall in step with the regulars.  I tried hard at times not to pass anyone walking. The slow pace was relaxing and at the same time re-energizing. I had more time to think about my classes, my trip and my friends back home. Things appeared so clear and my mind could focus for longer periods AND I wasnít so tired at the end of my walk. All I had to do was learn to relax.

  At times I felt I did real well in submitting someone and other times I got my butt whipped. 

 Winning is nothing though. Ok, you win and you restart only to lose the next time. Winning was fleeting.  Losing was better. I saw a technique THEY did and how THEY applied it and how I couldn't escape it.  Yes I wasn't just there to show what I knew but I went there to see how THEY do jiu jitsu.   

 Ok, they are not black belts so I'm sure they make lots of mistakes but they all looked good to me! They seemed to know what to do when a move didn't work. Like a combination or something. So they weren't left just forcing one technique.

In conclusion, I must say the trip was informative and progressive. Although I returned with the same, but much dirtier, white belt than I had left with, I did experienced Jiu jitsu from its source in Brazil. I came away with techniques that hopefully will take me to the next plateau of training. I experienced the tempo, the grip, strategy, techniques, friendship and lifestyle of Jiu jitsu as practiced in Brazil. Again, I would like to express my thanks to everyone and I hope to share my experiences at future meetings.

Sensei Mike





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