How often do you get the chance to be on the mat with seven or eight black belts, many of whom have won the worlds, Pans, Brazilian nationals — or all of the above? For me, the answer is “never.”
When Vicente Junior announced some of the people who would be training at his camp for Pans at BJJ Conquest, I knew I had to do it. It meant a round-trip nine hour drive, but I figured it would be worth it, and it has been. We train three times a day, and each time we get instruction from the likes of Samir Chantre, Quiexinho, Caio Terra, and of course Vicente himself.
I’m competing at the Pans this weekend, and this seemed like a fantastic way to prepare: by seeing how some of the best guys in the world prepare, and learning as much as I could from them.
Beyond that, though, it’s just been a great life experience. I’m not going to say too much about the specifics of the training sessions here. We’re doing a lot of drilling, a lot of rolling, and a lot of positional work. The most valuable thing for me, though, has been soaking up the way these top-level guys approach their own training. As Yogi Berra once said, you can observe a lot just by watching.
As an older guy, I have to admit I was worried about the toll that training three or four times a day would take on my body prior to a big tournament. But I’ve learned a lot, both about techniques and about how to approach training in way that challenges you and keeps you fresh.
It’s also been a humbling experience. It’s an amazing privilege to roll with guys on this level, and it’ll also show you exactly where you’re at on the food chain. Feel good about your top game? Have fun trying to stay on top. Feel good about your guard? They’ll pass it over and over, effortlessly, in multiple ways.
In the strictest sense, this is a vacation for me. I took a week off of work to do it. It’s also a vacation in a broader sense: I walk around the mat and think that there’s no place I’d rather be. However I do in the tournament, I’ve spent most of each day on the mat. I’ve learned a ton from some brilliant jiu-jitsu minds. And isn’t that really what it’s all about?