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February 23, 2012

Gladiator BJJ: A night with my MMA family

It had been almost three months since I joined my friends and celebrated the opening of Gladiator BJJ in West Springfield.  Between the opening of my own team's dedicated training center, marital obligations, my responsibilities  here at, and my illness digging deep into my limited time the days passed and my efforts to journey down the I-91 corridor were unsuccessful, until tonight.
     Over the past three weeks I have had a turn in my Crohn's symptoms which has allowed me to once again return to a more focused MMA training schedule, eating habits, and mindfulness. My goal is to be in good health and have brought my cardio up to competition level in time for the upcoming King Of The Mat tournament in a few weeks time.  With a plan and a mindset that I can and will achieve these goals I'd begun to think about making the trip to see my good friend Gabriel and his family at his school.  I can honestly say that I have never met people who's generosity and genuine kindness radiate like heat from an oven.  I hope that Erika will like the flowers I brought her.  I hate visiting my family without a small show of gratitude for having me in their home and to me The Santos Family is my family and their school is a home away from home that I am always welcome to visit.

     Gabe was all smiles when I arrived and that is something you'd really have to see for yourself in order to fully appreciate. How it transforms him from one of the scariest looking men I've ever met into someone you'd allow to hold your new born child without giving it a second thought.  Immediately I was home.  The feel was no different than at my own gym only the equipment and the faces where different, but the sounds of easy conversations, and the noticeable hustle as folks prepared for class reminded me that I was in good company surrounded by a group of students eager to learn.  There is no better feeling than when you are about to learn and these men were in high spirits.  I was almost giddy with excitement myself because I was about to experience first hand techniques and philosophies from a man who's very existence has been the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu since his grade school days.  In his native country it is not uncommon for a doctor to prescribe physical activities such as BJJ to parents of young energetic children and that is exactly how my friend became involved with this incredible sport.  I wish more doctors here would do the same rather than make pharmaceutical companies richer.
     I was joining his students on a no-gi Jiu-Jitsu night.  The room held about fifteen men ages 18 to 40 comfortably.  Maybe my first thought was that it could hold a lot more so maybe it was a small class in the 1,000+sqft matted area, but once we got warmed up with some general and then some BJJ specific calisthenics and body movement exercises we were broken off into pairs and it became apparent that the class was the perfect size.  Jeremy Ross, a 4-3-0 pro fighter, one of Gabe's standout students and class leader lead the class through the opening exercises and moved to the center of the mats to assist Gladiator in technique demonstrations.  The class was silent as the techniques were shown.  A true class where all focused and attended to the positions and methods their teacher was sharing made it clear Gabe had the respect of every man present and he wasn't being a tyrant to get that respect.  Anyone coming in to the empty waiting room would know at once who was the teacher and that there was in fact a class going on.
  Each technique only took a minute or two to demonstrate and then it was our turn to practice.  I was paired up with Eli, a lanky man with a runners build and a pleasant demeanor.  We drilled a move to side control that was extremely basic and very executable.  We did our best and Gladiator made his way around to each pair encouraging or giving pointers.  We had a few fumbled steps to smooth out, but in the five minutes or so we had to work on it we got into a rhythm and that's when it all clicked.  A few more techniques built on that same basic one and we had a class.  Then it was time to rest and we were again paired up.  This time to roll.
     Vincent and I took the center of the mat and began the subtle feeling out process most players experience when they are rolling with a new partner.  His ability to feel my weight distribution was keen, but I had a good hold on his wrists and ankles keeping him stapled to the mat for most of the session.  We traded dominant positions once or twice before the timer sounded and I felt that I had a good round to warm up.  Thanks Vincent keep up the good work.
     Next I was paired with Barrington "Rude Boy" Douse another pro fighter from Western MA with a lengthy record under his belt.  I've rolled with "B" before as he sometimes makes his way up to The Web for open mat on Saturdays.  I was hoping to at least take a dominant top position once in the round rather than spend that time defending his chokes and joint locks.  Unfortunately I didn't manage to get beyond his guard.  When rolling with The Rude One I find myself being pulled forward and pressed into the mat.  I was able to reverse once or twice, but nothing would stick so I wound up scrambling most often into another prone position.  A breather and a drink then I got a chance to roll with Gabe.  I can tell you that everything I did I did at 100 percent and that at every moment I knew he was able to take the session in a direction of his choosing.  Still I didn't give up.  I wanted to show him that I had a great teacher in Jeremy Reipold and that through his instruction I had confidence that I could defend myself as well as a thorough understanding of offense.  My mind raced as it had when I first started my journey into MMA.  The new guy always has a million thoughts in one second.  After two years of training with my team I have begun to feel as though my thoughts are slower.  I see the game slower and in a way that allows me to set up moves.  With Gabe I felt like I was racing and he was watching as if time didn't exist.  Matrix style.  The round ended and I was rewarded for my effort with the positive remark that I was a "Warrior".  My friend has a knack for making the plainest of words carry immense weight.  I enjoyed that moment.
     Next up was Eli.  He and I battled it out for four minutes where I was able to take mount and work for a head and arm choke.  I lost my base and found myself swept and trying to beat a RNC.  Another break for a sip of water and then it was Jeremy Ross.  Let me tell you I will be a very excited fight fan when he returns to the cage in April.  Even with an inner ear infection which by the way caused this guy a tremendous amount of grief resulting in Vertigo and the cancellation of his Reality Fighting bout scheduled for Feb.25th he was moving very smoothly.  His technique is one that combines explosiveness, positional awareness, and the use of those body parts that hurt most.  I did my best to keep my hips busy , but his speed was nothing I could keep up with.  He mounted and remounted several times.  The reason for remounts was mostly due to the fact that I'm flexible and stubborn.  His arsenal of submissions kept me guessing and when he couldn't evoke a certain reaction from me he used things a little deeper in his bag of tricks to cause straight up knee-jerk reactions that I couldn't have stopped even if I knew he was about to do them.  For instance, I was able to keep from being knee barred and heel hooked, but when I moved in closer to defend further attacks of this kind he flattened me out. In an instant I had a knee in my belly with just the right amount of force that I instinctively got up on a hip to allow his knee to slide off.  It was the wrong hip, damn.  He mounted me and worked to isolate an arm.  The round ended.  I was invigorated and ready for more.  I decided to take the rest of my time at the school and sit with Gladiator.
     I enjoy my conversations with Gabe.  We spoke about business and about home. All of it exciting.  I will wrap it up for now, but keep an eye out for a follow up article where I fill you all in on the great things in the near future coming from Galdiator BJJ, his plans, and those of his students.  And remember if you are looking for a gym to train with that has that family aesthetic then Gabriel Gladiator Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu may be the place for you.  Visit his site by following the static ad at the top left of our page.

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