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April 4, 2012

An evening with my extended MMA family: Team Gladiator BJJ

Photo courtesy of Gaberial "Gladiator" Santos's website, 

     Taking time out of an already busy schedule is never fun unless it is time well spent.  In my case, knowing that my gym was soundly in the hands of my friend and teammate, Chuck Garbiel, I was able to enjoy a change of scenery and improve my Bjj all in one evening.

     I took the evening off from my managerial duties at The Web MMA Training Center in Greenfield, MA  (recently featured in last weeks Undercover Boss episode) in time to make the 6:00pm no-gi jiu-jitsu class at Gabriel "Gladiator" Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Training Center.  I look forward to these excursions for many reasons, but most of all because I love this team and I am a huge fan of Gabe's.  Jeremy Ross, yes this Jeremy, was leading the class in calisthenics and some light warm-up Jiu-Jitsu rolling when I stepped onto the mat just after 6.  It was a full mat with over fifteen folks in attendance this is just an estimate it could have been more.  Over the course of an hour we had worked our way through several guided transitional techniques moving from Triangle Choke set-ups into Kamuras.  This was expanded upon in intervals.  Greater detail was given to both the offense and defense of these basic yet highly effective maneuvers. My favorite aspect came when Jeremy demonstrated the escape from Kamura where the defensive player having lost dominant position and being threatened with a painful shoulder submission kicks his inside leg out while simultaneously shooting the free hand back and through the opening between his and his aggressor's bodies.  You can imagine it as a mule kick that creates the space needed for you to basically somersault into the opening allowing you to come out behind your opponent and give you your arm back and positioning you to come back into your opponent completely rendering the submission useless.  Hard to explain, but so simple it is permanently etched into this forgetful mind of mine.
     An aspect of this class that makes me very comfortable participating is the open session near the end.  For about twenty minutes you are broken off into pairs selected by Jeremy or Gabe.  Each roll lasts five minutes and is completely driven by how hard each player chooses to work.  This is a lot of fun.  Even the newer guys that kind of stand out from their lack of experience are smiling from the effort.  Tonight I was lucky enough to have a host of partners each presenting unique opportunity and challenge.  Eli and I were up first.  He and I rolled on my last visit and that made this evening very enjoyable as I love seeing faces more than once.  His attendance and attention to instruction are paying dividends as his level of skill is improving without question.  Thanks for the workout my man.  Then I joined Joel, pronounced "Joe El", in a physical chess match where I attempted to execute a plan of keeping my distance.  Using his leg grasped at the ankle I kept it elevated in order to make it harder for the heavier stronger player to reach me and pull me into his game.  This tactic fared well for a brief time, but I was quickly overtaken and being ridden in full mount.  I went back to basics and kept moving never letting my hips rest and fighting to keep my chin, arms, and back protected.  The round seemed longer though it wasn't.  Haha I hate when I think of the time in the middle of a session, but I guess that is your minds way of letting you know you are being beaten.  Eventually I'll master that cognitive ability.  After Joel it was time to roll with my friend and Team Gladiator coach, Jason Franklin.  Despite his size I look forward to a session with Jay, his attitude is always one of work and rhythm.  The man can move and he does it so well it feels like choreography.  I spend most of this round looking for my distance game and holes to move through in hopes of attacking from side control. They are non-existent, almost.  Before I can move to this position I am carrying this mans full weight on my back so I got a lot of practice with my base and neck defense.  Again it makes me smile just thinking how these scenarios play out.  Old man, I think not.  Jay can keep pace and do it with style.  I am paired next with long-time Gladiator pupil, Luis Ramos, fresh back to the gym after a few months getting away from the game for a sabbatical in Puerto Rico.  This young man is the hopes and dreams of this sport.  His natural ability and his dedication to his professor's teachings make him nothing short of capable.  I loved every painful minute from losing my arm to an arm-bar to being choked into half-consciousness by his superior Triangle Choke.  Five minutes with Luis is five longer than anyone should have to endure.  I can't wait to see him back in competition.  I hear tell of a May 20th event he may enter.  More on that in another article.  Finally I am called over to Gladiator for my turn with him.  I'm feeling limber and still plenty of cardio to get me through what I know is going to test me in the extreme and not so much of a test for him.  His strength is amazing.  I say this because it didn't matter how far away I looked to play my game he was pulling me and even dragging me back to him when he wasn't wrapping me up and taking me to the mat.  The first time I got caught up I was side long to his chest and that was actually pretty lucky for me.  With him mounted I stayed busy keeping one hip up and using my leg to isolate his legs from moving to a higher position.  Through out the session I found myself defending arm-bars, rear-mounts, and a sick leg-lock choke that caused me to tap because the suddenness with which my blood was cut-off instantly had my head spinning and vision tunneling.  He allowed me a moments rest to take a few breaths and we were at it again.  The round ended soon after.  I felt drained after this and rested for the ten minutes left in the session.  If you want to know what it's like to train with a champion and the men and women that train along side him then make your way to this school.  You won't be disappointed 

    Once again I am so ever grateful to have all these opportunities that allow me to continue to build upon these skills.  My health and well-being are the best they have ever been in a sense.  I am not cured of my Crohn's Disease, nor am I free from the danger of Lymphoma, but I have never felt more optimistic that I will be healthy long enough for my body to fight these illnesses off entirely.  This is just one night, but it's effects are forever in my heart and mind.  Osssu...  I wish my very large and extremely scary mixed martial arts family much success and happiness in all they do.

Joe Leonard is a writer and photographer for as well as a student of Team Ravenous MMA located at The Web MMA Training Center in Greenfield, MA.  Please leave your comments, questions, criticism, or suggestions on our Face Book page or our site by clicking the radio buttons below.