Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene and Vitor Shaolin BJJ

So the power has been out at my house since Sunday and may not be back until as late as September 4th! It's been a little crazy- we had to throw out all the food in the fridge and freezer, have no hot water, and don't even get me started on trying to get ready for bed when you're getting changed and brushing your teeth by the light of a pocket flashlight. The train to NYC hasn't been running and is still a little iffy, so I've been taking the bus early to Manhattan so I can sit in Port Authority, find an outlet, and charge my phone. Thankfully, we have a generator currently running, hence why I can type this. Because I'm such a nerd, I drafted this entry at a coffeehouse in Manhattan as I charged my cell phone. Go on and laugh, but honey badger don't care!

After checking out a couple of BJJ schools in NYC, I decided to join Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro's BJJ school. For those who don't know who he is, he is a 4x world champion- once at purple belt and 3x at black belt. He's also competed in MMA as a lightweight and has a 20-5 record. I picked the school based on the following criteria:

- solid instruction
- good warmup
- price
- good atmosphere- no egos
- solid caliber of students
- location relative to my office
- orderliness- people strolling in late, chatting, etc.

Shaolin's school is only one subway stop away from my office, and most of the other BJJ schools in Manhattan are farther downtown. Since I'll be working more than 40 hours per week, getting downtown on time would be tough.

Yesterday was my first class as an enrolled student. Loro, one of Shaolin's black belts, taught the classes that day. Many students and Shaolin were just returning from competing in the Boston Open and I'm sure Hurricane Irene didn't make travelling easy.

Real estate is a valuable/expensive commodity in Manhattan, so the mat space was smaller than what I'm used to. This also means that the warmups were a little different than what I'm used to. We lined up and began with stretches. I was initially concerned that this would be the only warmup, but then we began running. This was followed by pushups, jumping jacks, sprawls, sit ups, shrimping in place (yes, that's how small the mat is) and a few other exercises I can't remember. Needless to say, I was sweating and out of breath by the end. We then drilled some sweeps from butterfly guard/ I'm guessing Shaolin likes butterfly guard because we did a similar drill the first time I took a class here. One of this purple belts walked around to help people, as this was a beginners class. It should be noted that only 3 striped white belts and below attend the beginners class, but I attended this one because it was my first time there. There were two other girls training in that class, and both were white belts. Both were very friendly and introduced themselves to me. I ended up rolling with both of them. The first one was a little smaller than me and moved pretty fast. She immediately pulled guard and started working spider guard. I eventually passed her guard but she had very good control. The second white belt was slightly bigger than me and armbarred me relatively quickly. I realized that I can no longer rely on my flexibility to get out of armbars and need to start working on proper defense. As we continued rolling, it became more of a back and forth exchange.

I also took the second class, which is the advanced class. There was one brown belt, three purple belts, and several blue belts. The warmup was the same, followed by some knee on belly drills and taking the back from open guard. I was able to get more rolling in that I did in the first class. The blue and purple belt men I rolled with did not try and muscle me, which I appreciated. At the same time, they did not "go easy" on me and neutralized most of my attacks. There was also a blue belt girl who was visiting from England who I rolled with. She trains at a Braulio Estima affiliate and is sponsored by Scramble, a pretty awesome BJJ company that makes RAINBOW TIGHTS!

I went back tonight. I didn't take the beginners class, but rolled with some of the students in it at the end. I like that Shaolin doesn't let more advanced people into the beginners class; it allows him to focus all his attention on correcting the mistakes of newer students and making sure they aren't "spazzy". He also pairs them up with higher level students waiting to take the next class so higher level students learn control and beginners learn what they need to work on. In the advanced class, we did some guard passing drills and rolled for a solid half an hour. We need to alternate in two large groups who rolls because the mat isn't big enough for everyone to roll at the same time.

Shaolin is an excellent teacher. He spells out the details very well and speaks loudly but clearly. He also goes around to every pair and makes sure we are doing the drill correctly. Additionally, all of the students I met were friendly and it seems like the school has an excellent sense of camaraderie. Shaolin himself is a nice guy and greets every student like they're a member of his family. A lot of the students compete and there are about 8 girls who train pretty regularly. Jen, who helps run the school and mans the front desk, is a blue belt who normally teaches the women's class, but is nursing a knee injury at the moment.

I am excited to start training with a new set of people. It will be for at least the next 10 months, as that is how long NYC Civic Corps lasts. Because many of the people at my office are on vacation and the hurricane put everyone behind schedule, I don't start work until next Tuesday, but Civic Corps has me working on service projects in NYC so I can still clock some work hours (you need to have 1700 at the end of the ten month period). I did meet my boss today, who happens to be the assistant dean for Fordham Law School's Feerick Center, so I am pretty excited to begin work next week. Even though the commute from NJ to NYC can be rough, I really don't mind it since I like the work I'm doing AND I get to train at an awesome gym.

Now I just hope I'll have enough time to train!

PS, if you're ever in NYC, you owe it to yourself to check out the gyms around here. Just google "NYC BJJ" and see what comes up! :)


  1. So glad you were able to find a great place to train up there! I miss you!

  2. excellent man, In NYC at marcelo's we should do a open mat one of these days!