A few months ago I was having a down day. It hadn’t been a particularly great year, so living by what a sign hanging on my living room wall says, “Do more of what makes you happy”, I knew that I needed a holiday or a getaway. So I googled the two active and fun things that I enjoy. Snowboarding and Jiu Jitsu.
To my surprise, a winter training camp came up. I got in touch and found out that I knew the guy running it. The jiu jitsu community is pretty small, even if you’re not from the same city, country or continent. Someone knows someone you know.
I emailed Christian to see if there was a waiting list for the sold out camp. He replied pretty much straight away to say that one of the ladies on the camp had her ticket for sale, as she couldn’t make it. All the signs were in my favour and this trip was meant to be.
Fast forward a few months and I’m leaving on a BA plane from Gatwick heading to Salzburg in Austria. I knew that there would be a few people travelling from the UK, but the cauliflower ear wasn’t jumping out at me like it does when you travel to Lisbon for the European championships. I did, however see Oli Geddes on the plane as I was passing to sit at the back. Sit? I meant sleep.
I had been awake since 3am and wasn’t in much of a state to converse with other jiu jitsu folk, so I slept the whole 90 minute flight.
As we landed and walked through customs, it became more and more clear who was going to the camp. A guy had tied his white belt with two stripes round his bag so that he could be spotted, but his girlfriend had spotted me first in the toilets. Maybe my Kazushi Sakuraba hoodie gave it away?
We all congregated in the arrivals area and waited for others to arrive. Bleary eyed and dosing ourselves up with coffee.
When mid day came, we got in the taxi’s that were organized by Gemma and headed to Wagrain to the hotel.
My life consists of organizing people every day, so having someone else take the reigns, I was more than happy to step back and enjoy the ride.
We had little time to prepare our day when we got to the hotel, so we headed straight up the mountains and on to the snowboard. We literally only had an hour play time, but it took us a little longer having a rookie with us. This was my 5th time snowboarding so I knew a thing or two, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still fall over…. A lot!
After a little play and getting our snowboarding groove on, we went back to the camp and made it just in time for dinner.
Dinner wasn’t the healthiest, especially when you are training for an international competition and need to make weight. So the next few nights I took tins of tuna with me to the dinner table to ensure I had enough protein in my meat free diet.
Christian taught the first class of the camp. He didn’t as such teach, but to point out a detail that works when playing guard recovery. A minor detail can mean so much in jiu jitsu, and this is one of them. My first partner was Hilary Witt, the only female black belt in the camp and a one of the camp’s instructors.
The second class was taught by Oli and was right up my street. X Guard sweeps are my favourite because they work so well for me being a small person with a good guard and strong legs.
By the end of Oli’s class, my head was spinning and I needed to rest. I took the time out of Kari’s No Gi class to have a chill out, then return to the mats for the open mat and sparring session.
Sometimes when you go to a camp, there are a lot of beginners, but I was impressed at the majority of high grades at the winter camp. I got to spar with a brown belt called Mario from Austria. He was fast and technical and I hope I gave him a good run for his money. I sparred a couple more rounds, but my breath was taken away and I found it so hard to breathe. The thin air in the mountains was making it so hard to go for long rounds. I had to ask my partners if I could stop and catch my breath. I felt unfit, but I knew that I wasn’t. It’s one of the most bizarre feelings.
Day two was all about shredding the slopes. I got to the top of the mountain early and hung out with Jules. He’s a much better snowboarder than me, but he waited for me to catch up. We went off exploring and up to the highest mountain in the resort. The views were breathtakingly beautiful. We found some more Globetrotters and shredded down one of the steepest mountains that was to become my favourite of them all.
By the time I reached the bottom of the mountain at 3pm, I was beat. I had fallen over a few times, gave myself whiplash that still hurts a little now a week later. But it was so much fun!!
After a quick change, and mini chill out and a visit to the shops to get my protein supplies, we had dinner in the dining hall and got ready for the first class….. Well, the second class. Tiredness was creeping up on me as my body wasn’t used to moving so much and using up so much energy.
The class was taught by Lorenzo Fraquelli and was based around Oma Plata’s. Then the last class of the evening was Christian’s “The drill to end all drills”. This was pretty much specific training. All good fun though, until someone crushed my foot and my toe bent backwards. It was this moment that scared me so much that I would be out of the Europeans competition. I took myself off the mat and sat at the side wondering where I could get ice from. We are in Austria, at a winter camp and snowboarding….. Then Valentin brought me a snowball he got from outside. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s not every day that snow is sitting outside waiting to be used for injuries.
My foot got better and was ready to spar.
Again I could only manage three rounds and one was with Oli Geddes. I’m a big fan of his game and I have massive respect for him. He’s a well-respected black belt who teaches seminars round the world and for free in the UK to raise money to send athletes to the European championships under the UKBJJA. Not only that, he’s a referee. Back in 2012 I was a white belt competing at the British open. I lost my fight in the first round by decision. Oli Geddes made that decision. It was my own fault really as I should have done more, been fitter and not expected anything more after going to a hen weekend the weekend before and being totally boozed up. It actually gave me the drive to go back in 2013 as a blue belt and do better. I did, it was my first gold medal and I became British Champion.
After our roll, Oli gave me some great tips to strengthen my technique. The roll and the tips made my day.
Day three was tiring, but I was determined. I started the day with a De La Riva pass class with Martin from Austria, and then I did a little rolling after, but not too much. It was going to be a long day, so I had to pace myself.
I hit the slopes after and got so much more practice in and even managed a good video. I hung out with Patrick and I took him to the highest slope. It wasn’t a full on day and I had planned it to be just like that. I wanted to attend every jiu jitsu class of the day, so I had to go easy.
After dinner, Oli taught a leg lock class and I took away some great tips. We also did toe holds and heel hooks for the fun of it. One day we will get to use them for real, so it was great to learn.
Nelson taught the second class showing deep half guard and taking the back. Then the last class was taught by Hilary. I thought it was pretty basic at first, but then she finished off with a very cool sweep to take the back.
We sparred a few rounds, and then I got to spar with Hilary. She’s slightly lighter than me, but feels like she weighs 100kg. She’s a lovely lady and was a pleasure to meet and train with. Not only that, when we were heading back to Salzburg, she gave me her Inverted gear Gi as I complimented her on it. She said she was looking for someone to give it to as she had bought a few things and didn’t have the space to take it back to Pennsylvania with her. I was more than happy to take it off her hands. What an awesome woman. Black belts are real people too.
The final day at the camp was a little bit of open mat. By the time I got to the gym, people were moving out and getting ready to leave. The mats were coming up, so I just rolled 3 No Gi rounds. I hung out with the ladies in my room, and then I hit the slopes once more. My body was tired, so I took it easy. I met Patrick, Hilary and Nelson on my favourite slope and it was great to see the rookies shredding one of the steepest slopes.
The weather was a bit gloomy down below and I knew that the bottom part of the mountain was going to be icey, so we snowboarded half way and took the gondola down to the bottom to be on the safe side.
I only learnt to snowboard 3 years ago and the practice that I got from this trip was amazing and challenging. I feel confident that I can go anywhere now and do it. You wouldn’t really associate the two, but snowboarding and jiu jitsu really compliment each other. They are very core and hip based exercises that take a lot of skill. I’m glad I can do both.
The camp was over and we headed back to Salzburg for the night. I shared a hotel room with Gemma, and hung out with Christian, Hilary, Nelson, Patrick, Greg and Fikri for the evening. Eating burgers and taking in a little walk around Salzburg.
When you train for a tournament, you become a bit of a boring person. So the party lifestyle goes out the window, you live on drinking water and get plenty of early nights and lots of sleep. So that’s pretty much what I did with my evenings at the camp. But being boring doesn’t mean to say that you’re dull. I met a lot of really great people who came from all over the world to be at the camp. This is something that really blew me away.
The BJJ Globetrotter and his concept has had some criticism. I know why. He is travelling around teaching and training in gyms all over the world. Living a lifestyle of snowboarding, surfing, snow and sun. Meeting like-minded people, very interesting people in fact, who want to make themselves better each day.
It’s a lifestyle to be envious of. But why be envious when you can join the ride? That’s exactly what the camps do, and I had the time of my life there.
Thank you to everyone who was involved, from organizing the camp to taking part. I hope that I manage to go on another camp again, winter or summer, I don’t mind. I learnt so much, practiced loads, met some wonderful people and got to know some more about those who I had already met.