Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I just got back from Hong Kong, where I spent the weekend with my super hot (yes it’s true, I don’t mind telling you) wife. She was in town for a dance conference, so for at least a little while I was on my own. Fortunately Imran and Yulius, friends from KDT who are currently based here for work, invited me to dinner – and to go train BJJ with them. Even more fortunately, the class would be held at the exact same time that I was free.

Having made no plans to do anything in Hong Kong but buy the soundtrack to The Dark Knight (since Malaysia takes freaking forEVER to get movie soundtracks that in other countries I can get pretty much as soon as I leave the theatre on opening night) and then eat lots of pork when that was done, I felt a bit bummed that I didn’t bring any of my gear. No worries, I was told, nobody else except the coach has a gi yet. I am also informed that this would be only the second BJJ class at this gym, the first class bring held earlier that week. Right then.

We set a time and place to meet up. The gym is near Causeway Bay MTR station and I got there early, so I braved the insane crowds and popped into a mall to go shopping for knee protection. I managed to find a really nice pair of Nike supports so I was all set. A short walk later, I was introduced to the coach, one Mr. Silvio Braga, a 2nd-degree black belt from Brazil.

I was immediately put at ease. From the word go, Silvio came across as a really cool guy – down to earth, funny and easy to talk to. I was seriously impressed with his ability to coach, and he definitely showed that he could take his skill and articulate it concisely and effectively for others. He was very adept at giving the right coaching cue at the right time and it made a huge difference in my understanding of the material and my enjoyment of the class.

He also ran us through some stretches and drills to warm up (that I will be shamelessly appropriating for my own use), and then showed us a nice guard pass and an armbar from mount setup that I particularly liked, as I can secure and keep my position for as long as possible. I never try armbars as, not only do I hate losing top position, in doing so I would frequently crush my own unmentionables. With this setup, I feel pretty confident in being able to avoid both pitfalls.

I got to roll for a little while with Silvio at the end of class and it was quite the experience. It was super fun, we had three quick rolls and I got armbarred as many times, and it was then that I was even more impressed with him. He would coach on the fly and give me opportunities to escape or attack, flowing right around anything I tried – it was all about mutual respect and having a whole lot of fun. Destroying me would have been about as hard for him as making a bowl of cornflakes, and the whole time I felt completely safe.

After we were done, Yulius and I spent a couple of minutes chatting with Silvio. He shared a couple of anecdotes with us and was really encouraging, a real class act. I left that class completely inspired and – since I wouldn’t be able to attend any more classes before my flight back – all I wanted to do was get back to KL and train.

It was great to meet up with Imran and Yulius; good guys, good training partners and good friends. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get back to Hong Kong anytime soon, but as long as Silvio is still based there, I’m definitely packing my gi!

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