It's not the easiest thing going from a period of intense beach based relaxation to one of (relatively) strenuous training. There's a line in the movie Napoleon Dynamite whereby the titular character tells his brother to eat a ‘decroded piece of' something or other. As I wrote the word ‘decroded' my spell check immediately flagged it up due to its state of non-existence. It does feel like it should be a word though, and it seems to perfectly capture how I've felt at various times over the course of this month.
I have at at various points in my life borne the bruised shins, tweaked muscles and the other niggles associated with the pursuit of Muay Thai. At others, peculiar patterns of marks have decorated my upper arms and chest after a sparring Jiu Jitsu. I have not though, I must confess, had these ailments all at once. Occasionally over the past month I've awoken in the morning to find that the combination of twanged hamstrings and a fully immobile neck have given me some insight into what perhaps I will feel like forty years from now.
To train then four or five times as much, as professional MMA fighters do, must be truly decroding. To mix in the potential injuries and hazards from wrestling and heavy strength and conditioning, then to do that six days a week would most likely be the end of me. It fills me with a new respect for the athletes and sport. Given that I already had a healthy amount of it, the level probably now rests somewhere bordering on creepy.
The first two weeks were the most trying. I was squashed, contorted, choked, winded, punched in the head and of course spinning back kicked to the groin numerous times (don't you love the guys who haven't got their fundamentals down, yet secretly suspect that they are already in possesion of the otherworldly coordination of Jon Jones?). At the end of each practice my listless body would struggle to carry me home. The smell of ibuprofen gel pervaded my life.
Now though I'm glad to report I can get through an extended sparring session without feeling like I'm going to have an aneurysm. I can hold my own for not unreasonable periods of time against people of similar skills levels. As I survey the thirty or so grappling shapes present at the evening BJJ class, all in their gis of various hues fastened with belts of various colours, I can hold with some degree of confidence that even though I'm going to get triangled, it's not because I'm tired, but because of my terrible defence. I'm also happy to notice that people have stopped telling me to ‘respira' (breathe) quite so frequently.
Upon my arrival home I no longer immediately seek out the nearest horizontal soft surface and uselessly flop onto it. Instead I find myself musing over my defeats. My hands, sore from clinging to people's wrists or ankles, wander over the keyboard and search, as if by their own accord, for ‘triangle defence' or ‘brabo choke tutorial'. It seems the grappling bug has well and truly bitten.
Currently one very frequent search term is ‘rubber guard'; I've noticed that the BJJ instruction here is quite traditional; they have perhaps have a slightly snooty attitude to foreign techniques like Eddie Bravo's famous guard. The upshot is that I've found a good deal of success with it, among white belts at least, just through their unfamiliarity.
After numerous sessions of both BJJ and Muay Thai I hope that I can paint a rough picture of each. The Jiu Jitsu classes in the evenings are a little shorter than those at midday, due to there being a different session immediately after, subsequently it would seem that Brazilian time can't maintain such a firm (or perhaps loose?) grip. The classes involve a good warm up, followed by the instruction and drilling of only one or two techniques. The majority of the session is then given over to a long period of sparring, through which one changes opponents approximately every five minutes.
Maybe it's my imagination but at this class I occasionally find that people are a little bit reticent to roll with me, perhaps due to my lack of a gi, or (more likely) due to me being the weird looking foreigner with whom it is difficult to communicate. The two reasons are of course not mutually exclusive so it could be a combination thereof; however both reasons seem like perfectly good ones to me.
In the comments section of my first article I recall that there was a brief discussion regarding drinking water and whether or not permission was required before doing so. At the time I was unsure exactly what the rules were. However after taking a swift drink without first asking and receiving a ‘that's not allowed but you're a gringo so we'll let it go this time' finger wagging, I can safely say that permission is indeed required before rehydrating, even if you're sweating much more than your Brazilian comrades.
The Muay Thai sessions are a little bit longer and usually follow the framework described in my previous write up quite closely. Each class will tend to be weighted towards either working punches or kicks. About once or twice a week there will be some sparring at the end, lack of shin/mouth guards and gloves notwithstanding. The intensity of the sparring will most likely depend on who you are matched up with; some take it easy, others embrace the Chute Boxe spirit a bit more thoroughly, while yet others throw the afore mentioned spinning kicks six inches under the recommended target for such a move.
Yet overall I feel generally a little lither and a little looser and hopefully my heart doesn't quite so closely resemble the shrivelled sultana of one month ago. Which isn't to say that the process of decrodation has ceased. Indeed there are two occasions in which I'm not aware of my body weedily complaining; the first is when I'm making a fool of myself in samba bars, though there's most likely an external reason as to why this is the case. The second, is on the mat.