My BJJ training at Team Link with Gabriel Gonzaga

I do not know whether or not this story is of interest to the community at large. Sorry to disappoint anyone looking for something more well written. This is mostly a chronological recollection of my training.( it does start that way) This story has reflections on my personal life as well. I am sorry if you do not want to hear them. Please, feel free to ignore them. My Bjj training was intertwined with everything going on. Some of the most significant events during these peroids took place at team link.

Please bear with me. My skill is limited (to put it nicely) in composition. I generally am very poor at expressing myself and again apologize in advance for wasting anyone's time.

I briefly attended a University in Worcester, MA. I was there for two Fall semesters 2010 and 2011. Why I left both times in unimportant and frankly pathetic. Whilst narrowing down the colleges I would attend, i checked for bjj dojos in the area. Within walking distance was team link Worcester. Team Link played heavily in my choice of University. A sad comment on my priorities maybe. Nevertheless, I contacted them before i arrived and talked to the muay thai coach about signing up. The process seemed simple and I went on my way the first Friday of Freshman orientation. I was of course very nervous for my first class and in my genius smoked half a pack in a 20 minute walk. I would smoke way to often on most walks to bjj, On top of my laughable cardio this proved to consistently hinder my perfomance and gas me out.

The mauy thai coach was friendly, as i would find everyone there. There was a competition on saturday so not many people showed up for practice. There were 3 of us. 1 a regular and myself and another there for our first lesson. The muay thai coach who was a blue belt taught us our first lesson. It consisted of the kimura and armbar from guard and upa. After a intense warm up, I threw up some blood. And continued on. At the end of class, as in most BJJ dojos, we got to spar. I was kimuraed pretty bad whilst in the other new guy's closed guard. I didnt tap and ended up passing to kesa gatame. (one of my few success at team link)

I did not go back for a while, because i thought my shoulder was damaged by the Kimura. Perhaps it was slightly, but my shoulder pain ended upbeing unrelated to it for the most part.

When I went back near the end of september, Gabriel still was not there. I believe he was training at Extreme Couture. I could not wait to meet him and was frustrated he was no present. That day i purchased my GI and began to train for the first time as an official student of team link. This time it was rather crowded and i got a chance to meet a bunch of cool and interesting people. Many of them Brazilian, who treated me very well. Much nicer and more patient than the American students.

To move along and not to bore you further, I will cut to the first time I met Gabriel Gonzaga. I walked from college to team link, like any normal day, when I came upon a giant man who i could see through the glass. It was Gabriel himself and i took a deep breath and walked through the door to introduce myself. (Note this is before his loss to Schaub, which i will cover presently)

He had a warm smile and shook my hand firmly. One of the sweetest men i ever had the honor of meeting. I was nervous of course. I did not know what kind of taskmaster he was and feared that i would upset him and dissapoint him. Or worse impede class progress with my knack for incompetence combined with my poor timing. Class warm ups were a bit harder and the drilling was similiar, I was too scared to ask Gabriel Questions. The only time he came over to me while we drilled i just nodded my head to his criticsm and invariably failed to make the adjustments needed. In sparring i opened up more for advice. and i tried to pick his brain whenever i could. My performance consisted of being subbed around once every 4-5 sparring by blue belts and white belts with a stripe or two. Average for a white belt i would guess and par for the course over my Bjjj training that fall.

I did not attend as much as i would like. I was going through a difficult period during October. However I attended one of the first classes he was back for. (sorry i dragged this out so much). I told him he had a god performance. I asked him about his choke at the end of the fight, whether or not he had it. He thought he would of finished him given more time. (not verbatim do not quote me on this one) I asked him about why he thought he lost. He talked about pulling the trigger in general terms. He did not talk about the fight at length.But, suffice it to say i think he thought he lost it for himself. (Gabriel's wife had some tough pregnancies at this time, I think. I did not ask about its affect on his performance. Too personal, i think. I was probably pushing it anyway.)

As for pulling the trigger he had some interesting thoughts on the subject. He talked about perseverance and really going for the things you want in life. He inspired me, as i felt i had not lived up to my potential and pursued the things important to me. I had made a good friend at college, someone who i had wronged. His words gave me the courage to approach them.(as i had avoided contact for 3 weeks and dropped a class with them in it). Though i was only able to salvage it for a time, as it would fall apart eventually.

For the class itself, nothing noteworthy for the most part. However, there are some hints about armbars i gleaned from hi, that i have not forggoten to this day. I have not really gone into depth about Gabriel's abilities as a teacher. I will say from my other BJJ experiences(though limited), he is head and shoulders a better teacher than the other 3 or so blackbelts i have taken instruction from.

It could of been that day or it might of been another class. I asked him what was next for him career wise. He said he was going to go back to his roots. His roots of course being jiu-jitsu. Gabriel said he had gotten to far away from it and that if he ever went back to mma he would use his bread and butter to win. Instead of standing and banging. I am not sure of his exact words, as much obscures these memories. My first semester was horrible and there are things i would rather forget.

That is all for that semester. The following fall I returned to Team Link and school. I had lost a ton of weight and Gabriel did not recognize me initially. (He did once we started talking). When i first met him i was 185 last i saw him around 170 and by the time I returned i was 135, on a good day. He congratulated me on my lost weight. Something no one else in my life had done and it meant a lot to me. He always had a kind word for everyone. He was the reason i kept trying to drag myself to bjj. When i first met Gabriel,. Last fall had less emotional moments associated with my training . Gabriel was only there maybe 5 times I went to class. I mostly attended nogi classes, my gi did not fit me well anymore and my pants nearly falling off when we warmed up was enough to dissuade me.

I again did not attend nearly as much as I would of liked. My performance at BJJ was on the whole worse than the previous fall. My reactions had slowed along with my thinking and I was much weaker (due to my rapid weight drop, I believe i lost maybe 10lbs of lean mass). In many ways, last fall was harder for me, in both BJJ and school.

I will now go over the two significant classes of last fall and conclude this rambling abortion of a fanpost. A class somewhere in October we went over passing the butterfly guard and escaping the front headlock and taking the back. During sparring i took the back of a (new) blue belt who was 190 or so. I held the back for almost the entire 10 minutes (long rounds that day) switching between body triangle back to hooks I was flat on my back for a lot of the time. I tried everything i could to get that rear naked. I got under the chin several times but i could not finish. (I think my first shinya aoki facelock attempt gassed my arms.) My closest was near the end with a palm to palm and a body triangle with the figure four on the correct side. But I just could not get it. (biggest bjj accomplishment sorry had to mention it.)

Afterwards, i approached Gabriel about my inability to finish. I asked about trying to choke with the chin down and Gonzaga demonstrated. Even with my chin down, i was almost out and dropped to the mat on my knees after being in the choke for 4 seconds.( I have never gone unconscious from a choke in my bjj career and that was by far the closest.) He taught me a lot about the superior control of the hooks that day and how to finish the RNC. Tips that have helped me since. We got to talking about him and mma. He talked again about using his BJJ more in fights. I asked him what he had been up to before returning to mma. Gabriel told me about tournaments he had entered. I asked him how he performed. He looked at me perplexed. He had won them all.

For my last class we started off with High crotch singles and finishing with running the pipe. I was good at them for the most part. Americanas and Kimuras from side control were next and Gabriel had to come over and help my partner make it more of an elbow lock. My MDI has been helpful for shoulder locks in bjj. They dont hurt at all. Anyway, to get to the end i got one of two chances to spar with Gabriel. I will describe it breifly. Sorry, about the length of this fanpost. I will try to wrap it up. I shot for a high crotch and he tried to catch me with a standing armbar. With my free arm i tried to lift his leg up and get him down. This was of course to no avail. He spun me down with my arm. And he grabbed a Kimura. Which i did not tap to. I did not feel any pain while in it, but realistically no matter how flexible my shoulders are he could of finished it. Before I had gone he had his way with another white belt. The entire time Gabriel was making faces at everyone and pretending to be concerned when the white belt tried to be offensive. It was funny and he undoubtedly was doing the same against me. He played around with me some more. Switching legs knee mounting me and goofing around. Then Gabriel let me get half guard, i tried to sweep him once I got the underhook by pulling his knee, but instead he pulled mine. A lot of other crap happened. But he complimented me on my flexability and decided it would be funny to put both my legs behind my head. Which I did not get to see but it generated some laughs. Then he finished me off with an RNC grip from behind, but my leg was inside. It was an honor and a joy to roll with him my last class.

As i walked back from bjj I was accosted on the street by a stranger. He asked me if i was all right and I responded curtly that i was fine. He asked me again.This time I was more polite and I was confused as to why but paid it no mind and figured i just looked exhausted from bjj.

By the time i got back my GI tract had started killing me. I called my friend to tell him about bjj to take my mind of the pain. I started throwing up after getting off the phone. I could not stop. I figured it might be one of my ulcers acting up. But the area affected was not right, it felt really general. I fainted eventually and realised I needed an ambulance. Because, i lived alone and if i fainted again with no one to find me, things could of turned pretty sour. So i got to the hospital and the pain had localized by then to my lower right quadrant. I ahd appendicitis

After the appendectomy i could not return to bjj or college and returned home for a time. That was the last time i ever saw Gabriel. I do miss him. He said some very important things to me. They might of been cliches but every once in a while I need to hear them from someone I respect. I wont forget the lessons he taught me in Jiujitsu or his words of encouragement. And, hey you know, appendicitis has been related to blunt trauma. So maybe I have some surgical scars to remember him by too.


Marc G.

I apologize again for the poor quality of my writing

However, wrote this in haste and wanted to pour my feelings out.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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