Saturday, 31 January 2009

Bringing BJJ to zambia

Arrived in Lusaka after a great 10 hour flight, even got delayed and it was still great. One of the pilots was a friend of the family so I got bumped up. Got plied with lots of cashews and champagne. Was also thoroughly enjoying my book I picked up from WH Smith at terminal 5 Heathrow. Sam Sheridan’s “a fighter’s heart”, which I have since finished. Sam is a mid level fighter but a great writer and his book is about his journey exploring the fighter’s mindset, what makes a good fighter, why do we train to fight etc. And by journey I do mean in the physical sense; Japan, Brazil, USA, Thailand. Whilst giving enough background information so anyone would become familiar with the fighting world. In terms of actual fighting he trains with some amazing characters in BJJ, MMA, Muay Thai, Boxing, Tai chi and meditation. And for most of these I’m not just talking a casual visit, he becomes friends with these people and becomes part of their circle. Pat Miletiches camp, Brazilian top team, Fairtech muay thai. The book can quite often be brutal as Sam really trains and even explores less desirable parts of fighting (Dog fights, cock fights, boxing conditions) but does so in a very professional neutral way. I don’t want to give too much away but pick this book up; it’s really good and not just for the hardcore fight fans. Completely novice friendly whilst providing great insight for the more familiar.
Anyway back to my trip!

A week in and no problems, I’ve got a good room, the kids are amazing, I love teaching and helping, good food, weather isn’t too bad, the nuns are great fun! And I got some internet access. Now that I’m more settled; in my main duties are teaching the young children (8-10 yr olds) English in the mornings before their school and teaching 4 older boys English in the afternoon (15-18). Their English is good all round but their teachers at school have not been great. Repetition all day long, their English not to great, taking the kids to garden instead! As the teachers aren’t getting paid enough. But most annoyingly no phonetics at all…. Which means when they read they are going purely by the shape of the word, the letters don’t represent sounds to them, making it very difficult for them to figure out new words. Despite this they work hard and some can converse fairly well. The nuns are mostly all polish or Zambian and despite having quite good English they lack confidence worrying to much on their accent.

Sister marieola the head sister asked me to teach them some jiu jitsu, something Im all to happy to do. They are familiar with the idea of judo so Ive used it as a crux in describing Brazilian jiu jitsu. The older boys have really taken to it and as there’s only 4 of them during the day (rest at school) I can give them a lot of attention. I spent a long time really making sure they understood the importance of tapping and respecting your training partners. And so far so good. It looks like I will probably end up teaching them everyday for an hour for 6 weeks, so I think they will be quite competent by then. As they are very flexible, athletic and keen to learn.

In my first lesson I gave them a little bit of history, went over positions, showed them a hip throw and seionage and then briefly gave them idea of what a submission is. Mainly to guage their interest and possible pitfalls. They did great however and really took to it. So now Ive been concentrating on drilling fewer techniques for longer so they can get the details down. They really love it when a technique works with minimal effort. Had a small guard passing roll with each of them where they would start in my guard and then after I swept them I would pass theirs. I wanted to highlight how easy decent technique can make dealing with a potentially stronger opponent.

Outside their rooms they have a lawn with the softest grass ever which has been great for training on although it does add a little bit of friction for the bottom guy. Although we have recently added a carpet big enough for us to practice techniques. Am trying to teach a move and then its defense or counter in the same lesson so they can get an idea of what they have to look out for and the basic options. First case was double leg and sprawl.

Teaching jiu jitsu is very enjoyable but its also made me appreciate good instruction more I think. As I often noticed I am perhaps talking to much/rambling and am not concise enough, sometimes providing to much detail or not enough. But I feel my style of instruction steadily improving as I notice mistakes and correct them. Having to show people techniques in good detail is also great for my own practice.

As they have to pay for bandwidth used here I am not going to upload pictures to the blog yet, when I goto Lusaka (the capital city) Ill find a web café and add stuff there.


Conan said...

I've had "A Fighter's Heart" for a few weeks now. my brother passed it on to me, but I haven't cracked it open yet. Hearing your brief description has got me interested in diving into it.

What you're doing in Zambia sounds wonderful! I'm excited to follow along with your experiences there.

Jadon Ortlepp said...

Thanks for the comment, just checked out your blog and theres alot of good stuff there. Am enjoying reading it, especially the psychology of jiu jitsu piece. As Ive been thinking of something on similar lines but think I will have to do some proper data collecting. As drawing on my own experiences isnt enough. However I just want to train!

John Sherwood said...

Awesome blog, your officially an ambassador of the sport.

Jadon Ortlepp said...

Thanks John! has a ring to it!. Nice blog! ill keep updated with it.

mayiara said...

Hi, did you find any pre-existing BJJ in Lusaka? I'd just like to know if I could live there. Thanks!