The Internet amazes me sometimes. On Thursday I found myself sitting and discussing branding with a black belt from the UK who, just six months before, was little more than a voice echoing through my speakers at work. The power of podcasts.
I spent a day this week down at the Valente Brothers', talking with them about the history of gis (apparently, they're the go-to people when talking about the feedback loop of form and function of the BJJ gi), and hanging out with UK black belt, Eddie Kone. It was all for research for GiFreak, and it was a great day. There's something amazingly cool about finally meeting in person, someone you've been talking to online...I've met Allie from Allie the Clear Belt at a tournament and...that's about it. Pretty crazy considering how many other BJJ bloggers are in Florida...even crazier considering how many bloggers I know from the UK, that I'd meet Eddie before, say, Can..
|Eddie Kone of EKBJJ...amazingly cool guy
So I was a little antsy coming into this. I'd been referred to talk to the Valentes about gis and through some grand coincidence, Eddie, who I'd met through Twitter, was coming over to Florida to spend some time there, so I decided to roll down to Miami for a day. I've never walked into another academy for a reason other than an open mat, so I read up on some of Julia's experiences and Val's tips on visiting other academies, and acted accordingly. I was a bit surprised to find out that their program is split gender, but was glad to see Pedro more than open to talk about that.
I came in, and immediately started scanning the mats for a familiar face. Finding someone who you've only seen in static pictures on Facebook can be tricky, and being who I am, saw who I THOUGHT was Eddie, and started waving happily. He immediately started waving back...and then I noticed the brown belt around his waist. I have a habit of waving enthusiastically at people I've mistaken for someone else. Normally, though, I can just go about my business, but I spent the next couple of hours feeling like the weirdo-visitor that's way too happy to see strangers, and avoiding eye contact with the brown-belt who was probably thinking I was in love with him.
I settled myself down in the viewing area and Gui came over and started telling me about their teaching philosophy, why they don't start from their knees, why classes are broken into sparring and technique (sparring optional) and finally, started telling me about the gis which looked INSANELY thin to me. They were cropped at both the sleeves and the legs, and made of a slightly heavier version of what you'd see in a cotton fabric on the street...no where near even the light weaves most practitioners would know. After talking with Pedro though, it made a lot more sense. All that's going into an article for GiFreak.
So the women's classes...I really wasn't sure what to make of the segregated classes at first. They didn't immediately put me off, because I know that there can be benefits for separating out minorities in certain educational situations. I asked Pedro straight out about it though, and he pointed out something about women who train jiu jitsu that I'm aware of, but that I don't think much about.
According to Gui, their women's program boasts about 30 students and 14 or so in normal classes. Proportion aside, these numbers struck me as much higher than your average, mixed gender school. Pedro explained that they cater mostly to women that are exposed to the art through their children and husbands/partners. He said that they focus on women that are more timid in spirit, especially compared to the average woman who trains at more sport-focused schools. They do though, have a few women who train with the men, the most recent being a pair of sisters who are about to test for black. If a woman wants to be promoted to black belt, she has to train with the men. Before that, it's left for the individual to decide, and the instructor to recommend, when mixed-gender training should be introduced.
|He loves crocs...and dragging people into the sun. Apparently they don't have one in London.
So yeah...very educational trip and it was great to connect with some friends from overseas.