I moved to Houston, Texas. What inspired me to move to Texas? A year ago I said I would come back here. The people I told that too probably didn’t believe me. Maybe I didn’t believe myself. Nonetheless, I actually did move to Texas. It’s still weird change for me. It was the only way I can see my life continuing. My life in the Bay Area was stagnant. I was living at my parent’s house, working and Jiu Jitsu, no real forward progress in life. It was nice to spend time with family and see my friends, but something wasn’t right, a little off. I accrued lots of debt from traveling and working as a line cook or barista wasn’t cutting it. I thought that I better move and start a career so I can carry on with my life. The only plan I had was Texas. I researched the school, GI Bill compatibility, welding career salary, cost of living in Texas, Jiu Jitsu school and support system.
I train at Maven Jiu Jitsu in Spring, Texas. I met the instructor, James, on Guam while I was stationed there. I felt the quality of his instruction is unparalleled to what I have seen in my years of Jiu Jitsu training. He is someone who really thinks deeply about the subject. I’m excited to learn and understand Jiu Jitsu on different level. The school has fairly young ranks of white belts and a few blues, but that doesn’t stop the place from being a great gym to train at. My friend, Kevin, whom I also met while I lived in Guam had moved to Texas to train with James. My time in Texas will be a life experience that I will never forget.
I enrolled in welding school in Houston, Texas. My tuition is being funded by my GI bill I earned from my enlistment in the Navy. I will graduate 9 1/2 months from now as a welding specialist with pipefitting. I finished my first week. My day is school, Jiu Jitsu, rinse repeat. I should explain a little bit more about my life but this will be all for now.
First. I apologize to who ever reads this. After Porto I just go so busy. My family came to visit and I spent time with them. Then after a week of drinking I fell off. I didn’t go back to writing this blog. I was still writing in my journal and on my iPod. I will have to blog my thoughts as a back log now.
I’ve been back a week now. I’ve been trying to internalize all that I experienced and seen. It’s a weird feeling being back. I’ve never been deployed but I’ve been in the military. Coming back after 6 months of travel is weirder than leaving the military. Possibly because I’ve seen parts of the world I never thought I would have seen. I have a new perspective on life. Although I’m not quite sure how to explain it.
My family says I’m a lot thinner. I checked my weight. I weigh 170 lbs just about the same weight I was when I was most of my adult life. Before I left it was the winter holidays so probably gained weight from that.
How have I changed? Did I change? It’s hard to define.
One. My Jiu Jitsu has evolved. I still get tapped, of course. I don’t think I roll with as much ego as I once did. I just like to have fun and try some stuff I’m working on. I’m more goal oriented now. My Jiu Jitsu is influenced by my travels and the camps I attended this summer. There’s no way to plateau now. To progress in Jiu Jitsu, you just have to keep going and always be curious. Whether it be camps, privates, cross training. open mats. The community is so big and welcoming that there will never be an end to it.
Two. How do I view the world? The world is big. Depending on where we live and grow up, we only see this it through our own viewfinder. I’m not saying my viewfinder is better than most. I just can spot things that I couldn’t spot before. I think that is what travel can do for you.
Three. What now? I have a lot of debt from traveling. I saved and paid for a lot of it, but I also need to work it off. To do so I need a job. I’m really picky when it comes to work. What I found out in my 32 years on this earth. I may not know what I want to do in life, but I crossed out the shit I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be in the Navy anymore, I don’t want to work in healthcare, etc. I’m basically pursuing jobs I think are cool and if I don’t like it I will just do something else.
A few days after the Copenhagen Camp I ended up in Porto, Portugal. I wondered what I would do when I got to Porto. From the start of my trip I knew my family was coming to Portugal. I had to decide what to do before I met them in Porto. My options were I would either walk another Camino from Porto to Santiago, hang out in Porto for a week, or…. wait for it. Go to a surf school.
Porto will be an unforgettable chapter in my trip. I learned to surf and met other beginners from all parts of the world. I trained Jiu Jitsu in the afternoon and nights after surfing. I drank and hung out with cool people whose couches I could use in the future. I was reunited with my family and I had old fashion family vacation.
I booked the camp when I was in Vienna after talking to Tina, from Leipzig post, who described her love for surfing. I thought that I should try it out. One should push themselves outside of their comfort zones. How else can you grow as a person? I found Surfivor on Google. A great place with very comfortable accommodations. Bruno and Albert are very good surf instructors. It seems they still have a lot of enthusiasm for it after many years. There were plenty of beginner students just trying it out. Most nights the students ate dinner together and drank together. This experience has made me really enjoy surfing. I will continue to surf in the future.
I get my recommendations where to train from the BJJ Globetrotter Facebook Group. I simply remember or search where people go to train on the forum. So far every place I’ve trained at has not disappointed me. I account that this is also a very open community that loves the sport and showing people their love for Jiu Jitsu.
Focus Jiu Jitsu in Porto, Portugal was one of the best places I’ve trained. Manuel Neto, the head instructor, was very friendly and welcoming. Focus has Jiu Jitsu three times a day Monday through Friday with one class on Saturday. The location of the gym is located inside a bigger gym/crossfit/MMA place about three blocks from the beach. I rented a bike and it took about 15 minutes from my hostel. A large amount of higher belts, one them just came back from Worlds and was awarded Black Belt. The facilities are clean, showers and a large mat space. The majority of population of Porto could speak English and the gym was no exception. I will definitely return to this place in the future.
My family visiting Porto before they attend a wedding in Lisbon was my favorite part. I love Jiu Jitsu and surfing, but I enjoy spending time with my family. It’s a good recharge from the months of travel I’ve been through. There were many times on my journey where I get homesick. I would call my sister and see how things are doing back home. I did this more on this 4 months of travel than my 7 years in the Navy. I took them to the restaurants that Tiago, the surf camp owner, recommended to me. They enjoyed the Francesinha, Restaurante Ababia do Porto and eating at the grilled fish street. We spent roughly two days in Porto together but I instilled them the love for Porto that I felt.
My plan is to come back for a month to Porto maybe next summer. The surfing, Jiu Jitsu, and the amazing Portuguese food are a few reasons why I will return. I’m already planning my return to Portugal. I want to continue surfing when I return to California so I will be better when I come back. The lifestyle is very similar to something I imagine myself I would be when I grow older.
How I came to visit Leipzig is one of those serendipity moments. I met a girl from my hostel in Vienna and she invited to visit Leipzig after Dresden. It wasn’t on my plan, but why not I thought. At times I think about how I travel before and how I travel now. I make more room to meet different people and have unique experiences. For example, I don’t have a concrete itinerary and I couchsurf through friends of friends. I’m glad that I had room in my schedule to see this city.
Tina showed me around her Leipzig during her off day. We had lunch then we walked around the city center. We went to a museum about the GDR( German Democratic Republic), it was all in German but I had a translator with me. While traveling through Czech Republic and East Germany/ Dresden I am learning more and more about that time. Tina said Germany is a young country when you think about the unification of the West and East sides. Germany is only 26 years old. Germany is a millennial?
She took me to see Völkerschlachtdenkmal, it’s a famous monument that symbolizes Napolean’s defeat in Leipzig. I should read more about Napolean, his legacy is still lingering in Europe. He is one of those historical figures that I studied in History but I don’t remember the details. History tends to be buried underneath new history on top of present day news. For it’s worth learning more about a continents history because in turn it affected the United States become what it is.
Music was everywhere in Leipzig. Not only can you find it walking around down town or in the park, but when I was at the haupbahnhof and a traveling choir started singing in the atrium. It was an incredible experience that I can only give thanks to letting things go and see where things end up. I will definitely come back especially since I didn’t have time to train Jiu Jitsu.
Dresden, Germany. A city famed for being bombed on February 13, 1945. I stayed with my friend, Thomas, on old Camino friend. We went hiking to Bastei and reminisced about the Camino. The weekend I came to Dresden there happened to be the biggest party of the year. I met some local Germans, had a picnic, and drank some beer. Dresden has the advantages of a small town and of a big city.
I originally heard of Dresden in Howard Zinn’s You can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train documentary. During the final weeks of the war, Dresden was bombed to great extent. The amount of casualties is still up to debate because of the amount of refugees from Czechoslovakia. Most of the old buildings were destroyed and the old town was leveled. Since the end of World War 2 and the fall of the iron curtain, the restoration has reinvigorated the old town and the city itself.
I walk with Thomas and Maria during my Camino hike last October. I visited Yun-Jin (Maria) last month in Seoul. I made a point to visit Thomas in Dresden. It was great to go to a new city and already have friends. It’s one of those things I really appreciate traveling through Europe alone. I slept on Thomas’s pull away Ikea couch. We saw another Camino friend, Louis, who studies in Dresden. It was during the biggest party of the year in Dresden. It was a great experience. On Sunday, we went on a hike to Bastei. It was good to get out of the city and see nature. Thomas had to work during the week but we hung out when he came home. We met up with Louis again my last night.
We had a picnic BBQ next to the Elbe. In central Europe it is very common to see people in the park having a picnic and drinking outside. Thomas has this small convenient grill that we used to cook some chicken, pork and steak. It was a perfect day for a picnic when the weather is perfect. I met Rebecca, Thomas’s room mate, and Thalia, Rebecca’s sister. I heard Rebecca’s au pair experience in Arizona. It’s interesting to hear other people’s travel experience of my own country. Picnics are one of my favorite things to do. I have to do more when I get back to the States.
I spent five days in Dresden, but I felt that wasn’t enough time. I saw some friends and met new people. I tried to train Jiu- Jitsu but google maps led me on wild goose chase. I was able to get some exercise by hiking and biking to the ghost gym. The weather was really excellent to enjoy with friends. I don’t know when I’ll return to Dresden but I had good memories here.
My rundown of Brno, Czech Republic. It was my first Matsurfing experience. The overall level in Brno is young but promising. The hospitality of Jan “Honza” Stach amazes me. I took a private lesson for leg locks. I will like to return some day to train for a longer period. The feeling of a new city every week has itself turned into a routine, still a good routine. By the end of the week I gain new friends that were strangers at the beginning of the week. This has been a really memorable part of my journey.
If any one knows about long term travel from experience knows that it isn’t cheap, everything costs money. Europe is no exception. BJJ Globetrotters started a site called Matsurfing.org. It is like couchsurfing but with Jiu-Jitsu contacts. I booked Vienna and Bratislava months ago. Now I don’t have that much money. So I decided to give mat surfing a shot. An aspect of travel is pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. So I sent a few emails near my itinerary and Brno was the first to reply back. I plan to use it as much as I can for the rest of my journey. It was a great first experience with the site.
The overall level of Jiu-Jitsu in Brno is blooming. A very young scene in Brno at the current moment of 2017. A lot of white belts and a few higher belts instructing. That doesn’t mean to count them out of anything though. I met Michal, the instructor of Jungle BJJ Brno. He has beautiful school with a lot of hungry students. A very friendly guy, who took me to lunch after a training session. Although in general Brno Jiu-Jitsu level is low, Jan Stach at Fight Club Brno is doing tremendous things in the No-Gi realm. His beginning students have adapted his leg lock attacking style. They may not have heel hook or attempted a knee bar on me but their straight ankles are just as lethal. I’m eager to fast forward to see what five years will look like.
I arrived on a Monday and I needed a night to myself in a comfortable environment to write. I met up with Jan on Tuesday, training wasn’t scheduled for that day, but he introduced me to Jirka, a white belt who cross trains in different gyms, who took me to Jungle BJJ Brno. I trained five times that week. Jan told the other instructors about me, so they knew I would be sleeping in the gym. Jan was very helpful and available if I had any questions. There was a couch in the back room of the gym with blankets. There was also showers and toilette. A draw back was no Wifi. The gym was located right next a tram line that goes direct to the city center running every 5-10 minutes. There were 3-4 really good guys at Jan’s gym. I was schooled by the different approaches to Jiu-Jitsu.
“Teaching Jiu-Jitsu is like being a lighthouse keeper. It is a lonely job but you still have to go up there and turn on the light and be beacon for others to guide off of.” – Jan Stach, paraphrased
The No- Gi game at Fight Club Brno humbled me and my defensive skills. I normally can relax when someone gets my back but Jan and his students had implemented an arm trap system to secure the back. It’s a sequence that I haven’t seen before. Afterwards I asked Petr, a hulk of a Czech with gnarly Cauliflower ears, to teach me. I’m eager to also implement it into my game. I learned so many new techniques that opened my mind to the possibilities of Jiu-Jitsu even more. It think because of the school being primarily No-Gi. I asked for a private lesson in leg locks and Jan was happy to give it that Friday. I learned one version of his entries to his leg locking system. It is through circumstance and opportunity that I was able to train in Brno. I’m so grateful for passing through this city.
On my last day I traveled with Fight Club Brno to a competition in Slovakia. Jan, Michael, and Petr competed. I watched and recorded video. I didn’t want to compete because I didn’t want to risk getting injured, especially because my travel insurance doesn’t cover competition. Michael won two and lost in the Finals to an armbar from Jan. Petr took first place in his advanced division. Jan swept the division with submission victories. Afterwards I told him he needs better competition. Jan has only been training 4 years and competes almost every weekend. It is a testament to his teaching and his grappling style that he and his students placed in the competition.
Would I Matsurf again? Yes. I was able to meet with people and train more because I slept where I trained. The generosity of Jan and his love for Jiu-Jitsu is contagious. The only thing I can do is pay it forward. I’m excited for this pivotal time in Jan’s career and Jiu jitsu in Brno. It will be interesting to see after the scene in Brno when I return.
(I caught the last two minutes of the final. Jan’s transition were impressive.)
How to get to Brno: FlixBus from Bratislava or Vienna.
Gym Count: 13 visited in 2017
“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life.” ― Paul Theroux
A summary of Bratislava. I arrived on a Monday and I left on a Monday. I stayed in a Botel. I attended my first Polyglot Gathering. I also helped the event as a volunteer. I went on a tour of Devin Castle and a wine tour. I added a few more friends to my Facebook network. It was incredible new experience.
I took a bus from Vienna Erdberg to Brastislava Einsteinova. The worst part was if I just stayed bus till the end of the line I would have been closer to my hotel. Since I got off a bus stop before the end I had to walk an extra 30 minutes to my accommodation. Lesson learned for Bratislava. It wasn’t a big deal, it could have been avoided if I possibly knew German or Slovak. The growing pains of traveling, its almost impossible to not a make a mistake, cultural or logistics during travel.
I stayed in a Botel, not quite a hotel, not quite a boat on the Danube River. It was the more economical choice when it came to lodging options for the Polyglot Gathering. It’s location was the selling point. It was about a 10 minute walk to the bus stop and it was a 10 minute walk from the city center. It was very convenient for the conference. Many other attendees or polyglots were also staying there. My roommate was from Lithuania, he spoke many languages. We mainly conversed in English and Spanish, the only languages I can converse in. Having a roommate made the experience better and put my whole anxiety at ease.
My first Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia. I felt very intimidated because I only spoke two languages, and one of them wasn’t at a high level. There were people there that spoke 4-5 languages fluently, then there were Rockstars in the community like Richard Simcott who can speak as many as 20 languages. I felt at awe when I was walking around and seeing all these people I watched on Youtube. By the second day I realized that these people are just human beings, like me. I started talking more as I got over the intimidation factor.
I helped as a volunteer since I got there a few days before the event started. As I wrote before I was apprehensive of my language skills so I decided to volunteer to help get over my anxiety. By being a volunteer you see more behind scenes and how things operate from a stage left point of view. It’s something I learned in the Navy, by being behind the so called magician’s curtain we can see that some things aren’t that special or magical. I met other people that spoke only three languages, a few didn’t even speak English, they were from Slovakia. I even saw Esperanto exist on a working level with the volunteers. I enjoyed volunteering and had more one on one time with the other staff. I was glad that I was able to help such wonderful event.
I took some tours that the organizers of the Gathering had set up. The first day was non-stop talks in the morning and afternoon, it felt like school. My tour of Devin Castle was in the afternoon of the second day, it was a good break from the talks. It was good to meet and talk with the other people from the Gathering in another setting. I didn’t want to go to Slovakia and not see some historical monuments. Another was a wine and old town tour. On the afternoon of the third day we walked around the old town and heard the history of Bratislava. Which ended in drinking wine in a cellar near the center. I enjoyed the tours more for the socializing with the other attendees than hearing the history, though it was interesting. I was engaged with a lot of interesting conversations about languages and where people are from.
I ended up connecting with more people in the end. I was able to open up more by the end of the conference. I think the tours were a good icebreaker to meet other people, especially when wine is involved. I practiced as much of my Spanish as possible, usually when I practice Spanish it’s with native speakers. I hope meet all the people I talked to at future events.
If you are a language learner or if you are wondering about attending one of these events? I recommend it and I plan on going to the next one. Whether you only speak one or 13 languages, everyone is welcome. As long as you have an openness to learn and speak. Where else would you meet people who are as passionate about learning languages, travel, food, and cultures. I’m glad I was able to stop by in Bratislava for this conference. I’m incredibly fortunate to attend all the events I wanted to do this year.
Langfest- Montreal, Canada.- August 25-27, 2017
Polyglot Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland.- October 27-29, 2017
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin