So what was initially planned as a month long trip for the Christmas holiday + work, soon turned to a 2-month long stay. During this time I took the opportunity to train in each location. While I didn't have time to train all that much, each location served as a great learing experience. If you're in any of these areas, I highly recommend stopping by. -Luke
Located in Santa Cruz, CA I made the drive from San Jose to train with Garth Taylor and Michael Vann my first Friday in. I had met Michael previously in Bangkok on one of his work trips and realized we had some mutual friends in the NorCal area. It was with Michael's help that we were able to host Garth at Bangkok BJJ this past January for a seminar. Bummed that I would miss the seminar, I made it a point to train with Garth, even if just once. Garth was able to help me tremendously on aspects of my standup game with clear but oh so effective details. In addition, the vibe and space are great with large mat area, high ceilings and plenty of guys hungry to train.
AMERICAN KICKBOXING ACADEMY
I usually stay in San Jose and lucky for me my in-laws are just 15 minutes away from American Kickboxing Academy which is home to Dave Camarillo and his
Guerilla Jiu Jitsu. On this night, just before Christmas the class was taught by Claudio Franca black-belt, Paul Schreiner. I had met and heard of Paul through several friends but this was the first time I'd learn from him directly. Often referred to as 'El Technico', Paul has an insane wealth of jiu-jitsu/grappling knowledge and has trained with a 'who's who' of jiu-jitsu. Paul splits his time between Kaijin and AKA. Coming in I thought my base and sense of balance would protect me as it does quite often from sweeps. Not just for being a heavy guy but all those years as a swimmer (I was much lighter then, haha) I credit to my sensitivity of weight distribution. Well, Paul took that notion away from me and get me rethinking about how I use my hips and legs when playing both the bottom and top game.
HEROES MARTIAL ARTS
Also not far from my in-laws, I got to train at Heroes to attend the Hait BJJ Seminar my last day in! Heroes is headed by OTM famed Alan 'Gumby' Marques. I have to say I'm still processing all the stuff that I learned that day and am so grateful I could make it and help support a great cause. A shining theme on that day was the progress the jiu-jitsu community had made to come together under one roof regardless of affiliation and share.
Clockwork is headed by an old friend of mine, Josh Griffiths. Josh is one of the first guys to help me out when I was a spaz-white-belt and in some ways I still kinda feel like a spaz when rolling with Josh. He's building a solid team of competitors but that's no surprise as I've always known him to put his all into teaching and making sure people understand jiu-jitsu on both a macro/micro level. I'd also like to congratulate Josh on taking first place in his weight division for the North American Abu Dhabi Pro Trials this past month. He'll be heading to Abu Dhabi to represent the USA. When I share that I'm visiting from Thailand I'm usually asked for some interesting stories about the nightlife but I just don't have any. These guys will have to come over and make some for themselves, haha.
LOTUS JIU JITSU
I rarely head back to Washington but when I do I train at Lotus Jiu Jitsu under Tony Smith. Tony has a wealth of combat experiences both on and off the mat but always keeps the class lively with his sense of humor. Since having received his black-belt from Juliano Prado, Tony has switched his program from gi to strictly no-gi. The students are a dedicated bunch and well disciplined about their grappling. Looking forward to my next visit.