Friday, August 29, 2008

BJJ Tour of SF, part 2...

Today's fun-- a private and a group class with Denny Prokopos, 10th Planet San Francisco. I took a cab to Valencia Street Muscle (and avoided walking through the Tenderloin, which looked fascinatingly seedy to the photojournalist still inside me) and got ready for the lesson. VSM is not a frilly, "fitness club" kind of place. The womens' locker room is spartan but clean, and immediately next to it was a rolling room down two steps from the rest of the facility.

Denny was charming and gracious, asked about my current level of training, and invited me to roll with him right away. After making a few suggestions within the first minute, I mentioned my friend Tom's suggestion that I work rubber guard since I'm small and flexible... so we skipped straight ahead to rubber guard. Denny walked me through zombie, New York, kung fu, chill dog, jiu claw, omoplata, something-or-other crock, and a handful of other positions I've forgotten the names of, and finished up with some twister side control. Fortunately, he permitted me to videotape the lesson and even better, my BJJ buddy Michael acted as cameraman. (Later Michael told me Denny gave me about 3 months' worth of material!) I enjoyed his teaching style, careful explanations, and insistence on repetitions and solo drills.

Then for the group class-- also no gi of course-- we did some cardio warmups, stretching, rolls, and shrimping drills. We partnered up and worked on half guard to whipup to two sweeps; then we worked on a double leg takedown. Afterwards we did focused sparring on takedowns, and then we did free rolling. I really enjoyed the vibe of the students, Denny's jovial teasing and nicknames, and the welcoming attitude everyone had for this newbie girl. Denny managed to keep an eye on everyone throughout the class and was shouting instructions and encouragement for me. I had a great time and was bummed when 9pm rolled around. Not bad for $80 (the private; the group class was free.)

My friend Michael drove me to the hotel and is picking me up tomorrow at 8:30 to head to Eduardo's for a private at 9am. Looks like I might go out with some of Denny's students tonight-- there were a surprising number of law students and lawyers in the class and I'd like to see SF through the eyes of some "locals" (even though one is from Baltimore and not sure the others are really locals either, but at least they live here.)

The BJJ Tour of San Francisco, part 1...

Wow, I love San Fran!

Been here since Wednesday afternoon for a CLE conference on capital litigation. We're staying at the Westin St. Francis right on Union Square, and I'm very impressed-- great speakers and topics; good weather (sunny, breezy, in the 70s- low 80s) and good food (though expensive: a field greens, spinach tortellini, and shrimp salad was $15!) There's even good music, from the mellow standing bass and jazzy drum stylist at the sidewalk cafe, to a jammin' electric guitar on the street corner, to the sax player who serenades the square late at night.

Yesterday after the session ended at 5:30 we enjoyed a reception complete with booze and fancy appetizers. Having been to these shindigs before, I knew that you have to get there early and fill your plate selectively if you want any of the good stuff. I circled the buffet stations like a choosy vulture, loading up on crab cakes, shrimp, and smoked salmon. Once those dishes were devoured by the crowd, I noshed on the less exciting but no less yummy choices: marinated asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, grilled eggplant and squash, carved rare roast beef, and a selection of farmer's market crudite that was equaled in variety only by the lovely cheese board. I gave away all my drink tickets, but later had to spend $15 on a cruddy mojito in the lobby's Clock Bar. It was worth it to see certain individuals with their guards down ;)

But I digress. This evening was the first stop on the BJJ Love Train. Stephan Goyne teaches at Bay Jiu Jitsu and I arrived way early for the class at 7:30. The classes are held in Action Fitness on Lombard-- a comfortable, unpretentious, clean and workmanlike gym. The owner, Pedro, greeted me personally and was the soul of friendliness and warmth. Since I was over 30 min early, I was able to warm up thoroughly with pushups, crunches, dips, lots of stretching, and roundhouse kicks on the bag.

Stephan arrived and I was immediately a fan-- he's not the biggest guy, and he immediately inspires confidence. He led the class (2 blues, 3 other whites besides me) in a conditioning warmup with medicine balls and kettlebells. Then we drilled some moves-- 2 "X" guard sweeps and 1 X guard pass-- that were way over my head but I tried to follow along. After back and forth on that for about 20 min, we moved to focused sparring for maybe 40 min, and then had about 30 min of free sparring. I was disappointed in myself (it seemed like no sooner did I learn the techniques than I forgot them in the heat of sparring) but I enjoyed Stephan's laid-back style. He's a brown, so obviously held back to enable me to think and work out solutions on my own. I sparred with another whitebelt named Emilio who is my size and very challenging, he's strong and he capitalized on my noob errors. He got my back several times, but I didn't let him RNC me, so he triangled me from the back! I tried the guillotine on him 3 times and failed more often than not. :(

The class was only 90 minutes long, but I was pretty tired by the end. Stephan generously invited me to go 80s dancing after, but I need to conserve my energy. Tomorrow, the BJJ Love Train moves on to the 10th Planet-- 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, that is, taught by Eddie Bravo brown belt Denny Prokopos. I have a private *and* a group class tomorrow night so I will be doubly pooped!

After showering at the hotel tonight, I ventured out with some friends to the Irish bar downstairs on the Geary street side... the bar sucked, not Irish really, brightly lit, horrid service, crazy expensive, with a bad bad (Leroy Brown) piano bar. I drank an iced tea, excused myself, and grabbed a cheese slice on the street before heading up here. Not nearly as good as NYC! But, not so bad nonetheless.

My eyes are droopin' so that's it for now. More tomorrow, I think!