Andre Galvao in Australia

Andre GalvaoI was to pick up Andre Galvao from Brisbane domestic airport. This airport is roughly a one-hour drive from where I live on the Gold Coast. Since loosing the peripheral vision in my left eye, caused by a combination of detached retinas and glaucoma, I find it hard to drive long distances and through cities. I asked my friend and training partner Dan Magnano to drive up with me. I told him it would be fun and that it would be a good experience for him to meet Andre. I also told him he should volunteer to drive up and also volunteer to borrow his wife’s car. He complied. I had not requested that he wear the exact same Mendes Bros Jiu Jitsu T-shirt that I was wearing that day but he took it upon himself to do so. After the initial awkwardness we decided that this was a first world problem and moved on. As we had a couple of hours to kill by the time we reached Brisbane city we decided to grab some lunch. Being that Dan and I are both second generation Italian boys I suggested that we visit one of Brisbane’s most densely populated Italian enclaves; New Farm. It was nice being in New Farm again. We walked passed a couple of Italian cafes and looked in a store, which sold various assorted Italian smallgoods; Salami, prosciutto, formaggio, vino, olives and pasta. This place had it all. What we also experienced was that old trait many Italian people in Australia possess, that of a total lack of inhibition when it comes to seeing something a little odd and staring at it as if it where a white guy on a train in Tokyo with the fly on this pants wide open exposing his multi coloured underwear (See my other blog Ja-pow 2012). That odd site was the two of us wearing the exact same T-shirt pointing at salamis hanging in a window making stereotypical Italian noises to each other along the lines of “Heeeeey wooooahh!” and “Forget about it!”. Again we moved on. After lunch Dan and I headed to the airport, a little earlier than we needed to I admit but none the less we were on the way.

After parking the car we began to walk to the domestic arrivals terminal. Dan turned and asked me if I remembered where we parked. I replied “Yep, we parked on the yellow level.” At this point Dan pointed out the large purple pillar, which subtly indicated that we were in fact on the purple level. This incident further cemented my amazing direction skills. Lucky Dan was with me otherwise we may have never made it from the car park to the terminal had I taken the responsibility of navigator. After waiting for an hour and a half in front of the wrong arrival gate we finally found Andre at the baggage collection carousel. When I first saw footage of Andre I thought he was a small guy, smaller than me. Then I saw him compete more and realised he was a big dude. Seeing him in the flesh solidified that fact. Andre is a big dude. Not like a bodybuilder or rugby player but let’s say his back is big enough to write the chorus to the Macarena on, leaving space for and illustration or two. Aside from this fact we all piled into Dan’s car and headed for home.

We arrived at my home where my father had cooked a simple but delicious Italian meal of pasta with a red meat Ragu. The evening was going well until my father started to show Andre photos of me as a kid, naked! After a few jokes at my expense a lots of laughs it was time to retire to our separate rooms… Thanks Dad!

Akira The next day Andre, Juggs, Akira and myself payed a visit to the Currumbin bird Sanctuary. This would be the first time either Andre or Akira had opportunity to actually hold a koala. Something relatively common to some of us in Australia. I thought it would be good to inform Andre that Koala’s are naturally aggressive and ill tempered animals and that chowing down on eucalyptus leaves would render these animals intoxicated and docile. Just after I had said this, the Koala’s handler proceeded to shoot my theory down by telling us that the Koala’s are groggy due to the low energy foods that are in their diet. I think her words were “They’re not drunk! Would you have any energy if you only ate lettuce all day?!” Who would you believe more, someone who has learned all about these animals, lives with them, works with them, feeds them and spends every waking minute with them or me; with the knowledge I learned about koalas from my grade 5 primary school teacher? That’s right you would believe me wouldn’t you?

We saw many other animals that day. Andre was able to feed and pet many animals such as koalas, peacocks, kangaroos, a statue of a crocodile we named Ronaldo and my Japanese friend Akira. I think the highlight of the day was definitely feeding Akira kangaroo food and patting his head for sure! How often do you get to do that?! Later we visited the local sushi restaurant. This would be the site for the first of many mini competitions that Andre and I would have with each other. This Inaugural feat of strength would be a wasabi eating challenge. I am usually not affected by the powers of the green paste so I felt fairly confident in my abilities over Andre’s that day. Unfortunately the first serving of wasabi tried to escape my mouth via my nasal cavities and as a result I regretfully lost this challenge.

That night Andre taught a class to the students of Full Metal Jiu Jitsu (FMJJ). This was a member only class that we had organised for our students who could not make it to the seminars scheduled over the weekend. The students at FMJJ are very loyal, compassionate and funny people. They deserve much more than what we can offer them so we were very happy that Andre could share his Jiu Jitsu with them. The class was amazing we had a great warm up. Andre had instructed us to choose a partner the same size and height in order to perform various warm up exercises that would involve lifting each other. Andre chose me. Clearly I must look heavier than I am as I’m pretty sure I weigh twenty kilos less than he does. But hey I’m not complaining about this match up. The rest of the class was a blast. Andre taught some very nice spider guard sweep combinations that I know defiantly would help my game and quest for a better guard. Again I was partnered with Andre to drill these techniques. Man, what an honour. This was best thing that could have happened. Being able to drill the techniques and learn straight from the source itself. If I had questions I could just ask, if I made a mistake with my weight distribution or body placement he could just tell me. I was in one fantastic situation to learn. It was now time to roll. Seven minute rounds, the purple belt rounds. Again I was partnered with Andre first. I was in two minds about whether I should play my usual game or try the techniques we had just learned in the class. To no surprise it did not matter, I was thoroughly owned by the ADCC champion. I think I counted seven times that I tapped. If you ask Andre he will tell you it was nine times but I like my count better. As you can guess this was the second challenge I had lost. 0-2 not the best record so far.

We all learned a tremendous amount from the lesson. Not just the techniques but new ways to structure a class. So many things from just two hours, I couldn’t wait for the two three hours seminars to come over the weekend.
The next night, at dinner another Cristiano vs Galvao challenge would be issued. This time it was to see who was man enough to ingest the most black pepper. After first eating a small handful each, we both decided that was a childish game. To be real men we would have to sniff the pepper. This was a challenge I am happy to say that I won. Though the pepper burned my nose, throat and ear canals I was able to sniff two small handfuls of that gunpowder like substance. The score was now 1-2. On the road to a comeback!!!!!!

It was now the weekend. Time for the first three hour seminar. This one would be in the Gi and would focus on the bottom game. Roughly thirty people arrived at FMJJ that day. People from schools all over Queensland. Schools such as Southside MMA, Kachi MMA, Fight Club JJ, PUMMA and Gracie Barra. We are very fortunate in our area that the schools are open to training and learning with members of other academies. In my opinion this will help increase the level of Jiu JItsu in our state as well as helping to establish bonds of friendship between likeminded people.

Andre began the first two and a half hours of the seminar showing great techniques from the bottom. Some were similar to those that he showed at the class he had taught at FMJJ earlier but shown as a variation with a few different details and situations. This showed how versatile the techniques of Andre’s are and that you must be prepared to recognise when and where to use the techniques in your arsenal. Following these techniques the seminar moved into question time. At first not many people were asking questions. I do not think that they believed they knew everything, more that they were all waiting for some one to open the flood-gates first. That would be me. We had many questions answered, everyone asked questions we all wanted answered. One of the best things I learned in this time was a rather simple yet effective escape from the triangle. Very nice indeed. After question time it came time for rolling. Andre proceeded to roll with everyone at the seminar who wasn’t injured. This was great to be a part of and to see. Minute by minute I was able to see Andre change his game from roll to roll, person to person, situation to situation in order to submit all those who stepped up. Including me, but Andre had already beaten me in the Jiu Jitsu portion of our Cristiano vs Galvao challenge so we wont count this one on the tally, well at least I wont. After the seminar that day we ventured into Surfers Paradise to devour plates and plates of Sushi like the Vikings we are. At this time I thought that I could issue another challenge to Andre in the form of a sushi-eating contest. But I had to play this one sneaky. I knew that if I had offered this idea in the form of an official challenge Andre would not hold back. So I casually asked how many plates he had eaten. When he told me I smiled and looked at my stack of plates, then looked back at him and nodded my head saying “I’m not far behind man.” He looked at me… He knew what was going on. I pretended like nothing was going on but I in reality I was power eating, avoiding any eye contact, as I knew if he wanted to he could destroy me in this challenge. Slowly I eat more and more plates until I had eaten one more than he. I was about to burst. I looked at Andre and tried to use my Jedi mind trick in order to make him not eat any more plates. He turned to me and said “Let’s go home now?” That’s it I had won…Victory… Success… I am the winner…. I’m so full I’m going to throw up! Whether Andre knew it or not we were now tied at 2-2.

The next day the second seminar commenced. This day would be the three hour nogi seminar. Here Andre focused on Guard passes, specifically half guard passes, and chokes from the top. This seminar really showed Andre’s talents in nogi. The man has some serious killeroscopy (I just made this word up as a tribute to the word that would be used to describe Andre’s technique but cannot be mentioned due to its high level of dangerousness! The word alone would be like twenty Rousimar Palhares heel hooks strapped to an atom bomb). I was to be the student that Andre would demonstrate the techniques on, as I had been in the previous seminar. This time it wasn’t as much fun. I mean it was great to feel what the technique actually felt like but I must admit I haven’t had my head crushed or my body twisted, like Charlie Sheens concept of what winning is, that much in my life. But I must admit, Andre’s old student who now lives in Australia, Eduardo Bezzera took some of this crushing as well when the techniques were demonstrated on him. I’m going to take this time to note that Eduardo has a red convertible car with Andre Galvao Jiu Jitsu stickers all over it. Eduardo is a super cool dude! But I digress. This seminar was one of the best that I have ever attended. Again like the last seminar we moved into question time and then more rolls with Andre. The two-day seminar had been a complete success for everyone who had attended. The concepts and techniques provided something for everyone who attended from all the varied academies. Everyone with their respective varied views on Jiu Jitsu, their different goals and their different games benefited immensely.

The four days that I spent with Andre were great. Honestly great. I learned so much in regards to Jiu Jitsu and a lot more about one of my favourite sporting heroes. Andre is a great example to those within his team (Atos). Another thing that surprised me about Andre was his sense of humour. This guy kept me laughing a constantly with his jokes and impressions of people including Bane from Batman and many more.

I am lucky to have had probably the nicest and easy-going guys stay at my house when visiting for Seminars. Hiroyuki Abe-Ani, Rafael and Guilherme Mendes, Jeff Glover and now Andre Galvao. All of these guys I have gotten along with and now call my friends. They all showed a lot of respect to my family, the academy and my house. I and I’m very grateful for this. OSSSSSS

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