Training at Jewels gym with Rikako Yuasa and the Jiu Jitsu Priest

Article by: Cristiano Del Giacco

I was to meet with Takahiro Iso San tonight at Yoyogi station. I wasn’t totally sure if it was tonight that we were going to train at Jewels gym or not, but I thought I would bring my Gi and belt just in case. After making it through peak hour on the train earlier this morning, on the way to Axis Jiu Jitsu, I was looking forward to a more manageable train trip tonight. I had just woken up from an afternoon nap and headed to the Kamata train station, as always, armed with my trusty Reversal backpack. Iso San requested that I meet him in Yoyogi at 7 pm. Now to all of you who are familiar with the Tokyo train system are very aware that my previously mentioned wishes of a more comfortable train journey would never be realised, as, the crowd on the train at 7 pm in Tokyo is populated by the same crowd as the morning rush. Lot’s of salary men dressed in suits tightly crammed into the train cars like sardines. Except this time, unlike the morning rush, the salary men are pretty much, or are on the way to be, blind drunk. “Oh this is great.” At least, in Tokyo, when people are drunk the majority do not act nearly half as bad as myself or my friends do. I put on my headphones and pump the Beastie Boys into my eardrums to provide the groove to this funky boss… “Did some one just grab my arse?” must have been an accident. There are so many people on the train must have been an accident… “Whoa there’s something creeping around the front of me now!” Not knowing if this odd feeling was just a random suitcase un-intentionally nursing my Cristiano parts, or whether one more rocking motion of the train would cause me to initiate a non consenting version of the forbidden dance of love with twenty strangers here on train cart number 6. I decided it would be best make a move out of the train at Gotanda station and catch the next train on the same line… Just in case.

I finally arrived at Yoyogi station and met with Iso San. He informed we that we were going to train at Jewels gym tonight, I was happy.

I enjoyed hanging out with Iso San. His English is good, he has a fun personality and enjoys a joke or two. We had a short walking trip before we arrived at a building where Jewels gym was located. It was a music school. I stopped just short of the door way leading to the foyer, took a step back to re-read the sign. Yep, it was a music school all right. I glanced back at Iso San who was ushering me through the door. He seemed confident that this was the venue and I trusted him. We entered a room with a polished wooden floor. On one end of the room was a small stage, the other an assortment of music equipment stacked against the wall, including a drum kit, which gave me the urge to knock out my own version of the drum solo from the song wipeout. I’m terrible on the drums… It was probably best I didn’t touch it. Iso San and I placed out bags in the corner as Kinya Hashimoto San, the “Jiu Jitsu Priest” entered the room. Kinya San is Japan’s top Jiu Jitsu blogger and a great photographer. He does a lot of work for Bull Terrier and has a blog on their site which can be found here this is a great read, I assume. I cannot read Japanese… But the pictures look great! Also to enter the room behind Kinya San were a brown belt, named Takehiro Mori, and a purple belt named Yuta Shimada. They were really nice guys and, I would find out later, tough guys to roll with… (Later in Sparring, against Yuta San I felt like a white belt! I was told that Yuta San was the national purple belt champion at his weight, the national open weight purple belt champion and a quarter finalist in the PAN AMS. This made me feel a little better about my demolishment.)

It was then I began to feel a slight tremor under my feet… it stopped. Another tremor… it stops.  I began to think that another earthquake was about to hit Japan. Then I realised that the tremors came in a rhythmic pattern, like that of foot steps. I looked over to my water bottle. With each tremor the surface of the water in the bottle rippled from the centre to the outer part of the surface. Just like in Jurassic park! As I stared more at the water the light became less brilliant and I noticed a shadowed silhouette gradually appearing from the doorway behind me. What I then saw, as I turned to the doorway, was the largest man I had ever seen in my life. He seemed to know Kinya San. He spoke with an American accent. All I could think was “I hope this guy isn’t here for the BJJ class.” Then he opened his bag and pulled out a gi. “Uh oh.” Then he pulled out a black belt “Oh man!” I was so sore from the last few days of training and from this mornings earlier training session. Facing a behemoth with a black belt was not going to be beneficial to my body. But, it was going to be beneficial to my BJJ training. So I manned up and put my gi on. I introduced myself to the big fella. His name was Raul Montolfo, he told me that he lived in California and was born in South America. He turned out to be a super nice guy who had a great knowledge of the mechanics of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some more students entered the class before it started. One named Shoko Kobata the other; Rikako Yuasa, one of Japans top purple belts, who had an awesome guard game, which I had a tough time trying to manoeuvre around. Rikako San is a fellow Scramble sponsored competitor, she’s really good! One of the reasons I wanted to train at this gym on my visit to Tokyo.

As the class started Kinya San asked Raul to warm up the class and to teach technique. Again, I will not go into detail regarding the techniques of the class, but let me say this; this class was worth the cost of my flight to Tokyo. I learned some really awesome techniques and I was so happy to have trained under Raul that night. After drilling technique We all sparred for many rounds. I was destroyed by Raul, Mori San, Rikako San and Yuta San… espescially Yuta San.

Another person I sparred with that night was a blue belt named Tomioka Masato. He was a young looking guy who later told me he was fourty years old. Look at the photo of the individual above in the blue belt. Fourty?! no way. But it was true. He was a black belt in Taekwondo and a former national champion. He was also one of Japans top bodyguards to the stars. After sparring he showed me photos of himself protecting Madonna, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt. Who else was I going to meet at Jewels. So much talent in such a small place.

After training we all went to dinner. I had such a great time training with everyone at Jewels. They were a great team of enthusiastic competitors. That night I can honestly say, was one of the best nights of training I have had in my life.

Thankyou to Kinya San, Raul, Rikako San, Mori San, Yuta San, Shoko San, Tomi San and especially Iso San. I can’t wait to go back and see you guys again! OSS

Article by: Cristiano Del Giacco

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