Training with Gigi from Team Alliance


I met Gigi at the Bodywize health club in Newstead, Brisbane, the location of Alliance Brisbane. We shook hands and exchanged hellos. I was a little nervous at this point. I had rolled with a few other black belts before, many were of world-class quality, but none had become legends yet.

The man I was about to roll with was one of the founding members of Alliance and had awarded black belts to many of my favourite BJJ practitioners. I wanted to learn as much as I could from this experience. I wanted to impress Gigi but at the same time did not want to be that guy who attacked like a bull out of the gate with no technique as a result of the need to impress. He had just finished teaching and sparring in a group class, prior to my arrival. For my benefit he changed the Gi he was wearing for fresh one. This was an act of consideration, which, I appreciated very much as many other people would have just made me deal with the sweaty gi all over my face. After he had finished changing Gis, Gigi and I met face to face on the mat both kneeling in the familiar respectful starting position.

“Maybe we should just roll light so I can see your game and what you like to do and maybe I can help you to develop your game. Jiu Jitsu is a game you know? It is better if I can help to grow your game to make you a better Jiu Jitsu player. Ok?”

This was great for me. To have someone with as much knowledge and skill in Jiu Jitsu monitor me while we sparred in order to correct and enhance my game was a golden honour.

“Oh man I hope I don’t do anything stupid.” I thought to myself. We shook hands in the ceremonial way to start the match.

To those of you new to BJJ when I say ceremonial handshake, it’s not a secret order of the stonemasons type handshake, I mean we just kind of hive five each other twice. Depending on where you are from the second one can be a hand slap or a fist bump. I like to fist bump so I can follow it by the exploding fist hand action. However this time I opted not too, just in case I came off stupid. I just followed what Gigi did, but I’m getting a little off topic. I didn’t want to attack to begin with as I was sure I would do some thing dumb due to my nerves and accidentally hurt one of my heroes via a stray elbow or other flailing limb. But as I found out, as soon as Gigi gained his grips on my lapel and sleeve, I would not be able to do anything of the sort. His grips were so strong and he moved immediately into a sitting guard to an X-guard cross spider guard hybrid and swept me effortlessly. I was not fully aware of the sweep or the exact position as it was so fast, all I knew was I was on my back and I wasn’t moving anywhere too soon. His control from on top was awesome, truly awesome. I felt helpless there, like the first time I ever stepped on to a mat as a white belt. I was now a purple belt and I was feeling like a little kid being held down by his older brother. I started to bear a smile now. I enjoy Jiu Jitsu all the time. Whether I am winning or whether I am being destroyed. If there is a display of great technique I will always wear a smile. Through out the entire roll I was thoroughly dominated by the man. At one point Gigi held me in side control and moved effortlessly from this position to the mount and back a few times in quick succession. It was not that I let him do this. It was that I found it near impossible to stop it due to the control he had over my shoulders and hips. As I struggled to hip escape, from underneath him, I found that my arm was now in a tight armbar. At this point I discovered that Gigi was a real gentleman. He had my number; my arm was there ready to be hyperextended and he merely held it in a position, which we both knew, any struggle on my part would prove futile. I now had even more respect for him. Many others would not think twice about snapping on that arm lock. He didn’t. He knew he had me. I knew he had me. There was no need to go any further and I thank him for this, a true sign of a man with compassion for others and who was in total control of his own actions. We rolled for more rounds, I was tapped may more times with arm locks and I’m sure there was a bow and arrow thrown in there somewhere. At one time I was able to hit a sweep on Gigi but I feel that he let me do it… Ok we all know he let me do it. After rolling with the legend, Gigi asked me a question.

“Do you train mainly with other guys in your gym with longer legs than yours?”

“Yes.” I answered

“They play guard on you and do you get frustrated with this?”

“Yes this is true.” Within in the time we spent rolling Gigi had figured out my problems in my game. He made other observations, which were 100% correct, some I already knew and others only became obvious to me after he had shed light on them.

“You move fast, you have good speed. This is great. But man you have little control over your opponent.” He hit the nail on the head. I spent so much time moving around my opponents that I only ever took time to solidify a position was when I would find my self on top of the side control. At this point Gigi and Bruno (the head of Alliance Brisbane and one of Gigi’s black belts) took time to show me some high pressure controlling guard-passing techniques. I learnt some great lessons, some really great lessons. While drilling one of the techniques Gigi asked me what I weighed and what weight I competed at. I informed him that I weighed 70kg and competed in the under 67kg bracket as a featherweight. At this point he told me that I was very strong for a featherweight and that this was a good division for me. This piece of information may not mean much to you the reader, but I’m just pumped that a Jiu Jitsu legend pointed out that I was strong ha ha OSS.
After we finished rolling and drilling technique Gigi was kind enough to agree to a video taped interview for a new website I am creating. He answered each question very professionally and detailed. This was my first interview for the site and honestly it was a bit crazy to choose a legend like Gigi as a first crack. But he was here now and I might not get this opportunity again too soon. He was great on camera and I learned two important things. Firstly, the more open-ended questions I ask the more interesting the answers will be. In order to create a site that people will want to visit, I must ensure that the material be engaging and interesting enough to capture the attention of the viewer. Secondly, I have possibly the world’s most annoying voice on camera. Lucky for me, and for you , I have the option of editing my stuttering Mickey Mouse voice out of what is other wise a good interview. Be on the look out for this video in the near future.
I would like to thank Gigi for the Rolls, the lessons and the interview that day. I learned so much and will not forget the improvements I experienced in my game from this encounter.

Also I would like to thank Bruno Lemos for helping me and for organising this interview. I will be Interviewing Bruno in the near future and look forward to sharing it with you all.


Article by: Cristiano Del Giacco

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