BJJ in Rivne

12 December 2010

I’m on the train writing in the elephant adorned notebook I just bought. The train isn’t moving yet. I’m still a little drunk from our post-workout beers. There’s a specific beer made in Rivne named Bergshloz. It’s very good, particularly the dark. The train is now moving.

A BJJ friend invited me to Rivne. I learned that he not a painter of houses, as I had previously believed, but a painter of art. He quit his job as a lawyer to do something closer to his passion. He paints and draws for advertisements including what sounded like high-end perfume ads in magazines. He also showed me a woman’s shirt on which he had painted some wonderful Irises. I was very impressed with his old portraits, his subject of choice. He hasn’t painted them in a long time.

He met me at the train station yesterday (Saturday) and we walked through town to a fantastic pizzeria. The cooks apparently learned their craft in Italy. Having been born and raised in NYC, nourished largely on parlor pizza, I believe I know my stuff. Trust me, Pich Na Drovakh is worth visiting, for the food, the ambiance and the river view.

We trained in the evening. I taught, by invitation, and had a wonderful time. They’ve only been practicing BJJ regularly for 2 months, but do so four times a week, most recently that morning with Ilya. They also do Akido three times a week.

As in Kyiv, they don’t stop for water breaks at all. This was difficult for me at first, but I’ve gotten used to it.

I taught three techniques for escaping mount — trap & roll, shrimping out, and pulling one leg into half-guard. There were about five or six kids there and I only slowed down for them a little. Then, because Ilya had mentioned my sneaky chokes during his introduction, I showed them how to do a baseball choke to someone passing your guard, how to defeat it, and that quick lapel choke from guard where from a loose cross grip, you raise your arm under their chin and weave the other over the back of the head and under your elbow.

After training, we went for some post-workout beers. I asked about the main industries in Rivne. After much though, people named Amber mining & works, granite mining a fertilizer plant, a linen factory, and the fact that many frogs and snails eaten in France come from the woods surrounding Rivne.

A little information about people’s family histories was offered to me without my asking. Perhaps its partly my imagination, but it seemed to speak to a time when societies and lives were broken and scattered to the winds. Ancestors were from Poland, Russia and other parts of Ukraine. Few seemed to have very deep roots in Rivne itself.

My guidebook says Rivne was the capital of Nazi Ukraine, and was consequently obliterated. I did not ask any questions, but I know what the Soviet liberators did in other parts of Ukraine. All Rivne’s construction is in a square, practical, repetitive Soviet style with wide roads and prominent monuments. In the central square, poet and national figure Taras Shevchenko has replaced Lenin, and the church is once again a church, shared by the Kyiv and Moscow patriarchs of the Orthodox Faith. During Soviet times, it had been the city’s “Museum of atheism” with displays about the Soviet space program.

I slept at my friend’s. Before breakfast, we went to bathe in the frozen lake. (Pictures below.) It was very exciting and fun. I don’t think I’d ever walked barefoot on ice before. Getting dressed afterward was the worst part, but only for my hands. One of my pinkie fingers is still a bit numb.

Then we ate and went to train no-gi. I told them I was very impressed with them, given they’d only been training two months. I suggested they work on on being tighter in their movements and transitions, relying more on body weight and positions instead of arm strength to control their opponents.

I showed them Pedro’s drill of switching sides in side control, replacing guard from side control, sit-out from sprawl position, rolling to replace guard after a sit-out, the spinning drill where someone holds your feet, and basic armbars and triangles. The my friend showed the lock-down from half guard and some half guard sweeps and escapes, including Eddie Bravo’s twister into a calf splicer or back mount.

Then we had after-workout beers. They gave me a Rivne mug as a gift and I hurried to the train , buying this notebook from a shop along the way.,