BJJ Weekly reports on the first of what will hopefully be many road trips to film the Expert of the Month segment. This month’s expert, Gregor Gracie, trains at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City.
Pete Roberts and I had just finished filming an earlier segment at another school, and we had a few hours to kill before heading over to the Renzo Gracie Academy. We stopped in at a little pizza restaurant to enjoy some fantastic New York pizza and tried to figure out why the Garmin GPS wasn’t working. The native New Yorkers are used to idiot tourists and didn’t pay any attention to us while we wandered around in circles for a little while. Once we finally got our bearings we started walking across Manhattan in the general direction of RGA.
It was a pretty warm and humid day and I wanted to get a cab since, A. I am lazy, and, B. I had a bigger bag to lug around than Pete. Pete wanted to hike instead because, A. He likes to torture me, and, B. He is nervous around taxi cabs since they haven’t been invented yet in Farmington where he lives. Since Pete is much bigger and more skilled than I am we ended up walking. I know how to pick my battles. It actually turned out to be fun just hiking NYC, and we did some tourists pictures in Times Square and that sort of thing.
Then we wandered into the most massive movie theater I’ve ever been in. This place was huge with 25 screens over 11 floors! We figured we had just enough time to catch a movie and we were only six or seven blocks away from RGA. The air-conditioning felt great. In order to pay the rent on a space that huge you must need to sell a lot of advertising because that’s what we watched for almost 30 minutes after the movie was supposed to start.
With the late start and the movie running longer than we thought, we were getting nervous about being late. Finally, with at least 15 minutes left in the movie, we knew we had to leave in order to get to our appointment on time. We were watching Inception, and I still don’t know how the movie ends but I imagine the good guys won. We lost even more time getting out of the theater which was a maze of elevators, escalators, restaurants, and long hallways to nowhere.
Finally we raced out onto the street where we tried to catch a cab. Now, instead of just being humid, it had started raining too. Worried about the time and getting the camera gear wet, we jogged down half a block and turned a corner before we were finally able to flag down a taxi and jump in the backseat. We then began racing across Manhattan at 7.5 mph. At one point an old man with a walker passed our cab, but at least we were dry.
Most of the streets are one way in downtown Manhattan and it can be faster to walk half a block instead of driving two blocks and coming back around to get on the street going the right direction. Our cabbie was trying to explain this to as he was dropping us off, but I couldn’t understand a word he said so I just kept nodding and smiling. We bailed out of the cab and checked the address of the buildings around us. One great thing about NYC is how all the numbers and streets are laid out completely logically. Once you know the basics it's pretty easy to get around and find what you are looking for. About half a block down we saw the building we were looking for.
We stepped inside the lobby of a fancy office building full of lawyers, accountants and other professionals. Somehow, standing there soaked in sweat and rain and holding gym bags full of gis and camera gear the doorman was able to figure what we were looking for. “You want Renzo’s place?” he asked and we both nodded. Then he just pointed down.
We found a set of stairs to the basement and descended into what has to be the biggest fight factory on the East Coast. If it was 90° outside it was at least 120° in the basement. The air was so thick if felt like we were swimming, and there were fans blowing, but it didn’t help much.
We had made it on time, with about 45 seconds to spare. Pete Lawson, the longtime manager of RGA was expecting us. After saying hello, we filled out our insurance waivers, and talked some more with Lawson about what we needed for filming. He walked over to the main training area which is probably 7000sqft of mat space, and let Gregor know we were here. The advanced class was just finishing up and there must’ve been 60 purple, brown and black belts hanging around the mats or rolling. RGA has over 1000 students enrolled. I don’t remember the last time I was in a room with so many people who could kick my ass. It must be a humbling experience to train at RGA. I do have to say though that everyone was extremely friendly.
Lawson helped us get set up in a side room that was bigger than many schools I’ve been in. Gregor came in and we got him mic’d up and talked about the technique that he wanted to share. He had already trained twice that day and was incredibly gracious with his time, as I’m sure all he really wanted to do was have a shower and get something to eat. He even agreed to do a Rolling Reflections with Pete which we will publish in a later issue. He spent the next hour or so sharing some incredible technique with us that we now get to share with you. I hope you enjoy this month’s Expert of the Month, Gregor Gracie. Thanks to Gregor and the Renzo Gracie Academy for sharing their time with BJJ Weekly.
- Bill Thomas