Gracie Barra Channel Islands – one year on!Exactly twelve months ago to the week, I made my first visit to St Helier, Jersey, at the invitation of Rob Staples, who runs the Gracie Barra academy at the Fort Regent Leisure Centre. The trip coincided with a seminar hosted by Mauricao Gomes and it was also the weekend I received my blue belt, so Jersey will always hold special memories for me. A year on, I received a phone call from Rob, letting me know that Mauricao was once again going to be teaching at the club and better still, he was bringing his son Roger and I was asked if I wanted to come over again. It was a question that needed little thought to the answer and once again I packed my bags for my first reporting gig of 2004 and headed off to the tiny Channel Island for four days of BJJ mayhem.
Meeting Rob on the Thursday at the airport, we had the day to ourselves and after some sightseeing and eating, we made our way to the club for a training session. Rob took the class through an excellent session covering side control attacks and knee ride attacks and defences, all ending up with forty minutes rolling with the students.
Friday morning arrived far too early and after a hearty breakfast next to the beach, we made our way to the airport to pick up Mauricao and Roger; it seems every time I meet Roger, he grows another inch and it was easy to spot the two through the glass doors at the airport, just look for two giants! Roger now stands a lofty six feet five, eclipsing his father by a good few inches and there was no room in the back seat of the jeep, as I was wedged between father and son for the ride back to the house. No sooner had the bags been dropped off, we headed back to the gym for Roger and Mauricao to teach some privates; Rob and myself had an hour with Roger and went through some double leg attacks and standing guard passes, before the no gi class kicked off in the early evening. Mauricao took the warm up, which means only one thing – sweat. Lots of it. Both Mo and Roger demonstrated some meat takedowns before moving to half guard attacks and of course sparring at the end. Three and a half hours training in all for Rob and myself and the start of a growing collection of mat burns.
Saturday morning saw the arrival of Chris Goldsbrough, who teaches in Guernsey and received his blue at the same time I did, in tow with half a dozen students; from there Mauricao and Roger went to teach privates all day until six in the evening, both gi and no go to all the students in groups of two, whilst I managed to join in on one session and increase my tally of burns and bruises tenfold. Training over, we all headed back to Rob and Jane’s house, which was converted into a guest house for the weekend, as eleven bodies camped down for the night at various points through the building.
Sunday dawned on us nice and wet, after gale force winds threatened to lift the roof of the house during the night and we all headed back to the Fort Regent for the last leg of the trip, the seminar. Over twenty students turned up for the session and both Rob and I managed to unkink ourselves into a state of readiness and joined in on the fun. Partnering up with blue belt Andrew Toporis, the seminar started with double leg takedowns, before moving to half guard attacks, with Mo showing some lethal chokes from this position, thankfully using Rob as a guinea pig throughout. From the half guard, Mo, showed the same attacks from the guard and included another few twists on the same attack; Roger moved in and with the help of Rob once more, sweeps and arm bars came thick and fast and the gi session ended with a neat four move combo, taking in a choke, a triangle, an arm bar and omoplata along the way.
After a break for fluids, the seminar resumed with no gi work and again, half guard attacks were the main event, with attacks and defences the name of the game; at this point I was in need of major treatment owing to muscle cramps and one of the students Frank, took pity on me and put me on his treatment table and worked away the bunched up, tense muscles, which meant me missing the last twenty minutes of the seminar, instead watching Rob once more getting mauled off Roger and Mo (and having a good laugh).
At the end of the session Mauricao had good news in store for Simon Shaw, Jason Davidson and Marty Blandin, as they received their blue belts and Natasha Smith received junior orange and Chantelle Cunningham received junior yellow.
One year on and both clubs are still flourishing, attracting new students and retaining the ones from the year before, which is a credit to both Rob and Chris, considering the tiny sizes of both islands and both clubs having to compete with the more traditional martial arts based on the islands. Rob also plans to have another black belt over in August for ten days, which was successfully implemented last year, when Felipe de Souza graced the shores last year. Both Chris and Rob’s continual hard graft and dedication to BJJ will ensure the Channel Islands growth for the next twelve months and another return trip for yours truly. Special thanks to Evolution Systems Limited for sponsorship of the weekend and to Rob’s partner, Jane, for outstanding hospitality and excellent food.
Chris Goldsbrough teaches at Jan’s Fitness Studio, St Peter Port, Guernsey and Old Boys Grammar School, Brock Rd, St Peter Port. Classes are Monday, Thursday and Friday 8-10pm and Sunday 12-3pm. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rob Staples teaches at Fort Regent Leisure Centre, St Helier, Jersey. Monday and Wednesday 6-7.30pm, Tuesday and Thursday 7-8.30pm, Friday no gi 5.30-7pm and Sunday 11-12pm. Contact Rob at email@example.com.