Thursday, August 27, 2009

3... 2... 1... Go!

Today at 3:00 pm I got a call letting me know that I had to be at the airport at 4:00 am to leave for Korea. We knew we would be leaving on short notice, but man, this is a bit crazy. We didn't even have our Visas issued when they called. Luckily our Visa interviews went well and they were issued immediately afterwards. So that's it, we're off.

Toronto's been fun. I've been able to visit with lots of friends (Josh, Andrew, Andrew, Jess, Alex and Jo), take in a Blue Jays game, go to the Canadian National Exhibition, go to a few parties, visit with Lisa's family and get some solid training in. Training at Extreme Couture was great. Rolling and scrimmaging live with all of the guys there was fun. I got to have a good competitive session with the current National Champion which was great. The last day I was there I met up with Andrew Elliot, a former University wrestling teammate and all around bad-ass. Andrew is actually one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, he's just really good at causing people pain and discomfort and has translated that into success as a wrestler and fighter. He's a physical beast who happens to have some really good skills. Keep an eye on him, I think you may see him on some bigger shows before too long.

I was also able to meet up with Alex Jeffrey, another ex Lakehead Thunderwolves wrestler. Alex and I actually started off as rivals on the highschool and national wrestling scene when we were younger. We both ended up at Lakehead where we were teammates and training partners for 5 years and even roomates for 3 years. We've been through a lot together and have a lot of stories, some of which are even suitable to tell in public. Alex and his wife Joanne just opened Driven Athletics/Crossfit Huronia. Lisa and I stopped by for dinner and a workout. Their gym is awesome and they are both great coaches. If you are in the area (Midland, Huronia, Victoria Harbour) check them out. In addition to crossfit and personal training they offer wrestling, jiu-jitsu and MMA classes.

Early tomorrow (friday) morning Lisa and I will board a plane in Toronto. We'll have a stopover in San Francisco and then it will be on to Seoul. From Seoul we'll be taking a train into Daegu. Provided everything goes according to plan, which we all know is unlikely, we will arrive in Daegu sometime around 11:00 pm on Saturday. We will have ALL DAY Sunday to cure our jet lag, get situated in our new apartment and learn the Korean language before starting work on Monday. As the Koreans say "No probrem."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Parties, Parties, Parties

Things are rolling along here in Orangeville/Toronto. I went with my friend Josh to Robin Black's party at the Bovine Sex Club. There were some other fighters and musicians there along with training partners and friends from Extreme Couture. The highlight for me was when a girl physically attacked me in the bar. Her friend was chatting up Josh so she was stuck with me. She was throwing out a real "tough chick" vibe and I wasn't buying it. Maybe I shouldn't have told her that I thought everything about the way she presented herself was a disguise and that people who are actually tough don't act that way (case in point, there were a bunch of fighters around and she was the only one acting tough). Maybe I also shouldn't have said that underneath all of her tattoos, spiked piercings and aggressive behaviour she was probably just a fragile, scared little girl. That was probably the part that did it. When she attacked me, I lassoed her real quick and sat her down on a chair while she tried to scratch, bite and knee me in the sweet spot. Like I said, she wasn't as tough as she thought she was... I've beat up way tougher chicks. The best part of the whole thing was that this happened in the middle of a bar and only about 5 people noticed and none of them blinked an eye. She also told me to watch out because her boyfriend "is really into jiu-jitsu". I wish she said "trains UFC" but that's almost as good. Unless her boyfriend is Mark Bocek or something, in which case I guess I'm in big shit. Robin also had the belt out and was having everyone taking pictures wearing it. I felt a little strange about it, like I should only take a picture wearing a belt if I've won it. It's kind of like in wrestling all of the kids who buy Team Canada singlets... You're only supposed to wear one if you've earned it.

Yesterday was also my girlfriend's birthday as well as her grandmother's 80th birthday. The in-laws had a big BBQ/bonfire with lots of family and friends. Meat, sparklers, horseshoes, donkeyballs, drinks... we had it all going on. Also, my girlfriend is better than your girlfriend and her Grandma is one of the raddest 80 year olds around. She was still up drinking after I went to bed. No joke.

I'll be hitting the gym a fair bit over the next few days as there is a grappling tournament in Korea not long after I get there and I'd like to show up in decent shape. I hope to get in some more sessions at Extreme Couture as well as check out my buddy Alex's new gym (Crossfit Huronia/Driven Athletics) in Victoria Harbour. They'll be offering wrestling, jiu-jitsu and MMA, as well as Crossfit and a host of other fitness classes so if you are in the Huronia, Midland, Vic Harbour area check them out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fighting Rockstars and Homeless People. On the CBC and in a Tornado. Just a Nice little Thursday.

Last night I made my way down to Toronto from Sault Ste. Marie. This morning I got up early and went with my girlfriend to the Korean consulate to get our Visa processed. That was the last normal thing that happened.

I was looking to get a workout in so I got dropped off at Extreme Couture knowing that there was a jiu jitsu class I could drop in on. When I got there the gym was pretty empty (it was the middle of the day on a Thursday) so I started wrapping my hands to warm up with some rounds on the heavy bag. As I was getting ready Robin Black walked in. Robin Black is a former Canadian Rock Star turned pro MMA fighter. He had his own show on Much Music. He also just won the 135 lb title in Elite 1 MMA. Lots of people in the MMA community have given him a lot of grief and questioned his motives for competing in the MMA. He has been accused of being an attention seeker and using the sport as a publicity stunt. More on that later. Robin and I got talking for a while, partnered up and hit the bag on alternating rounds and then chatted about various things while we stretched. It turns out we have several mutual acquaintances in the MMA community. Robin was going to run one of the kickboxing classes, but found someone else to run it and instead came to the jiu jitsu class. Class was good. We worked on some techniques that fit into my repertoire pretty well and did a good amount of live rolling. After the class Robin told me to come train the rest of the week when he was in. He also invited me to give him a call the next day and come to a party he was throwing at the Bovine club in T.O. in celebration of his championship win. Rockstar Party. Sweet. Details and pictures to follow.

As for Robin Black the MMA athlete... The guy lives MMA. I obviously don't know the guy well but I think he is in this sport because he loves it. He works at Extreme Couture, he trains multiple times a day, he's in fighting shape and when he talks about the sport you can tell he has a genuine love for it. And the guy is legit. After working out and rolling with him I can honestly say he is for real which is more than can be said for most of the keyboard warriors who've been trashing him and his MMA credibility.

The rest of my day was also pretty interesting. I got interviewed by the CBC about some current issues. The camera man had a mini freak out when I said I was from Sault Ste. Marie because he grew up in the Sault and went to Korah. About 5 minutes later Lisa and I got assaulted by what I'm assuming was a homeless guy. Homeless or not he definitely had some serious and unmedicated mental issues. I'm not sure why he picked us but he came all the way across Dundas square looking directly at us and started to give us hell about being Scottish and Irish (Way off, by the way) and crying foul about what all the white people have done. He went on and on for probably ten full minutes, getting more aggressive and threatening all the time. He challenged me to fight, called me names, questioned my manhood, you know... all the good stuff. I really thought he was going to try and slug me and I was ready to duck a punch and hit him with a nice running double if need be, but it never came to that. Eventually a bystander found a security guard who escorted the obviously troubled fellow off of the premises.
Did I mention that while I was eating dinner the sky turned yellow, then green and opened up like floodgates? Not to worry though, that was just the precursor to several tornadoes touching down in the GTA. No big deal. Seriously... Tornadoes in Toronto.
So ends day one of my travels... We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ho Shin Sool MMA

One of the things I'll miss most about home is training at Ho Shin Sool. Before moving back to Sault Ste. Marie I spent 5 years wrestling for Lakehead University, one of the best wrestling teams in the country. Our team was extremely close and trained at a very high level. At the end of 2005 I wrestled in the gold medal match of the National Championships. The next month I graduated, got a job back home and my wrestling career as an athlete was essentially over. It was tough going from training 20 hours a week at an elite level to not having anything to train for at all.
After seeing an online add for a grappling class in town I dragged along Ray, another ex Lakehead wrestler to check it out and act as back up if need be. I was a bit skeptical because most of the martial arts clubs I had been to in the past were very closed minded about people coming in with backgrounds in other styles. I quickly found out that HSS was not like that. They had dedicated grappling classes twice a week and the instructors had a good understanding of what they were teaching. Jim, the owner, is a high ranking black belt in Dahn Moo Do, but was committed to learning the other aspects of martial arts including wrestling, kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. Jim welcomed a couple of has been (or never were?) wrestlers into his club and we began to learn a lot from each other.
Over the next few years things began to evolve quickly. I dragged a few more wrestlers along, and as word got out people began to show up with different backgrounds: boxing, kickboxing, jiu jitsu, etc. Classes began to get much busier. The basement was converted from a yoga studio to a dedicated training area complete with weights, a training cage and extra mat space. Members of our club began competing successfully in Jiu Jitsu and grappling tournaments as well as amateur and Professional MMA.
To paraphrase Jim "We brought MMA to Sault Ste. Marie" We were the first club that had legitimate striking, wrestling and Jiu-jitsu coaches all under one roof. We were the first club in Sault Ste. Marie to compete in MMA and the first club to do so regularly. King of the Cage came to Sault Ste. Marie because they saw one of our fighters compete at another event.
We take pride in the fact that every one of our fighters who enters the cage is well prepared. Having been to numerous small MMA events we have seen plenty of fighters get in the cage who had no business being there. A lot of our members who have never fought are already much better prepared than many of the fighters we've seen at the various MMA events.
I'll miss the HSS family while I'm away for a year but I couldn't think of a better send off than the display that HSS fighters put on a few weeks ago at King of the Cage. Going 5 for 5 with 3 KO's and 2 Submissions left absolutely no doubt who the best club in the area is. Defeating a few fighters from other clubs in the area also drove the point home. (check out the video of Jeff Elliot defeating Owen Martin at the top of the page).
While we had 5 fighters on the King of the Cage event, the evening was a success for the whole team. All of the members of the team were instrumental in our success that night. Many gave up evenings and weekends to hold pads, be sparring partners and help us on the technical aspects of whatever their specialty was. The night of weigh-ins and the event itself it was great having our team around taking care of everything we needed and providing a great atmosphere to prepare in. I heard a quote a little while ago that sums it up perfectly "You're out there all alone, but if it wasn't for them you wouldn't be there at all." Big thanks to Boss, Big John, BJ, TJ, Mark, Scott, Ray, Larlo, Husky and Sean.
Thanks for everything guys, I'll miss ya while I'm gone.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Leaving For Korea

Going to Korea: Here's what I know...

In less than a week I'll be leaving my house in Sault Ste. Marie and I'll be gone for over a year. A half-hatched plan to take a leave of absence from my job and travel overseas to train for an entire year has somehow panned out despite my lackadaisical attitude towards Korean paperwork and deadlines.
While in Korea I'll be working as an ESL teacher in the city of Daegu and training at Daegu MMA, one of the top MMA teams in Korea. My brother Mitch has been in Daegu training at Daegu MMA for almost a year now which should help relieve the culture shock. It'll be nice to have a guide who has the city pretty much staked out when I get there.

Scary Stuff...

I still have to sell my car, pack up my house and cram everything I need for a year into two duffel bags (plus one carry on) before we leave.

I still don't really know when or where I'm going. My girlfriend and I have secured jobs at an ESL "institute" which is arranging our flights and our housing while in Korea. In less than a week we will be heading to southern Ontario to wait for our final bit of paperwork to clear through the Korean Embassy (a formality, I'm told) at which point we will likely be on the next flight to Los Angeles and then Korea. Here's hoping there's someone waiting for us at the airport.