Abu Dhabi Pro Diary – Day 1!
I’ll skip over all the exciting details of getting here in the first place, no-one -really- cares all that much about that. Took an hour and a half flight to Paris, followed by an hour’s wait, followed by a nine and a half hour flight from Paris to come in to Abu Dhabi. Taxi from there to my hosts’ house, a lot of sleep, and getting up at midday later, we’re roughly up to speed!
Moped around the house for a little bit, browsing various forums (fora?), having breakfast, nothing particularly special. My hosts’ work during the day and the kids are at school, so had the place to myself, for the most part. Whilst there is some information online, there’s no substitute for asking the various organisers who are running around (things change a lot from day to day here, and the web presence isn’t exactly finger on the pulse stuff), plus I wanted to get a little bit of rolling in so I didn’t lose my edge, so decided to head in to train. Normally, I would use the Combat Club itself, but I was informed that some people were using the Armed Forces Officers Club, which is a fair bit closer to where I’m staying, so figured I’d save myself a bit of money on a cab and take the trip over that way instead.
Called a cab, picked up some food at a service station on the way, and headed over. Now, the one problem I had is that I had no idea where in the Officer’s Club I was going. The AFOC is basically a giant luxury hotel and resort, which, I presume, is intended primarily for use by the Abu Dhabi Armed Forces. So I hopped out of my car and began exploring, looking for the BJJ arena, or some kind of outside sports hall, or something. After about a half-hour of wandering aimlessly I gave up on that and headed into the lobby to ask one of the staff members. Luckily, as they were looking at me rather blankly as I asked where the jiujitsu was, a group of Brazilians wandered past and informed me that the training was in the Billiards Room. Which was, uh, a trifle unexpected. But I thanked them and headed on my way.
It turned out they were telling the truth, and they had moved the billiards tables to one side and covered the floor of the high class billiards room with mats, and there were a fair few guys and girls training in there. I watched for a little while, since I was still digesting from lunch anyhow. There were probably about eight male black belts in there, two female black belts, a few guys training no-gi, a couple of purples and a couple of white and blues. Not too crazy, and it was an open mat rather than a class, so everything was pretty chilled out. Had a chat with one of the black belts, and they explained that we had actually all been forced in here, because the Combat Club had been taken over for some kind of Senior Judo Championship, so everyone had been shifted over here. Which made it a good thing I hadn’t gone that way. @_@
Anyway, I got changed up and warmed up on the side. Whilst I was doing that, some of the guys from Atos wandered in just to look around (Durinho, Frazzato and Calasans). I exchanged head nods and hand shakes, before getting back to watching the training. The black belt and purple belt guys were training pretty hard, and after a couple of minutes of eye contact with the coach managing their rotations, I got thrown in with an aggressive but tired-looking purple belt from Brazil. My Portuguese still isn’t up too much, but I said my greetings and got down to it. As soon as we started, he went to pull De La Riva, and I footlocked him. He resisted for a little while, but I had it pretty sunk, so he had to tap and we started again. From here it was a little more even. He was playing a little bit of open guard, and I was working to pass. I got through the open, locked him down in half-guard top, and began working for a kimura. Long story short, that went a little bit wrong, he popped to my back, and I spent the next couple of minutes defending my back with him having one hook in. I wasn’t really under any threat, but he took advantage of the opportunity and he was pretty good, so fair play to him and a good roll.
Next, I got invited to train with a black belt girl. She was obviously in competition training too, and took no prisoners. She was still a bit smaller than me, but had very good pressure, and although I was fairly comfortable for the most part, she did sink a very tight Ezekiel from top half-guard that meant I had to bail to side control. Little hands are awkward. @_@ A good roll, anyhow, and, come to think of it, my first roll with a female black belt. At least as far as I can remember. The training group had by now turned into a kind of brazilian pow-wow, and it looked like I wasn’t going to be doing any more rolling with them, so I looked around, and ran into Mark, a small blue belt from England who, by some coincidence, had been training with my first instructor before heading out here. He was short and powerful, and remarkably good for a two year blue belt who I had a fair amount of size on. A quick note is that the vast majority of BJJ practitioners in Abu Dhabi are ex-patriates of some kind, and very rarely will you run into a local, and if you do, they will tend to be white belts. I get the impression that the better local guys have some kind of closed training sessions and don’t attend normal sessions, but I could be wrong on that front.
I finished off training with the last guy left who really wanted to roll (people were leaving by this point, presumably because the no-gi competition is in two days and no-one wants to get hurt), who was a 120kg guy from Bosnia. As one might expect, even though it was supposed to be a light roll, there’s only so light a guy like that can go, but it was fun. Lot of pressure, had to work very hard for everything, and a decent end to a fairly moderate training session. I headed back out, called a cab, and headed back to another service station for food, before heading home. On one half of that journey, I ended up in a long conversation with the taxi driver, who spoke pretty good english, which is a relative rarity here. Another quick cultural note: you have to queue for petrol/gas here, pretty much the whole time, even at night. On the other hand, it’s very cheap by most people’s standards. It’s 1.35 dirham a litre, which exchanges at about 6 to a pound or 4 to the dollar. So, well, definitely cheap.
My driver (originally from Sri Lanka) also explained that per day he was clearing approximately 250 dirhams for a 14 hour working day, which, again, translates to about 40 pounds or $60. Most taxi drivers over here seem to be in the same boat, which really makes me wonder why exactly they travel so far to work so hard here and earn so little. But not my place to judge, and pretty representative, it seems, of the working model here in Abu Dhabi.
Anyway, to conclude, I was told that weigh-ins were 10 until 6 tomorrow at basically the same venue, and also that numbers were pretty low, relatively speaking. Many of the qualifiers were saving themselves for the gi event, because whilst the no-gi has good prize money, it’s basically half of what the gi fetches, and since everyone who qualified is a gi qualifier, pretty much, they seem to be saving themselves for that. Will probably train tomorrow, lightly, before fighting on Friday and, if all goes well, Saturday. Not really worried about weight at all, since I walk within a kilo of the weight limit, even on my worst day, but leaving a few hours for sweating it off just in case the climate has done strange things to me. Now…sleep!
A few pictures:
The front lobby of the hotel part of the Officer’s Club:
One view from the inside of the Officer’s Club:
The converted Billiards Room:
The bathroom (@_@):