Teaching kids in worlds most remote BJJ gym. Extremely humbling experience.
Yesterday, I was teaching the kids of Burlacu, and it was an experience I will never forget. It was definitely the best, I have ever had in my career as a BJJ coach. Basically, this was the reason I traveled all the way to a small, cold, snowy village in the middle of nowhere, in a country that I knew nothing about. It was worth every hour of the bus rides, every frozen toe and every time I had to go to the toilet and there was no toilet, but only a hole in the ground :)
Robert, who I am traveling with on this part of the trip, worked as a peace corp volunteer in the village a few years back. He has a strong wrestling background from the USA and is a blue belt in BJJ. When he worked in the village for two years, he set up a BJJ “gym” in the school with the kids from there. They had no gi’s and no money, so a friend from his gym in the US collected a lot of old gi’s and had them sent to Moldova so they could train in them.
It had been a few years since he ran the project, and two of the kids, who are teenagers now, have taken over the training. They haven’t been doing much training, but it is clear, that the seed has been planted and the interest is there. The bigger kids, who have moved to other cities, train BJJ, Judo and Sambo where they can.
When we got to the school, the first group of boys were waiting for us. They were nervous to see a foreigner who was also apparently some Jiu jitsu guy who should train with them. We got in the school and walked to the gym hall.
That place is really an experience. As I wrote in the other post, there are holes in the floor, the lights are old streetlights and the soccer goals are just painted on the walls with crayon. Most noticeable though is, that there is no heating, My guess is, that there was probably around 5-10 degrees Celsius in there. I had to wear two tshirts under my gi, socks (occasionally shoes, when it got too cold), and my cap (thanks Nogi, you saved my ass there :)).
The kids found the old, torn gi’s from a back room and got dressed. None of them fit. The belts were mostly random pieces of cloth. One kid had a belt from a robe. The gi’s where way too big and some kids only had pants or jackets. They had lots of clothes on underneath to stay warm.
We started training and I did some of the drills I do with my own kids team at home. They absolutely loved it, there were smiles and laughs all over. Every time they laughed, a big, white fog appeared in front of them in the cold air. These were really poor kids, living in such a different world than ours. They didn’t have much. No iPods, no cell phones, no fancy clothes and no heating. They had some really old, torn gi’s, a few old, dirty mats, and some home made belts.
For a few hours yesterday, they seemed to forget this and just got lost in the training, like we all do every day we go to the gym at home. They were smiling and laughing so much, I loved every second of it, desperately trying to hold on to that feeling and wanting to give them more. Their physique was impressive, I could tell they had been doing hard physical work already. I wish I could work more with them. Just 6 months in my gym back home or something, they would be absolute monsters.
Later, I trained with the teens, who were kids when Robert trained them. They were huge now and really seemed to like doing some grappling again. It was getting dark and colder. Only two of the six lights in the gym was working so I had to show techniques in the corner with the light. My toes and fingers were completely numb when we finished sparring.
It was a very big honor to be able to give them a good experience and it was something that I will never forget. It really opened my eyes to, what power I posses to influence people in a positive manner with BJJ. I have been writing more about this, but will save it for the book.
The coldest, but best training session of my life.