I still remember my first BJJ class in 1994 in the famed Gracie Jiu-jitsu Academy in Torrance California. Like most people in the Philippines back then, I got exposed to Gracie Jiu-jitsu through the bootleg VHS tapes in Greenhills. Watching the Gracies’ literally defeat all sorts of martial artists was always just awesome for me. I’ve always been in search of the most effective martial art and it was around this time that I may have finally found it. In an instant, I knew I just had to be exposed to them and learn whatever I could. So off I went to the U.S. at 21 years old to train with “the Gracie family”.
As I entered the Gracie Academy, I immediately saw Royce Gracie. Of course after watching him in the tapes and the UFC, I was really starstuck! I tried my best to act all cool but inside I was like shit there’s the man standing right in front of me!! Then Rorion Gracie himself greeted me and within five minutes I signed up for the unlimited classes and bought myself my first GI.
We were then led to a room full of people who were all just as excited and as starstuck as I was. I thought to myself “I’m gonna do so well here and kick everyone’s ass!” (things don’t usually go as planned) I was already an instructor back in the Philippines in several styles so of course along with my desire to learn, I brought along Jiu-jitsu’s mortal enemy…my ego!!! When the class started I realized that it was an intro class where they showed us basic self defense moves. Not one Gracie was teaching the class (although Royce and Rorion were there observing.) Playing in my head, while the class continued was kicking this guy’s ass, “why was he the one teaching me??” The class ended with them just showing basic moves and there was no sparring. This was a big disappointment for me as I thought we would go balls to the wall fighting as soon as we got in. (Good thing it wasn’t like that, I would have been seriously screwed!!!)
Out of disappointment with the class I attended I then signed up for a private class with Royce. My plan in the private room after he teaches me, was to spar with him and show him how good I was and then we could “exchange techniques”. Thank God this never happened!!! Much to my surprise, instead of Royce teaching me it was this purple belt instructor again. “Shit!!! Why not Royce??” I thought to myself. the lesson basically went like this, the instructor would teach me and then I would half ass all of the techniques. I was actually so pumped up inside with anticipation (or so I thought) of me kicking his ass!! I hated learning how to escape mount because I thought he would never get me there anyway! My moment of truth arrived, sparring time came FINALLY and this is how it went:
I charged in, got taken down then a super fast armbar happened, I didn’t tap! At the time I thought that he could never hurt me, then all of sudden SHIT IT STARTED TO HURT AND I TAP!!! “Damn!” I thought to myself must be the cold weather, so we go again and again and I get tapped out with all sorts of submissions from cross chokes to kimuras to even ankle locks (which I thought only happens in WWE). After rolling more than ten times (no exaggeration) I still couldn’t accept that this “purple belt” could beat me this easily so again we went. This time I got him in a really tight headlock and I just squeezed his head like a grapefruit. What I didn’t know at the time was that Gracie Jiu-jitsu has a very unique system of dealing with all and any kinds of headlocks you can think of, so again I tapped and tapped again.
The class was then ended and I was in total shock as to how I was defeated so easily. I literally felt so stupid and inadequate as a human being because for me back then fighting was everything. I then dragged my “lost self” to the juice bar and sat there for a LOOOONNNG WHILE!! Later on, I ran into the “purple belt” inside the locker room along with all of the other students from the regular class. One guy goes “what happened to you?” I was like “what?” I didn’t realize I had all these major gi burns all over my face and body (It was as if I joined the frat all over again). The purple belt then goes “oh you know he just decided to kick my ass the whole time”. Then he smiled at me and so did the others.
It was only after this lesson where I realized that I must now unlearn everything and immerse myself in this awesome art. I also quickly learned the hard way about respect and of course humility. After this ass kicking I dedicated my life to this wonderful martial art. I have never looked back and still make it a point to learn as much as I can every single day. It is a lifelong journey to make myself and everybody around me as good as possible!!