Words: Callum Medcraft @callummedcraft
Hi, my name is Callum, and I’m a seminar junkie.
Recently it’s been getting really bad. I went to two seminars last month alone, and I was thinking about my next fix as soon as I got off the mat. Please tell me I’m not alone?
Ok, so as the Editor of the magazine, I guess I’ve attended more seminars and visited more academies than the regular student. However, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I get such a kick out of learning from a new jiu jitsu practitioner and being exposed to new techniques.
Sat in my car on the way home from a recent academy visit I started to think about all the seminars I’ve attended over the years. There have been plenty of awesome ones, and a few rubbish ones to boot, but I’ve always managed to come away with something to take from the experiences.
Having attended so many seminars, I always find it interesting to see how the instructor goes about structuring a session. The first time I attended a Caio Terra seminar he started by asking the group what they would like to cover. Once Caio had established the most popular topics the students wanted to look at, he went about addressing these subjects and answering specific questions. I found this level of personal attention to detail very beneficial, as Caio made sure everyone gained some form of ‘personal’ feedback.
Another seminar I look back on with fond memories was when Roberto ‘Cyborg’ Abreu visited London. Not only were Cyborg’s techniques exceptional (tornado guard blows my mind) but he also spent a good 30 minutes discussing his philosophy on jiu jitsu, life and happiness. He delivered such a powerful message that when he stopped talking the whole room broke into a round of applause. Cyborg also hung around for over five hours, even though the seminar was scheduled for three. What a cool guy.
So let’s get something else out in the open: we ALL want to spar with the teacher when attending a seminar. Even though we know in our heart of hearts we’ll get crushed, we just want to feel what it’s like to get gently pacified by a black belt world champion. I remember attending a Ryan Hall seminar a number of years ago and two things stuck with me. First off, Ryan was easily the most methodical teacher I’d ever shared a mat with. Teaching methodology aside, Ryan also made sure to spar with every single student who made it to the seminar. It’s not uncommon to see the host sparring a few rounds at their seminar, but I was pretty surprised to see 65kg Ryan Hall taking on even the 120kg bruisers.
I have fond memories of the one and only seminar I’ve attended outside of the UK, which was with Braulio Estima at Nogueira Gym, Dubai. Though Braulio has been a friend of mine for many years, I’d never actually seen him teaching away from his school in Birmingham. Braulio is one of the most charismatic people I’ve met in jiu jitsu, and his larger than life personality really shone through during his seminar. His technical knowledge on footlocks (Estima locks) and the reverse triangle made this a unique experience for everyone in attendance.
Magazine duties aside, the main reason I want to attend seminars is to learn specific techniques from athletes with extensive knowledge on a given position. For example, I attended a half guard seminar with Lucas Leite at London Fight Factory, which more than lived up to expectations.
Though it sounds obvious to say this, people attend seminars for a variety of different reasons. Another trip to London Fight Factory saw me hotly anticipating a seminar with UFC legend, Anderson Silva. I didn’t really know what to expect or how to prepare, so I packed my gi and my nogi gear just in case. Though I’ve never trained MMA or thrown a punch in my life, I was excited to learn from one of the best athletes in combat sports.
What followed was a very, very strange prolonged PR session that baffled even the seminar organisers. Anderson answered a few questions from the huge group of students on the mat, before fielding a barrage of dialogue from Alex Reid (I know, where’d he come from!?) After Anderson had dealt with Mr. Reid, the attendees formed an orderly queue to get their picture with the champ. To be fair, everyone seemed to go home with smiles on their faces, leading me to believe I was probably the only man in attendance hoping to learn something instead of updating my Facebook profile picture. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
If you’ve never attended a seminar, I’d challenge you to keep an eye open and sign yourself up next time something rouses an interest. Yes, they’re generally expensive, but I guarantee you’ll find the experience enriching in one form or another. And remember, jiu jitsu is still an amateur sport so you can also feel good about supporting the athlete whose seminar you chose to attend in chasing their dreams.
Until next time!
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