Grapple Days, South Africa

South Africa Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Sessions

23rd February 2018

I instantly knew that I should of been doing something for my cardio since my last session in the UK. I found PESFA, also called the Chris Bright MMA Academy, in a (pretty empty) mall of shops in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After some hellos and introductions I found myself getting tired during the warm up. Less of a gasping for air and more of a heavy muscles kind of tired. Soaking up sun in-between stints on the laptop had done zero for my endurance and the heat in the room was draining. Within minutes I was sweating hard (sorry training partners). Time to put my ego to one side, I don’t think this is going to be one of my better training session.

Luckily it didn’t matter that I was out of fighting shape, as everybody at PESFA was more than welcoming and friendly. If everywhere I visit on this roaming world tour is anything like here, then i’m going to be meeting a tonne of friendly faces.

My first session there was in the Gi. We worked some guard opening sequences as some of the guys had competed at the weekend and wanted to focus on moves to help with the next competition. It’s interesting the subtle differences in styles that a group develops. The guard pass from closed guard focused on lifting the guy off the ground and opening from there. It’s rare, if ever, we work this at my gym. We focus on popping up and, breaking the guard while the other guy is on the ground. Change is good though as this opener works. We drill this and a few variations for the first half of the class.

The rolls were really great even though I found myself getting tired all too quick. Everyone had amazing defence, or maybe I was just especially weak (or maybe both?). I think a big focus for me on this trip, as well as my entire Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game moving forward, will be on setting up submissions. I think I need to start thinking about the move, after the move and not just trying to force something. More flow. Arte Suave.

In my second session we worked positional training for competitions. Focusing on not giving up a point. (For non Brazilian Jiu Jitsu readers, your opponent gets a point in competition when you concede a bad position. The amount of points is determined by how bad of a position you find yourself in. It allows competition matches to have a finish after a time limit rather than ending only when someone submits someone.) The game is really different from pure rolling as the urgency and aggression for a pass or to not give up a bad position changes the pace of the match. I also quickly found out how well certain sweeps work when you try them on a strong Judo black belt (spoilers: they don’t).

I think a big focus for me on this trip, as well as my entire Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game moving forward, will be on setting up submissions. I think I need to start thinking about the move, after the move and not just trying to force something. More flow. Arte Suave.

The subtle difference in ‘go to’ moves played out here. There are times when passing when I feel i’m (usually) safe. Places where I feel like i’m in a good position. However this is where some of the ‘go to’ moves of the guys I was rolling with kicked in. All of a sudden a safe position becomes trouble and in that moment I instantly realise the benefits of rolling with new training partners often. Unfortunately, I realise it as i’m falling to my back and conceding the point.

Luckily the same was true for me, as I presented a few different styles of passing. I was able to move well when the guy I was rolling with wasn’t familiar with what I was doing. However those moments were all too brief.

Always looking for that Kimura lock. Always.

The gym owner and black belt here Chris used to train with my instructor in the UK which is how I got the details for this gym. It’s a small world. I’m glad he recommended this place, it was a really popular gym with an amazing atmosphere. Everyone welcomed me like i’d been there for months already and I had a few good wars during some positional training with a few of the guys. I was completely wiped after the Thursday session, but I got a quick pic with Chris to send back to my instructor and then went in search of cold water to both drink and dunk myself in.

Things to work on: Cardio in-between new destinations and in-between session to adapt to heat. Setting up submissions.

Things learned: A sweet way to get in to deep half. When someones passing with a knee cut. Clamp their trailing leg and swim under their lead leg. (People caught me with this a lot, it turns that place where your almost passed in to a place where you might get swept).

Richard Moody


I'm Rich, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu purple belt and freelancing creative. With no fixed plan or route i'm exploring a new country every few months, doing Jiu Jitsu, training my body, meeting new people, and finding new places. Rolling Through is a document of travel, training combat, improving the body and is both for and by myself and other explorers to inspire and share the secret details to help you do the same!

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