Roll Thru: Thailand, Pt. 2
"Andrew’s class was well-taught and reviewed an inverted leg-lock set-up, amongst sweeps and guard passes. He impressed us all with his body control and precision.."
Located on the fifth floor of a Bangkok office building, Arête BJJ has the feel of a Division 1 athletic complex. As you enter through a pair of glass doors there is lounge area to the left, furnished with couches, serving as the perfect place to kick back and watch Arête’s stable of technical purple belts trade energy on the mats.
The Arête team let us take over the back corner of what is being built into their weight training area. Sparsely populated with some kettlebells and imaginative floor plans, this area will be the final touch on what is already an impressive layout. Rome caught up with Andrew, Arête’s owner and head coach, in the lounge area as Eric set up camera gear and Marshall began warming up.
Passing the snack bar after changing I chuckled, entertained with the brilliant idea to remove all toilets short of urinals in the men’s locker room. To get off your feet you would need to leave the gym and go down the corridor of the building. This design ensures the only smells coming out of the bathroom are those of shower gels cleansing away the sweat of a hard roll.
We spent nearly three hours on the mat rolling and learning technique. Andrew’s class was well-taught and reviewed an inverted leg-lock set-up, amongst sweeps and guard passes. He impressed us all with his body control and precision, Taco, a co-owner of Arête, was equally impressed with Eric’s camera equipment.
Both the gi and no-gi classes ended with full sparring, and in my opinion this is where the Roll Thru truly began. The mat buzzed with energy as eyes searched for counterparts to engage in combat. Water was ingested as much to clear saliva from a mouthpiece as to hydrate. Techniques were traded, breathing was focused, and our journey began in a whirlwind of dynamic rolls.
Rome, essentially training without knees, practiced the art of Free Rolling. Marshall pulled off his first no-arm triangle, and I got to test out my new blue belt against an array of athletic opponents. It was a good night.
After class we met up with Taco and Ben, from BJJ Asia, for dinner. We sat back and enjoyed as Taco, switching from proper English to perfect Thai, ordered us a feast of dishes, which were washed down with ice-filled glasses of Heineken. The night passed with consistent ball-busting, the revealing of trade secrets and stories of Mayhem that accentuate a friendship through combat and laughter.
After dinner, we thanked the guys for the entertainment, said our goodbyes, and set off for Soi Cowboys upon Taco’s recommendation, a five-minute walk from the restaurant.
To stroll through a Red Light district in Bangkok is to be overwhelmed with the human experience. Scents plunge into your nose, body parts are tugged at and voices slyly call to you from all directions. Door barkers entertain themselves by drawing the timid passerby out of their shell. Any eye contact is an invitation for attention. Neon lights surf across themes and outfits straight out of Street Racer. It’s a fun reality to ride.
We arrived at Cowboys unscathed and enjoyed a pleasant combination of live music and people watching. As we made the walk back to our hostel, Rome noticed two of the working girls taking interest his kinesiology-taped knees, noting that some extra support may lead to greater career longevity.
The next day Rome, Eric and I headed to the train station to catch our ride out of Bangkok. Marshall walked in just as we were guided to rise and face a portrait of the King adorned over the entrance to the platforms, as the national anthem played over the loudspeakers. We acknowledged with interest the uniqueness of this experience and made our way to Platform 9, where we hopped on the train and found our seats.
About an hour into the ride, a small Thai man efficiently transformed each seat into a bed, and we settled in for the eight-hour commute to Chumphon, where we would catch a bus to the ferry and make our way to Monsoon Gym, home of 10TH Planet Koh Tao, and the next stop on our list.
TK is a former pararescueman and retired surfman from the Jacksonville Beach Voluntary Life Saving Corps. He has traveled the world on military and humanitarian missions, as well as exploring on his own.