The Great Escape, Pt.3
This time when I walk into the gym, the mat is alive with all different ranks: white to black belt and everything in between. The energy is electric. Before I can take my shoes off, I’m greeted by another instructor named Ray. Ray, with the most rocking mullet I’ve ever seen, has that warm calming energy about him. We shake hands, and I explain to him why I’m here (explaining my escape from the storm would be on repeat during my trip to London, which would become the theme of the trip). Ray notices the head instructor, Josh, walking into the gym and introduces me to him. Again, I explain why I’m here at his gym and ask if it would be ok for me to gather content. With a smile, Josh gives me his blessing for full range of the mat and to film as much as I like.
I introduce myself to as many of the grapplers on the mat as I could before Josh makes it known it’s time to start class. The class starts right on time. They skip the heavy warmups most gyms like to do and instead go straight into technique, some drilling, then pass-sweep-submit before starting live rounds.
Josh teaches some guard passing as I walk around the mat for the best angles to film from. After some time, Josh lets everyone know it’s time for pass-sweep-submit and to get with your partner. Everyone started in the position of the day, fist bumped, and went to work.
I am sucked in behind the camera, and I’m able to get some footage of the technique taught that day. I grab some interviews later on, too. Josh lets everyone know to grab some water and to get ready for full sparring. As I watch everyone make their way around the mat, chatting and smiling, I take in a few deep breaths, feel my toes under the mat and lock myself into the present. I want to enjoy this moment. I hadn’t planned on being here in NYC and now I’m at this kickass gym. Sometimes the process in life takes you to some interesting places.
The sound of the buzzer goes off and the mat is alive again. So many different levels can be seen on the mat rolling around fighting for the superior position. I lose count of how many black belts are here. The same goes for the brown and purple belts.
Watching Josh and Kyle roll on the mat is awesome. Both of them are so technical, and each played his game. Even though the rib had me on the sidelines, I was learning by being engulfed by the energy on the mat.
Soon, the rounds taper down, and slowly the grapplers start making their way to the shower before moving on with their day. Before saying goodbye, I am able to catch an interview with Josh and Kyle. I ask them what it’s like training in NYC and where the best food spots are in Manhattan:
“NYC is the greatest city in the world and has the greatest jiu-jitsu in the world, so it’s a win-win,” says Josh.
“Besides NYC having the best jiu-jitsu, it has the best Thai food! You can’t beat living here,” Kyle agrees.
After wrapping up the interviews, I say goodbye to my new friends and let them know that I can’t wait to train with everybody one day. I take in my final look of the mat and make my way down the stairs to the street. I grab some B-roll footage and walk back to the apartment.
I drop my gear off and head out for some lunch and to take in the city for the day. NYC is a really dope place to be stuck in when escaping a storm. I couldn’t help but compare it to London. I could see myself living here one day.
After a night of exploring and slamming back enough slices of pizza to make a Ninja Turtle sick, I’m back at the apartment. I open my computer and get sucked into some video editing. I take a break and soak in the art decorating the apartment. Most resembles that of Dali or van Gogh. Being surrounded by so much art is inspiring, which definitely helps knock out some edits. I make a mental note to pick up painting once back in Jacksonville.
I make my bed, throw my bag on my back, and say goodbye to Sean. But before I leave, Sean takes me upstairs to show me his kids: his two ferrets. Upstairs is full of more amazing art, including an original Andy Warhol. I take a step on his balcony to soak in Manhattan one last time. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun. My pocket vibrates to let me know my $100 Uber to the airport has arrived, and the moment is cut short. I say goodbye to Sean and his ferrets and head to the elevator.
“Hey, you, my man!” says a voice to my right.
A short, slightly overweight man stood next to me in a classic black fedora hat. He introduces himself as Angel.
“Yo, I’ve noticed you here in the building. What’s your name?” he asks with a smile.
“My name is Rome. I don’t live here. I’m actually on the way to the airport.”
“Oh, no way, where are you going?” asks Angel with genuine curiosity. I explain to him the same story I’ve told everyone so far. Each time I’m able to tell a quicker version, really cut the fat off the steak.
“Well, that sounds like a story that should be written,” Angel concludes. I chuckle and explain that’s exactly what’s going to happen. “I noticed you as someone who enjoys good energy and I wanted to pass on some good vibes your way.”
He tells me he just had surgery on his knee. He used to be an athlete, and now he’s all about helping people improve their lives. I’m stoked to have any good vibes find their way in my direction, and I try my best to pass them right back.
The elevator door opens and I say goodbye to Angel. As the door slides closed he says, “God bless you and safe travels!” He dips his hat in my direction as the door slowly creeps closed. Angel will be someone I think about for many years to come.
Rome Lytton IV
Rome is a world traveler who thrives living a nomadic lifestyle. He spent the last eight years exploring southeast Asia and was promoted to black belt by Dan “Imal” Reid. If you see him on the side of the road with his thumb out, trust the good vibes.