"It is no secret that Taiwan BJJ is our biggest rival at Danimal BJJ, but for my part, I have always enjoyed the competition between us. A large part of this of course is thanks to the gym’s head coach, Makoto Ogasawara. To anyone who reads this and knows me, you’ll find that I am deeply in love with Makoto."
Our buddy Jonah is as invested in the Taiwanese stand-up comedy scene as we are in BJJ and was performing at an open mic in the city. The stage was situated in the back of a basement under a Taipei bar and was occupied by an array of locals and expats enjoying a night of laughs and the inevitable awkward silences that ensue.
Lucky for us, Jonah was dialed in and had the small room rolling more than we had all trip. At one point, the host of the show decided to call out Rome and include him in the show. Rome quickly indicated with stern eye contact he did not want to be involved, and the show went on without him. We kept the laughs going into the early morning until we passed out in Jonah’s living room with an EBI playing on the TV. Jonah headed off to do some writing in the morning, and we decided that was as good a time as any to make our way to Taiwan BJJ.
Taiwan BJJ is the oldest and largest gym on the island. Every time I’ve visited their main branch in Taipei, I’ve always been treated well. Their facility is one of the best in Taiwan with gorgeous mats, clean showers, and plenty of locker space. Their staff is incredibly kind and professional and have always been a huge help.
It is no secret that Taiwan BJJ is our biggest rival at Danimal BJJ, but for my part, I have always enjoyed the competition between us. A large part of this of course is thanks to the gym’s head coach, Makoto Ogasawara. To anyone who reads this and knows me, you’ll find that I am deeply in love with Makoto. It is not hard to see why as he is a legend across the Asian BJJ world. His accomplishments in and out of competition are many, and he is an excellent referee at countless events around the continent. Anyone who has rolled with him knows firsthand how skilled and confident he is on the mat, and that comes through ten-fold in his ability to run a dojo.
It was my first time, however, watching him teach a class. I was not disappointed! He taught a beginner’s class on the de la riva (pronounced de la heeva) and reverse de la riva guard. Although I have seen these guards taught many times and use them frequently, it was incredible to see the movements done in such a precise and crisp manner from a master of the craft.
After the class, Rome taught one of his triangle setups from guard, and then it was time for another hellish amount of sparring. We all got a bunch of awesome rolls in and left the mats drenched with sweat. Everyone was hospitable, talented and eager to roll with us. Props to TK as well for doing all of his sparring with a plaster cast on his right hand, refusing to take a round off the whole trip.
Makoto showed us a great time afterward at the local rechao (热炒), a traditional Taiwanese-style restaurant, where we enjoyed sharing a variety of stir-fried dishes while drinking shots of beer and mentally sparring throughout some great conversations. There I learned about a variety of terrible things from TK and Rome, like a murderball game that they play somewhere in Italy, an underground martial arts tournament organized by a terrifying group called “Dog Brothers”, and something awful called “Gun Mixed Martial Arts”. I said that if I had to choose one it would be Gun MMA, but none seemed appealing to me. I very much enjoy the rules that keep my alive and safe in BJJ. Makoto, on the other hand, while it may have been the beer and whisky talking, was seduced by the thought of Gun MMA. Watch out Asia, he may be spearheading a developmental league very soon! Anyhow, we all indulged in a bunch of oily, traditional Taiwanese dishes, had some drinks and shared some laughs, and then headed home for the night.
The next day started a bit later than the rest of our trip, feeling equally as drained from the intense rolls as the bottle of whisky that Makoto planted on the center of the table at the rechao. After dragging ourselves to a brunch cafe somewhere in the Shilin (士林) district, we got our laundry, picked up my cousin and her friend, and started off toward Elephant Mountain.
Climbing the steps was a perfect way to kick the remainder of my hangover. At the top we took photos along with what seemed like half the population of Taipei. It was the Lunar New Year at the time, you see, and many were on vacation already celebrating Taiwan’s national pastime: selfies. Revitalized, we trekked back down the steps, dropped off Kenzie and Elana to do some sight-seeing, and set off to our next stop: Shuraba MMA.