After a night of eating and chatting with different nationalities, I slam some coffee and grab a motorcycle taxi. I’m off to Lute Livre Saigon for their Sunday open mat. Eric greets me with his pups, who are just as excited to see me as I am to see them.
“Have you ever heard of the game called Game of Rolls?” I say to Eric. He replies with a curious look on his face, so I know he’s never heard of it. I whip out the deck of cards gifted to me by the creator/friend of mine when I was on the Roll Thru: Thailand.
Eric is soon sucked into the concept of the game and the artwork on the cards. We start the open mat with some warm up flow rolls, then jump into the game. Soon we have grapplers wearing handcuffs and blindfolds putting themselves in bad starting positions. The mat is full of laughter and good vibes, exactly what Victor was going for when he created the game.
We have a few more rounds of rolling after the game to end the open mat. Rolling with everyone at the open mat is a fun time. No one is trying to kill each other, but the competitive nature is still here. If I pass a guard or find a back door in a scramble, I’m praised by my partner. The same goes for when Joe takes me down or Eric takes my back- props are given.
“You and your team are always welcome in Taiwan. Your dogs, too,” I tell them. With that, I bro hug the remaining grapplers and head back to my hostel.
A cloud of smoke and laughter erupts, bringing me back to the present. The rain gets heavier, the wind increasing in knots. Locals behind me point at foreigners walking barefoot through the street, and then point at their own feet. Everyone laughs. I laugh, too. I translate in my head that the locals are saying the people with no shoes in the flooded cesspool of a street are probably going to get staph infection and mess up training for everyone.
The weather starts to kick up to its final form, and people run for the cover. The locals behind me start to dance upon receiving their order of whiskey shots. A man wearing a blue shirt leans against a post, puffing away on his pipe. Lost in the waves.
I lean back against the wall and prop my right foot on the bench. I look over to my right and notice a post-it sticker on the wall. It reads:
“Love your fucking life. Tell people you love them. Talk to random strangers. Do things that you’re scared to do. Fuck it, because so many of us die and no one remembers a thing we did. Take your life and make it the best story in the world. Don’t waste that shit!”
I’ve met so many awesome people and learned so much from all the instructors during these Drop INs: The Paraestra in Okinawa, Round 1 in Manila, and Luta Livre in Saigon.
I grab my bag and make my way down the street. The rain has lightened up, but you can still feel it. I feel it.
I smile and think, This is just the start.