Rolling with everyone is super fun. The first thing I notice is how everyone flowed from one position to the next. I transition into an omoplata on one purple belt, and he instantly starts defending my triangle transition setup. Jerry’s instruction to always flow is clearly there. The purple belts’ muscle memory is keyed in.
After a few rolls with some of the students, I’m paired up with the John Wick of the Philippines: Ivan Padilla (Germaine De Leon). Ivan has just finished filming the movie Maria and is stoked to fill me in on it. Ivan has been training for over 12 years and is a purple belt under Rener Gracie.
Rolling with Ivan, I can instantly see he’s put in the mat hours for acting. It’s a fun, back-and-forth chess match, and I hope to roll with him again in the future. You have to check out Maria on Netflix, it’s the best martial arts film to come out of the Philippines in a long time. Spoiler alert: he plays the bad guy, which I found hard to believe at first, because he’s such a nice dude. I guess that’s why he gets paid to act.
My last roll would be with Jerry. We slap hands, and it’s immediately a fun roll. We are both fans of Jeff Glover, and we showcase how we like putting ourselves in bad positions to keep it fun, but also finding areas to either sweep, submit, or a way to pass. I let Jerry take my back so I can hunt for an armbar, and he lets me attack a guillotine so he can attack with a wrist lock. I invert to open myself up for a pass to hunt for a leg and Jerry allows me to stand up to help him jump into a triangle. It’s a physical chess match, and we’re both smiling at the end. These are the types of rolls I live for.
After everyone is done sparing, I grab some quick interviews and get cleaned up. Then we go to grab some lunch. On the way there, Jerry and the driver tell me about all the spooky stories surrounding Manila, the legendary White Lady of Manila.
After eating, we make our way to the shopping mall down the road. I need to grab some extra camera gear, because Philippine Airlines lost my kit bag. I’m blown away by the malls in Asia. They’re massive, and you can find anything you need in them.
We get a quick coffee and some more to eat, then head back to the gym to start the evening classes. I join my first Kali class and learn some knife fighting techniques, then do some knife sparring. I die over 20 times.
While cooling down, I’m luckily enough to get an interview with the judo coach, Estie Gay Dulnuan, before starting the open mat rolls. Dulnuan tells me a great story about how she helps children get off the street and into Judo. Judo doesn’t just teach them a skill, it helps them get on the right path for a good future. Most of her students earn judo scholarships locally and internationally.
Soon after the interviews, I feel a pat on my shoulder. It’s Jerry. “Rome, don’t be shy, my friend. Get some rolls in with the guys.”