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Drop In: Manila, Pt.1

So you want to grapple? And the gyms near the town you live in aren’t half bad. You start to improve. Then you hear about this a faraway country…

What then? How far are you willing to go, literally? What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to find the perfect roll?

“Where the fuck is this Grab?” I mumble out loud underneath the raging Manila sun. The city is alive- the streets are buzzing with all different types of transportation. I can hear each automobile playing a different tune with the blast of its horn.

It’s 9:10 in the morning. Training at Round 1 MMA & BJJ starts at 10, and I hate being late. I can’t catch a wifi signal, so I forget the Grab and jump into a taxi. I give the driver the address, and he instantly thinks I’m in the UFC. This would be a theme throughout my trip whenever I explain to the locals why I’m visiting the Philippines.

I get to Round 1 20 minutes early. The morning sun says hello, and the beads of sweat start to fall.I walk up the stairs past a few shops to a group of large windows. I can see the striking pads hanging inside. I have arrived.

I’m greeted by the Muay Thai coach behind the desk. He’s been expecting me.

“Hello sir, welcome to Manila.”

I take in my new surroundings and chat with some new friends ready to train, too. Not long after the students arrive, the head instructor, Jerry Legaspi, walks through the door with a welcoming smile on his face. Jerry and I and exchange a bro hug and talk about life and training for a bit while more of his students trickle in.

Jerry tells me how in the Philippines, if the class time is scheduled for 9 AM, most students won’t show up until around 9:30. That’s just the lifestyle in the Philippines. It reminds me of my time in Ghana, when my host family told me GMT time stood for Ghana Maybe Time. I guess this time zone stretches all over the world. Soon enough the mats were covered with students eager to train, and I’m ready to start filming.

Whenever I teach a class, I stress how important it is to warm up. Here at Round 1, it is no exception. Jerry tosses a foam football around and tells everyone to start running. The students pass the ball back and forth to one another as they go.

“I like to keep things fun and interesting,” Jerry says. “I love rugby, and I see the similarities when training.”

With that, Jerry lines everyone up, has them sprint to the end of the mat and turn around for a pass. They catch the ball, then sprawl before picking it back up and returning to the line. Hand off to the next person and it’s their turn to do the same. I get flashbacks to my younger days playing American football, and I’m itching to play, but I have to stay focused on the students.