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Sabah, Pt.3

As soon as we fall asleep, the tranquility of being away from the ambient city noise of Taiwan is interrupted by the sound of my alarm. With a sudden jolt of caffeine, I’m up to my feet and ready to start the seminar. Zoe and I get into our training gear and make our way to the mats to review the techniques we planned to teach later.

I make my way around the mat to greet each person when they arrive. Slowly the mat starts to get busier and busier until we have a packed house. There are BJJ enthusiasts from all over Sabah who have made the trip. Old and young, white to brown belt. I try my best to chat with everyone and stay loose.

Then I am greeted by Sam. The first thing I notice about Sam is his beautiful cauliflower ear. His smile is a close second. Sam is covering Fitri’s classes while he is gone and welcomes me with open arms.

At this point, the mat has very little space. I glance up at the clock. It’s time to start. Sam brings everyone together to introduce me, and to pass the mat over to me. I say my thanks, and we start on the mat with a light warm up. Once we all get a small sweat working, Zoe and I take center stage and begin the seminar.

The majority of my time in Taiwan has been spent on the mat – why my Chinese isn’t what you’d think– so getting over stage fright from eyes staring back at me doesn’t take long. I think the time I’ve spent teaching at Danimal BJJ has guided me toward a successful seminar. I show one technique that involves pulling guard to reverse De La Riva, which leads to a back take and finish. I’m a big believer in “drilling it until you hate it” to create muscle memory. You don’t need to stop and think. Your body will react.

During the seminar I walk around correcting small details, laughing with my new friends. Soon I notice lots of cars with flags at the front of their hoods coming down the driveway toward the mat. I am lost and confused when Sam pulls me aside. Turns out news of the seminar had reached some political folks in town, and they wanted to see who had made the trip to their town. Zoe and I both show our respect to the group while they share some information about an upcoming election. And as soon as they arrived, they were gone again, back up the driveway in a roll of cars with flags in the front waving in the air. This sort of thing doesn’t usually happen at my seminars. I’m sure this unique and interesting experience will stay in my memory forever.

Sam makes his way to me to give me a heads-up about the time, and by this point it’s time to get some rounds in with everyone. I ask Sam to set the timer for three-minute rounds, so I can get as many turns as I can. Everyone who showed up is tough as nails during our rolls, never giving me an inch.

After all the sparring is done, we circle up and I give a speech. Everyone cheers for Zoe, and we are soon greeted by Val with a table full of food. The best gift after burning calories is a table full of rice, chicken and ice-cold lemonade. This is heaven. During dinner, we gather together and trade stories from the mat. Soon, my belly looks like I am deep into my third trimester, and it is time to pass out.

When we wake up in the morning, we are greeted by the fresh Sabah sun and Iylia. He asks how we slept and if we are hungry. Even after gorging on rice and chicken after the seminar, my body is still craving protein the next morning. Iylia says we are going to Kenny’s favorite post-fight BBQ spot.

During the ride, I pick Iylia’s brain about the local culture and spooky history. Before Lylia can get to the punch line about a ghost story, we pull up to “Kenny’s Spot.” As soon as I open the car door I’m hit with the smell of fresh BBQ. The smell instantly makes my stomach scream. The view from our table is breathtaking. It goes as far out as the eye can see.

I feel a pat on my back and turn to see Val. We all get caught up in small chat when the plates of BBQ pork arrive. The meat is medium rare with a tangy but sweet sauce on top, similar to a teriyaki sauce. Food sometimes is like music to me: you hear a new song and can’t believe you have found a band with this type of amazing sound and groove. It’s the same with food. I can’t believe the explosion of flavors going on in my head. I am in BBQ ecstasy. If you’re ever in Tamparuli, you must pull over on the side of the road and try the BBQ. You won’t be disappointed.