Chronicles of a Travelling Grappler – BJJ for Zimbabwe (Part 3)


Written by James Locke

Edited by Josh Sequeira

Today we bring you part three, the final edition of this three part series on the BJJ for Zimbabwe pilgrimage James Locke embarked on last year. In part one, James traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe and began to acclimate himself to his new surroundings ( . In part 2 he began his teaching and started to see the impact he had on everyone ( Today, James teaches his final classes and bids Zimbabwe farewell. Enjoy!

Part 3 – Barely Scratch the Surface

When I arrived in Harare, Josh picked me up at the airport. We went straight to his dojo to prepare for class. He had told me it would be a bigger class as he got word out about the success of my first classes. As we went in I was introduced to a member the National Judo team who said he had lots of experience in newaza, there were also two other karate club owners from in the city and the National Director who wanted to sit on the side and watch my class. Adult and youth class were successful and everyone had a good time as I reviewed previous drills and techniques to keep both returning and new students engaged. At the end of class the judoka informed me that none of their newaza was off their back, they only knew attacks from top control positions off of a throw, he asked if the other members of his team could come to the next classes and see this jiu jitsu. Also, the other karateka told me they would certainly have their gi for training the next day, and asked if they could video the techniques. I was thrilled that the class was another success, and of course everyone was encouraged to come, train and video whatever they like. I got a ride back to the village and took no time at all to fall asleep.

The next morning I awoke casually at 6am, I had quick coffee and headed over to the dojo curious to see how many students would be training. The mats were packed with kids, wrestling around and working on the techniques they learned in the two classes before. In our class we went over some basic head lock self defense as well as general good practice with regards to training (ie. keeping your tight, etc). Josh and his son gave the students an inspirational discussion in their native tonge of Shona, and decided that he would teach his style of karate every Sunday in the village with his son and also allow the youth to practice whatever jiu jitsu they knew as well. The looks on the children’s faces were priceless, with smiles and high fives all around. Josh finished by the them that the martial arts was all about respect, discipline and self control. We ended the class there, another successful morning on the mats and I was thrilled that Josh would stay connected to the village and help them continue training.12625864_10153281581606975_54714509_n

I took Josh on a tour of the village, I was really familiar with the grounds by now as I walked them daily chatting with the kids and saying hi to the moms. He was really impressed and excited to be able to help and teach. I introduced him to all the staff and ensured his Saturday class would fit into their schedule. The staff were elated to extend the martial arts program, happy the kids would be taught discipline and self control, also an outlet for built up anger and negative energy. I took Josh back to my room and presented him with a bottle of maple syrup I smuggled in from Canada, as well as a flag.  I had to explain about the maple tree, the syrup and the changing colors of the leaves in the fall. I then showed him the massive bag of gi’s that were such a pain to get there. I explained how folks had donated them and that he could control their issue and use, on the one condition that they would be used. He agreed and was thrilled to be able to give them some of his  most dedicated students. I also had a special gi from Professor Dan Guillmette (Chief instructor of Evolution/Tristar Gatineau, Quebec) that said “coach” across the back that I said should be his. One my good friends and BJJ Brown Belt Sean Brauer had also donated a brand new Origin gi that I gave to Josh’s son Nyasha. It felt great to be able to deliver the gi’s we’ve been collecting for over a year, and took so much effort to get into the country.

After a nice trip to Chinhoyi I was really excited for training that night. I knew that everyone would want a refresher of all the previous material. We covered so many awesome techniques and chain sequences of attacks. Although it was plenty of material, the students were mostly karate and judo black belts, so they were very receptive to training hard. We also made a plan for me to demonstrate all the material I was teaching again, on video following our last class. At the end of the class I again thanked everyone for letting me visit and share jiu jitsu. I explained to everyone the traveling and collecting of donations for the village, and how I was teaching there. I then thanked Sensei Josh for inviting me to teach for them, and for him volunteering to carry on at the SOS Village. I then presented them with the bag of gi’s and explained how they were collected at seminars, club hopping and tournaments. I also had our club flag from Evolution Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Petawawa. I asked them if they were going to continue to train with us if they would fly our flag to recognize and represent our lineage. They were happy to get the gi’s, we had nearly 40 adult gi ‘s. Josh gave out a few choice ones to his most dedicated students who would continue to practice grappling, which was most of the audience. The rest of the gi’s he will hold and issue out to visitors or new students who don’t have, or can’t afford a gi. Another amazing training night, after all the ossssssss’ and photos, I retired back to the village. On the way back, the awesome student who’s been giving me rides named Wainas, stopped at his house so I could meet his family. He had some beautiful children and I was honored to meet everyone. It was late so I didn’t stay long. But there I swore I’d keep in touch with him, as he cherished the whole concept of me traveling to see them, just to share martial arts.

I slept well that night and again woke with the rosters at 4am. It was my last full day in Harare, I had no plans to leave the village except in the evening to teach class. I was pumped that I could hang with the kids at the village for the day. I had a sunrise coffee and cruise around the village, everyone has chores, as soon as those roosters crow there are kids working on something. Sweeping, cooking, laundry, gardening. The temperature regularly reaches 36-38 degrees Celsius after noon, everyone was up early to get the work done before it got too hot. At about 5:30 I went to the dojo. Some boys who lived closer to the gazebo were trying to get out of chores early to come learn from me, but they would quickly get busted and head back to work. I started teaching as soon as kids would show up that day. I mostly reviewed all the previous stuff, but also showed a few throws and takedown setups. The biggest class yet was there by 7am. I covered some solid back control and they drilled this until I saw that they start to grasp it, then I shared a number of .

It was a fantastic final class. I think everyone had fun each day and I’m glad some of them would stick with it. I then figured it was time to give them a little motivational speech. I thanked them all for having me as a guest. I told them how super impressed I was at their sustainability and hard work each day. I told them how great their education system is and how impressed I was how well everyone speaks English. I then asked a few of them what they wanted to do when they grew up. One boy said play pro soccer, so I asked if he thought it would be hard work to become a pro soccer player, he of course replied “yes”. A girl said she wanted to be a doctor, I asked her the same question and her response was the same. One more said he wanted to be a farmer and own land, again he thought it would be hard work. So then I asked if they thought if they lived somewhere else, South Africa, England, America, would they think those professions wouldn’t be hard work? Their heads nodded that it would still be hard. I related that no matter what they wanted to do with their lives it was going to be hard work, but that doesn’t mean you stop working for it. As long as they kept going with their goals and didn’t quit then they can be whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted. I hoped that was a good pep talk, I’m certainly no professional. I then told them about my travels and collection of gi’s, I had a bag of 10 kids gi’s just for them. It was tough, but I had to select one kid for each gi to show the different sizes. I explained that these gi’s were for everyone to share whenever they were training, and for when Josh came to teach. It was too bad that we couldn’t get more kids gi’s instead of adults, but I’m really impressed at the amount we collected as a whole. We took a quick photo and then a showed a couple of grips and throws with the gi then ended the class. A few students stood and said thanks for the training and the gi’s, they were all happy to meet me and visit over the past few days. I was equally as pleased.

I got cleaned up and went for breakfasts. I brought some maple syrup with me, so I gave a bottle to the chief cook at the staff training center. He was from Malawi and a trained chef, he hooked me up pretty good so during my stay. I spent the rest of the day hanging out around the village, I mainly had a posse of boys who were excellent gymnasts, I took some cool videos of them doing mad tricks. We also played the hottest basketball game of my life. I enjoy a good game of baskets, but it was pushing 38C when we played. We played some around the key and 3 on 3 half court for around two hours. I certainly didn’t bring enough water, but those kids played like they didn’t even need it. We went for lunch together then just hung around the gazebo chatting for the afternoon, probably everyone in the village passed through to chat with me. I really enjoyed hearing everyone’s story, there are some awesome people coming up through that village.

I borrowed the truck again that evening to head into the city, driving was pretty fun there. There are lanes, there are lights(that work sometimes), and speed bumps in all residential neighborhoods. Some folks drive pretty crazy, and it was strongly recommended that I didn’t ride a motorcycle while there. I got to the Alex Sports Club early so I could use their free wifi. When I arrived there were already some people warming up, a few of the Judo team were practicing their triangle chokes. I quickly messaged my wife and put on the gi. It was great to give some guys one on one before class, they were hooked on bjj already and only had a couple most basic techniques to work on. It was also very important that Josh, Nyasha and the other black belts from around the city hear about all the fundamental concepts, as they would be leading the training at all their respective schools including the SOS Village. Although we didn’t have a lot of time, we still had an awesome class. I even had a chance to break down how everyone can learn to train and grow with everyone in the room, going as far as to demonstrate how to roll with a student myself while using the techniques I had taught everyone. After the rolls, I explained how we usually spar for an hour or two at home, and you must learn how to slow down. I then answered some questions that guys had after sparring. I then told them how little we had done in the four days of training, that we had barely scratched the surface of positions, submissions and of course defense. I gave them a short demo of other submissions, shoulder locks, wrist locks, chokes and some leg attacks. All of which I promised to teach via video from home. Once again, they were amazed by what I had shown them. I was really proud to have opened their eyes to the world of jiu jitsu.

12607339_10153281582651975_967374863_nAll the senior instructors gave a short speech thanking me for my visit and for what we do with the SOS Village. Josh presented me with some small gifts for my family, as well as an awesome Zimbabwean flag. I was very humbled by their Thanks. As promised, I spent close to an hour re-teaching all the material as four or five guys filmed the lessons. I ensured to give lots of details in everything so they could review as much as they wished. We took lots of photos and I shook hands and received thanks from everyone. Josh had previously invited me for dinner at his home after class, so we showered and changed and went back to his place. It was fantastic to receive a nice homemade meal and it was my pleasure to spend time and talk with Josh’s family. The next morning I got packed up and made a round of the village to say bye to everyone. I got a ride to the airport and was on my way home. I was very relieved that the trip was such a success. I got to check out the village and teach the kids a little jiu jitsu. I was also able to share our style with many martial artist in the Capital, Harare, and that was a huge accomplishment. As an addition, I made some everlasting friendships and was able to experience the culture and see some of the country.

It is now time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far. We collected a lot of gi’s, and raised money for the village and for my trip. It’s now also time to look forward to how we’ll keep the project going. Of course we will continue to send videos and work with Sensei Josh to continue their training. Josh will continue to go to the Children’s Village and continue their training. I would like to increase our donations to the village as well, to help with a few projects they are working on. Some new ideas are to fly Nyasha to Canada for some training and a tour of the Capital, Ottawa. Another is of course to plan my next visit, with my family, to go back and continue to grow bjj in the country. As I was growing up in Canada, they always taught us in school how we are all special. It was very important for children to know that their life means something and that they matter. I think it is important to teach adults the opposite, until you give something positive and meaningful back to the world, your life doesn’t matter. Sure there will be people who love you, and you are important to your family and friends, but until you leave something for the world that will keep your name remembered, you’re not that special at all. With this in mind, if you can make a positive impact on just one person’s life, that is something special. I hope that with this project I have made a positive impact of some people’s lives, hopefully they will pay it forward and continue to pass on positivity. That is how the world will become a better place. This trip was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and I look forward to future trips.

-James Locke

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