Mats, memories and meetings: I began teaching introduction classes under my sensei Renzo Gracie. As senior instructors left to create their own schools my teaching responsibilities grew. In 2001 MMA was a fringe sport trying to recover from a time when it was banned from television and decried as violent expression of “human cock fighting.” Often we would watch MMA from Japan where it was an accepted sport. One day In early 2001 was teaching private classes when a crew of Japanese athletes came in to train at Renzo’s. They were doing grappling based MMA training rather than Jiu jitsu. I recognized the main athlete as Caol Uno, a highly ranked athlete of that era who always fought with courage and skill and often survived terrible predicaments in his fights to come back to victory. Mr Uno was in America for his bout with early MMA icon, Jens Pulver. He did a long and arduous workout and was suffering thirst. I went to front desk and got him some bottles of water and gave them to him. We didn’t speak each other’s language but his genuine sense of thanks was impressive. Almost twenty years later I was teaching a seminar with the squad in Singapore. After showing a technique i looked for my water bottle when Caol Uno came out of nowhere and offered me a bottle of water!! He was in the gym training for another fight in a few days – history repeating itself after two decades!! Once again lack of language didn’t stop the feeling of heartfelt thanks – this time going in the opposite direction! This sport is amazing. Just a brief connection on the mats can form a bond that lasts far beyond what you’d expect! The best part was trying to explain to Nicky Ryan who Caol Uno was – Nicky was not even born at the time the first meeting happened!!

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