Tonight I attended the “Advanced” class at my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy for the first time. This was a big step for me; “Junior” (Carlson Gracie Jr, the Big Boss) had told me about a month ago that in a month it would be time for me to bump myself up to the advanced class. He then had promptly disappeared (one assumes to Brazil), and tonight was his first night back. Advanced Class it was for me. As we were learning & drilling, the Muay Thai school that shares the same space had wrapped up for the night and the evening clean-up rituals were being attended to.

It was actually a bit of a relief, as the Muay Thai students make a hell of a lot of noise during the earlier beginner class and now I could hear Junior clearly this time as he explained a particular Open Guard pass to the crowd of eager Jiu-Jiteiros surrounding him. It was a good crowd; word had gotten around that Junior was back. Just the drills were getting the better of my poor conditioning. It’s been getting noticeably better since I started, but my conditioning is still laughably worse than the veterans in the room.

The class went about 55 minutes or so, and I was wiped out. To nobody’s surprise, every single other student that was in the class stayed for the open mat period afterwards. Despite my progress in staying calm during sparring, I’m still good for nothing about thirty seconds into a roll. Plenty of room for improvement, but to quote Bane, that comes later. Tonight I instead hobbled over to a chair off by the dressing rooms and caught my breath in preparation to leave.

As I sat there I saw that the guy who was cleaning the Muay Thai school the whole time was still working a full hour later, diligently sweeping dirt into a pile with a smile on his face. What surprised me the most was that it wasn’t a janitor or junior student; it was Andre Madiz, the owner and master instructor of the school. It was a beautiful thing to see. How ironic that the most important lesson of the evening came after the class had ended.

There is no champion without sacrifice. – Andre Madiz

Photo: Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Andre’s hometown.

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