Wednesday, 6 May 2009

South Africa Day 6

Day 6, Joburg, 10:00am

I am so getting used to these big traditional breakfasts, a little different to the bran flakes and toast I have back home.

We are not due to train until 7:00pm so we have another day to sight see, this time Joburg, 'the murder capital of the world' let's see if the title is justified.

Joburg lies in the province of Gauteng which means "Place Of Gold" so it is no surprise that Joburg's origins lie in the exploitation of the country's gold, of which there is still rumoured to be masses of un-mined gold. From these beginnings it has, in just over a century, rapidly become the richest metropolis in Africa although these days seems to be more renowned for being a place to avoid at all costs. From what I have seen in the city centre, this is good advice. The city centre is a kind of 'Escape from New York' meets 'Zulu'; the stories I have heard just reinforce this view.

The extremes of riches and poverty are also well exampled in Jozi, sitting atop a hill stands a collection of mansions with Hollywood style houses on stilts working their way down the hillside to meet a corrugated steel shack at the foot of the hill that someone calls home; the huge houses sitting behind solid concrete walls and electric fences barely a ½ mile away from the sprawling shanty towns, certainly two extremes.

The local newspapers report though that was the old Jozi, the new Jozi is being born with falling crime rates and shrewd property developers pumping money into the area. A CCTV system has been installed on every street corner in Johannesburg central which is operated by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), which can also detect stolen or hijacked vehicles by scanning the number plates of everyone travelling through the Central Business District, then comparing them to the eNaTIS database. The CCTV system has proved it's worth with the average response time by police for crimes committed in the CBD is under 60 seconds. Rumour has it that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani had been enlisted to help bring down the crime rate especially in preparation for the World Cup finals.

I truly hope this is the case as Joburg, very much like Durban, is an awesome city that is over-populated and in need of some renovation.

As with any city though having some awareness and not looking like an easy target will help you avoid a lot of trouble. Joburg was known as being a hot bed of carjackings, particularly if you drove a German car for some reason but general rules apply again; keep the doors locked, keep windows up, don't get too close to the car in front to avoid being boxed in etc although a previous car attachment is by far my favourite, the flamethrower!! Anyone who came near your car became toast; I believe they are outlawed now but how cool to have a flamethrower attachment.

Now to the last training session of the trip, back to the Box Office Gym. Rather than do a seminar/workshop we were to just do a regular training session and focus primarily on passing the guard. Just what I needed, the heat was oppressive, the open windows were letting heat in from outside rather than letting warm air out and this was going to be the hottest and hardest session of the trip. After a brief warm up I was struggling already.

Chris had everyone pair up and just start working passing guard in the way you normally would whilst he observed and made mental notes of points to review and correct in the technical section. I worked with Victor again so couldn't even slacken off a little as the guy is pretty good.

Haueter then ran through the principals of passing guard, posture, how to break the guard open, control, passing hips, etc then sent us back to practice these areas. The heat was really getting to me and even though I was consuming copious amounts of water couldn't cool down.

We then moved onto the line drills, passing versus sweeping, winner stays on. I had pretty much had enough as my body was rebelling and just wanted to leave but these are the times you have to dig deep. I had just watched the Renzo Gracie 'Legacy' documentary where he says when his body wants to quit he hits it harder to let it know that brain is in charge not body.

What the hell, I thought, it's my last night, I am going to try that so told Haueter I was going to do iron man for a while, take on one guy after the other. Damn, what a mistake that was, by the 4th match my left calf was cramping badly. I pushed on a little more and by the 8th match I was done, my calf completely cramped beyond anything I had felt before, I had anaconda body lock around my partner's body but had to let it go as the cramp was that bad. It was one of those where it looks like there is something under your skin running up and down. There was only 2 guys left to spar and I couldn't continue, I was gutted.

I had someone grab my leg and start stretching me out, I kept stretching all the time through the Q&A and tried to get some fluids back in. I was cursing the fact that we had gone to the pharmacy that day where I was going to buy some electrolyte/mineral replacement drink and got sidetracked by biltong (sun dried, salted strips of meat) instead. Oh well, trying biltong was on my 'to do' list anyway.

Turns out that it took about 3 days for my calf to start feeling better but that was the only down side as again I had a great time training here and got to spoke to like minded people who were serious about training but light hearted enough to have fun at the same time.

As far as the Q&A sessions go, unfortunately most people (everywhere) don't take advantage of this time for fear of looking dumb in front of everyone. I know I have done the same but not any more.

The first time I trained with John Machado he asked us what we were struggling with and no one replied so he took his belt off, threw it into the middle of us then said "congratulations, you guys are all black belts. If you aren't struggling with anything you guys must all be black belts" He then asked again what we were struggling with so I asked him how to counter being stacked when applying arm bar and/or triangle and he produced one of the best sessions I have ever been to, still using the material today.

If you never ask, you never know!!

Back to our hosts' place where I had a ½ chicken, pumpkin fritters and roast potatoes which raised my spirits then straight back to the rondavel for our last night in South Africa which turned out to be the scariest/funniest night of the whole trip.

We had heard tales of gangs of guys armed with AK47s doing home invasions pillaging and murdering anything in the way. A gang of 6 guys had invaded a house down the road from us previously and slaughtered everyone. We actually encountered a couple of guys outside our property on the way home who may have been drunk or may have been pretending, playing some rope-a-dope.

As I laid there I realise that our building is the only one with no bars so would make an ideal target for a gang invasion, we then start philosophising about how unprepared we are with only our Jiu Jitsu against 6 Aks to save us, This is the point where everything gets crazy, I guess it's gallows humour, but I found a stick for my protection so Haueter went off to search for a weapon too. He found a brush. I never felt so safe, 2 guys in shorts armed with a stick and a brush against a gang with automatic weapons. Man, would I sleep sound tonight! I guess it's one of those times when you just had to be there but I just laughed myself to sleep especially after Haueter got a text from his wife, Melissa, asking him why we were laughing. She makes a good point.

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