When I first arrived in Korea, I had about a year's experience training grappling. I had trained for a few months in America, and I had spent the previous year training at a small club in France. In France, my instructor was a blue belt and the rest of the club consisted of white belts. When we would go to competitions or seminars around France I would always be amazed when I would catch a glimpse of a blue belt or gasp....a purple belt!
I still remember my first day training BJJ in Korea. I am a pretty shy person, so it was pretty nerve racking for me to have to join a new gym, make friends, and try to fit in. I also missed my old club in France and my instructor and teammates there. I remember being shocked at seeing so many blue belts in one place. I even got to roll with purple belts and brown belts for the first time. Back then, there were only two or three black belts in Korea (one of my instructors Park Jun-young, but I had not met him yet, and John Frankl and Lee Hee Sung in Seoul).
Back in France, I had the most experience out of everyone in the club, beside my instructor. I was used to being one of the top guy in class. I remember thinking naively that I was close to blue belt level.
Well, I got my ass kicked by everyone, white on up. I remember, one of my friends ( a white belt, too) triangle choking me over and over again for five minutes and one of the purple belts using me as a surf board. I was pretty much used as a grappling dummy by everybody in class. I realized that I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to improve. Everyone was pretty nice, though. There was only one other foreigner besides me training at our gym at that time, too.
I have a lot of good memories at that gym. I got promoted to blue there and put a lot of time in on the mat. It wasn't the biggest, most fancy, or nicest gym. It was in a small basement with no central air (so it was hot and humid as hell in the summer and freezing cold in the winter), but I felt like I had the best training partners and instructors in the world.
It has been interesting to see all the different gym dynamics that have taken place over the years. I have seen two of my instructors and one of my teammates promoted to black belt. I've witnessed talented guys who I never thought would quit drop out. I've gone from white to purple and have had the chance to watch my teammates grow as well.
I went in on Saturday to find both the upstairs and downstairs to our new gym pretty much all completed, except for the installation of the air conditioner. Here are some pictures.