Friday, January 17, 2014

Brown Belt and the U.S.A.! Part II

My second training session at my new gym Paragon BJJ Austin (11:30-1:00 session-Jeff Rockwell's class)

The culture shock of coming back to the U.S.A. after almost six years overseas has been enormous.  It was surreal getting off the plane and coming back to America.  Everywhere I went, it felt like I was dreaming.  I could actually understand everyone even though things felt weird and out of place.

Suddenly the littlest things were suddenly a big deal.  For example, my wife and I drove from Dallas back home to Austin and we were actually nervous having to order food at a sandwich shop.  We also fought over who was going to go inside a convenience store and buy gas since we were both too scared to do it.   

I know what you're thinking.  What the hell is this guy's problem?  Is he for real?  Well, I've done these thing a million times before, but it had been forever since I had to converse with someone in English in a real world setting and interact with another individual from my own cultural background.  I'd been use to trying to converse in broken French and Korean for the last six years.

Things have gotten better but I still feel myself wanting to do things like address people in Korean and bow.  It's been hard to try and change a lot of my behavior to fit in with the social norms here in the U.S.   Slowly but surely it's coming along even though I probably still do things that people find odd. 

Anyway, things have been hectic for me lately.  I was recently re-admitted to the University of Texas at Austin where I did my undergraduate studies.  Then I had to apply to the School of Communications for acceptance to take the  leveling courses necessary to gain entry into the master's program for communication sciences and disorders (I want to be a speech-language pathologist). 

I was admitted and am now officially a communications student!  I rule.  Being back a UT is awesome and the change from being a teacher to a student is refreshing to say the least.   The campus is beautiful and just one of the many perks of being a student at UT.

                       Charles Whitman shot and killed fourteen people from this tower in 1966

   My favorite place to study, the UT architecture library

                         What does this fountain have to do with BJJ?  Nothing I just like it.

We are fortunate enough to have a BJJ club on campus as well!  It's mostly made up of beginners but there are some experienced guys at the club as well.  It's a great little club and everyone there is positive and enthusiastic about learning jiu-jitsu.

The best part of the club is the instructor Mike Harmon.  I've been a student of Mike's for about two and a half months now, and I have to say he's an wonderful teacher and a super cool guy.  He also happens to be a badass, and won the IBJJF No Gi Worlds at brown belt in 2012.

                                            Glam Shot

Mike is actually the first black belt my size that I've ever had the opportunity to roll with.  For me, every time I have the chance roll with him it's a real pleasure since we are about the same size and he has the skill set to push me physically and technically which is something that I really need.  He is better than me (duh, he's a black belt) which can only make me better by rolling with him.

The University of Texas BJJ club is located on campus in Belmont on the ninth floor.  The club is open to everyone, not just UT students.  Moday is gi 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Wednesday is no gi 6 p.m.-8 p.m., and Friday there is an open mat at 3:00-5:00 p.m.  If anyone is interested in training at our club here is the link to the website or you can contact me:


                                       UT BJJ club, first class of the Spring 2014 session

Lastly, I finally found a gym to train at and call home.  My team is now Paragon BJJ Austin.  I can't say enough good things about this place.  The level of the students is very, very good and everyone I've met has been welcoming and friendly.

Actually,  one of the main reasons I joined Paragon (besides the things I already mentioned) is that Mike Harmon and Jeff Rockwell both teach there and the owner Robert Dembeck is a really cool guy and awesome training partner who happens to be an awesome brown belt.  

                  Rob and I, He is "gyopo" so my instructor in Korea approves of him....ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

First, I want to talk about Jeff Rockwell.  I first met Jeff at the university club.  He's one hell of an instructor (one of the best I've had the pleasure of learning from) and hands out ass whippings like nobody's business.  He has a nasty crucifix and when I roll with him I just think about trying to survive.  He also seems to like Prince and has a laid back teaching style, so he is officially in my cool book.

   Jeff doing what he does best:  Beating dat' ass

The other instructor Jose Portillo is also a very accomplished competitor and someone who kicks my butt on a regular basis.  I've already learned some really good stuff from Jose and his technical knowledge is incredible.  I really enjoy his teaching style as well, and he has the habit of ending his sentences with "ok" when he is instructing which I find amusing.  

             Jose Portillo-2012 Houston Grand Prix (brown belt final)
    Paragon BJJ Austin

Now on to the most important piece of information.  My cat Iyagi 이야기 is liking America, but he still thinks Korea is better.  He's now an honorary Texan and has taking a liking to Lone Star beer in an attempt to fit in with the locals.  Peace.


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