Jiu-jitsu opportunities have become a focus for when I travel. I simply need to train to feel mentally healthy and physically alive. I may miss being with the crew of talented practioners at Toronto No Gi, but my life is busy and complicated, so I need to take advantage of every chance I find to learn when I cannot be at home. I never underestimate the personal growth that I can gain from simply taking a chance and seeking out members of the world community when I hit the road. While it may be daunting to contact a gym in a foreign country or even nearby my home base of Toronto, every single interaction I have had with people who practice this gentle art has been perspective-shifting. Bermuda Combat Club has lived up to my hopes.
Bermuda Combat Club is a young gym founded by the very talented and enthusiastic Mark Prior. A Bermudian by birth a Canadian for a time, and a Bermudian with his chosen return, Mark is a 25 year old with that passion you always hope people will have when you cross their paths. He currently holds his blue belt, but definitely felt like a strong purple belt from my 103 classes of experience. He is an excellent teacher of fundamentals and I simply felt like I mattered in his new gym location. I was an unknown visitor from Toronto, Canada, but he took the time to reply quickly to my Messenger texts and be super positive about a possible roll.
Bermuda has always been a mythical place for me. I am an avid reader and in the 1980s, the Bermuda Triangle was equivalent to King Tut’s Curse, Sasquatch and UFOs. With the birth of our baby girl, I wanted to travel early to see whether we could continue this adventurous part of our lives. Bermuda was highly recommended by close friends as a destination for its proximity to Toronto, cost in the off season and easy way of life. I have not been disappointed with that choice.
Bermuda does not appear to be a fighting country in the conventional sense. In fact, Mark appears to be a bit of a voyageur in his aspirations to bring MMA/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Hamilton, Bermuda. I found Bermuda Combat Club online and began contact in January. Replies were quick and positive about a possible drop-in during my 9 day visit. Then…the gym moved locations and Mark was recovering from a boxing match. It was a no go, but he graciously offered to show me the space and talk about his gym. And then…two days after arrival I made contact again and found myself in the rare chance of being the first person in his newly installed mats in his new space off of King and Front Streets. Of course, I would love to come to roll even though I had no name to associate with whom I had corresponded nor any idea what I was in for…with my wife and four month old baby in tow.
I had packed a couple of rashguards, tights and a pair of Jeff Glover/Lucky Gi clown shorts, just in case things changed; and they did. We showed up to be greeted warmly and find out that I had not showed up for a tour and brief roll, but rather a private class in the new space. Perhaps my conditioning was a little off from being out of class for a bit, but going to some amazing seminars over the previous few weeks, but I was definitely challenged by the warm-ups and drills. It was exactly what my body needed, despite some shallow breath and sweat.
I will admit it: I wanted to train in Bermuda to work on my triangle. I did. Hokey, but true, and Mark has an excellent triangle and seemed to understand that a “Bermuda triangle” concept might be a good intro selling point for his gym. C’mon…those would be cool rashguards and t-shirts if designed properly. Who would not want one of those; especially since it could almost be an inversion of the Gracie triangle logo. Mark was able to walk me through the steps of improving my triangle, which has always been tough for me due to inflexibility and weight. 16 months into training however, and my body is adapting, which made for a fortuitous chance for me to relearn the finer points. My key takeaways related to arm tension and added submission pressures once the triangle is locked; those additions are what made the concept “Bermudian” to me and will be a mystery to you until you come train with Mark and the crew here.
Mark’s session was deliberate and tight. He adapted his plan to my actual abilities, and when I expressed an interest in focusing on Triangle attacks he jumped on it and spent a good amount of time on that specific attack. We also worked on a back escape and a turtle flow. Overall, I was more than happy with the level of instruction; Mark knows his game, and is engaged in the moment.
The gym is in a small, but quality, space that he shares with a personal trainer. His Dollamur mats are clean and I saw that he takes hygiene seriously. While there is no change rooms that I saw on-site, there are two private bathrooms and given the size of the current gym incarnation that seemed totally fine.
In the end I had a superb hour and a half. I really enjoyed our three 3 minute rolls at the end, too. His style is much different than mine and his fluidity was evident as he kept me from making any major attacks while being submitted multiple times before him. Still, I always felt safe, but challenged, during the rolls and they gave me much to reflect upon.
The normal drop-in fee for a class was $25, so I paid $40 to be fair to his time. Would I recommend a visit to Bermuda Combat Club? Well, I am heading back tomorrow for another kick at the can…and remember that it is my vacation time, so for me to push hard twice must mean that there is something unique in the offerings. There will undoubtedly be more to write later, and I should probably post the actual photographs in lieu of iPhone shots of the back of my camera, but they seemed to fit the mood. As a white belt with three stripes, I have been so lucky to meet so many amazing people and learn from some truly gifted teachers; Mark Prior is one of those gifted teachers.