Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Academy Hunting Homework #4: Paragon Austin BJJ

The BJJ community is growing bigger and bigger all the time.  Lets face it, Bjj is kind of trendy and on it's way to being mainstreamed.  I feel lucky that I was slightly ahead of the curve and can now observe this explosion of popularity.  Despite  all this growth, I was recently reminded of how small and tight knit this community still remains. I am also surprised that there are so many more academies in North Austin and only a handful in the South Austin area.  So I decided to visit an academy in South Austin called Paragon, that I had never trained at before.

At Paragon, I instantly I felt comfortable and relaxed.  The atmosphere was structured and easy going.  The warmups had some exercises I'd never done before, but for the most part everything was familiar.  The next portion of class consisted of two technical sequences.  The moves were effective and easy to duplicate.  Everyone I met was welcoming, respectful and had a good vibe.  The last portion of class was timed rolling rounds.  I had some tough matches with a few girls and guys.  It was nice to be exposed to a different style and types of movement.

Robert and Darrin make a great team.  You can feel the effort that has gone into building this academy and it reflects in the determination of their students.  Robert looked familiar to me, but I couldn't place where.  After talking for a while ,he said that he thought he had a video of one of my matches. Our mutual friend Angie had filmed it two years ago in L.A. at the Pans.

Small world...

I took a gi and no-gi class at Paragon Austin. After both classes I left a little wiser.  I liked that the class wasn't overloaded with information.  It was simple and easy to playback later.  Darrin is a great teacher and very technical.  Both guys are not large guys and their style made sense for my body type.  I also ran into a familiar face, Richard who was a student when I helped with the kid's classes.  He was always talented and has lots of potential. I was glad to see he's still at it and in good hands at Paragon.

Check them out of you're looking for a fun, supportive, fierce competition team.  They have plenty of talented people, great instruction and are in a good location for south folks.  This academy has a lot of good characteristics; clean facilities for both sexes, good location, parking, clean mats and a nice family style atmosphere.  Try them out for one free week!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hawai'i in one Kukui Nut

The question I am always asked is "Why did you leave Hawai`i?”  People can’t understand why someone would want to leave such a "perfect" place.  Even though I knew I was lucky to grow up in Hawai`i, I tended to take it for granted.  I  sometimes wished I could see Hawai`i through the eyes of a tourist for the first time.  It has got to be like nothing they have ever seen before.  Hawai`i is a beautiful and unique place rich in culture and heritage.  However, no place is perfect.  Living in Hawai'i isn't always as idealistic as it seems.  There are big problems like overcrowding, traffic, poverty, drug addiction, unemployment, low wages, homelessness and the rising cost of living.

As I grew up,  I  felt  connected to Hawai`i despite not always feeling like I fit in. Even though I was born and raised on Oahu and I am of mixed ethnicity, I was often called a Haole because of my light colored skin and non-pigeon accent. Nonetheless, Hawai`i provided me with endless opportunities to learn about other cultures, ways of life, build an appreciation for nature and people.  I hiked, went to the beach and grew up working on my Dad’s farm, but I never had as much appreciation for Hawai`i until after I moved away. By age eighteen I was ready for something bigger and felt increasingly trapped on a " rock" or island.  Then with each visit home, I realized more and more how incredibly lucky I was to be from such an amazing and magnificent place.  I always go to Hawai`i with several lists that include what I want to eat, what I want to do and places I want go to.  There is so much to do and see it can be exhausting trying to accomplish all of my vacation goals. That is  why  I have learned it is  important to just go with the flow.  No matter how busy I get, reconnecting with those I love is what I value most.

If you love food, you'll love Hawai`i.  The food is so ono (delicious) ! I dream of food from Hawai`i all the time.  My food list always  includes: chicken katsu curry, Korean BBQ, malasadas, haupia, laulau, kalua pig, Thai green curry, poke, dim sum, manapua, rice cake, Zippy's chili, mochi, gau, shrimp chips, apple bananas, mountain apples, star fruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, taro, etc.   It's not exactly the healthiest list, but I'm allowed to indulge as long as I work it off, right?

Several  dishes in Hawai`i are heavily starch based, high sodium, fatty and have lots of sugar. To stay fit and not put on those "vacation pounds",  it’s important to eat in moderation, stay active, eat lots of veggies and drink lots of water.  I always prefer to go for a hike or surf than a gym.  There are endless opportunities to stay fit and have fun in Hawai`i.  I've done rock climbing, surfing, Jiu-Jitsu, hiking, paddle boarding, canoe paddling snorkeling, body boarding, swimming, diving and cliff jumping.  And that's not even scratching the surface of things to do.

To some people,  re-visiting and photographing the same areas for as long as I have might be boring.  However, even knowing the island as well as I do,  it never gets old to me.  I always see something new each and every time I visit.  I’ve always liked to play with light manipulation and Hawai`i is the place to do that.  The natural light is amazing. Photos really don't do it justice, but it is  rewarding to try and capture.  My favorite places for photos are St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, and the Wai`anae Coast and North Shore.

Most of all ,I love to go home and reconnect not only with my roots, spirituality and heritage, but with my ohana (family).  My ohana isn't a traditional family.  It is made up of friends, their family members, extended family siblings, aunties and uncles and cousins.   No matter how infrequently we talk or see each other it is as if nothing has changed  even if it has been several years! I can be myself and they accept me for me and vice verse.   It is nice to know I have such awesome people in my life.

 The hardest part of being away from Hawai`i for so long and returning is readjusting to the culture, etiquette and customs.  There is a lot of unspoken "protocol" despite the laid back lifestyle. Such as, if you make an offer (do you want a glass of water?)   and a person refuses, you need to repeat the offer  3 times to be polite.  If you only respond to the first "no", that is considered extremely rude!   The long and short of it is to be polite, appreciative, courteous, and respectful, follow the etiquette and go with the flow.

My life in Austin is nonstop.  I love what I do and I am a rather compulsive worker.  It takes me time to slow down to the speed of the island  life and go with the flow. In Austin, I don't normally have time to be lazy and do nothing, but once I'm able to adjust to the speed of the island I am on auto pilot and I feel whole again.

I never leave Hawai`i empty handed.  I always leave a little bit wiser and more in tune.  The ocean is one of the most cleansing experiences that I know of.  The water is clear and refreshing.  You can feel the layers of built up stress and "gunk" being swept away with the current.  You feel pounds lighter after you get out.  Standing on the edge of a ridge covered with rain forest breathing the fresh air  is also a powerful experience that revitalizes you.  There is beauty everywhere you look.  You can't help but feel renewed and inspired.  Life moves slower so you see things differently and appreciate so much more.

I tend to have more culture shock coming back to Austin from Hawai`i than the other way around. I guess that goes to show, regardless of where I live, Hawai`i is still  my home.  Just as it’s hard to go from 100-0 it’s equally as difficult to go from 0-100.  I realized on my last trip that I need to achieve a balance of life, fun and work.  I felt stronger, wiser and more focused.  I know what I want and am going after it.  I learned that I have to take care of myself and value my needs.  I plan to  let go of a lot and make room for the New Year and all of its experiences, adventures and blessings.

Not everyone is cut out for Hawai`i.  I think that these people have trouble letting go. They expect things to be like they are on the mainland and never really adjust. Perhaps its cause they are not going with the flow. The aina (land) will either embrace you with open arms or kick your butt off the island.   Having a willingness to learn and be open-minded can go a long way.  To most, Hawai`i is a healing and sacred place.  If you are able to build a connection you will become a better person than when you arrived.  Most importantly, respect the ways of the land and people and in turn you will be blessed in many ways and welcomed back to one of the most beautiful places on earth.