Posted On:7/22/2010 2:58pm
Style: BJJ / MT
Note: Reposting from a blog my buddies and I are working on. visit it at http://death-panel.blogspot.com Thanks!
I arrived in Charlestown Rhode Island at 11:45 am to a desolate shopping center that was populated by a ballet academy and some form of bait shop/deli. I found no trace of the martial arts school I was looking for, not even the normal handwritten sign propped up by a car covered in Sprawl and Tapout stickers. I was lost. Not that Charlestown is the worst place to be lost. There were quaint back roads and shops, and a strong cell phone connection which would go far should the situation get out of hand. Fortunately I printed out my email response from Dan, one of the enthusiastic coaches of Omoplata BJJ.
I called Dan to see if my Google map had deceived me, or if I misunderstood the terrain. To be honest, I was not totally convinced that he would answer the phone at all. Dan did, however, answer the phone and he spoke with the same confidence I noticed in his initial email. This was the same confidence I would notice thirty minutes later while rolling with him. This was not the heavy weight, Lesnar style arrogance. It was a type of bright-eyed, 133 pound bottomless energy that was going to require a thunder cloud to dampen.
‘Dan’ is Daniel Faggella, a 22 year old motivational speaker, grappling coach, entrepreneur, scholar and human spark-plug. I informed Dan that I was at the Charlestown address, but was unable to locate his gym. He took control of the conversation and spewed off to me all the pieces to the puzzle that I would need. First, he identified that he recalled me as the guy from Texas interested in dropping in. Second, he described that he was picking up his buddy, but he would still be at the school on time. Finally, he informed me that due to a misunderstanding with the landlord that the school was now operating out of Wakefield.
The misunderstanding with the landlord came about from an overly complicated liability issue. The space Dan and his school were using was in a boxing school that enjoyed the extra foot traffic the accompanying the grappling school provided. Interestingly, this was not the first time Dan Faggella was asked to start over. He initially was training at a martial arts academy that later became defunct, which is where Dan was first given the opportunity to coach BJJ. The owner/head instructor of the school informed Dan they were closing, but he could take the wrestling mats with him if he would like. Dan took the mats and set up an impromptu school in a small backroom of his father’s carpet shop. It was run very organically with other former students of Dan’s former academy. This was the beginnings of Omoplata BJJ.
I now had the directions to the new location (across from a huge, ugly purple building) and I was off full speed up route 1 to Wakefield. Miraculously I was able to locate the new secret hide-out as everyone was arriving. Faggella is very intimate with the community of South County, Rhode Island. He was born at South County Hospital, which is four blocks from his new location in Wakefield. He spent his formative years in South Kingston, and went to college a town over at the University of Rhode Island. He did, however, confess that as a child between the ages of seven and fourteen he spent extensive time in Europe visiting the Swiss country side, German dairy farms and marveling over how small the Mona Lisa is in Paris. This certainly adds to Dan’s interesting view of how large and small the world truly is. Upon arriving, there appeared to be six or seven guys in their early twenties, bronzed by endless days on the beaches of Narragansett and hardened by years of full contact team sports. They were all very close friends, I liked this. I quietly followed them down the small hallway to the basement of an office building/church style building. The building was the type of place that was perfect for Tuesday and Thursday AA meetings. I gave the appearance of someone that was more stalking them instead of following, like a herd of antelope in the African plains. I was noticed by the big man at once and all fourteen eyes were on the stranger, and all awaiting some serious explanation. I tried to look for the voice on the phone, but he found me first. Dan was friendly to the point of nausea, by no means a bad thing in my book. He addressed me as Mike, from Texas. Immediately everyone’s stare softened as though they knew I had the secret pass word cleared by Dan.
The true size of the school varies and fluctuates daily and based on whose definition of ‘member’ you trust. Dan indicated there are about 10 normal, full time students. However, based on seasonality and private lessons, the total can get closer to twenty-five. The training facilities were rustic, but cozy. It was a mix between a Peruvian Karate school and a beer sign laden attic man-cave. School sponsorships were shown on t-shirts hanging from a makeshift clothing rack. There was quite the buzz surrounding the new pull-up bar that was installed in the door frame of the utility closet. One piece of equipment I recognized immediately from the website was the wall to wall wrestling mat. This was the same flooring that Faggella acquired from his previous school.
I was either in for a half-assed instructional on BJJ or I found that hole-in-the-wall establishment people are always talking about. Off the beaten path, much like the best place for Thai food in the city, or the best Guinness pour that happens to be found in a truck stop. My money was on the latter. The website clearly showed NAGA and Pan-Am results, and schools do not post NAGA and Pan-Am results unless they truly love submission grappling. I started my worked out by rolling for position with Justin. I knew I would have my hands full with Justin as he wore the unmistakable garb of a grappler, Sprawl shorts and a rash guard. My four months of grappling were only going to keep me afloat for so long. We slapped hands and began.
I had sixty pounds or so on Justin, so my thought was to push-in and keep a solid base while not getting triangled. He had the slow, calm yoga breathing of a grappler comfortable with having someone much larger in his guard. I soon found out why. Justin was able to smoothly and calmly sweep me, not all the way over, but certainly off my foundation. I found this to be a common theme in Omoplata BJJ.
After ten or fifteen minutes with Justin, Dan asked to break in for the next waltz. I was overmatched to say the least. Dan had taken my back and flattened me out. He then pulled up my head and painted my neck with both hands to show he could have tapped me with either hand. Dan said they called being flattened out, being ‘dolphined’. Fitting, I thought. I also thought that I should have brought my own water bottle, because at this point I was quite parched.
Dan gave me helpful pointers and constructive criticism. He recognized that my base was relatively solid, but I was not following up on opportunities. For example, he noticed I was good at breaking his guard, but needed to move on and make a move to pass his guard instead of sitting back. As cliché as it sounded, it appeared as though I was waiting for something. I thanked him and class moved on.
Faggella gets his pointers and tips from a wide range of sources. To continually improve, he has attended classes at two dozen schools everywhere from New York to Massachusetts to Maryland. Many of the schools he visits are much larger than his, and while he currently prefers the small size of his school, he admits that larger schools have a wonderful diversity of personal styles and skill levels. In competition level grappling, diversity and depth are the name of the game.
Everyone paired up for technique. I was coupled with a gentleman named Black, which was ironic because he looked Italian. He had the quiet gaze of a Marine. His answers were precise and his head was donned with a high and tight style buzz cut. I was to find out later that his name was shortened from ‘Black History’ based on a renaming convention.
On a sidebar, Marines are pretty common in martial arts schools and I have found them to be great partners. The only mistake I have made with a Marine that cased an outward emotional reaction was referring to someone as a former Marine as ‘Marine’ is a title for life. It turns out Black was not a Marine. In fact he just cut off his hair. I was told that it was Willie Nelson-like, and the explanation was accompanied by a giggle. Dan led the class. Among the assorted grapplers was Dan, Black, Justin, two frat brothers, a newbie and a mountain of a man that I assumed played right guard for the New England Patriots. Aside from the Goliath, I was the largest person there, weighing in at just under two hundred.
The class ran like a Quaker service. Everyone was given the floor to talk and, when not talking, actively listening. No one interrupted. Dan was more into mediating and demonstrating then drilling. In fact, I found it like watching literary critics discussing a novella. However instead of literature they discussed sweeps and side control. They were all united by sportsman camaraderie and a love for submission grappling.
One aspect I was very curious about was the ranking system of the school as it was a no gi class. Faggella indicated that he very rarely runs gi classes, and that belt rank is not strictly enforced, yet. He does hope to expand, and with that expansion include a more formal ranking system. Until that time, everyone will be ranked based on the way they perceive their ability.
The techniques were translated partially by one of the frat brothers. The frat brother recently attended a class in Providence at the school of a Carlos Machado black-belt, Tim Burrill. He and Dan felt through the techniques and handheld students as needed.
Black was very patient as I floundered around trying to get out from his side control while attempting to counter his whizzer. I felt more at easy when we worked on getting out from under someone’s side control by bridging, sitting-up and pushing on the triceps of an opponent. This sort of motion was more common in my normal training in north Texas, where there is a stronger influence of Oklahoma style wrestling.
Another individual came in. I learned later his name was Josh. It was apparent that he was well seasoned in grappling as he wore the cauliflowered ears quite well. He offered up some nice advice on maneuvering while in someone else’s side control to get one’s hands consolidated.
As with Dan, Josh was also strong with sweeps as he showed how to continue to gain a dominant position. Unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to converse with him further. He seemed to have the swagger of a New England carpenter and the commanding tone of, what Bostonians call, a ‘Statie.’
My time was up at Omoplata. I shook everyone’s hand and shared small talk with a student toying around with the idea of relocating to Austin. I paid my drop in fee to Dan, but I get the feeling that I was more worried about paying than he was about getting paid. This informal business style is how he handles his regulars as well. A spit-palmed 1950’s style handshake agreement denotes a contract.
Faggella did take the money without me insisting, which was the only indication up to that point that Omoplata was a for-profit business and not a commune of hippie martial artists. I went to shake his hand and recognized it as turned upwards to indicate I was in store for a high-five with a transition into a half hug. I later asked Dan about his thoughts on mixed-martial arts. His excitement was much different than that of other instructors that I can recollect. He likens that idea that there is going to be a new crop of MMA fighters that have trained since childhood to a strong farm system in baseball. This idea seemed very fitting with Wakefield being so close in proximity to the Red Sox farm team in Pawtucket.
The optimistic Rhode Islander has no dreams of becoming the next BJ Penn, however. He simply wants to ‘give back to a sport that gave so much to him.’
I departed, and upon arriving at the state liquor store, I gave serious consideration to picking up an extra six-pack of IPA and calling Dan to see about a pint. I decided not to as I was on grill and cooking duty back at the ocean. If asked about Omoplata BJJ, I will likely glowingly recommend it quietly in the same fashion I might suggest a hidden beach or obscure meat market. It is a locals-only establishment that welcomes visitors with open arms and technically sound sweeps.
School site: http://www.objja.com
Dan's site: www.danfaggella.com
Last edited by recourse; 7/22/2010 3:04pm at .
Don't mess with the Mega-Buster
Posted On:7/22/2010 3:49pm
Style: A+B, D-Pad
His nickname from the old days was " Micro" cuz he was the youngest and the smallest. He's got a strong heart, a sharp mind, and a solid game. Great pedagogy, great guy.
Secret moves such as hitting a thing with your hand and hitting a thing with your leg have been stolen and degenerated by arts like karate, boxing, muay-thai, Kung-fu, and basketball. -Epicurious
I for one welcome our new Ninja overlords.
I figure fighting a group of chunners would be like water torture, its not the force as such, just the constant trickle of chain punches wearing down your sanity. -The Juggernoob
Posted On:7/22/2010 4:50pm
Only had time to read half of it, you have a good writing style. An editor/someone else that reviews it would tighten things up. ie 'password'
Surfing Facebook at work? Spread the good word by adding us on Facebook today! https://www.facebook.com/Bullshido
Posted On:7/22/2010 8:31pm
Originally Posted by PizDoff
Only had time to read half of it, you have a good writing style. An editor/someone else that reviews it would tighten things up. ie 'password'
Thanks for moving it to the correct forum. I am *NOT* the author of this article. It's written by my buddy Mike. We have a new martial arts focus blog at http://death-panel.blogspot.com I will let him know its on the front page!
Posted On:7/22/2010 9:16pm
It was a fun place to visit and train for a day. Thanks for the kind words PizDoff. JBliss, you hit it on the head. Dan's got energy and enthusiasm from here to Mars.
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