Sunday Open Mat at Checkmat Charlotte

Sunday Open Mat at Checkmat Charlotte

Every friend group and social circle is like a little sitcom - diverse personalities and backgrounds come together and mix in interesting ways: we share stories, experiences, and just generally grow and learn together. Our gym at Checkmat Charlotte is no different - it's the funniest group of characters who all get together and practice "folding clothes with people in them" as someone once described jiu-jitsu to me. In this post, I'm going to take you through a typical Sunday open mat and describe some of the people and personalities that make up the day to try to give you a sense for what being a part of this community is like.

 

Before diving into that, a quick intro. I'm Josh - I've been training at Checkmat Charlotte under Professor Michael Allen for about a year and a half, and I recently got my blue belt, which was an amazing experience. I've played sports for most of my life, but they've been decidedly not contact sports - I focused mostly on tennis and swimming - so jiu-jitsu was a complete change of pace that took me way outside my comfort zone. I felt like a complete fish out of water for the first 6 months of training jiu-jitsu, but trust me, it gets better, and now it is a part of my life that I value very highly.

 

The drive in

So anyway, Sunday open mat.  Our story begins on the drive to the gym. I'm usually listening to music, doing some internal checks, seeing how my body feels, thinking in anticipation of the training session that day. When I first started doing jiu-jitsu to be completely honest I would feel quite nervous on the drive to the gym. Josh Hinger and Keenan Cornelius have talked about this phenomenon of anxiety before training on their podcast, the Matburn Podcast  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhZF1Ukbnzo) and I have definitely felt that before. I think it was just due to being so unused to everything about jiu-jitsu and not sure how to control how the training session would go. Now that I'm more comfortable on the mats and thanks to the great group of people we have at Checkmat Charlotte I no longer feel nervous in the slightest before going to practice. If anything I feel excited to see friends again and to see if Professor Allen throws anything fun at us that day (shark tank anyone?).

 

The first few rolls

Upon arriving at the gym, we head inside to warm up, stretch out, and start with the first few warmup rolls. The first couple rolls are always fun as it feels good to stretch out, and it can be funny to see who starts to ramp up the intensity sooner rather than later. We tease each other, saying "yeah, we'll go light this round, flow rolls for sure" and then somehow ending up with a high intensity round pushing the pace complete with double-leg takedowns and flying armbars.

 

 

The usual suspects part 1: Cory Clay

At this point in the story, talking about when to go light versus when to go heavy, I need to introduce you to Cory Clay. Cory is a fellow Checkmat Charlotte teammate, he's a white belt who routinely submits almost all our blue belts (including me). Cory is strong, fast, athletic, and explosive - he played football for a number of years and sometimes when starting a sparring round he will assume a 3 point stance like he is a linebacker that is…intimidating to be on the other side of. He's also the sweetest guy with a heart of gold. The thing about Cory is that due in part to his competitive nature and in part to the fact that he is still a relative newcomer to jiu-jitsu, he is someone we always mess with about ramping up the intensity in a hurry. He's tons of fun to roll with, but you need to know that when you're going with Cory, you're always liable to find yourself in a competition-intensity roll. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

The usual suspects part 2: Dan Schnitzler

After some warmup rolls and surviving my first Cory encounter, I'll usually find my way over to Dan Schnitzler. Dan is a blue belt who has been training jiu-jitsu off and on for a while and he's been at Checkmat Charlotte for a few months longer than I have. Dan recently wrote a post about his jiu-jitsu journey which you can find here to read more about him: https://checkmatcharlotte.com/blog/100949/Final-Destination-Checkmat- .

 

Dan is a highly technical jiu-jitsu player, definitely much more technical than me. I still rely heavily on being 6'4" and reasonably athletic to have any success haha. He's a little bit smaller than me - roughly 195 lbs to my 205 lbs - but more experienced and more technical, so he is a ton of fun to roll with. Dan is great to roll with at any intensity - we can have very controlled, fluid, flow rolls, or we can have savage battles when Professor Allen is pushing us to train at competition pace. The cornerstone of his game is a slick deep half guard, but he's been steadily adding layers and he's got some slippery escapes that make him hard to pin down. In my rolls with Dan, every inch counts. If I leave some space in half guard against some of the others in the gym then they don't always penalize me for it but with Dan if I give an inch he takes a mile - in slips a knee and next thing I know I'm back in full guard.

 

The usual suspects part 3: Kenny Romero

After a nice chess match with Dan, at some point during the open mat I will find myself being pitted against Professor Kenny Romero. Kenny recently got his black belt - he was Professor Allen's first black belt promotion and it was an amazing thing to see. I haven't known either of them for too long, but from the stories they share and how they interact it's clear that Michael and Kenny have shared a lot and have a deep bond between them.

 

Kenny is…a demon, and I mean that in the nicest way possible :). He's an incredibly nice guy with again a heart of gold, but the thing about rolling with a black belt is they can literally make you tap from anywhere. When I first got my blue belt, the first time I rolled with Kenny I ended up hog tied with my blue belt around my feet and him pulling me behind him across the floor of the gym. And I was actively fighting to stop him! Kenny routinely wraps me up like a Christmas Day present, which is exactly what I want and need in my training sessions. It's so great to have him there because he raises the bar and motivates me by showing me that there's levels to this and I have a long way to go :).

 

Closing

Ok - I'll wrap it there. Those were only a few of the merry cast of characters who populate our training sessions - maybe I'll do a follow-up post in the future spotlighting a few more of them, but I'd also encourage you to come meet them for yourself! Hope to see you on the mats.

 

-Josh

 



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