Lachlan Giles Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Camp 2019-Recap
By Physiotherapist Matt Ho
Like many weekend warriors, I have always wondered what it would be like to train like a professional athlete. Watching world class jiu-jitsu players and MMA fighters ply their trade and improve their skills at the gym only to go away, recover and come back in the evening made me think about how I would fare if given a similar chance. So, when Lachlan Giles, the world class Brazilian jiujitsu blackbelt, renowned coach and physiotherapy PhD, announced his next yearly camp in Thailand, I jumped at the opportunity.
As much as I would hate to admit it, I knew deep down that it wouldn’t be quite the same as being a full time jiu-jitsu player. The camp was to take place in the veritable island paradise of Phuket, and we would be pampered. Multiple sports massages, island hopping and a luxurious resort would combine to detract from the rugged professional athlete experience. Regardless, I made the small sacrifice of leaving a gloomy Melbourne winter to slum it in a resort and do jiu jitsu twice per day with the occasional massage thrown in.
The actual instructional element of the camp took place in Absolute MMA’s Phuket location. Formerly Lion Muay Thai, the gym has recently been transformed into an MMA facility, complete with bags, two rings and an MMA cage. The BJJ mat area is quite large, and easily accommodated the 40 odd participants. As a reminder of the gym’s past, the rest of the facilities are rather rustic, without amazing toilet/shower facilities. Like most Muay Thai gyms, it is also open air. This sounds cool, but in reality it makes the training pretty tough until your body acclimatises and I don’t remember being more drenched in sweat than my first few days of this camp. Personally, I enjoyed the struggle, but I could see how the oppressive heat and humidity could detract from the experience. The whole camp was thankfully no-gi, and I’m not sure how I would cope in a gi given the conditions!
Anyone who takes BJJ even slightly seriously will recognise the name Lachlan Giles. He is a distinguished BJJ competitor, having been to ADCC (the consensus highest level of grappling) and competed at the Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI). He also runs a popular YouTube channel with in-depth instructional videos, has released his own sets of BJJ DVDs, and is active on (and loved by) social network/forum website Reddit.
Those who have trained under Lachy at Absolute MMA St Kilda, or anyone who has viewed his instructional videos will be used to his direct and clear teaching style. There is a certain economy of words that true masters display, and Lachy is very much in this category. But this isn’t at the expense of detail, and Lachy also explores the minutia of the subject; this week it was Half-guard.
I have been lucky to train with Lachy occasionally, as I regularly visit St Kilda whilst being a member of Absolute MMA Collingwood. His class structure is familiar for the camp, with a heavy emphasis on specific training and details in drilling. You can opt to roll/spar after specific training, and Lachy made a point of rolling with everyone on the camp at least once. Personally, I opted to avoid rolling more than 3 rounds per session in the first few days upon recommendation from previous attendees, as it can be easy to run yourself into the ground early and not be able to recover (turns out it’s not that easy being a pro athlete after all!)
The structure of the week’s instruction worked very well, and its obvious that a lot of thought has been put into how content is presented. Morning sessions are dedicated to guard retention/sweeps/subs, whilst evenings are all about passing the same position we drilled in the morning. The positions explored became more complex as the camp went on, meaning the information was progressive and your knowledge built upon. This really improved my personal information retention, as well as my depth of knowledge in particular half-guard positions. I usually use a journal to remember specific techniques, and I did so for the camp. This also helped me download information, but the whole camp was recorded which will be incredibly useful as my memory becomes hazy.
The general structure of the camp meant that many different experience levels could be catered for, and I would recommend anyone from noob white-belt upwards to attend. The majority of participants were blue belts, and I certainly learnt a lot just rolling with people who had different styles from the myriad of other gyms.
It would also be remiss of me to not mention Liv Giles, Lachy’s wife. She is an accomplished black belt and competitor herself and would chip in with her knowledge and expertise where relevant which was fantastic. Liv was the D’Arce to Lachy’s Anaconda.
There are a few levels of accommodation, but I opted for the luxury resort. This was only a ten-minute walk from the gym, or you could be a classic Thailand tourist and hire a scooter. After hearing many horror stories of people crashing (and crashing myself on previous visits) I opted to walk, and this wasn’t an issue. I would call it a nice warm up to class, but with temperatures above 30 degrees and 80% humidity, the walk more closely resembled a sauna session (particularly coming from a freezing Melbourne winter).
The accommodation itself was fantastic. The resort was clean, the staff friendly and the rooms large. I was only metres away from the pool, which had its own bar and sun lounge area. This was perfect for a midday recovery swim or post session beer/debrief. The resort was made up almost entirely of people from the camp, which gave the week a friendly, community atmosphere, and was also conveniently located within a short walk of numerous restaurants, which made refuelling much easier.
As is always the case with BJJ, washing was an ever-present issue. I was going through rashies and shorts at a rate of knots. Thankfully both the resort and a local laundry took the hassle out of washing, although I would still soak my stuff in soap immediately after I returned from the gym because I like to smell nice.
If you haven’t been to Thailand before, there is plenty to amuse yourself with off the mats. The camp was located in the South of Phuket, which is less popular with pesky Australian tourists. But this also means accessibility to attractions is reduced somewhat. Thankfully, Absolute organise most of the outings and transfers. The less thinking required, the better in my opinion!
The trips were all quite standard; visiting the Big Buddha, night markets, Muay Thai fights and a longboat ride around the islands. To be fair, I had been to Thailand previously and none of these seemed exciting, but I attended a few of the excursions and they were fun enough. The transport to and from the attractions left a bit to be desired, and was almost always late. This was frustrating but not unexpected, as the Thai’s tend to work on ‘Island Time’. The other drawback of going out on the trips was the lack of recovery between sessions. Most of the outings were organised early in the week, which meant reduced recovery between the morning and afternoon sessions. It doesn’t seem like much, but those few hours of lying down or recovering in the pool really helped to make the second session easier, and I would probably skip most of the outings if you have been to Thailand before.
Two sports massages were included in the week’s package, and I saved these for later in the week. These were surprisingly firm, and I was amazed at the ability of a 45 Kilogram Thai woman to manipulate and contort my body. When I suggested she should try Jiu-Jitsu, she just gave me a blank smile. She must’ve been a Muay Thai fan.
Whilst the instruction was a highlight and the main reason for the trip, the atmosphere created by those who attended made the whole week genuinely fun. As previously mentioned, there was a diverse range of experience levels on the camp, but the people were amazing. It turns out BJJ nerds have a lot in common! It was great to get to know people from around the world with a common interest, and to have meal or a few beers and share stories. The majority of attendees were Australian, but there was a healthy European and North American presence also, which added a different dynamic and potentially extended my couch surfing network.
A great testament to Lachy was his commitment to get to know the camp’s participants. I have chatted to Lachy briefly after class previously (we share the physiotherapy profession), but we never really hung out. It was fantastic to see Lachy off the mats and have several in depth discussion about a range of topics (Lachie insisted he could apply his training philosophies to carp fishing. Look out pro carp fishing circuit!)
The week was generally well run and a credit to the organisers whilst the instruction was structured brilliantly and catered to all levels. While there are a few things that I would do differently next time, I will be hassling Lachie about his plans for the next camp, because I will be very quick to sign up.