FRAT: Gumby Telling Old Stories

Maybe I will write a book one day. I was an English Major in college after all, the degree should be worth something.  Of all the medium's I've been involved in I think I express myself in the printed word the best.  The only trouble it's sometimes difficult to get any kind of instantaneous feedback from it.  A lot of times when I would produce something for it felt as if it was going out into the ether (which is one reason why I enjoy teaching so much).  In all fairness however, I've always tried to be the one the half of the dynamic duo that stayed in the shadows more or less; you don't get to have your cake and eat it too.

The apparent demand for a book has piqued my interests in writing again.  I think I have an interesting story to tell: my own perspective and adventures in a time and place people have seemed to take a lot of interest in.  I've seen a lot, but instead of trying to promote myself as some kind of international man of mystery, I tend to think of myself as the Forrest Gump of Jiu Jitsu.

Last week to get the creative juices flowing again I banged out the first part of what was supposed to be a three pronged story.  Then I got bored and distracted.  Rather than wait until I finished and release it, I figured I'd post what I have so far, get some feedback (attention whoring), and suggest I'm open to bribes.

Bribes you say?  Actually, my needs are pretty simple.  I'm trying to garner some more like for the OntheMat Facebook page.  For being the Jiu Jitsu online pioneers, we've actually been a bit behind the curve in regards to social media and we're trying to rectify that.  Like my stories, give out FB page a like and maybe a little comment on how you found us there.  A few hundred more likes, might give me motivation to type faster, lol.

As a bonus, when we hit 15K likes I promise to release our very first full feature release, the VHS only American Penetration to the masses.  So even if you hate my writing you'll get something cool.  

One final word before posting some stories, although I acknowledge that "street fighting" is a part of my past, I really don't want to do anything to glorify those days or that mindset.  However, I've found that being honest and talking about what I've gained from the experience is more important than trying to portray myself as "innocent" or knowing better in those days.  Secondly, the following stories are light hearted enough (considering the subject matter) that I feel comfortable posting.  

Enjoy.  Or not.  

And remember to like us on Facebook!

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Three Nights. Three Fights. Three Crews. One Club

"You know, for such a low key guy Gumby you have sure seen an awful lot" –James Valentine

Experience and the hard earned wisdom that would supposedly come with it should at the very least guide most people into not repeating the same mistakes, or at the very least avoiding situations and places they know were to be prone to trouble. For being the supposed Brainiac of the group however I was sometimes extremely slow in learning a lesson. How else to explain returning to a venue where not once, not twice, but literally every time I set foot in their I was involved in some sort of altercation? Cheap liquor and easy company, I suppose, the downfall of many a great man.

Still, for Polly Esther's in San Francisco, part of chain of large retro night clubs popular around the late 90's early 2000's, the appeal is a bit puzzling. While it is true I had one of the most epic nights of my life in the New York version of the establishment (a tale that's still legendary to a few salespeople and tech support around the Silicon Valley), the SF venue was far more, shall we say vapid. Truth be told, a large corporate establishment like Polly Esther's should have no place in a cities with such vibrant night culture as San Francisco or New York so I deserved everything I got. A two story outfit in the heart of the Tenderloin (a rougher area of SF), the cheesiest 80's tunes spinning on the top floor and the best forgotten 70's on the bottom floor was filled to over capacity with a clientele that could not possibly have remembered enough to be nostalgic for either. I'll admit it was designed for cheesy fun nights that you would not feel particularly proud about the next morning, in other words the kind of trouble I dedicated the better part of my 20's trying to get into.

Polly Esther's was easy to get into, and there in lies both the success and the downfall of the venue: they let anyone in who paid the cover charge. A good nightclub, of course has a certain screening policy at the door to carefully control the atmosphere of the interior. I have come to learn over the years that there is an art to building a party and rather than something that spontaneously happens it is something that is meticulously planned and constantly massaged. Of course, no one that had that much foresight was going to invite me and my rowdy friends into their joint, ("VIP table for a party of 20 dudes and one of them has Birkenstocks on"), but at the academy we rolled as a crew, partied as a unit and never left a man behind, so Polly Esters was something of a necessity to us.

Still the sheer amount of altercations we got into at that one spot, you'd think I'd learn my lesson. Now as I am getting older I have to emphasize that I really do not like to glorify the old street fighter days nor do I revel in tales of bar room brawls or other hijinks that are now in my past. But some stories have to be told; I don't think there are any lessons to be gleaned for future generation in preserving these particular stories, they are simply too absurd not to share. Although all of them involve members of my base camp, the Ralph Gracie Academy in some way, they all actually involve separate parties and the only common denominator in these tales is Polly Esther's.

The Rhino

The first time I went to Polly Esther’s in San Francisco it was with the Ralph Gracie San Francisco crew.  When the San Francisco Academy first opened it quickly developed a personality and a student base separate from the original Mountain View squad.  The SF squad was led by the inimitable Kurt Osiander and below his salty and battle worn exterior was a man with a heart of gold who in every way was perfect to lead this motley counter culture crew.  (The Mountain View Academy in contrast was in the heart of the Silicon Valley and maybe a bit more martial arts traditional make up.).  My territory encompassed a large swath of the Bay Area; at the time I was living next to the Mountain View Academy, but working next to the San Francisco one.  As a result I pretty much divided my time evenly between both, which was an unusual circumstance among the students I think.  Mountain View was my original home base and of course I had strong loyalties to that crew.  At San Francisco I was more of a senior classmate to that crew, whom I became very attached to as well.  The result was that even though there was forty miles separating the two academies, I was still able to train about six days week and was a regular fixture on both mats.  I like to think I did my part to maintain some kind of synergy between the gyms, and at the very least the opportunity helped accelerate my personal growth greatly.  

So the outing at Polly Esther’s was with the San Francisco crew, and although I had been out many times with the Mountain View crew, I believe this was one of the first such outings with the new crew.  Ralph himself rarely if ever went out at night (he’s practically teetotaler and his wife keeps him on a short lease), but Kurt and his wife Michelle (then his girlfriend) led the way this particular night, and there were probably about two dozen students and friends out.  I don’t know who or how the venue was picked, but seeing as the guy/girl ratio was about normal for a  Jiu Jitsu Academy (which is to say extremely skewed) Polly Esther’s might have been the only choice.  

The night was going along smoothly enough and everyone was having a good time.  Still in a place as big as Polly Esther’s even a crew as large as our could get split up.  I think most of the academy was downstairs, bonding as close-knit crews will do going out for the first time.  I’m not sure where Kurt was but I’m guessing it was at the bar, imbibing of the beverage of his choice (which is whiskey these days, but in the past he’s been known to knock back a tequila or two.  I always imagine him drinking out of a Viking horn, which I don’t think he ever has, but now that I mentioned it, that’s the way you’ll always picture him as well).  Michelle and a couple of other girls were dancing upstairs, on some raised platforms.  Some ogre was sort of stalking them, and not knowing where the rest of the crew or Kurt was, Michelle asked me to keep on eye on the situation, which I of course did.  

I should give a bit of a physical description of myself if we have never met in person.  I’m 6’2 and at the time of this story I’m somewhere between 155 and 160 pounds.  You know how the story turns out and I’m obviously not someone that should be messed with, but at the same time I’m hardly the most intimidating person even now.  We all know of course that looks can be deceiving but I have been described on more than one occasion as a “stealth fighter”, if you catch my meaning.  

The gentlemen I was about to confront was a full head taller than I was, and twice as wide.  Not someone who was likely to be impressed by someone my size.  I didn’t even have the height factor in my favor, and that’s a rare thing!  Still when his hand made a motion towards the girls I did not hesitate in grabbing it and telling him to back off.  He gave a kind of drunken laugh and proceeds to get in my face, asking what I’m going to do about it.  I look up at his chin and grit my teeth.  What am I going to do about it?  I’m about to write my own chapter in Jiu Jitsu history, where the hero fells an opponent twice his size using his skills of leverage and technique!

Except it never happens because flying right over my head, Superfly Snuka style is James Meadows, one of the more talented members of the young San Francisco crew and he does have the size and appropriate aura of menace about him to be intimidating force.  He is actually a sweetheart of a guy however, and like me was not about to see his friends come to any harm.  I stepped back, I kind of have a personal code about two on one confrontations but I don’t think I could hide my disappointment as I was yelling at James “but that was my fight!”  Security was actually close by and quickly separates the two anyways, and the big oaf (the molester, not James) scurries off.  A quick reassurance that everyone is all right and we went about our night.  

A little bit later on in the night, close to the time to leave the club I’m wandering around looking for my crew when I checked hard from behind.  I turn around and sure enough it was molester dude.  He tries to shove me with this stupid grin on his face but I step back out of reach and prepare once again for combat.  To be honest, knowing this guy was just coming after just me as opposed to me preparing to defend my friends gave me a knot in my stomach.  Standing up for your friends will give you an added strength, this motivation was different and the situation felt direr.  Still, I bit down, clenched my fist and prepared for….

…the sound of Kurt Osiander howling behind me.  Kurt was charging at full force (I have no idea exactly how long he had been running for), lowers his head and proceeds to crash his skull right into the guy’s chest!  The big lummock (the molester, not Kurt) flies through the air and crash lands a few feet away, Kurt stands between us, eyes narrowed at his target, snorting and stamping his foot.  The big molester tries to stand up but actually falls right over, and security came over and escorted him outside.
Like many a street fighter I’ve known when the proverbial shits hits the fan and they are forced to put on their game face it takes a little while to snap out of it, and Kurt was no exception.  The rest of what came out of his mouth for that night was a serious guttural grunts and growls.  I know that zone as well but I was so startled by what just happened if I ever got to that point I was quickly snapped out of it.  There are a few versions of how Kurt got his nickname the Rhino but for me that would always be the definitive moment.  It was also the strengthening of the bond I will always have with the Osianders.  

to be continued...?

Ill read it in the AM.

Good stuff Gumby, liked the story and the facebook!

Awesome stuff Gumby! I remember the "Ask a Black Belt" interviews from you and Dave Camarillo on YouTube. I loved that series of vids.

I hope this is a continuation of that. <br /><br />Kurt's nickname of Rhino is definitely well earned.

Great read. Thank you Gumby! Can't wait for the continuation.

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Thanks Gumby, just liked the page! Phone Post

Awesome... Phone Post 3.0

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in! And already liked the OTM page awhile back!

in! And already liked the OTM page awhile back!

Would be all over this, but not on Facebook.

VTFU for the supa fly Jimmy snuka reference! Great story too! Phone Post


Quality as always Phone Post

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