Visiting Võimla: Week 18 of Jiu-Jitsu

My partner sometimes visits Estonia for convoluted but fully legal reasons, and sometimes I join him. As four days in Tartu was another opportunity to wreak havoc at another gym, I contacted Võimla some time before the trip.

Yes, I could visit, no problem at all. I should just tell the coach what was going on when I showed up at the gym.

Partner and his friend had gone to do their own thing after we had arrived from Tallinn by bus. As an anxious person, I did feel a bit nervous when dragging my 70-litre gym bag along the icy streets of Tartu. Especially when the roads from the city centre turned into the wooden houses of cool Karlova. Where could you fit a martial arts gym here?

Some friendly locals.

Visitors welcome

At an old massive building at the edge of Karlova park, apparently. Võimla is housed in the building of Tartu University Institute of Education. I followed a person with a Tatami Fightwear bag and found the right floor. I did manage to double-lock the changing room door and to cause a slight altercation involving a cleaner, but otherwise I made it to the mat with my ego almost intact.

Võimla is Estonian for “gym”. It is fronted by Jorgen Matsi, who welcomed me enthusiastically and was kind enough to have the class partly in English as I was present. This visit was also the first time BJJ networking showed its benefits for me, as I bumped into someone on the mat I had met at the Tallinn camp in February. Great!

Class consisted of pure drilling. The techniques were the kind of fundamentals I definitely need to put more practice in: escapes from mount and breaking half guard. Luckily my training partner was proactive in reminding me to tighten my hooks etc, and Jorgen came round to give extra tips when needed. It was a good class.

I am glad I did not let my social awkwardness get the better of me and actually went to visit a gym in a city I happened to be staying in. I’ll be back, both to Võimla and to attending common-or-garden classes in other cities sometimes.

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