The thing about planning a route across America in which you are meeting and training with, as well as shooting big names black belts is you have a million complicated schedules and you have to piece them together like a puzzle. Add in the fact that some of these puzzle pieces don't speak English, never check their email, don't answer their phone, etc. and it becomes even harder than a puzzle. Like a 3D puzzle of the whitehouse or something. No more of that "oh just find the corners, and then the edges, and then fill in the muddle" kind of stuff. There is like ten edges now, and they are all hard as hell to understand on the phone. Due to this, I had to take cancel my plans for Denver, Colorado and find a detour. Denver was my stop before Vegas and Chicago to Vegas would be a hell of a drive, so not wanting to waste a day, I needed a new gym to hit. Luckily, hours before I left Rafael Lovato Jr. emailed me letting me know I was more than welcome in Oklahoma.
I stopped to buy the first meal I had paid for since the trip began and then hit the road for the thirteen hour drive. Same old, same old. Monster, gas, peanutbutter and jelly, repeat. Again I made it into the city late, and a couple of Air Force guys (friends of a friend, one of which who trains at Lovato's gym) opened up their couch to me. I cannot begin to describe the magnitude of their DVD collection. In fact, I would be willing to go back to Oklahoma if only to watch movies. Over the course of my three day stay my choices were Euro Trip, Baseketball and Black Knight. All classics in their own right and I will defend Black Knight until the end due to my undying love for anything Martin Lawrence. I woke up to check out Oklahoma CIty, with the same expectations anyone would have for Oklahoma City. A lot of red clay, some buildings, and a really hot sun. Two things I noticed about Oklahoma City is that they have more statues of people no one has ever heard of, and more elaborate fountains than any other city in the United States. I spent the day sitting in a faountain writing questions for Lovato Jr., and at night finally met him to shoot his no gi class. I can't imagine there is too much to do in Oklahoma City, but training must be one of them because there are a hell of a lot of students. However the facility is more than equipped to handle it with plenty of mat space, a full cage, an exercise area, dressing rooms, etc.
What the Lovato's have created in Oklahoma City is not only a place to train, but an atmosphere. i was greeted by every one in the locker room who kindly introduced themselves. They refer to their instructors as sir, and to senior as Mr. Lovato. Junior even made it a point that it was expected of his students to say goodbye to him when they needed to leave, rather than just taking off. The training was good, and I was treated very well. On day two, after Mr. Lovato's Vale Tudo class, we went out for thai food where he told me more about the city and the history of the gym. At night after class, a handful of students, myself, Junior and his fiance, as well as Justin Rader went out for dinner at a Mexican place.
Just for a moment, let's talk about the enigma that is Justin Rader. Justin is a phenomenal wrestler and brown belt under Lovato, but he is also crazy. Thankfully it is the good kind of crazy that I love. The kind of crazy that got so excited about his order of fish tacos he just picked it up and took a bite, not realizing before hand that it was wrapped in paper. Over the course of the night, I also learned how unhappy he was when he was not invited to a teammate's Star Wars themed Church event. Justin Rader's e-mail address is [email protected]. Basically, if you don't know Justin Rader, you need to, and if he were running for the mayor of a small town, I would vote for him.