Recently, I had an impromptu personal trip to New York. Being the person that I am, I thought, how can I make this into a business trip as well, and where should I train?
It is very easy when travelling to put martial arts training and physical fitness on hold for other endeavors, but I think this is a mistake. When you travel it is the perfect opportunity to either cross train in other styles or go to the best of the best locally in a style you are already used to train in.
In my case, as I also train BJJ, there was only one option. Of course that option was to go to Marcelo Garcia’s BJJ Gym in the Chelsea area in New York. Why Marcelo’s place? Aside from the fact he is a 5 time world champion and 4 time ADCC Champion among other numerous awards.
Marcelo is largely considered to be one of, if not, the top grappler on the planet. On first appearance he does not look like much, as my travelling companion said “How is he the head guy, he is so short”. There is not a man on the planet who has grappled with him who will now not underestimate him. He has produced some very high level black belts and other award winning grappler’s from his gym.
This is not the first time that I have trained at Marcelo’s .The difference between this time and last time is I am now a blue belt. If you are a white belt and decide to go train at this gym then you will be disappointed .You can only attend maybe a third or a half of the classes. This is largely for safety reasons as it is a destination to go to for many grapplers. They do not want any hot head white belt to come in and train with them. They would like to make sure that you have the fundamentals and that you are not a douche bag before they let you take the higher classes.
This time, as a blue belt I could attend all the classes that were listed. Arriving on a Friday afternoon I was able to do 3 and a half hours of straight training. The first two hours were an Advanced 1 and A beginners 2 class taught by second dan Black Belt Paul (If you know his full name please let me know as I do not know it) and the last hour and a half class Advanced 2 was taught by Marcelo himself.
When you go to schools like this you never know who might be teaching. The last time I was at Marcelo’s the legendary Bernardo Faria (The number 1 ranked IBJJF black belt by points) taught the class and when I went to Cobrinhas in LA Black Belt Michael Langhi was teaching. Regardless of who is teaching, when you go to a high level school like Marcelo’s you know that it does not matter as it will be usually be one of the highest calibre guys around.
The one thing I noticed about learning at Marcelo’s is the fluidity of the teaching. Every class focuses on a specific scenario and they usually teach 2-4 options to deal with it in progression. What that means is, they will start with something and say if they do this here is what you do (Offensive option 1). Of course in an action/reaction scenario it is likely they will defend thus after showing an initial technique (Offensive option 1) the next one is always what to do when your opponent blocks with the most common block. So if offensive option 1 doesn’t work because they block like A then do offensive option 2 from the same position. Then if you do the technique to deal with block A but then they block with B then you do offensive option 3 in the same sequence. Now the fluidity part comes from the fact from the given position they are showing you can simply cycle through all the options until one works or the position changes.
This may sound rather confusing but if you do BJJ then I am sure you can follow. This fluidity in teaching methodology is so important in any martial art because of the action/reaction nature of a real conflict. I have learned at various schools for BJJ and I find that no one teaches better than the high level Brazilians. I couldn’t tell you why because any high level BJJ practitioner should be able to instruct in the same fashion, but I have always found there to be a lack of fluidity in how they teach when learning from a High-level BJJ practitioner who is not Brazilian.
For example, in most of the BJJ classes I have taken, they will often show 3 different attacks to do from the same position. However they rarely match up in a fluid continuous attack pattern. They are often 3 different attacks in the same position that are not always sequentially following the same attack but rather are 3 different attacks that can be done but a break in the flow of the attack must occur.
For example, say we are in top/full mount. Options for the offence could be a Kimura. Another option could be an Arm bar transition or it could be a mounted cross collar choke. While yes, all three of these are top/full mount attacks they are attacks that are not fluid together in one continuous high pressure altercation.
This may sound all rather confusing, but fluidity of attack pattern is super important in BJJ and even more important in Krav Maga. A person will rarely do A and then stick with A. They will do A and you block A then they will do B and you block B and then they will do C and then you block C. However, if you are not constantly attacking with the goal of progression without releasing pressure, then this will just continue to be a back and forth scenario going nowhere. Fluidity is important because it cuts down your reaction time and does not give your opponent time to counter your next move. Keep the attack pattern simple by rotating through the 3 options rapidly, until one works, increasing your proficiency in your attack.
Simplicity, fluidity and efficiency are the 3 things that any high level practitioner usually follows. While, there are styles that are complex with lots of options in both Krav Maga and BJJ the best fighters come from camps that focus on these three things. So far, in BJJ of all the super high level practitioners I have taken lessons from (Bernardo Faria, Marcelo Garcia, Michael Langhi, Wellington “Megaton” Diaz and Luanna Alzuguir). They all have one thing it common- these three factors. While there are moves in BJJ that are effective but complicated, in my opinion the best practitioners keep things simple.
This concept is clearly why Marcelo and his chosen instructors make his school the best in New York. Why not learn from the absolute best!
Of course Marcelo’s school is not just all about competition like many others, they teach a more traditional version of BJJ as well that includes a self defense aspect. Mind you, as a Krav Maga practitioner I find the self defense applications outdated and unrealistic for the average person but it is always nice to see how other martial arts approach self defense so I can be prepared to deal with it on the street once I have recognized their style.
Regardless even if you do not practice BJJ or are simply a beginner I highly recommend going to Marcelo’s academy in NY even if you just want to pick up their fluid teaching style (instructors). It has a very positive atmosphere and you can expect only the best to be training there regularly. I myself personally plan to drop by every time I manage to make it out to NY.
So, if you are a Martial arts who continually wants to better themselves, if you Travel, you should train and you should always seek out the best and the brightest in any style at your chosen travel destination.
By: Jonathan Fader