Monday, June 13, 2011

Gym Review: Torres Martial Arts (2/3/11)

Gym Review: Torres Martial Arts (2/3/11)

At Torres Academy, students can evolve with the ever changing aspects of hand-to-hand combat and the associated sports. A full range of martial art studies is available: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts.
Whether a beginner or seasoned veteran, Torres Academy has specific programs to meet the needs of the student. Kids classes, women’s and men’s cardio-kickboxing, self-defense courses, competitive submission grappling, and full-contact training are offered.
Torres Martial Arts Gym
7030 Indianpolis Blvd.
Hammond, IN

Miguel Torres - Former WEC World Champion, BJJ Black Belt (Carlson Gracie), 38-3 MMA record, Pan American Silver Medalist

Andre ’Maneco’ Leite - BJJ Black Belt (Carlson Gracie), Pan American Gold Medalist

Anthony Gomez and Bill Johnson

Jake Nauracy
Tom LeCuyer (with Ricardo Liborio after winning the Fila World Grappling Games)
Old Gym (yes, this was the whole thing)

New Gym

Weights Area

Dumbbells and Cage

Part of the mat space

Pads, Bags, Conditioning Area
My experience:
Class began with a discussion of what we were going to learn about that day and then went into warmups.  The warmups were traditional and included jogging, stretching, judo falls and rolls, technical standups, etc.
The second part of warmups included working basic armbars and other variations.
The class was made up of 5 blue belts, 3 white belts, and a purple belt (me).  This was an early morning class (10am).  As you see below, the class is not all men (there are a large number of very skilled women who train at Torres Martial Arts).
Technique for the day was a basic clock choke against a turtle.  Miguel is still training for his fight and Andre is teaching.  Andre showed the position from a lot of different angles as well as showing where to set up grips.  He used a very simple approach to teaching without variations (at first).  This seemed to allow all of the students to understand information prior to moving on to advanced techniques.
As the class was mostly blue belt and higher, we proceeded on to learn to attack the turtle  and the crucifix position.  The crucifix position was covered very briefly as it’s a very new position for everybody.

The sparring was intense and safe and all of the blue belts (usually about half of the class is blue belts or above) rolled about four or five  6 min. rounds.  As a gym that encourages competition, this helps students ready themselves for tournaments.

Andre rolls with Dustin

Chris rolls with Dan

The morning class.  Great turnout considering it was the Snowpocalyse outside.
Overall, this was an excellent experience and I would wholeheartedly recommend Torres Martial Arts to anybody in the Chicago area (especially those in northwest Indiana).

Andre’s immaculately well-behaved dog, Kia.
Thanks for reading!  Videos of the rolling at Torres Martial Arts will be up tomorrow!!

Gym Review: Valko BJJ (3/8/11)

Gym Review: Valko BJJ (3/8/11)

Valko Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
820 N. Orleans inside HiFi Fitness
Chicago, IL

Jay Valko - BJJ Black Belt (Eduardo de Lima), Pan American nogi Bronze Medalist, U.S. Nationals Gold Medalist

RJ Cohen - Judo Black Belt, Am Can Gold Medalist, Junior World Team member, Junior US Open champion

Valko BJJ is located within a personal training facility called HiFi Fitness.
Upon entering, adhere to the following directions:
  1. Walk into HiFi Fitness (820 N. Orleans)
  2. Walk up the strairs
  3. Walk around the desk
  4. Walk down the stairs
  5. Walk down a super long hallway
  6. Walk across the fitness floor (I felt like I should’ve been in Narnia by this point)
  7. Attempt to change in the locker room
  8. Realize that this locker room is a public (read: mixed gender) locker room
  9. Sheepishly put shirt back on and walk to the Men’s locker room
  10. Dress in a VERY nice locker room (with all amenities including showers)
  11. Finally arrive at the mats!
Please feel free to omit #s 7-9 and not make a fool out of yourself.
Jay has a great space set up in the main training room.  The mat space was sufficient for the 20+ people who were in class on Tuesday night.  The largest classes are usually the open mat on Saturday and the Monday night class.
Jay has thought about expanding the space and also has plans to add in a cage wall for his mma fighters to practice with.
My experience:
Class began in a very calm manner.  Warmups consisted of shrimping in place, hip and leg movements, and a few other movements that I was familiar with.  The final warmup movement was awkward, but was a HUGE part of the sweep we’d learn later in the class.  Great forward thinking to include it in the warmup.

Technique for the day first how to stand in guard, and a sweep as defense.  Details were excellent and although I had learned the technique before, I didn’t realize a few of the subtleties that Jay showed.  I realized that underhooking the leg was important and moving my hips laterally to sweep was better than pushing into my partner.  But, what I always had trouble with was coming on top.  The warmup that we went over really allowed me to come on top without ANY issue whatsoever.   I never used this sweep because I could bump my opponent over but never came on top in the ensuing scramble.  With this detail, there was no scramble and I always landed on top.
I believe that this detail is typical of training at Valko BJJ.  We continued with an omoplata from the same sweep.  Jay noted that some people are taught to roll to escape (which is what I was originally taught).  Rolling escapes the submission but ends with you on bottom in a REALLY bad spot.  Typically, people brace their arm and base their leg out to prevent the sweep and protect their arm.  This makes it very hard to finish the submission.
Lastly, we went over an omoplata by the bottom person in defense of the stand.  Moving directly into the sweep proved to be the best option.  Right off the sweep Jay taught a 1-step triangle from s-mount on top.  I always learned it in two steps, but the one step (with a single added detail that I didn’t think about) I was able to going straight to it off the sweep.  Again, detail in technique seems to be a keystone of Valko BJJ.

As the class makeup was mixed between white belts and a fair number of colored belts (at least 10-15 with half being purple or brown), this technique seemed very familiar to them.  It’s easy to tell a large number of people have been with Jay for a long time.  This being said, it was one of the most welcoming environments I have ever been in.
After technique we went into sparring.  I really enjoyed that Jay had a focus for the sparring for the day of guard passing.  4-5 people were in the middle and we ran a king-of-the-hill style training where you had an opportunity to train with a large number of people of varying ranges (including Jay).  I was handily swept by one of his purple belts and by Jay when attempting to pass their guard.  They both hit some sweeps that are very different from what I’ve used before.
The sparring was intense and safe and after positional sparring we moved to open sparring rounds.  Jay is very good at keeping time (I’ve trained at academies where one round will be 5 minutes, the next is 12, the next 9.. and it just depends on whenever the instructor feels like rotating) and keeping rounds consistent.  With a large class tonight, we started from the knees, but typically Jay starts on the feet to encourage a complete game.

As a gym that encourages competition, this helps students ready themselves for tournaments (which Jay’s students typically do very well at).

The next class was judo and, I must admit this is completely my fault, I can’t remember any of the throws that Jay went over.  He and his purple / brown belts have a very good judo game thanks to working with their judo instructor, RJ Cohen.
Unfortunately, RJ was unable to make class tonight and Jay taught, but typically this is not the case.  I had a great discussion with Jay about how much he enjoys being a student of judo and wrestling and I really liked seeing an instructor enjoying being a student again.

Training with Miguel and seeing him continue to grow after so many years of training has been very good for my jiu-jitsu.  When your instructor is still learning, so are you.  I feel that Jay’s students are growing exponentially compared to others who train at academies where the instructor is set in his/her ways.

For example, here’s a great video Jay made of the his wrestling class.

After judo technique, we went into standup sparring.  This was fantastic because I’ve not been to a gym where standup grappling was emphasized as much as it is at Valko BJJ.

I just want to take the time to highlight the Allen vs. Allen duel that took place.  The pictures say it all.

Overall, this was an excellent experience and I would wholeheartedly recommend Valko BJJ to anybody in the city, or anybody with the time to travel in.  It’s really not a difficult drive at all.  I drove all the way from Northwest Indiana with no issues whatsoever.  Just don’t trust your GPS and always account for traffic once you get into the city.

Thanks for reading!  A special thanks to Jay for opening up his academy to me!!

New Breed Jiu-Jitsu – Chicago Gym Review (4/5/11)

New Breed Jiu-Jitsu – Chicago Gym Review (4/5/11)

New Breed BJJ
5647 W Howard
Niles, IL 60077
(847) 674-3577
I stole this picture from one of Mark’s students because I feel that it perfectly captures Mark’s personality (he’s hilarious).
Mark Vives - BJJ Black Belt (Johnny Ramirez – New Breed), American National Champion, Pan-Am Silver and Bronze Medalist, 4x NAGA Champion (this is the short list.. Mark competes a lot)
New Breed BJJ is located in the second row of building off of West Howard.  Despite Mark’s repeated attempts to properly place the tag on Google maps, it keeps placing them right on Howard instead of back in the industrial park.
Upon entering, you’ll likely be greeted by a smiling face at the front desk (I was).  There’s also a very nice waiting room for parents and others where Mark showcases his and his students’ achievements (as well as some really comfy couches).
After a short hallway where you can leave your shoes (the gym’s main office is there as well), you’ll enter the main training facility.
New Breed BJJ not only includes heavy bags and mat space with 3 competition sized rings, but strength and conditioning equipment as well.  They have an airdyne bike, fat bars, a squat rack, LOTS of kettlebells, battling ropes, chinup stands, and many other items.
 Including a prison-style incline bench for when Bob”alu” wants to get ready for the streets.  In case you can’t tell.  Lots of fun will be had at New Breed.
My experience:
Let me start by saying that Mark is one of the most accomodating people I’ve ever met.
Seriously.  I mean it.
My schedule is insanely hectic and trying to visit a gym on a weeknight is difficult at times.  Mark and I exchanged over 20 (yes, twenty) e-mails back and forth trying to figure out the best time for me to come.  In fact, Mark probably won’t get why I’m even taking the time to write this.  He’s so opening to sharing BJJ with everybody that he’d probably open his doors to any person on any given day.  No questions asked.
Mark put me in touch with some other guys from the gym who come from the same direction as me to get more details about traffic and such and I still ended up getting there late (I have no affection for Chicago traffic).
Class had already started when I arrived and I first met Sam Spiegelman.  Sam is a purple belt like me and he is an assistant instructor for the kids classes and also runs the Strength and Conditioning training at New Breed (just thinking about it makes me a bit queasy, but we’ll get to that later).  Sam was really nice and introduced me to a few people including Mark, who was already teaching class.
Class ran in the following manner:
  1. standup drills
  2. warmup drills
  3. movement / positional drill
  4. technique
  5. king of the hill positional sparring
  6. open sparring
Class began with basic takedown drills and then went into what many gyms use as warmups.  These includes inversion rolls, front rolls, back rolls, snake/shrimp, etc.
Next, class continued with a basic movement drill.  For class today, we practiced spinning to an opponent’s back when they turn in to face you from bottom side control.
Mark taught a really excellent armbar from the back that I never would have thought of in a million years.  It would take a great deal of time to type all of the details here, but it involved doing  a few different grips from back mount that I had never tried before and I’ve since used the armbar every time I take the back and so far I am batting 1.000 with the technique.  Truly excellent instruction.
Next Mark went over some escape concepts from the back.  Luckily, I was paired with a blue belt named Carlo who was a lot of fun to drill with.  In addition to Carlo, I was really surprised by how many people came up and introduced themselves to me.  It was an exceptionally friendly training environment.
I had a great time rolling during the positional sparring.  In the open sparring, I was paired with Nick, Vince, Bob, and then Mark.  Rolling with all of these guys was an eye opening experience.  With all of the fun I was having, I forgot how good New Breed is.  Nick is very good for a blue belt and Bob and Vince are exceptional purple belts.
Having the opportunity to roll with Mark was really fantastic.  In some academies, being able to roll with the instructor is a rare and privileged opportunity, but this is not the case at New Breed.  Mark will roll with anybody and everybody.
You better be in shape when you roll with Mark and the higher belts, and if you aren’t, keep training with them.. you will be soon.
Mark let me leave the mat early to get ready for Sam’s Strength and Conditioning class.  Depending on the day, the class focuses on strength, plyometrics, or conditioning.  Today was a circuit-style workout that involved 10 stations that we rotated to every 30 seconds.  Now any idiot can throw together a bunch of really hard exercises in a row and trick people into thinking they’re getting a real workout.  This is definitely not the case here.  Sam has a background in training and exercise science and it was evident with properly sequenced exercises and proper intensity.
I’m the strength & conditioning coach at the school I teach at and I can small a fraud trainer from a mile away.  Sam is definitely legit.
If I was smart, I would’ve taken pictures of what we did, but I was so exhausted and having such a blast that I thought about stopping to take pictures and immediately dismissed the idea.  I hope that the next time I visit, I’ll get more pictures and videos!
After I finished heaving, Mark asked me if I have any questions to feel free to ask.  Over the next hour, Mark, Sam and I sat in the front office and talked about everything under the sun.  It was a blast and wish I had proper video and audio recording devices.  A basic rundown of what we talked about was:
  • How Mark got his start and how he got to where he is today
  • Their visit to Lloyd Irvin’s gym in D.C.
  • How he hooked up with the BJJ Revolution team
  • How awesome Rodrigo Medeiros’ BJJ Revolution gym in San Diego is
  • How long it took New Breed to become profitable
  • His ideas about spreading BJJ
  • His beliefs about competition
  • BJJ in the midwest
  • After school BJJ programs for kids
After we talked and shared a few coconut waters, we went back out to the main training floor and went over even more questions that I had about inverting and de la riva guard (my recent obsession) until my quad proceeded to cramp up.
All in all, I ended up staying at New Breed until roughly 11:30pm.  I didn’t even realize that the time had passed that much.  New Breed has classes running almost all day long so no matter what your schedule is, people are always training.  You can try to train for 5 hours straight like I did.  Hopefully, you’ll make it past the first 2 (which I didn’t).
I knew it was time to go home at this point…
If you live anywhere near Niles, IL, I would definitely recommend checking out New Breed because of the:
  • Top quality instruction
  • Family environment
  • Lots of different training times
  • Clean Facility
  • All-inclusive training facility (bjj/muay thai / strength & cond.)
  • Hilarious misadventures
  • Flexing and talking about how strong we are
Thanks again to Mark, Vince, Nick, Carlo, Bob, Sam, Squirrel and all of the guys and girls at New Breed!
All videos and photos stolen from courtesy of Mark (especially the time lapse ones at the end), Sam, Nick, Naledge, and New Breed BJJ

BJJ in Chicago

BJJ in Chicago