Saturday, June 9, 2007

Studio X Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - Academy Report

I've just returned from being in Manhattan for the past week taking a Statistical Genetics and Linkage Analysis course at Rockefeller University. While I was there taking the course I opted to bring my training gear and train at Studio X, which is run by Fabio Clemente and features the instructors Marcelo Garcia and Josh Griffiths.

Unfortunately, I happened to arrive in New York during the week that Marcelo Garcia was out of town training with Team Quest. And, while Marcelo was a motivating factor for me training at Studio X, his absence was not enough to deter me from the academy. There are 2 University of Michigan BJJ club alumni that train at Studio X so I was excited about meeting up with some old friends.

Other people from Team SRJJA have gone to train at Studio X in the past. I was forewarned of the expense of dropping in on the class. It was advised to me to call ahead and try to work out a deal for a week's worth of training. Unfortunately, my messages were never returned to me and I was unable to work out a deal. I even tried calling during a class time (class schedule here), but to no avail. Granted, I started calling only a few days before I were to arrive, so maybe if one were to begin calling a couple of weeks in advance, they might have better luck. But, in my own defense, I found out I was going to NYC for this course on very short notice. If you can't work out a deal with the academy, it will cost you $40 to drop in. Studio X has about 115 - 120 students and they run two classes in the evening (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. - 9:00 P.M.) they also run early classes and weekend classes.

I arrived in NYC on Sunday night (6/3/07) and I wasn't able to train until Tuesday night (6/5/07). The Tuesday 7:30 P.M. class was a gi class and I was the only purple belt in the class of 5 people. There were 2 blue belts and 2 white belts in the class with me. When I asked my training partner Mike (a blue belt) if this class size was normal, he said "No. It's usually much larger." Mike said that the class size is usually about 15 - 30 people. Fabio Clemente was teaching this particular gi class that I was taking, and he opted to, "Do some special exercises for our special guest who is visiting us."

Fabio ran a very good warm up session that was about 30 minutes long and covered exercises, conditioning and stretching. We also did alternating partner drills involving single legs takedowns, jumping to guard, sprawls, double legs and some grip fighting. Fabio was my partner for all of the partner exercises and he ran a very good warm up session. If you plan on going to Studio X, plan on it being HOT inside this 2nd story academy. So, drink plenty of water and pace yourself.

The Tuesday night gi class following the warm ups included 2 techniques that were sweeps/turnovers from the half guard. They were decent techniques and we rep'd them about 15 minutes each. The down side to this particular class was that Fabio was either dealing with a newbie or a administering a private lesson on the side, and he was unable to walk around and provide corrections for us students on the mat. The technical portion of the class lasted about 30 minutes and afterwards we started rolling for the last 30 minutes of class. Due to the small class size we started from our feet doing 6 minute matches. I was fortunate enough to get to have my last match with Fabio himself. I was relaxed and tried my best against him but he was good at exposing my weaknesses. I was trying to pay attention to his methods while keeping my wits and attempting to escape his dominate positions. He was definitely not trying to tap me out as quickly as possible, but he was exploring my reactions to his attempts and positions. He caught me with an armbar towards the end of our match, and when we restarted, he almost had me again before the time expired. Fabio is very good. He is a big man, and while being very strong is also incredibly flexible. His Jiu-Jitsu is solid in my opinion.

I almost didn't go to the Wednesday 7:30 P.M. No-gi class due to not being able to work out a training deal with Fabio, but, my friend Matt was going to be there (he's only training on Wednesdays due to a knee injury), so I felt obligated to attend. I'm glad that I did. The class was packed with white belts and blue belts... if there were purple belts and brown belts in the class I didn't notice due to the fact that it was a No-gi class. Again, Fabio was teaching the class and we went over some guillotine variations from the top cross when the bottom opponent bumps into you to try to get guard. Following this, we started some takedown drills and rolling drills.

Now, I can go on and on about the facility, but it's not going to make much of a difference because Studio X is going to be moving soon to a new location in Manhattan that is supposedly bigger and better than it's current location. I'll have to go back someday to see how it's improved. But I will provide my ratings of this CURRENT academy and it's location, below.

Overall, I will rate this academy using a 10 star system evaluating 10 different critical areas.

Customer Service: 4.5 stars. This is a hard one to rate. Granted, I was a vistor to the academy and there is virtually no chance of me becoming a full time student. Therefore, I can understand, in part, the lack of personal attention and the return of my phone calls. But, I made myself known to the academy on the answering machine messages that I was from a Saulo Ribeiro academy and wanted to spend a week training with them. But, I'm sure they were pretty busy, and that it was hard for them to return my calls. So like I said, this is a hard one to rate.

Academy size (mat space): 5 stars. You can typically fit 3 pairs of grapplers starting on their feet and about 4 pairs starting from their knees. In my opinion this is a typical size of many academies that I have visited. Fabio claims that at their new location that the mat size will be bigger.

Friendliness: 10 stars. Nobody in this place had an ego, and everybody was very nice to me. I hopefully made a lot of new friends in this place. Fabio himself was very nice to me.

Instructor: 8 stars. Fabio is a great instructor, but his personality is a bit aloof. Don't expect him to chat you up or take you out for dinner just because you show up to train. Other than that, he is a 3rd degree black belt, he is very nice and he runs a solid class. His warm ups and drills are old school and very good. His techniques are usable and very tight. Don't expect a lot of criticism from him or input on your technique as a visitor, but he does care about his students from what I saw. Do expect him to roll with you if you show up and time permits. This is very nice and makes your $40 drop in fee seem a little bit more well spent.

Changing Room Amenities: 6.5 stars. I've seen worse and I've seen better. What follows is my opinion of the current academy. As this academy is moving to a new location, these facilities will change. In the academy, there is a separate changing room with a shower, but there are no lockers to secure your gear. I used my combo lock to secure the two ends of the zippers on my gear bag. I noticed that most people didn't secure their stuff by any means. As this academy is totally isolated and not a part of a larger organization, like a gym, it's pretty safe for leaving your gear unsecure. But, I have found out the hard way that in rare occassions it is surprising to find that your teammates will steal from you. As I was the visiting "new guy", I wasn't taking any chances, so I used my combo lock to lock up my bag. I did have some valuables and my wallet in it, so it wasn't a case of over-paranoia on my part. But, to be honest, I don't think anybody in this academy would've taken anything from me. Some secureable lockers in the locker room would've improved things. The shower was a nice touch, but if you're a visitor, bring a towel from your hotel as the academy doesn't provide them for you. The changing room was a bit crowded and there are no benches to sit on. I found myself sitting on the floor to tape up my toes. Overall, the changing room could be improved with benches and lockers, but the shower was definitely a welcomed feature.

Changing Area Cleanliness: 8.5 stars. The changing room was pretty clean. The only discrepancy that I saw was the pile of used towels laying on the floor outside of the shower functioning as a type of bath mat/floor mat for stepping out of the shower. This pile of towels looked a few days old and they might not have been the most comforting thing to be stepping onto in bare feet following a shower. But, then again, you did just get done rolling around with a bunch of sweaty guys and hopefully you're wearing shower shoes. I think you'll live. So in this regard, with a nice hotel bathroom being a 10 and an average gym locker room being a 5, this one at Studio X gets a 8.5 star rating.

Warm ups: 9 stars. This academy does some nice warm ups. Totally old school and exactly what I'm use to. They are difficult, but doable. The warm ups on the first night that I was there versus the second night differed slightly, with the second night being easier than the first. There is some variability, perhaps it was my presence, perhaps it was the size of the class... I don't know. But, overall they were good.

Techniques: 8.5 stars. Fabio showed the class some good stuff. On the first night in the gi class, he showed some half guard techs that don't exactly fit into the Saulo Ribeiro style that I am use to, but, I can see how they might work. This is my just my personal bias, though. But, on the second night, which was a no-gi night, Fabio showed some solid techs about getting the guillotine from the top cross. I can totally see these techs fitting into the game from any fundamental style of BJJ.

Training Area Cleanliness: 10 stars. The training area was very clean. There were no dust bunnies or loose hairs littering the mat. The mat area was very clean. The mats were vacuumed and mopped both nights that I was there.

Academy Location: 10 stars. This is probably not going to change even after the academy moves from 13th Street and 3rd Ave up to somewhere on 27th Street in Manhattan. As long as the academy is below 50th Street it will be in an easy to get to location for any of us that visit Manhattan. When you walk out the door of the academy there will be food and restaurants within a block or two from you. At it's present location, you can walk out, turn right, and there will be a bar right next door to you. There is bound to be a lot to do around the new academy location. In Manhattan, you will almost always find what you're looking for within a few blocks from where you're at.

I rated this Academy on 10 sections of criteria using a 10 star scale. As an average, Studio X scored 8 stars on my rating scale. I highly recommend training at Studio X if you are in the Manhattan area. But, I suggest that you begin calling weeks in advance in an attempt to work out a tuition deal with them because $40/drop in is pretty expensive. It would've been nice to have trained there for the 5 - 6 days that I was there. But, there was no way I was willing to pay $200 - $240 to do so. I was more willing to negotiate about $100 - $120 to train there for 5 days.

If you go to Studio X, be prepared for some hospitality and good training. Be prepared to work hard, train hard and make some friends. You will have a great time and I highly recommend the experience.


The FightWorks Podcast said...

Awesome review Jason! Very jealous!

Anonymous said...

Great review! I wish we had more reviews of schools like this!!!


Jason Clarke said...

I hope you guys (caleb, steve, and others) find the review useful. Glad you liked it, and I hope that I get to do more in the future.