Jiu-Jitsu in the City of Cin

Posted: July 5, 2011 in Gear and Reviews

Sometimes we don’t always get what we want.  But every once in a while we get what we need.

I went to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Cincinnati wanting a good roll.  Wanting to get some decent instruction.  Wanting to find a place in Ohio that was as good as a place in California.  I think Helio smiled down on me from heaven.  I not only got what I wanted but what I needed.  Australian Black Belt David Hart from Dominance Mixed Martial Arts was in town to teach a seminar, and since he was a friend of CinCin’s Head Instructor James Kelly, who was out-of-town teaching at a different school, he was filling in.  And guess who got there the day before he left – that’s right, this guy!! 

What I found impressive, right off the bat, is David Hart’s passion for intensity in training Jiu-Jitsu.  He threw the clock out the window.  “This is an hour class?  Shut up and train.  Don’t stare at me.  Drill!  Why are you getting water?  I’ll give you a break.  Get back and train!”  Awesome.  I loved it!  Shut up and train!  He wasn’t afraid to be curt with the students, which is needed sometimes.  The Marine in me was at home.

David Hart

David Hart

I would say that David is probably the best technical instructor I’ve ever met.  He broke down an armbar for 20 minutes.  That’s 20 minutes of teaching.  Not 3 minutes of “Hey, here’s an armbar, drill it” and 15 minutes of drilling.  I mean, he spent 20 minutes of teaching how to do an armbar.  We started in the guard, just uncrossing our legs and shrimping our hips out.  We then added onto that, swinging our inside leg over and biting our uki’s head.  He explained to us the basics of driving our opponents head into the ground as opposed to trying to seal it in while being stacked.  Everything with the legs.  You don’t touch the arm until the bite is on and the hips are up.  Otherwise the bad guy will pull the arm out and then you’re stuck.  Nothing fancy or tricky or new.  Just an armbar broken down.  He even had us do it by the numbers.  1. Uncross your legs.  2. raise your left leg and lower your right leg.  3. etc..   You get the idea.

After the armbar we spent some time working a half-guard pass.  He explained the 3 responsibilities of each person in the half-guard.  On top, you have to tuck your trapped foot to prevent the trap, flatten out your opponent, and work for underhooks.  When you’re on the bottom, you got to get the bite in and trap that leg, sit up and get off your back, and get your hooks in.  We started by the opponent shooting in to take half-guard from a seated position.  Your first objective is to curl the trapped leg in and under you and sit on it.  Then drive forward and flatten out your opponent on the ground while working for a underhook.  Once you have the underhook in drive your head into their chin, turning and smashing their face into the mat.  Be mean with it.  Once their face is pinned pop up onto your  toes and continue to drive forward and replace the top of your head with your shoulder.  From there you have 3 different options for the pass.  Pull your knee out and take the mount, pull your knee through and slide into side-mount or a scarf hold, or pull through into a side base and then step over into mount.

After that we spent time pairing up.  Sweep or submit was the game.  I was fortunate enough that the class was about 20 students large, with half of them being blue and purple belts.  I can’t say this enough, you can easily judge a Jiu-Jitsu school by its students.  Roll with a 3 or 4 stripe white belt from any school and you’ll know instantly how technical the instruction is, or how non-technical it is for that matter.  Cincy Gracie’s students knew their stuff.

One final personal observation – Ciny Gracie was a proponent of the Gracie Combatives system.  They have their posters hanging in their locker room and the Gracie Bullyproof posters hanging in the open area.  It’s nice to see the system that I’m a fan of being promoted so well, even in a school with a different affiliation.

If you’re in Cincinnati and not training at this school, you’re wrong!  Go check them out at www.cincinnatijiujitsu.com and get some quality, technical training that can’t be beat.

  1. Stephen says:

    I will start by saying I had an awful experience at Gracie Cincinnati so you know exactly where this review is going. While there is no doubting they have excellent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instruction, why they are one of the most expensive martial arts schools in Cincinnati, and they house a lot of black belts the heart of a martial arts school falls on its integrity and its focus on well being of its students. Which from what I witnessed was very little.

    I took exactly 2 classes a Gracie Cincinnati, the 1st day was BJJ and it was a good class and was run by the head instructor and Owner Justin. The 2nd day of classes was run by a brown belt student, the first class was striking. This class was first off not very well structured for a new student. The instructor blasted past basics and had amateur strikers do light sparring at the end of class, even new students on their first day of striking; red flag. The next red flag was the teacher told me a mouth piece wasn’t required as we would be going light, which I’m pretty sure insurance companies require a striking martial art school to have their students use a mouth piece. The next red flag was when my partner punched me in the face as hard as he could and knocked me unconscious despite the drill be for “light” contact. The instructor wasn’t even paying attention or moderating the sparring since he was training with another partner on his own. So you guessed it, unsupervised sparring. Remember this is my first day. Instead of worrying about my health they told me to shake it off and get my gi on and get ready for the BJJ class that would be happening next. I sat on the side in a fog for about an hour before I was able to drive home.

    Over the next tow weeks I had migraines due to the concussion I received as a result of the punch. Hundreds of dollars in medical and hospital expenses and a week of missed work later I was able to call the school back to tell them my condition. Additionally, they never called to check on me or even worried about the seriousness of the injury.

    When I spoke to the owner Justin, no one had even told him I’d been injured and he was completely unaware of what had even happened or the drills or structure of the striking class. Apparently brain injuries aren’t important enough here to be told to the head instructor. He did however immediately realize the seriousness of the situation and refunded the money for my classes and did apologize, probably so it wouldn’t become a legal matter.

    So, while the BJJ is definitely strong at Gracie Cincinnati, don’t be fooled that their best interests lay in their students well being. With their large class sizes and their high tuition costs I wonder if they concern is on the money. So, if you’re looking for a school with little to no concern for the health of new students, you’ve found your school. In my opinion there are several other schools with competent BBJ in Cincinnati at a much lower cost that put more focus on students health and well being than turning a buck.

  2. Andrew Wood says:

    I was pretty nervous about starting jiu jitsu, as a middle-aged, overweight guy who had never been athletic. My experience at Gracie Cincinnati Jiu Jitsu was nothing short of life transforming. It’s a place where everyone feels welcome, regardless of age or ability. Even as a white belt right off the street you get a chance to train with guys of upper level belts, and they don’t just toss you around to make themselves look good–they love their sport and want you to have a good experience of it and love it too. The health benefits are amazing. Within a year I had lost 42 pounds and no longer felt I needed anti-depressant medication.

    It seemed to me like you have to work a long time to earn belts. That might sound like a bad thing, but actually what it means is that when you earn one of their belts it REALY means something. In fact, I came in one day and found the senior instructor actually custom sewing blue belts for his students. After one year of instruction I didn’t earn a stripe or advance to blue belt…but outside the club I ran into a guy once who claimed to have a blackbelt in jiu jitsu. We rolled…I quickly submitted him with an Americana. I attended competitions and watched our guys take home medals. A couple of the guys were successful in actual MMA fights. Seeing their success in competition, and my progress, made me feel that the money I spent genuinely was getting the best quality jiu jitsu instruction available anywhere around.

    By far the best part of the experience was the camaraderie and growing friendship with students and instructors. They have a really diverse group of people, men and women, different races, economic levels, worldviews. Everyone treats one another with respect, finds common ground in their sport, and keeps conflict to a minimum.

    I had only one negative experience. Another white-belt, an older man with a background in wrestling in high school, was really impatient with my mistakes when we were training. I told the instructor later that I didn’t feel comfortable training with that guy, so they just never paired me with him again.

    What made me leave the school was simply a lack of time. With three small kids at home and working two jobs, something had to give. Now we’ve moved to another state. I stay in touch with some of the guys through Facebook. It sounds really cheesy, but I will look back to the year I spent at this club as one of the best of my life. So I’d say, don’t think you’re too old or too fat or would embarrass yourself or anything like that. Just try it. It’s money very well spent.

  3. Randal says:

    Hello, I am the instructor the above post mentions. I would like to apologize again for your awful experience during your class. I would however like to provide some backdrop as I believe that some things in your post have been omitted and/or exaggerated. First let me say that no one has ever been injured or hurt in any of the classes that I teach (Childrens’, Striking, Beginner BJJ)so this is my first experience dealing with something of this nature. The tone of your post implies that you are a beginner and that several red flags became apparent. You told me the day before I invited you to the striking class that you had trained in JKD concepts under Richard Bustillo and had trained muy thai and kali in Thailand for over ten years. A few of my students, who are indeed beginners, were apprehensive to train with such an accomplished martial artist. The day you were injured we were doing catch drills (jab, cross, lead hook) where both opponents know what to throw and what to defend. I did say that a mouthpiece was not necessary because the purpose of this drill is to not cause bodily harm but to develop timing. I even demonstrated the level of aggressiveness prior to the drill starting, reiterating safety. I sincerely regret you getting hurt, as I did not get to witness it because I was assisting another student who did not have a partner for the drill. If you believe this makes me irresponsible, I truly apologize for letting you down and will take this as a learning experience to grow from. Two students sitting on the sideline, however did contact me after class and told me what they saw. They claimed that both you and your partner were very aggressive toward each other and it escalated; and de-escalated pretty quickly ending with you on your back. I also would like to point out that if you believed you were sparring, why would you don a pair of 8oz gloves for sparring? *14oz are acceptable and 16oz are preferred. All of the students including me immediately came to see if you were ok or needed anything. You assured me you were ok and that you had just ‘taken it on the chin’. I told you to take your time and rest till you felt better, because you did not explain the severity of the injury. Our beginner jiu-jitsu class was starting directly after this incident and we ended class and had those who were taking the next class leave to get dressed. You went and got dressed and then informed me you were going to sit out until you felt better. No one pressured you to leave or get up. Another class was starting and you were up and talking so no one thought anymore of it. Although you may believe that this incident is somewhat indicative of the nature of our safety precautions at our school, it is not. This is an isolated incident. Our school prides itself on the level of technical precision, teaching methods, applications, and overall positive attitude of every single one of our instructors; as well as students adherence to respect for the safety of themselves and there classmates.
    I invite you back to try another class, and any others who would like to learn self defense in a safe, positive, and technical atmosphere. And I’ll even pay for it

  4. mandyjosparks@gmail.com says:

    I began Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a few years back at a school in Anchorage AK, and relocated to Cincinnati where I began training as a four stripe white belt. My past job caused me to travel often so I have experience visiting several schools all over the country, and Gracie Cincinnati made me feel welcome and I could tell after a class or two that it was the type of place I wanted to train due to the gracious students and instructors and highly technical instruction. Being a very small girl, I am very discerning of my training environment and I would never train at a place where your safety, well-being and the learning environment were not top notch.

    Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a tough sport both mentally and physically, but all of the students and especially the instructors are always more than willing to answer any questions and practice anything you may need. Everyone has a positive attitude, and any problem I may have had was immediately discussed and addressed by all instructors. Gracie Cincinnati cares about their students both on and off the mat, and leaving my “Jiu Jitsu family” here will be incredibly difficult.

  5. Stephen says:

    Randall I appreciate your response and I understand you have to cover your bases. It is true, I have trained for many years, but also I explained I hadn’t trained in almost 2 years due to healing from a broken ankle and wrist. I also told you I was looking to get back into training, get back into shape, and get my skills back, referencing that they weren’t super sharp. Additionally, no one even knew who I was or any of my background experience except for you, because I was excited that you had a JKD background, as well with Inosanto, and I looked forward to your teachings. It is a blatant flat out lie that anyone was apprehensive to train with me. You are making that up out of your imagination to exaggerate your side of the story. Of the 6-8 students in the striking class no one was apprehensive to train with me because I was a new student and no one knew who I was and aside from my background I doubt anyone even knew my name except for my cousin who had invited me train at the school. You did however refer to what we were doing as “light sparring”, your words, it wasn’t a simple catch drill, and you allowed students to engage in freestyle combat unsupervised and for that you should take responsibility, light or not. Also, to reply to your comment “that I believed I was sparring and then why did I use such light gloves”, I didn’t believe I was sparring, you did in fact demonstrate the lightness of the drill and told me a mouth piece wasn’t required, yet it did escalate in part because you were not paying attention to your students because you were focusing on your own individual training, which sucks to me because it was a small class and didn’t seem that hard to supervise. Now whether someone needed a partner or not any level of sparring is meant to be supervised so that situations like this do not occur. Of course I didn’t say much after my injury, I was seeing stars, what did you expect? It also disappointed me that when I called and talked to Justin the owner he had no knowledge that I had ever been injured showing to me a lack of regard for students. If this is in fact an isolated incident why wasn’t it at least mentionable to the head instructor? I’d figure a brand new student getting ko’ed would at least be somewhat mentionable. I don’t think you’re a bad guy, but I do think you are partly responsible. I appreciate your offer to pay for my classes but I was attending the school on a gift certificate anyways, which was refunded to the person that bought it for me and kudos to the school for owning up to a bad situation and giving the money back. Instead I’d rather you just give me money for the hospital bill and wages lost due to my concussion, which I still have after 3 weeks. After what I see as a lack of judgment, tact, and somewhat covering your own ass I don’t feel like a strong relationship is forgeable with your institute. I think you put your students in danger with the way you ran your class, low supervision and no mouthpieces, it’s pretty simple, and the results speak for themselves. I’m not bashing the BJJ, it’s obviously great there, I’m just making an assessment on the way student safety was handled, and in this case it wasn’t handled very well.

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