Gym Review: Granite City Crossfit/Blitz BJJ (St. Cloud)

Some of the guys from rolling on 06-24-11 at Granite City Crossfit/Blitz BJJ

I was somewhere around Rogers on the edge of rush hour when the fear began to take hold.

I remember saying something like, “Where the **** am I going? What is this place called Granite City Crossfit? Who is Jeremy Lang?”

As I barrelled along in my cherry 2003 Monte Carlo these questions kept going through my head. I knew there was association with Blitz BJJ and Dave Camarillo black belt Brock Larson, but how? And doesn’t Brock train in Brainerd?

So far, my gym tour has been confined to my nice, safe little bubble of the Twin Cities Metro Area. Then, about a month ago, when I was first setting up my gym tours I did what so many others have done before me and started to friend as many people as possible on facebook.

Of course, I wasn’t looking for a date (probably), I kept my search to those that were wearing gis or sporting grappling medals in their profile pics. And their friends.

One recommendation I got was for Jeremy Lang.

I knew that name. I recognized it from the days when I foolishly dreamed of glory inside the cage. His name rang a bell from the WEC and Brutaal events. However, we had never spoken. At least not until I got this unsolicited message:

  • hello
    Who are you? When you coming to my place to roll?

(That’s what the message looked like when I copied and pasted it from Facebook)

I was terrified, as, much like the rest of my internet brethren, I am a coward when away from my computer and out in the real world. I had never spoken with Jeremy, and this message reached out to me in a way that brings me to my bad place.

My mind wander to the trunk of my car, to my safety. There, in a brown bag were two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a while galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.

Of course, there were two problems with this:

1) heavy narcotics use is usually frowned upon when practicing BJJ

and

2) that was all bulll****, blatantly plagiarized from Hunter S. Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (so calm the **** down.)

However, I did have a dufflebag that contained by pretty blue Gameness Pearl Gi (free of affiliate patches), my trusty (and sometimes questioned) belt, a mouth guard, headgear and my testicles… so that was where my wife hid them! Score!

Anyway, by the time I made it into St. Cloud I started to question the trip. I had never spoken with Jeremy and haven’t always had the best of luck rolling (or talking with) mixed martial arts fighters. The training can kick in at really bad times, and nothing ruins my night like being slammed while trying to lock a triangle choke.

Walking through the door of Granite City Crossfit/Blitz BJJ, I wasn’t even entirely sure what Jeremy looked like, however, I did recognize the guy in the black gi with match black belt on the mat: Brock Larson (this year’s Submission Hunt brown/black belt division champ).

I had never actually met Brock, however I did remember a great match he had against Mike Pyle. I really wanted to find a video of the fight, but I am lazy. Look it up yourself.

Stepping on the mats there felt different. Being at a different gym was nothing new, but I didn’t recognize anyone there. Not only that, they all had the swagger of wrestlers. The “don’t let the belt fool you” look that I would later experience first hand.

Then Brock started teaching. And joking around with everyone. I wasn’t expecting that. The guy gets paid to punch people in the face, shouldn’t he be a little more intense? Especially on a Friday night when people are tend to be the least motivated rolling (in my experience).

Nope. Brock taught that class like he was teaching a group of his closest friends. Making sure everyone in the room was nailing the technique down to the finest detail before moving on.

I got a chance to drill with Jeremy Lang, who is much larger than I expected a 185 pound fighter to be. But he too seemed completely open to having me there.

I started to believe they weren’t going to kick my ass.

At least not via striking.

After class, when I got a chance to roll with Brock (in the short time between when I am fully ready and cramping like a menstruating… well, a menstruating anything) I found out quickly there could be no doubt to his new rank.

He was slow and methodical with a control one should come to expect from any black belt, let alone a Dave Camarillo black belt. At no moment did I feel like I could create the seperation I needed for passing or sweeps, while constantly away that his gorilla- or should I say Guerilla- like grip was somewhere on my gi.

After gi class, was no gi, which I did not have the oppontunity to take part in. Instead I got a chance to sit down with Jeremy and talk about his gym and upcoming fights.

Both Jeremy and Brock are fighting at the Target Center on July 23rd.

Brock Larson will be headlining against Eric Davila

Jeremy Lang will be fighting fellow Minnesotan Shane Dezee

In case you are color blind; Jeremy is on the left, Brock is on the right

(see end of article for more shameless plugs and how to get tickets)

As I left the gym, to start my long journey home, I could help but wonder, “Do I have it wrong about MMA fighters?” Are they really just misunderstood men (and women) that are only in a combat sport by which to channel feelings that they were never taught to more rationally express? Were they as sensitive and caring about there fellow man as Ghandi or Richard Simmons?

I need to stop drinking. That **** is just stupid.

Brock and Jeremy are really good guys with high level BJJ and wrestling. And anyone that gets a chance or is in the St. Cloud area should take the opportunity to step on the mats.

From what I understand, Brock doesn’t charge nearly as much as he could/should for his lessons.

After rolling with him. I would have to agree.

Just remember to bring your gas tank. These guys have excellent skills and a lot of endurance. No simple little 5-minute rounds here. Be prepared to roll. And, unlike me, you might want to bring something besides chokes. I don’t think some of these guys actually have to breath.

Shameless Plug:

Please contact Jeremy Lang for tickets to the July 23rd CFX event at the Target Center. Tickets start as cheap as $23. Contact him directly at jeremylandlordlang@yahoo.com or by phone at 320-241-9587. As many fighters know, this is how they get paid. So get in touch with Jeremy for tickets to what is stacking up to be a huge local card.

(Those of you that know me know that I would rather **** glass than fight in MMA, so even giving a plug for it on this review means something).

Next Up: Minnesota Kali Group- Minneapolis… maybe… a lot people seem to want my dumb ass to do reviews. So if you keep reading them, I’ll keep writing them. 

Gym Review: Gracie Barra (St. Louis Park)

Rolling at Gracie Barra 06/15/11
Meet the crew (at least the one that was there for my visit) at the brand new Gracie Barra BJJ gym in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The owner and head instructor is black belt Rodrigo Sul (front row center).
For those of you that can’t quite see his face clearly, here is a better picture:

When I first heard about the Gracie Barra gym opening, I was curious. So, like everyone else in the digital age, I closed the adult themed website that I had been looking at and went to gbtwincities.com.
There I was introduced to just a name: Rodrigo Sul. 
Being a fan of Bullshido, I noticed that he had his black belt, however, it noted neither from whom it was received or where. Of course there is no crime in not listing the lineage, however, in a state with only a dozen black belts, people tend to put that right out front.
So, being the semi-competent investigator that I am, I asked around.
Who is Rodrigo Sul?
I kept asking and I kept hearing the same answer: “really nice guy.”
Interesting. 
After a little more investigating I learned he had earned his black belt from Gracie Barra (Brazil) instructor Joelson Souza.
That works for me. Gracie Barra is excellent about listing their black belts and with such a long and storied history, being able to wear and represent a black belt for Gracie Barra is an honor in itself.
Of course, I still had to met the guy.
After contacting him, did he ask my full name?
No.
Rank?
No.
Gym affiliation?
No.
He simply said to come on in and try the place out. No fear of spying or competition, just an open door.
Now, back to the smiley face. I defy anyone that has met or will met Rodrigo to name another person that seems as genuinely open and friendly. I was met with a huge smile and a hug. Okay, so maybe EVERYONE that I talked to was right, he is a really nice guy.
Straight to business. Beginner BJJ from 6pm-7pm.
We went over the traditional Gracie style. The idea of BJJ as a combat art instead of just a sport. How to throw while countering punches. 
Then a few drills, a little rolling and before I knew it, class was over.
Rodrigo has a genuine excitement for teaching that you don’t always get the privilege to be a part of.
Between classes Professor Sul explained to me the concept of training at a Gracie Barra school. There is a set schedule and routine to teaching, particularly at the beginner levels. There is a curriculum that a student in Minnesota will do, knowing full well it is the same that will be practiced in Chicago, LA or Brazil.
From there, in the advanced classes, the instructor still has a set routine, but there is more leeway for interpretation and variation, allowing the instructor to adapt his game and the style of his students to the sport.
A quick drink of water and straight into the advanced class. We were joined by a couple of purple belts and a black belt (Adrian Ricci).
This time we worked some cross-sides controls and gi submission set ups (you want more details, go to a class).
Again, the hour flew by and it was already time for what turned out to be over 45 minutes of constant rolling. Not five minutes, then a break for a few minutes while students chat. It was all business. 
In my opinion: THE ONLY WAY TO TRAIN FOR COMPETING!
Five minute sessions with a constantly rotating partner kept me on my toes while trying to conserve my energy. It was a hot night and I was sweating like Nixon, but I held my own. The skill and style of his students is top notch and they were a true blast to roll with.
And a special thanks to Adrian Ricci. Either he was being really nice to me or he is the most patient grappler in the world, because his methodical approach kept me both at ease, but fully aware that a butterfly sweep was eminent. 
Rodrigo himself showed he deserves the black belt. I recall seeing a blurred smile as we bumped knuckles, followed by my internal monologue, “Is he on my back already? Crap, is that today’s technique I completely failed to see coming?”
By the end of the night I was soaked in sweat, most of it my own. 
And smiling. Maybe because there is something wrong with me, don’t judge me.
I don’t know if Professor Sul’s smile is contagious or if the atmosphere was just what I needed, but I really had a great time rolling and greatly appreciate how open and friendly the atmosphere is.
Fair warning though, just because they are nice and smiley, doesn’t mean they can’t roll right through you.
If you are anywhere near St. Louis Park, you have to at least give the gym a shot. There is no pressure, no sideways-looks, just a chance to roll at a top-rate school with a great coach.
Shameless plug: Gracie Barra Twin Cities is offering a summer enrollment special of $99/month. Sign up now and get a FREE GI as well. Click HERE and act now!
Thanks again to Professor Rodrigo Sul and all his students for allowing me in the gym and on his mats. I had a great time and see huge things for the gym and their comp team in the near future.
NEXT STOP: Minnesota Kali Group in Minneapolis

Gym Review: McCune’s Martial Arts (Brooklyn Park, MN)

Rigan Machado Seminar 2011 at McCune’s Martial Arts

Rigan is the guy in the front row with the Black Gi jacket.

The one that looks like he could make you tap as you read this.

He can.

Somewhere along the lines during what is just the infancy stages of my gym tour I can’t help but feel a strange (if not flimsy) similarity to the quest that Hunter S. Thompson partook in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. 

Would I require means by which to expand my consciousness in order to find whatever it is that this trip is leading me to? At some point would I try to purchase an orangutan? Would I too spend days without sleep while taking my mind and body to the very limit? 

No, probably not. I’m just a dumb ya-you-betcha from Minnesooooota that likes to roll. The closest thing I get to high is when I hold out on a rear naked choke too long.

For my second stop on my Minnesota BJJ gym tour, I walked through the doors of McCune’s Martial Arts in Brooklyn Park, MN (formerly the less friendly sounding No Rules).

McCune’s is home of Chris McCune. He is a 1st degree Black Belt under legendary Rigan Machado. And he’s a World Champion in BJJ.

Actually, he is the only black belt BJJ World Champion in Minnesota.

The only one.

This actually brings me to an interesting point about being a martial arts instructor, especially in the someone misfit sport of BJJ. Your reputation is always on the line.

Whether you are a blue belt or a black belt, if you are teaching students (especially if you are making them pay dues) you are always presenting yourself as an authority.

Granted, as you progress in the ranks, it is safe to assume that you know what the **** you are talking about. However, the idea of competing stops sounding as appealing when your students might be there to watch.

What if you lose? And what if you lose to a rival instructor?

Does that make them better than you? Should your students leave and train somewhere else?

These are rational concerns that keep a lot of instructors off the mat. We don’t exactly have the same numbers as baseball, basketball and football. Students can be hard to come by and harder to keep coming in the door.

So, believe me, I understand not wanting to compete. But at the same time, I respect those that still put it out there even more.

In the last two years Chris McCune has won both a Grappler’s Quest Absolute title and an IBJJF World Championship (the latter he won by defeating 4th degree black belt and World Champion Mica Cipili).

But titles aren’t everything. There are plenty of people out there that are great in competitions that couldn’t teach you to tap out, let alone complex variations on movement.

McCune can.

Having studied under the likes of Rigan Machado, Mica Cipil and Chris Haueter, he has absorbed decades worth of information and training styles that are still being put into affect (particularly by the Cipili and Haueter who continue to win World Championships to this day).

With a sense of humor and what is an honest love for the art and teaching, McCune brings an openness on the mat that shows through in his students. Even his purple and brown belt students are will to talk, train and teach the newest students through the door.

After the technique classes, during open rolls (I believe to the sounds of the Foo Fighter’s newest CD), McCune is on the mat with his students as they work round after round of techniques with their own incentives.

The atmosphere is light-hearted, but the technique is as solid as they come.

McCune is also a 8th degree Black Belt (Master Rank) in San Soo. A form of kung fu that some of his students have so elloquently dubbed “back alley kung fu”. I know first hand, that is a polite way of saying it. This ain’t the stuff Daniel-san trained with Mr. Miagi.

Man, two-for-two on gym reviews. Can’t wait for the next stop!

Shameless Plug:  Check out the website HERE. MENTION THIS ARTICLE AND GET 15% OFF ANY NEW BJJ MEMBERSHIP. ACT NOW! THIS OFFER WON’T LAST!

Next Review: Gracie Barra, St. Louis Park, MN

If you would like your gym review on this site by a writer with only minor psychological issues (mostly just an Oedipal Complex) please feel free to contact me at chokingminnesota@hotmail.com or send a message to Choking Minnesota on Facebook. See you on the mats!

Gym Review: Next Level Combat (Woodbury, MN)

 The guys at Next Level Combat (10th Planet JJ) on Tuesday, June 10th, 2011

In school, teachers and professors had a term for students like me. I don’t mean to get to technical, but I believe the word is… oh man, what was it… oh, yeah:

“Dumb.”

Writing teachers, in particular, seemed to enjoy using this word around me.

It’s not my fault that high school and college classes can’t hold my attention. That s***t is boring.

However, had my astronomy (yes, I took astronomy) professor had taught a class about the “10th Planet” I would have been on the f***ing Dean’s List.

My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.

Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto.

Don’t laugh, that’s how I learned the order of the planets in the solar system. But that makes nine. And now Plto isn’t a planet anyway. How about this:

M V E M J S V N 10th

Most Vixens Enjoy My Jiu-Jitsu So Venture Now to 10th Planet.

Not bad. Could be better if I was sober, but I’m six deep into a case of High Life and just typing is a bit of a stretch at the moment.

As the first stop on my BJJ Gym Review Tour, I expected there to be some resistance from the people at Next Level Combat in Woodbury, Minnesota. After all, they are a 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu affiliate (the only in Minnesota. In fact, the next closest is Omaha, Nebraska) and I have what the Minnesota Twins call “Bilateral Leg Weakness”.

Or maybe my knees are just s***. Whatever.

As I often am, I was wrong. The guys at Next Level couldn’t have been more welcoming.

The head instructors Tim Gillette and Nate Kleinfeld are both purple belts under Eddie Bravo. And neither could have been accommodating or more fun to roll with. They represents both ends of the style spectrum.

What do I mean by that? I think you are just going to have to check them out for yourself.

You think that’s a cop-out? F*** off. I’m not here to make judgements.

Say what you will about camping, poker or Happy Hour. I truly believe that there is no greater bonding experience than when another man sweats in your mouth.

Usually I’m the one sweating. I think I have that problem Nixon had.

God, I love this game.

Anyway, the rest of the crew (which I swear includes both an Eddie Bravo and a Uriah Faber doppelganger. Guys get your picture with “Eddie Bravo” to impress your friends. Ladies, how can you pass up the chance to play with your own, personal Uriah Faber?) were a blast to roll with as well.

Rolling with these guys was like… well, like this:

At least, that’s what my game felt like. A little twitching, then some scrambling, my wheels turning, but not getting anywhere. Then finally taking off just to run straight into the wall.

Rubber guard, half guard, deep half guard are all staples of Eddie Bravo and you will find them all at Next Level Combat.

The truly fascinating thing about 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu is the idea of their flowchart. With terminology like crackpipe, douchebag, the truck, monkey mount, sandbag (and on and on and on…) learning this particulary style is like learning another language.

And let’s not forget the infamous Twister is all its setups, variations and overall backbreaking existence.

In itself, this can be intimidating, even with a lot of mat time, but there is a simplicity to it. If someone says “go to lockdown”. You know what that is. There is an exact foot, hand and body position to it. No interpretation. Just do it. There is no, “no, move your leg… no the other leg, yeah, move that under, no over” kind of thing that you hear at tournaments.

In it’s own complex way, it has simplified the game. Once you know the moves, it is just a matter of understanding the flowchart to the game.

No one can say Eddie Bravo isn’t inventive.

So, the downside…

You know what, I revisit my previous statement. F*** off. I started doing this because I’m sick of people talking s*** about gyms they’ve never been to or people they’ve never rolled with. BJJ is a business, I get it, but I’m not here to smear anyone. I am here to roll because I love this game.

If you want to find if a gym is what you heard, go roll for yourself. And maybe, just maybe, you will be lucky enough to step into a gym like Next Level Combat.


Shameless pimping: RIGHT NOW, FOR NEW STUDENTS ONLY: $49 FOR 1 MONTH UNLIMITED TRAINING. VISIT THEIR LINK HERE FOR MORE GYM DETAILS

Next Stop: McCune’s Martial Arts in Brooklyn Park, MN

A huge thanks to all the guys that turned out at Next Level to show me the ropes. I greatly appreciate it and had a blast!

If you would like your gym reviewed (free f***ing advertising) please contact me on Facebook or at chokingminnesota@hotmail.com

God Bless You Bullshido!

Times they are a changin’.

No longer are the most popular martial arts on the block the ones that you can get a blackbelt in within a year or two (once your check clears).

In an age of Mixed Martial Arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has risen above the rest to become the single most important martial art to learn in to compliment your fighting arsenal (note: argue all you want with judo or Muay Thai, I stand by my statement. And get over it, this article isn’t a debate).

The real problem, if there is one, with BJJ, is that it takes so f***ing long to get good at it. When you actually practice and compete against real, living, breathing, aggressive people, the game is difficult.

While there are the freaks that get their legitimate black belts in four or so years (like Bravo or Penn), the majority take much longer. Some well past 10 years depending on how much mat time and how many tournaments you compete in.

And that is fine. It is a part of the game. People understand.

Unless you are a douche and want to scam people out of money.

Enter Bullshido.

Thanks to the fine folks at Bullshido, if you have the suspicions that your instructor or potential instructor is full of, well, bulls***, your answer is just a few grammatically incorrect sentences away.

By posting a thread on Bullshido (as a registered member) you suddenly have access to all the members and staff at the site that are more than willing to sniff out the frauds.

This isn’t an ad or endorsement for the site as much as a kudos. I lost several hours this weekend just reading about the douchebags they have uncovered.

Here are my favorites (with attached links):

Jay Grissom

Matt Barvo

I just don’t get it. We live in the information age when any acne-ridden, World of Warcraft-playing, parent’s basement-living virgin can do a google search and tear your life to shreds.

Why would you risk your name and your future on the idea that you could scam some people for a couple of bucks?

Then, to make it worse, post your supposed rank on the internet!?!?

You suck.

As I have previously stated, I don’t really care what your rank is as an instructor, but you damn well better be able to teach and back up your claims.

People are dishing out a $100 a month (at least) to learn BJJ from you and you want to disgrace yourself and the art for some quick cash?

Fortunately there is a site like Bullshido to call your punk-ass out.

So, please. If you have any suspicions about your instructor (like when you ask where they got their belts, they stutter or say something stupid like, “You don’t know them”) please do your research. Go to the site and at least ask around.

Maybe your concerns aren’t valid, but they were worth asking.

Like that son-of-a-bitch that called me out in high school when I told everyone by girlfriend lived in Canada.

I miss that fake hot chick. She had 42DD boobs, LOL’d at all my jokes and liked to have fun.

*Sigh*