San Diego is one of my favorite cities to visit. It’s got a laid back vibe, great beaches, awesome food, and some beautiful areas to visit like Sea Port Village and the Gas Lamp District. It’s also a major Brazilian Jiu Jitsu hub. I’ve made several trips to San Diego and visited several gyms there. This time I drove down to visit a friend who was having a housewarming party and planned a trip to Alliance San Diego, which is the home of Joao “Johnny” Faria. Originally a student of Flavio Behring, he was the first to open a Gracie Humaita in the United States and recently joined Alliance.
I called in advance and left a voicemail that I would be visiting. I got a call back sharing the times of classes and what to expect and welcoming me to the gym. When I arrived Johnny was at the front desk getting ready for the fundamentals class. He greeted me and we exchanged some conversation as he welcomed me to take pictures and join the class. Everyone I came across greeted me and welcomed me to the gym. I found the environment respectful, friendly, and fun.
The gym is lovely with a nice set of couches in the waiting area up front. The front desk has an ipad that is used to sign in. The main mat space is very large and is lined by crossfit workout equipment. There is a second mat space for drilling and additional sports conditioning with cardio equipment along the far wall. The two changing areas are spacious with lavatories and showers. It’s clean and well equipped.
What to Expect:
I watched the fundamentals class and participated in the advanced class that immediately followed. The class started with a quick warm up of jogging and dynamic movements and quickly transitioned to drilling. The drills helped reinforce the techniques taught throughout the week and included guard retention and take down entiries. Johnny then went into the details of the armbar and high guard armbar. He finished off with a toreando passing drill. The advanced class went through X guard passes, specific training from X guard, and finished with full rounds of sparring.
Unfortunately, Johnny had recently injured his knee and wasn’t able to spar. I was impressed he could show as much of the technique as he did considering his pending surgery in the next couple weeks. I knew he had won several major titles and had great standup and top game. His guard is formidable too. He is a very well rounded fighter and teacher. He spent a lot of time correcting students one on one and engaging with them. His students were also well rounded and able to play any position. They fought hard and had grit but were keenly focused on technique. I had several great rolls and enjoyed the training.
Armbar Tips from Johnny Faria:
The armbar is one of the first techniques we all learned in jiu jitsu. The longer you train the more you realize that there are details you have yet to see even in the most basic moves.
- Pull the arm with your body: Johnny gripped the arm then lifted his elbow to take out the slack from the position. In that locked position he did a side crunch to leverage the strength of his body to pull the arm instead of just his shoulder and traps.
- Control the elbow and shoulder: Using two arms on one is always the best way to gain control over your opponent. After locking the elbow in position with his other arm, Johnny switched the sleeve grip to the opposite side shoulder of his opponent. This grip is critical to increasing the rate of success of the move. By controlling the opponent’s posture it makes it difficult for them to stack or remove their arm from the lock.
- Clamp the leg across the shoulder: The leg details in the armbar were ones I had not seen before. Traditionally the first leg rests on the back as the outside leg steps over the face to finish he armbar. Johnny had a slight adjustment that made the lock tighter. The leg that is typically perpendicular to the spine was angled slightly diagonally which gives additional leverage to keep your opponent from posturing out of the armbar.
I really enjoyed my visit to the gym. The atmosphere is as awesome as the facility itself. Johnny is a great teacher and the school has a great vibe. In addition, multiple time world champion Tarsis Humphreys teaches classes throughout the week. This gym has a ton to offer and despite the competition in the San Diego market really stands out as a great place to train.