For thanksgiving my wife and I decided to take the coastal highway up to San Francisco. On our way to visit my dad we made a stop in Pleasanton for some training at Crispim BJJ. Professor Crispim spent his formative years of BJJ in the famous Gracie Barra Academy in Rio. He has an incredible half guard that was influenced by his time with Roberto Gordo. He had several MMA fights and is a passionate teacher with a great balance of old and new school techniques fit for tournaments or fighting.
I called in advance and was told there was a $25 mat fee. The staff was very friendly and greeted me warmly upon arriving at the gym. Professor Crispim immediately introduced himself and we quickly started joking about our common BJJ connections. His first instructor was Mauricio Tinguinha who is a phenomenal instructor and human being and who’s gym I frequently visit in Southern California. Even without the mutual connection, it would be impossible not to like Professor Crispim. His energy is contagious and he is boisterous and entertaining.
The space is incredible. There’s a huge mat, a cage, and a boxing ring. I don’t know how old the gym is but everything looks like it’s newly installed. It’s clean and has spacious locker space and showers in the restroom. They even provided me with a towel.
What to Expect:
Timing and connection are two of the most important concepts in BJJ but they are taught the least. Even though almost every school teaches moves in sequence, they often fail to teach the concept of proper timing and connection. Professor Crispim is one of only two people who I’ve seen convey the concept well.(The first being Marcelo Garcia)
The first discussion was about guard passing and recovery. The key to the movement is feeling the movement of your partner. To start, the guard passer pushes one leg to the side forcing the guard player to defend with the arms. Rather than pushing off to adjust position, the guard player then pushes down with the foot on the side they are facing to readjust the hips and move back to center. Immediately, the passer uses the momentum to pass to the other side and the drill continues.
The second part of the drill involved the passer trying to disengage. The guard player hooks at the knee with their heal and proceeds to step down to the mat while pulling the heal to their but. If timed when the passer is trying to step back, the result is that they will fall to their knee and be completely out of position. What I liked about both movements was that you got immediate feedback if you were executing the technique correctly. If you are finding it difficult or it feels like you’re swimming in sand, your timing is off. When it feels easy, you’re doing it perfectly.
The technique was followed by position specific training to reinforce what was learned. Several rounds of sparring followed. Everyone fought hard but no one was rough or rude.
After a couple rounds with his students, Professor Crispim asked me to roll with him. Because he gives up about 100lbs to me, I pulled guard. And because I was reasonably confident that I wouldn’t get hurt by his weight, I actually inverted for the Roleta sweep not realizing he had trained with Roleta himself!
I actually pulled off the sweep. Unfortunately for me, it took me straight into Crispim’s best position, the half guard. After spending a few years with the Nova Uniao guys in Toronto who all love half guard and my training with Bernardo Faria, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable defending the half guard. What was impressive about Crispim’s was the blend of lapel control and the intelligent use of hooks to control and initiate sweeps.
We were talking trash and joking around the whole time and flowed from position to position. We ended up rolling 3 or 4 times and each one had a unique exchange. At one point I tried to roll to his back and his leg positioning not only stopped me, but put him in position to attack mine. It was a great exchange of movement and technique.
I had a great time at the gym. Professor Crispim is just the right kind of crazy and I loved his energy. He shared a couple nice transitions from the Roleta sweep for me and I appreciated his being so willing to expand my game. It was also very cool to hear stories about Roger Gracie and others from the early days of BJJ. This is a great gym and you will likely build a lasting friendship even from just one visit.
What allowed me to get the most out of the experience is that the focus of the training was on technique, not using my weight. One of the biggest mistakes I see bigger practitioners make is to be limited to just squashing and using their strength to win a match. In sparring, winning means learning something and improving your technique. Because I was willing to transition and move, I was able to have a great exchange of technique. If you find yourself rolling with an older, lighter, or significantly weaker partner, accept the challenge of fighting technique vs technique. A little humility goes a long way.