Joao Assis is a huge name in BJJ, particularly on the NoGi scene. Among his many championships he holds an ADCC and NoGi Worlds title. I had been meaning to get to his gym in Huntington Beach for years but only recently had the opportunity to do so. It was an awesome experience and I really enjoyed the energy and friendly atmosphere of the gym.
I called in advance and left a voice mail. Luciana, Joao’s wife, promptly called me back and welcomed me to come train. She informed me there was a mat fee of $20. I said the fee was well worth it if I got the chance to roll with Joao. The gym was family friendly with a mix of genders and ages. The common thread was that everyone there went out of their way to introduce themselves and welcome me to the school.
Real estate in Huntington Beach isn’t cheap. Accordingly, the school is modest in size. A small row of benches lines the side and there is a changing room and bathroom. The mat was felt spacious for our group of 20 students. They are keeping their eye out for additional space or the option to expand. With how friendly the gym is and the caliber of instruction, they will most definitely continue to grow and put that future space to good use.
What to Expect:
The class I attended was at the end of the week so it focused primarily on review. The warm up was fairly rigorous. In addition to the standard jogging, shrimping, and moving drills they incorporated some wrestling drills as well. The end of the warm up included a significant amount of ab exercises with each student counting their portion out loud.
Joao ran through a series of techniques. He started with defending an opponent from grabbing your pants and going into spider guard.
From there he moved on to a triangle from spider guard. He pointed out the very important detail of keeping a very high pull with the arm to not allow your opponent to get their posture.
He finished off with a spider guard pass. I liked the details of how to adjust your posture to get the leverage to control your grips. After getting his hips in place, he finished off with a leg drag and an option to finish with an Ezekiel choke from the back.
Each technique was followed by 5-10 minutes of repetition. After all the drilling, the class moved on to position specific sparring. It was king of the hill style with the people on their backs putting the recently acquired spider guard skills to practice and the other students trying to pass guard. The class ended with several rounds of sparring.
Professor Joao asked me to roll in the 2nd round of training, which was a real treat. I pulled guard and was very curious to see how the match up would play out. He started to drop a lot of pressure from the top but I managed a sweep. He immediately started getting into his half guard game.
I thought I could fend off his game, but he did a great job of securing the underhook and getting under me. After a decent struggle, he swept me back and this time gave his guard passing attempt a more serious effort. He secured the pass and stayed aggressive. He was looking for submissions; and as I rolled away from him, he was quick to work towards an armbar. I was able to roll my way out and once again return to the top position. Having experienced his crushing pressure, I made a more diligent attempt to stay on top. As he searched for the underhook, I sprawled my leg back heavily and attempted to flatten him out. Time ran out in our neutral position.
We trained pretty hard but not so hard that we couldn’t laugh for essentially the whole match. He had a great half guard and smooth movement and transitions. I especially appreciated that he was willing to roll with me despite having gone through several training sessions per day for the entire week leading up to that evening.
This gym is a real gem. A young lady happened to visit for the first time that day and essentially got one on one attention from a purple belt for the entire class with Joao and others stepping in regularly to support. Everyone was professional but I especially enjoyed the family vibe. Joao’s daughter and other kids play between classes and everyone there seems to truly like each other.
There’s a good mix of male and female students, so the whole family can get great training. Sid, one of the brown belts, was a tough roll and I felt like between him and Joao just about anyone could get some really good training in. The best part by far was just joking around with Joao. He had some really fun stories to share and you can tell that he is a genuinely nice person.
Ironically, not a week after stopping by to train Fight 2 Win Pro contacted me about potentially fighting Joao at their event F2W PRO 24. Apparently Jeff Monson, who Joao was to fight, had dropped out and they were looking for a last minute candidate. I was more than happy to participate but told the F2W team that I would have to contact Joao first to be respectful since I had just visited. An Atos brown belt ended up getting the fight, which worked out better for me. I don’t actually care if I fight friends or strangers. In fact, I often fight harder with people I know well. But I’m glad I didn’t have to fight Joao so soon after his being an extremely gracious host to me. Joao went on to win the fight and also had one of the coolest entrances with his daughter on his shoulders dressed as Darth Vader.
This is a great gym! If you’re in the Huntington Beach area, or just visiting, you won’t regret training here. Photo credit to the amazing MikiALaMode!