During our European travel my wife and I made a stop in Rome, Italy. It was their holiday season so it wasn’t easy to find a gym that was open. I took a chance and just showed up at Flow Jiu Jitsu Academy and attended a class taught by 2015 World Champion and 2016 Euro and World Bronze medalist, Serena Gabrielli.
The gym was part of a small sports club with tennis courts, a crossfit gym, and the jiu jitsu gym in a second building with a pool on the ground floor and the mats in a room above. There was plenty of space to train and the area was very clean. A simple changing room and bathroom were also on site. It wasn’t lavish but I really liked its simplicity and cleanliness
As I mentioned, my arrival wasn’t planned so I didn’t get a chance to contact the school in advance. I got to the gym early and walked the grounds before sitting in the courtyard to wait for the class to start. A nice young lady in the courtyard asked me if I trained. I was relieved to find someone who spoke English and who I could ask about the jiu jitsu academy. I got a good chuckle when I realized the nice young lady was Serena, the highly accomplished jiu jitsu practitioner who also taught the class. Everyone was equally nice and with a combination of very bad Italian, Spanish, and English, I got along just fine.
Similar to the head coach of the gym, Andrea Verdemare, Serena spent time with the Mendes brothers and has a very similar style to theirs. She demonstrated each move with precision and very clear explanation. I was able to follow along in Italian but she was quick to switch to English if I asked. She was quick to help anyone in need and was also able to get her drill time in since it was a small class.
What to Expect:
The class had a very gentle warm up and went straight into drilling. It started with a hip control and leg position shift. The next transition was knee slide. After the knee slide came a very smooth long step. The drilling concluded with working through the movements and transitioning to the back. Normally the drilling would be followed by technique but it was a small class during the holidays so we transitioned straight into sparring. The class ended with several rounds of sparring.
Because of our size difference I didn’t roll with Serena. I watched her roll with several others and she ran through guys twice her size. It was really impressive. She had a very nice knee slice style that set up long steps and other passing sequences. I really liked her spider guard and she used one leg to disrupt the base of her opponent allowing her to land triangles against much larger opponents. It was very obvious that she was technical and well disciplined and it didn’t surprise me at all that she has had so much success in competition.
I really enjoyed the visit and getting a sweat going while on vacation. Everyone at the gym was very friendly and the technique was top notch. I was especially impressed by Serena. She was a confident instructor with excellent jiu jitsu. It’s not easy for female practitioners to find training partners and they often have to deal with strength and weight disadvantages. Those who stick it out have a mental toughness we should all envy.