A few weeks back, my good friend James Clingerman was in town on a road trip. James is the head instructor at Indiana Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy who, along with his wife AJ, who is a marketing wiz, have successfully operated the longest running and most successful Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gym in Indiana.
James has been helping me out since I was a blue belt so when he said he was in town and was planning on training at the legendary Jean Jacques Machado gym in Tarzana, I was quick to sacrifice sleep and make the drive to meet him. He and AJ had already connected with the gym a few days prior. Jean Jacques has a very busy schedule, so they wanted to make sure he would be there. I met up with James, we got the guided tour of what is basically a Jiu Jitsu shrine, met some cool people, got in several rounds of sparring, and we got Punk’D by Ashton Kutcher.
As I mentioned, James stopped in previously and then called ahead to make sure Master Machado would be in. When we arrived, the gym wasn’t open yet. As we waited outside several others started arriving and all of them were quick to introduce themselves. Everyone who trained there was friendly and welcoming. The front desk was attended by Marcel Santos who toured us through the building. The mat fee is advertised on their site as slightly higher than the $85 per person we were charged but this was a bucket list item for both me and James so we went for it.
As I mentioned, the gym is basically a temple of BJJ awesomeness. From magazines to the gi that was signed by Sheikh Tahnoon himself, it was truly impressive. The only gym I’ve seen that can compare in terms of memorabilia is the Gracie Academy in Torrance. There were super spacious restrooms and changing areas with about 4 showers. The mat space was ample and the whole area was kept immaculately clean.(At the end of class a cleaning crew of 3 or 4 people were bustling about the entire location cleaning everything from top to bottom)
What to Expect:
As I mentioned, we got Punk’D. We were told that Jean Jacques wouldn’t be in because he was doing a private lesson with Ashton Kutcher. I’m sure Mr. Kutcher will reimburse me and James when he sees us next and airs the episode on national TV… Even without master Jean Jacques, there were 10 black belts on the mat(not counting me and James). Jul, took responsibility for teaching.
There wasn’t a formal warm up. The lesson of the day was the flower sweep. I liked how Jul sat forward like he was going to do a hip bump and then capitalized on the opponent’s reaction to sweep them. The continuation of the flower sweep was to roll over and attack an armbar when they post to defend.
I didn’t mention it earlier, but I forgot my belt. Yes, the guy who forgot it the first day he went to train with Romulo Barral and the first day he showed up at Alliance MN did it again! It had been years since I made that mistake but it turned out to be quite funny. One of the black belts politely asked me if I had a partner and proceeded to teach me the technique and walk me through how to do it. Not wanting to be rude and always curious to learn the nuances each different person has for how they perform the technique, I just went with it. James politely let the guy know that I was a black belt and we all got a good chuckle out of it.
After the technique there were many rounds of sparring. They did 8 minute rounds which were a nice challenge compared to the typical 6 minute rounds of most gyms. I rolled with a huge blue belt who was a former professional athlete, a blue belt that helps Hollywood’s finest overcome drug addiction, several black belts, and a tough brown belt who I hadn’t trained with since he was a blue belt at Romulo Barral’s. Of course, James and I rolled, which was the best part since we were talking all kinds of trash to each other!
Some gyms have very specific styles that the majority of students use but I couldn’t pin down anything specific from the group. To me, that was a sign of Master Jean Jacques’ ability to help each individual develop their own style. I did notice that they favored a pressure game from the top.
James had a really tough roll with one of the more seasoned black belts. I usually don’t find practitioners my size, so it was nice to have someone there that made me look small and feel weak. I focused on my guard work and sweeps and enjoyed fighting off the pressure game most of them employed.
It was awesome to see James and to train in a legendary space. I appreciated the warm welcome and positive attitude of the team. It would have been truly special to get to train with Master Jean Jacques but it will have to be another time. Thanks to James for inviting me out and sharing another one of a kind experience!