When my wife and I planned our cross country road trip, we had several stops in mind. I have family scattered across the US and she and I both have friends we wanted to see along the way. The obvious choices of destinations like the Grand Canyon were also a must. It will come as no surprise that certain gyms were also mandatory to visit.
I met Lucas Lepri when he came through for a seminar at my home gym in Alliance Minnesota a couple years ago. I was a longtime fan having watched him win many championships and was even more impressed with how nice of an individual he was. Lucas’ gym was a mandatory stop for our trip and on the one year anniversary of opening, my wife and I stopped in to his academy in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The moment we walked through the door my wife, you can check out here blog here: mikialamode, looked at me and said, “I really like this place!” When a woman with the type of taste and fashion & design sense my wife has says something like that about a BJJ gym, it means a lot! We were warmly greeted by Lucas who was quick with a smile and hug. He also gave us a brief tour. Everyone in the gym went out of their way to introduce themselves and to offer a handshake and there were actually several other visitors there seeking Lucas out for his technique and good vibes.
As my wife’s reaction would indicate, this gym is aesthetically pleasing. It’s simple yet elegant with couches, cool memorabilia from Lucas’ championships, a great color scheme, and nothing obstructing the open concept. The mats wrap around the locker area revealing a small cross fit type space in the very back corner with everything you need for conditioning. There are also benches lining the front for spectators. I really liked the large windows that hugged the mats allowing beautiful natural light into the space that you typically don’t get in a gym. To round things out, the locker rooms, both male and female, were really well done and had several showers each.
What to Expect:
I attended standard class and also the competition class each with a distinct set up. For the regular class Lucas started with a quick warm up and then got busy with technique. Moves built on each other throughout the week which allowed for lots of repetition and for newer students to stick with the first few steps of techniques while allowing advanced students to create a string of several moves and reactions linked together. After technique there was a lot of sparring!
Competition class jumped straight into technique, sweeping back and forth. It progressed into responses to common reactions and then did some light position specific sparring. Afterwards, Lucas split the class into groups based primarily on skill with some consideration for size and competition goals and then we did long rounds of sparring with back to back partners followed by a short rest in. Although it starts easier than the regular class, you can expect to be completely exhausted by the end!
The focus of the week was worm guard. He walked through grips, key details of control to ensure you don’t lose position while setting up the sweeps, and several variations based on the opponent’s reaction. He started with the standard sweep to the outside, showed a move to scoop the leg and sweep if the opponent tries to back up, and finished with a lapel-o-plata if the opponent was able to disengage their leg during the lapel grip transition. Everything that Lucas shared had a very specific purpose and he did a great job of making precise adjustments to ensure the students executed the moves correctly.
When I first met Lucas a couple years prior I was still a brown belt. At the time, we rolled and I felt like I fended off his passing fairly well and was able to sweep him. Ultimately he swept me back and got my arm for the submission at the end of 8 minutes. I’m not sure if he was playing with me back then and just letting me work; but during this visit, he really put it on me!
I got to roll with him at least 5 times and over the course of a those matches it went pretty similarly. I started in open guard and he pushed the pace hard. Using more variations of the knee slice than I knew existed, he kept finding ways to cut through my defenses. I was armbarred… a few times. The only relief was a short moment where he let up the pressure and I took advantage to put him into closed guard. I made him pretty uncomfortable for a few minutes and even got a sweep. I thought I had a chance to pass but his reverse de la riva guard was on point and he quickly off balanced me and swept me right back leading to… another armbar!
People who roll with me know that I hate having someone on my back! I will give up mount or just about anything not to have someone there. In our final round, Lucas passed yet again. I worked really hard to keep my shoulders on the ground and then made the fatal flaw of telling him I wasn’t going to let him take my back. He said, “I will take your back anyway!” and somehow pried me from the floor, got both hooks, and tapped me. To really put that into perspective, keep in mind that; while Marcelo Garcia has subbed me a few times, he never once taken my back and that’s kind of his thing.(Keep in mind that Lucas is a little bigger and stronger than Marcelo and I’m sure that if Marcelo ever reads this he will make it a point to take my back and choke me) Lucas felt better than he’s ever felt before and I got a thorough ass kicking! It was awesome!
Sadly, many of my pictures from visiting Lucas’ gym were lost when my old PC crashed. I combined what I could salvage with a few shots of his most recent win at Worlds this year, which was awesome to watch. Many consider Lucas to be the most technical player in Alliance, which is no small compliment when you consider the power houses on the team! He’s the guy we send videos to when we can’t figure out how to counter someone’s style in a tournament and Lucas always has an answer. One of the things that make him, and Alliance in general, great, is the open minded approach to trying to learn every new guard or pass that comes out. Not only does this allow you to be a better teacher and more well-rounded, but it helps you understand the keys to success of the position and how to use it or overcome it. I’m very grateful for the hospitality, technique, and learning(aka tapping) I experienced at his gym. Training with Lucas is something to add to your BJJ bucket list and he has built the type of culture that every gym aspires to have. It’s a truly great place to train!
Lucas will be teaching a seminar at Alliance MN Sat August 6th and Sunday August 7th. If you’re interested contact info@alliancemn or call 952-942-1190 for more information. Spots are limited so act fast! I guarantee you it will improve your jiu jitsu!