PKG with Tahi Burns

June 20, 2016

While training with some old friends at the Brian Kim memorial roll at Higher Ground BJJ a brown belt recommended that I check out PKG, which stands for “Punch, Kick, Grapple.”  He said the gym had a solid mix of levels and some heavier practitioners which would be good for my training.  The gym is run by Tahi Burns, a 3rd degree black belt in BJJ, an avid martial artist, and a biker and dog lover from New Zealand.

Tahi Solo

The Gym

As the name implies, this gym covers striking and grappling.  Parking was a little tricky with only metered spots in the area.  The front desk recommended parking in the Ross parking lot just north of the gym, which was a handy hint.  The facility is quite nice with a beautiful front desk area and spacious changing rooms that include a couple showers and several bathroom stalls.  There are two large mats, one for mauy thai and boxing with hanging heavy bags and other equipment, and one for BJJ which has a fence along one side for cage drills.

Cage and bags

First Impressions:

I called ahead and found the front desk staff to be incredibly professional and helpful.  They asked Tahi if I could attend and I was told to stop by that evening.  They mentioned the parking detail which was really helpful.  Upon arriving, they immediately recognized that I wasn’t a regular student and asked if I had called earlier and even remembered my name.  They gave me a very brief tour as I was running a little behind schedule and I changed and jumped on the mats.  Students were very good about coming over and introducing themselves in a way that didn’t distract or take away from the training and I felt warmly received.

Hand pummeling

Teaching Style:

Tahi has a very strong presence and commands the room with ease.  I especially liked that he showed self defense techniques and flowed them into more modern techniques to give students a well rounded BJJ experience.  He doesn’t overly complicate the moves and conveys only what is necessary to get the students moving.  Two traits that stood out were that he repeatedly encouraged students to slow down and focus on flow and that he had students repeat back what the next step of the move was during demonstrations to ensure retention.  Both techniques were highly effective.

Guillotine defense takedown

 What to Expect

He put the class through a solid warm up with jogging, hip escapes, rolls and even some old school sidewinders.  Then he went into some hand speed drills for deflecting punches which evolved into armdrag drills for fluidity. He then went into guillotine defense.  After the self defense he continued the theme he had been following on escapes with this lesson being dedicated to defending the armbar from the guard.  He showed 3 options as you get progressively behind in reacting and then did some position specific sparring to reinforce what was learned.  He closed out the class with a 4 rounds of regular sparring.

Armbar defense 1

Armbar defense detail grip

Between the legs

Rolling Style

Tahi didn’t roll that day but his gym had a fairly aggressive and energetic style.  I generally found the top game of the people I went against to be more refined than the bottom game which I attributed to the strong foundation of self defense at the gym and valuing dominant positions.  Overall the team was very well rounded and I had some fun and challenging rolls.  This is a great place for beginners and has a very strong purple belt group that will make this gym a powerhouse of advanced practitioners in the next few years.  Female practitioners will also find more partners to train with than the average gym.  Although Tahi doesn’t push competing, he has several members of the team who do compete.  There wasn’t a lot of unnecessary flash in anyone’s movements but they all seemed capable of taking care of themselves in a real life situation, which is something you see less and less of in gyms these days.

Tahi and female students

 Closing Thoughts

This is a gorgeous and well run gym that produces well rounded martial artists.  It is a very collaborative and respectful atmosphere but people are still willing to go at it during sparring allowing you to grow in technique and train hard.  Despite not focusing on competitions, Tahi has produced several champions so it has something for everyone.  I especially liked an analogy he used about riding a motor cycle.  He said, “it’s much harder to control a motorcycle at incredibly low speeds.  To refine your skill, you practice as slow as possible.  It’s the same in BJJ.  The slower and more fluidly you practice, the better your technique will be when it comes time to use it with speed.”  Great advice and a great gym!

If you enjoyed  this please like, share, and comment.  Here are some additional pictures from the day.


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