I previously wrote about my trip to Fresno, California for work. I didn’t have enough time to hit all the gyms in the area but in my research I found Royce Gracie Academy and wanted to check it out. Tosh Cook, is the head instructor and has cage fighting experience as well as tournament success. He was recently involved in the Road to Metamoris and he juggles running a gym with a full time job.
I called in advance and left a voice mail. Brittany, Tosh’s wife, returned my call promptly and welcomed me to train. Additionally, Tosh sent me a text with his cell phone number and asked me to get in touch with him both for training and any advice or insight on places to eat or hang out in Fresno. This hospitality and friendliness was immediately evident with all the students at the gym as well. It felt very much like a tight knit family.
Upon entering the doors there is a nice reception area with seats for spectators and pictures on the wall. There were changing rooms and a restroom but no showers. The mat space is very large and there’s a full cage on the side as well. It was well kept, clean, and professional.
What to Expect:
The class started with a brief standard warm up and then flowed into technique. The first technique was a street safe take down. After setting up the shot with a jab, you change levels, and do a single leg. A few key details were not to just drop to the knees like you see wrestlers do. If you find yourself fighting on concrete that will do damage to your knees. Upon securing the leg, he used his outside leg to hook and drive forward. On the ground, he switched grips to control the legs and pass the guard to establish side control.
The next technique was the traditional wrist lock when an aggressor pushes your chest. As they push, you trap the hand on the chest, secure the elbow, and bend forward for the finish. In competition I like to put my head to the inside for added pressure. Tosh correctly showed that in a street fight it is better to put your head to the outside of the body to avoid punches and knees.
He also showed the classic stack pass. Key elements he called out were tucking the elbow of the arm inside the guard to avoid the armbar and being sucked into the triangle. He also used the collar to pull forward and create additional pressure leading to the pass.
The final technique was a classic sweep from guard. One of the details that he showed that is often missed is that he did not plant his foot on the ground when turning to the side. Tosh used his thighs to elevate his hip and shift his body to the side. He then used his leg to hook and create additional leverage. Another key detail for this sweep is to pull the opponent forward to take them off balance and facilitate the sweep.
After the technique there was positional sparring and then the class wrapped up.
Tosh recently had an accident that limited his ability to train. From what I’ve seen of his fighting, he has a decent guard and a heavy passing style. After the techniques we played king of the hill. A few people started in guard and a fresh person came off the wall to try to pass guard. If they passed, they took their place as king of the hill and played guard.
I noticed this gym had a very traditional style of BJJ. No one was playing the berimbolo or any new or fancy guards. Their passing was primarily based on stack pass, toreando, or getting to the half guard to pressure through and get the pass. Practitioners came with energy and aggression but balanced it with control and friendliness.
There are primarily lower belts at the gym but there are plenty of men, women, and children covering a variety of weight classes to allow everyone to have a training partner of like size. This is not a gym of monsters and you won’t find competition classes in the middle of the day full of hard core practitioners gunning for a world championship. This gym focuses on self defense and high percentage techniques that will keep you safe if you find yourself in an altercation. If you’re looking for a safe place to start your jiu jitsu journey where you can learn excellent technique taught in clear and concise fashion, this is a great gym for you. You will be greeted warmly and can bank on having a solid foundation in the gentle art.
As the name implies, the style of this gym holds true to Royce Gracie. Tosh shows techniques that Royce regularly used and they are the same ones that lead to him winning the original UFC and putting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on the map. Tosh and Brittany are very nice people and run the gym as a labor of love. They teach because it is their passion and they balance that with managing a household and holding down full-time jobs.
Photo credit to the amazing MikiAlaMode