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Scrapper
1/11/2008 12:24pm,
Wandering Monk Stays Close to Home

The Wandering Monk’s travels have kept him around the house these days, and so I strapped my sandals to my feet, placed my straw conical hat to my pate, grabbed my walking staff and sauntered out to Midtown Fitness in Putnam, CT for my first ever Brazilian Jujitsu class.

Most of last year, your humble brother in this martial journey attended weekly grappling classes at Midtown with an enthusiastic group of hard-rolling individuals. Like me, these optimistic young stalwarts were all trying hard to catch that elusive appellation of “fighter.” We rolled hard, trained hard, and ultimately worked hard. It was a great, if informal, atmosphere.

This year, things are different. Mike Bogdanski, the owner of Midtown fitness and HIGHLY successful Tang soo do instructor, and commercial martial arts school owner, has decided to teach Brazilian jujitsu. He is a Machado blue belt under David Meyer, and received his training through an affiliate in Worcester, MA. He was tested in person for his blue by a Meyer instructor, and so in that he is legitimate…but his actual roll time outside of grading is restricted to maybe an hour a couple times a week with a woman 70 pounds lighter than him, and whenever he gets up to Worcester to train and grade. The wandering monk is an enlightened, forward-thinking, and optimistic individual. He wants to believe the best…but this vexes me greatly. If brevity is the soul of wit, then let me be brief: His skill extends only to basic technical instruction.

Classes meet once a week for one hour, and the cost is $85.00 a month. The Wandering monk lives the life of an ascetic, and as such finds this price to be exorbitant for one hour a week. However, I was told membership means you can use the mats any time they are open…so there is that to consider. On paper it all looks pretty promising.

On paper. It turns out that when I did show up to use the mats, Bogdanski wanted to charge me a mat fee and expressed concern about me and my training partner "going all-out" when we were working. The wandering monk does not argue with the owner of a gym, for it is in poor taste to do so; and so I merely filed this info for later analysis.

There. The load is off my chest. Now with that somewhat acrimonious and judgmental mindworm now purged from brain to page; I can now elucidate the GOOD aspects of this class before I wax eloquent upon its faults as my monastic ethics require.

The instruction is good enough. He knows the basics, and executes them correctly. The class was informative and he did not relay any information that the wandering monk felt was inaccurate (Although if he referred to an "upa" as an "oompa" one more time I was going to start laughing out loud). I myself do not claim to know all of the grappling arts, and this is the first TRUE BJJ lesson I have ever taken. The wandering monk hesitates to judge harshly in this situation.

The instruction was fervent, pleasant, and fast-paced. Bogdanski is obviously enthusiastic about BJJ and his 30 years as a martial arts instructor are apparent in the ease and facility with which he imparts the information. If the monk is to be honest (and he always is!), there are many instructors out there who are superb fighters and yet cannot coherently impart instruction to the uninitiated. The Wandering Monk HATES that. So it is with great relief that I can happily report that Bogdanski is an excellent instructor.

That being said; he has less than one year of BJJ experience. That experience in and of itself is shall we say, “Not ideal.” He has no competitive victories or competitions at all for that matter, almost no formal one-on-one instruction, and little roll time with individuals capable of pushing him. It pains the Wandering Monk greatly to say this, but by most accepted standards, this man is not qualified to teach anything but the most basic elements of BJJ. Fortunately, he does not claim to be able to teach anything but the most basic elements of BJJ. A dedicated, talented student would surpass Bogdanski’s ability to teach BJJ in a period of maybe 3 months. The Wandering Monk suspects that unless Bogdanski makes a serious effort to stay ahead of his students, he will run out of viable teaching material in less than six months.

There was no live rolling in this class. There were some progressive resistance drills for positions, but nothing that even approached 100% for me. I talked to the assistant instructor (the other blue belt) about this, and she said that they were going to “work up to” live rolling once everyone in the class had a solid understanding of the fundamentals and safety. The Wandering Monk feels this is OK, but recalls the halcyon days of his youth; where an 11-year-old boy was subjected to live randori with a bigger yellow-belt 35 minutes into his first judo class. As you can see…the Wandering Monk did not die that day; nor do I suspect that anyone in this class would if subjected to a live roll. Furthermore...after 2 months of classes there was still no live work being done.

She did insist that open mat and live rolling would be available soon, but they wanted to make sure that the instructors would have time in their schedules to make it happen. The wandering monk graciously offered to host an open mat period, but the instructor did not feel this was a good idea. Perhaps only having 13 years of grappling and a judo shodan did not meet the standards of a BJJ blue belt. The Wandering Monk feels humbled.

In conclusion, I attended this class for two months. I do not feel that Midtown Fitness BJJ offers very much to anyone who wants to seriously study BJJ. If you want to try BJJ out in a friendly, pleasant, non-competitive environment, than Midtown probably ideal. But a serious student will quickly find this class lacking; and pricing is exorbitant for the actual services being offered.

The Wandering Monk gives Midtown Fitness a 3 out of 10.

Tonuzaba
1/20/2008 4:14pm,
Very good reading for a school review, brother! Thanks.
Too bad the monk doesn't walk around with a tiny camera to record and share... ;-)

the_broken_hand
1/21/2008 5:50am,
VERY NICE READ

kismasher
1/21/2008 11:11am,
"The wandering monk graciously offered to host an open mat period, but the instructor did not feel this was a good idea. Perhaps only having 13 years of grappling and a judo shodan did not meet the standards of a BJJ blue belt. The Wandering Monk feels humbled."


Translation: Please to not be stealing our students.

Very nice read, as usual.

Sam Browning
1/21/2008 1:25pm,
A review that bent over backwards to be fair, good work Scrapper.

Goju - Joe
1/21/2008 1:46pm,
One day when wandering gets too depressing you will have to bite the bullet and open your own dojo

You know it is inevitable

Jadonblade
1/21/2008 2:01pm,
A very amusing and well written article, has raised the bar in terms of dojo/gym reviews.

partyboy
1/21/2008 2:15pm,
I'm sorry you had to blow $170 (plus more, I'd assume) to attend this training and give us your insights.

Scrapper
1/21/2008 2:19pm,
It's what I do. Going to Cali next week. Brea, specifically. Need a place there to write up. I'm taking suggestions!

datdamnmachine
1/21/2008 8:26pm,
It's what I do. Going to Cali next week. Brea, specifically. Need a place there to write up. I'm taking suggestions!

How about giving us your take on some of the big name places out there if you can make it there:

10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu - http://www.thetwister.tv/academy/

American Kickboxing Academy - http://www.akakickbox.com/

Alliance MMA - http://www.alliancemma.com/

These are the only ones I can think of right now.

Scrapper
1/22/2008 9:12am,
I try to stay away from places we already know are really good. there is nothing I can write up about those places that people don't already know.

I actually have a place in mind at this point that looks like it will make a really good article. Keep watching for it!