Nova Uniao Somerville, MA
NOVA UNIAO SOMERVILLE
86 Joy St., Somerville, MA, 02143
Website is http://www.novauniaoboston.com/, for some reason.
NUS is a cozy little BJJ, MMA and Muay Thai gym in Somerville, Massachussets. It's maybe five months old, opened after the owner, José Adriano (http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Jose-Adriano-15016) left Tapout Boston (with myself and many students) when management changed. The owner and coach (everyone calls him Dudu, apparently it's like "Eddy" in Brazil) is 5-2 in pro MMA and is a 2nd-degree BJJ black belt under Bernardo Pitel. He's also been training Muay Thai for 14 years and teaches all of the MMA, BJJ, No-Gi, and Muay Thai classes. (He's been meaning to get a wrestling coach, there's been a setback so he teaches cage-wrestling-focused MMA classes instead.)
Classes are usually 90 minutes, usually kids grappling then striking then grappling in the evening, with a class or two from 11-1 (check out the website). In between...well I'm always at work, but our MMA fighters come in to train more. The place has a great atmosphere, with a mix of young adults and adults learning BJJ or Muay Thai with a few aspiring cage fighters. There are some kids who train here as well. All in all I love it, the worst experience I've had was going there to watch a UFC and everyone there speaking in Portuguese :(. (Dudu's English isn't great, so he usually talks through a translator for giving complex instructions, but he is still a a very clear teacher.)
BJJ classes are a typical warmup (running, rolls, sprawls, sprints, he changes it up), followed by learning/drilling a few related techniques (such as a half guard sweep and a half guard pass), followed by rolling. Sometimes we do more specific drills (e.x. rolling from guard, reset if something happens), we will sometimes roll from standing or do randori (this becomes the norm before competitions), and occasionally we will play games like winner-stays-in or (back at Tapout on slow days) capture-the-flag, with the flag being a 150lbs dummy and with BJJ rules. A few weeks ago we had a little in-house BJJ tournament.
Lucas Cruz, a BJJ purple belt and karate black belt (don't ask from who or in what because I don't know), who is now 3-0 in local pro MMA, often helps run class, and occasionally one of the higher belts will help teach technique (a brown belt taught some throws a little while ago that helped me in competition). A BJJ black belt friend of Dudu's (forget his name...) sometimes guest teaches.
All in all I think the BJJ instruction is solid and fun, and I think we'll do well in competition: we had success at the last Naga New England, mostly at white belt (that's why I'm a blue now!) and with kids but also at expert no-gi. We would have had more, but some of our guys were at MMA fights: we were 1-1 for ammy fights that weekend, with Lucas getting his third pro W. I hope to take an amateur MMA match, so I need to practice more Muay Thai.
I haven't done much striking, having only recently starting trying to make Muay Thai class regularly; if I'd trained 90 minutes every weekday my experience could fit into less than six months. So. That said, class starts with a warm-up, including running, shadowboxing and doing some strikes into the air if it's really crowded (20x1, 20x1-2, 20x1-1-2-3, 20x3-2-knee etc), and then we will usually practice several related combinations or techniques in pairs (e.x. teeps and teep counters, or a few similar combinations). Dudu emphasizes fundamental punches and Thai kicks. We only have one set of Thai pads so far, so the drills in the group classes aren't always at very high intensity (although I get a great defensive workout if someone big is practicing on me...). Then we spar--shin pads and gloves for Muay Thai, unless you don't want the shin pads, medium to high contact depending on your skill level. MMA class is similar, with all-range sparring but low-medium contact (probably higher if you're training extra-curricularly for a fight, I wouldn't know).
BJJ class always has rolling, coach encourages us to roll hard and from a standing position before competitions particularly. If Dudu knows you are competing, he will make sure you're training right. Competition is encouraged, particularly in BJJ although if you look like you're training hard Dudu might ask you if you want to fight MMA. I haven't done much hard sparring in MMA/Muay Thai because, again, I'm a real beginner at striking, but I have been punched and kicked hard in the nose before, had the wind knocked out from a spinning back kick (coach made fun of me for practicing those on the heavy bag) and I'm sure I will do more hard sparring if I keep up with the Muay Thai--I hope to have my first ammy MMA fight in a few months and I will be able to update this review when I'm more familiar with how the cage fighters here train.
This should improve. The gym is brand new, we have nice mats, a few nice heavy bags, a grapple dummy I think, a weight area with a bench and dumbbells (we've talked about getting a squat rack), but only one set of Thai pads right now. There are a few sets of gloves and maybe an extra gi lying around but everyone brings their own. There's also a few TVs for watching UFCs together, a Swiss ball and a soccer ball if that makes you happy, but no ring and no cage--coach says he's getting a small or half cage, though.
Gym Size: 6-7
Maybe...1000 square feet of mats? I'm bad at guesstimating area. If you have 20 people rolling, it will start to get crowded. Classes aren't usually that big anyway (maybe 30 people occasionally, like at belt graduation), and classes are smaller for striking where you need more space. If everyone's sparring/rolling at once, people very seldom have to wait their turn. There are nice changing rooms (no lockers), a shower, and ample parking.
Instructor to Student Ratio: 7-8
Sometimes grappling classes get a bit crowded, but more often it is 10ish people with head (only?) instructor Dudu teaching and maybe a higher belt helping run class, translate or (rarely) instruct. Crowded classes will usually have another higher belt helping--Dudu recently promoted one black belt, and one of Dudu's black belt friends from another school (Kimura? I forget) occasionally helps. The demographic is pretty blue, with a number of whites, a few purples, a couple brown and black belts. Muay Thai/MMA classes are usually a little smaller, again with Dudu always running the class and giving out pointers personally.
Everyone's friendly (the one know-it-all asshole from the last gym didn't follow us here thank God), most people train hard in the right ways, you are encouraged to compete but only in the most polite way, it's kid-friendly, Dudu's always smiling and upbeat. I would give it an 11, but there are no longer puppies running around. That was a good week...
Striking Instruction: 8
Tell me if you think this is too high. Dudu has pro MMA experience, teaches solid Muay Thai and has produced an undefeated (if still regional-level) pro MMA fighter with at least one knockout by flying knee that I saw, as well as a growing number of amateur fighters. The technique is solid, as in Dudu focuses on fundamentals that jive with everything I've seen in full contact sports without any Bullshido moments, and the emphasis is on being able to spar hard and hopefully compete. Again, the gym is new and I am new to striking, so despite how well my Bullshido and MMA-viewing research has intellectually prepared me to evaluate this stuff (lol), I am not really qualified to judge this.
Grappling Instruction: 8
I'm very happy with the BJJ instruction, I've improved in leaps and bounds under Dudu's tutelage (just got blue, have generally been at least competitive with blues from other gyms) and we do a reasonable amount of hard randori and standing grappling including against the wall (although I don't think we learn enough throwing technique the way judoka teach it [the proper way]). There is only one instructor usually but there is still a good base of knowledge to draw on: we have some guys with wrestling backgrounds, a few good judoka, more very solid BJJ guys coming in as the gym grows and some guys who are nasty No-Gi (their is a little purple, should weigh 145 slim, who medalled in Expert No-Gi absolute at the last Naga and whom I cannot choke out, even if he gives me the full rear-naked, he has a crazy thick little Rickson neck). Anyway I learn a lot from the other students and I think the grappling instruction is very solid overall, with my only complaint being that we don't do much judo, and even less ukemi: we practice rolls but not falls (unless, like me, you choose to), and coach isn't always good about paying attention to whose ukemi is bad. One of our amateur cage fighters was a national-level judo player in Brazil, she has done a couple judo classes and I hope she'll continue.
Weapon Instruction: 1/0
We don't do any stick fighting or defense against weapons, but purples and above have to register their fists, shins and lapels with the Massachusetts state government.
I don't really know how you should do an overall rating. I probably should read some other reviews and get a better idea of what's what, I'll do that and maybe re-evaluate. I think Nova Uniao Somerville is about as good as a tiny gym with only one real instructor can be, and will be better when we have a cage and more Thai pads, and as our amateur fighters get experience. I don't know the competition records of our better grapplers (the first competition since the new gym opened was the last New England NAGA, and most of the higher belts didn't make it or bother or were fighting MMA that day), but everything indicates to me that NUS is a great place for kids and adults to learn BJJ and for adults to learn Muay Thai, and coach Dudu certainly seems to be seriously into training his MMA fighters. I could reduce the instruction ratings if 8 is too high for a single instructor, or the overall rating if 8 indicates to y'all a bigger, better staffed gym, but this feels about right. Now NITPICK or I will feel left out.