Arena Jiu Jitsu, Melbourne Australia
Arena Jiu Jitsu is a small Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in Hampton East, Melbourne, Australia, registered under the Peter de Been BJJ organisation. The head instructor at AJJ is Daniel Ward, who is a brown belt under Peter de Been, one of Australia’s most successful and highly-ranked BJJ practitioners. In the few months that I have been training at Arena Jiu Jitsu I have been extremely impressed by the training on offer at this gym, the atmosphere, the aliveness and the instructor.
The AJJ training space is located within a personal training facility called The Arena. It is a relatively small mat area, but functional, allowing for approximately six or seven pairs of students to roll freely without crowding each other. The gym’s only necessary equipment – the mats – are in good quality and condition, and are always clean. There is a small area next to the mats for students to place their shoes, bags, water bottles etc during class.
There is only one instructor, who is easy-going, friendly and helpful. The higher-ranked students often take on a similar role when paired up with less-experienced students. Due to the small class sizes there is an excellent instructor-student ratio, with all students receiving frequent personal attention as they train. The atmosphere at AJJ is fantastic; one of the friendliest groups of people I’ve ever trained with. No egos, no arrogance, no cliques, no drama; just friendly, supportive people who are helpful, respectful and polite.
The level of aliveness present in AJJ training is excellent. Typically, when techniques are introduced to the class they are initially drilled in a fairly compliant manner a few times, so as to enable students to get an understanding of how the technique works, before they are drilled against resistance (which progressively increases), often very intensely, before finally progressing to free rolling/sparring. Techniques are drilled against completely resisting opponents in accordance with the excellent level of aliveness that is typical of BJJ training. With this I have been extremely impressed – the training is intense and a great workout, but also varied, with various types of exercises and drills utilised for different techniques and to develop various attributes.
As can be expected from a BJJ gym, AJJ offers extremely high quality grappling instruction, teaching pressure-tested techniques which have been used successfully again and again in MMA and NHB competitions. The specific style of BJJ taught at AJJ is Gracie-Barra, and members of the Peter de Been BJJ organization and AJJ have been highly successful at various BJJ competitions. AJJ teaches pure grappling (ie, no strikes, no weapons), and the training is competition-oriented, so students are made aware of what to keep in mind when fighting other experienced practitioners in BJJ competitions, what certain moves are worth in points, etc.
The classes usually consist of a warm-up to begin with, which may include jogging, break-falling up the mats, hip-escapes, and other exercises relevant to grappling training. Then the instructor (deciding either personally or upon a student’s request) chooses an area of grappling to work on for that session, and the appropriate techniques and principles are demonstrated, explained, and then drilled with progressive aliveness. Free rolling comes at the end of class, but with a significant amount of time allocated to it.
AJJ is fairly inexpensive to train at – sixty dollars per month for those wishing to only train once a week, and eighty dollars per month for two classes a week. There are no contracts, obligations, or registration fees. The gym requires no specific brand or colour of uniform, or patches to be worn, but requires students to wear a sturdy grappling gi. There are practically no traditionalist formalities present at this gym (eg, calling the instructor “sensei”, speaking in foreign languages, worshipping photos of Helio Gracie, praying to Helio Gracie, etc), although respect for fellow students and the instructor is mandatory.