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  1. Petter is offline

    12th level logic wielder

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    1,964

    Posted On:
    5/29/2008 8:54pm


     Style: BJJ, judo, rapier

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Gracie Barra Vancouver

    Update: See comments for information changed due to gym move. Original review stands unmodified.

    Instructional BJJ classes are held six days a week (Monday through Saturday) with multiple classes most days, plus open mat time on Sunday afternoons; in addition, private lessons are available. Tim Shears, a BJJ blackbelt, is the chief instructor and leads many classes; other classes are lead by brownbelts (Logan Lidemark and Jeff "Wombat" Meszaros). Another blackbelt, "SuperDave" Rothwell, supervises open mat time on Sundays and usually rolls with students. Other blackbelts occasionally drop in.


    The business

    Membership costs, I believe, roughly between $150 and $240/month for BJJ and a bit less for just "fitness", i.e. kickboxing, boxing, and crosstraining (the BJJ membership gives you access to all of these)—depending on whether you choose to pay month by month, or sign up for a 6 or 12-month contract. (I'm a bit uncertain, as the pricing recently changed but as a pre-existing member, I pay the old rate.)

    This can be a good deal if you have time to come frequently, as there are a lot of classes -- theoretically, you could do 15 BJJ classes, 3 boxing classes, 2 kickboxing classes, and open mat time every week if your schedule allowed (and you had at least two stripes on your white belt to access the intermediate/advanced classes). If you can only come a few times a week, it will probably seem like a lot of money per class.

    Equipment like gis, mouth guards, boxing gloves etc. is sold, along with various Gracie Barra merchandise -- t-shirts, rash guards, ... -- but of course you are not required to use equipment bought here; it is available but there is no pressure (many people order equipment online).


    The training

    I am not very experienced and not particularly talented, so the observations below should be read in light of this fact.

    The typical fundamentals class begins with ~10 minutes of warmup, followed by ~30 minutes of techniques. Tim will demonstrate a technique several times and clarify in response to students' questions, whereupon students pair up and drill the technique; rinse and repeat for each technique shown. In any class, 3-5 techniques may be demonstrated; they will be related, and classes are run on a curriculum that sees related techniques taught in any one week (e.g. this week, focus is on the turtle and techniques to take the back, or defend from the turtle), so even less talented students (e.g. the reviewer) do not tend to get overwhelmed.

    I should perhaps add that most beginner classes will begin with one or two takedown techniques, drills only (standup sparring comes in the intermediate/advanced classes, and of course during open mat time if you so desire). Ground techniques are drilled compliant to start, then with resistance.

    The last ~20 minutes will be spent either rolling, or "sharktanking" with focus on the techniques drilled that day; e.g. the people starting on the floor may be in the turtle position, on the bottom of a side mount, or having the attacker in a closed guard.

    If you paid attention, you will notice that classes are fairly short; only an hour long. I do not personally regard this as much of a problem, as there are instructional classes six days a week, and people with access to the intermediate/advanced classes (i.e. two-stripe whitebelts and up) are able to take multiple classes back-to-back (many do). Beginners will have to make do with more but shorter classes; I don't mind, but it should be noted.

    Although attendance during the 'peak' practice hours can be high, the recently expanded mats make colliding with the next guys pretty rare (I'd have rated gym size differently two months ago!), and during fundamental classes there are usually at least two people (Tim and a brownbelt) available to clarify and step you through techniques. Depending on attendance, individual attention varies from "pretty good" to "excellent".

    The "Intermediate/Advanced" classes -- reserved for two-stripe white belts and up -- are a little bit looser in structure. This is where you'll be practicing stand-up: I've yet to spar with stand-up in the fundamentals class, though I've learned some techniques, so my first introduction to stand-up sparring was an advanced class warm-up. Technique drills focus more on the not-quite-as-basic positions, like the half guard, and lots of combinations and flow drills. A much bigger chunk of the class time is spent on free rolling than is the case for the fundamentals class.

    I would be interested to know how the standup compares to standup at other BJJ schools. I gather, but do not pretend to know, that we practice more takedowns than many: Almost all beginner classes at least drill a takedown or two, almost all advanced classes have some standup, whether going throw-for-throw, specific resistance drills, or live sparring. I know that Logan, the assistant instructor, has done fairly well in judo competition. However, as I have no experience with other gyms, I cannot compare and contrast.


    Beyond BJJ

    In addition to BJJ, the gym offers boxing, kickboxing, and crosstraining classes. The boxing and kickboxing coaches do have experience competing, but although there are some exceptions, it is my personal impression that most people who attend these classes do so for fun, fitness, to improve cardio for jiu-jitsu, and so forth, rather than to use these skills to compete; it is predominantly a BJJ gym, and it is not an MMA school. (As such, my striking rating is somewhat tentative; I'm tempted to rate it higher but prefer to be conservative for now.)


    Gym and equipment

    The gym is in good shape, with new mats, new Thai pads, and (not so new) boxing/bag gloves and shin guards available for boxing and kickboxing classes, for people who do not have their own. Loaner gis are available for people trying a class. There is unfortunately only one bathroom, which can be annoying (1) when there are a lot of people around or (2) when someone decides to use the shower.

    As mentioned above, the mat space was recently expanded significantly. Classes were quite crowded before; during 'peak' practice hours there isn't exactly tons of space, but it's no longer cramped. On Sundays, during open mat time, you'll have as much space to roll around as you're ever likely to need. The website has pictures, here.


    Notes

    In my own humble opinion, this place is awesome and you should go there. Hopefully my review is more factual (though I am, of course, inclined to think that I have objective reason to feel as I do). I have not written a dojo review before, so please tell me if I am unclear, or which parts are just bloody long-winded and need to be edited to be more succinct.

    Update: See comments for information changed due to gym move. Original review stands unmodified.
    Last edited by Petter; 7/29/2010 2:25pm at . Reason: Update address, mention changes
  2. G-Off is offline
    G-Off's Avatar

    Senior Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    State College, PA
    Posts
    2,329

    Posted On:
    5/29/2008 9:05pm


     Style: Ronin wannabe

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    This is actually a really good review. The more detail, the better.

    EDIT: Although, your rating for striking may be a little high. The guidelines for ratings on striking:

    "6-7: Comprehensive striking (all ranges) or superior single range striking with success in local/regional competition or practical application."
    Last edited by G-Off; 5/29/2008 9:13pm at .
  3. Petter is offline

    12th level logic wielder

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
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    1,964

    Posted On:
    6/02/2008 8:52pm


     Style: BJJ, judo, rapier

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by G-Off
    ...Your rating for striking may be a little high. The guidelines for ratings on striking:

    "6-7: Comprehensive striking (all ranges) or superior single range striking with success in local/regional competition or practical application."
    Somehow I missed that one guideline (or ticked one box too high). Adjusted down; I know the coaches have decent records, but I don't know whether any students compete...
  4. Petter is offline

    12th level logic wielder

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    1,964

    Posted On:
    9/02/2009 1:33pm


     Style: BJJ, judo, rapier

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    The gym is in good shape, with new mats, new Thai pads, and (not so new) boxing/bag gloves and shin guards available for boxing and kickboxing classes, for people who do not have their own. Loaner gis are available for people trying a class. There is unfortunately only one bathroom, which can be annoying (1) when there are a lot of people around or (2) when someone decides to use the shower.

    As mentioned above, the mat space was recently expanded significantly. Classes were quite crowded before; during 'peak' practice hours there isn't exactly tons of space, but it's no longer cramped. On Sundays, during open mat time, you'll have as much space to roll around as you're ever likely to need.
    I have to necro my own review and post because I am excited. Tim just signed the lease on a new, 6000 sq.ft. location, which will feature more than twice the amount of mat space, showers in the men’s and women’s change rooms, and (I’m not quite clear on this yet) a ring or a cage—it seems one of the black belts may be working on an MMA team.

    I will be updating the review itself once we make the move and I’ve actually seen the new location. The move is planned for November 1, 2009—come check it out!
    [ petterhaggholm.net | blog | essays ]
    [ self defence: general thoughts | bjj: “don’t go to the ground”? ]
    “The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.”
  5. Petter is offline

    12th level logic wielder

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    1,964

    Posted On:
    7/29/2010 2:23pm


     Style: BJJ, judo, rapier

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Around the beginning 2010, GB Vancouver moved to a new location about a block from the old one. I won’t re-review the whole thing, but there have been substantial changes and I’ll try to highlight those.

    Condensed version: It’s bigger; it’s better; there are way more classes, and those classes include judo. On the negative side, more business-y things as GB as a whole tightens up operations.

    Reviewer caveat: I am, of course, a remarkably untalented BJJ-er, and not of a competitive nature. It would be great if this review were enhanced by someone who competes, and so on. On the other hand, since I’ve really struggled to reach my modest skill level over 2˝ years, I think I would have noticed if instruction were egregiously poor, in ways not evident to people who just get it.

    On balance, I already loved the school and enjoy it even more now. But let’s delve into some facts:

    Gym and equipment

    The new gym is much larger and of course newer, fresher, and nicer (especially after late February when the old gym burned down…). Also, significantly, there are two mat areas, one for grappling and MMA classes only, and one with heavy bags for boxing and kickboxing training. There is therefore room to hold several classes in parallel, as well as a separate gym area with some weights and cardio machines. The large mat area has tatami mats and let you bounce fairly comfortably when somebody decides to judo toss you; the smaller area has…some other form of padding.

    Unlike the old location, the new one has proper change room facilities; that is, not only are there (as before) men’s and women’s change rooms, but there’s a washroom for each and separate shower areas. (The gripe in the original review, about waiting for the bathroom while someone was showering, is now long moot.)

    The training

    With the larger gym and two separate mat areas, there are a lot of classes. BJJ is now divided into three levels: Fundamentals (anyone), intermediate (white 2+), and advanced (blue+). As before, each class is an hour long including warmup. Like many others, I like to do more than one class at a time since an hour feels pretty short. (I guess this would be an issue for beginners who can’t do contiguous classes, but they can still do boxing or kickboxing before/after BJJ fundamentals, I suppose.) I like to go only a few times a week and so prefer to do three hours at a time.

    With beginner classes now separate, these focus very strongly on working basic technique and contain less sparring—it’s not that there is no sparring, but you’re more likely to work drills and positional sparring (e.g. guard-breaking vs. sweep/submit, that sort of thing). Intermediate and advanced classes tend to be far more sparring heavy, though it varies a lot—some classes may be almost all technique and focus on certain positions; others may be a quick warm-up, then sparring, then more sparring, and then tournament-style sparring. No-gi classes currently fall on Wednesday (intermediate/advanced at 7 pm, fundamentals at 8 pm). There are also competition team classes, which I have not attended; as you might gather, they are sparring heavy. (It seems that being on the competition team requires you to ask, but has no rank requirements.)

    Instructors include Tim; a Brazilian blackbelt, Rodrigo Carvalho (who for my money is among the best instructors I’ve ever had in anything); some brownbelts; and a purple belt who teaches some beginner classes. I have never had any complains about the level of instruction. The only remark I can think of making is that some people take different degrees of coaching attitude: Some are just instructors, and teach everyone technique and so forth to the best of their ability; others will take a more personalised approach and more directly help develop your own game. Rodrigo is a good example (who essentially told me not to bother with the guard game since I’m clearly not made for it and instead learn how to get the hell out of there and on top). In all fairness, it may be that students who are more forward and take initiative, or who attend competition classes, get more of this. Still, lest it seem that I am griping, these instructors collectively managed to take someone of my fantastically minimal talent and turn me into someone who’s not ashamed to wear a (deservedly un-striped) blue belt, which is more of an accomplishment than you might think…

    Starting in January or February, Tim also brought in a judo instructor (Scott, whose last name eludes me; a black belt from the Burnaby dojo) to help us work on our standup. Judo classes are twice a week (once a week during the summer when Scott likes some more free time). Personally, I enjoy them tremendously, and Scott brings an encouraging and challenging “coach” attitude.

    There are also boxing and kickboxing classes, and (though it seems to be off for the summer) Rodrigo teaches a “grappling for MMA” class, but I only do BJJ+judo, and so can’t really review them.

    The business

    Gracie Barra as a franchise seems to be tightening things up. I don’t necessarily like it, but there you go: You have to wear an official GB gi, and branding and procedures are generally more evident than they used to be. (Fortunately the GB gis are sturdy. I’ve had both of mine for over two years, washing them after every class and bleaching on the rare occasions when mere washing leaves them still dingy, and they have yet to give out.)

    There’s also a somewhat-controversial grading schedule floating around (X months to this stripe, Y months to blue, and so on), but though I cringed when I first saw it, I think the panic was overblown: Judging by the fact that it took me more than three times the “scheduled” time to reach blue, it seems they are appropriately regarded as minimum rather than fixed times. It’s time to worry not when we see schedules, but if and when GB gyms start doing poorly in competition. I don’t believe this is a concern.
    [ petterhaggholm.net | blog | essays ]
    [ self defence: general thoughts | bjj: “don’t go to the ground”? ]
    “The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.”
  6. chinamantt is offline

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Hong Kong
    Posts
    6

    Posted On:
    5/18/2011 2:21am

    Bullshido Newbie
     Style: BJJ

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    quick review

    i was in toronto in sept last year and had the opportunity to drop by gracie barra vancouver. when i walked through the door, i was amazed how huge the gym was. there was at least 5 competition size mat space with space for weight machines to on the side. the gym was really clean and the changing room was spacious.
    i introduce myself at the front counter and was greeted by tim. he was the main instructor of gb van and was very friendly. tim taught the advance class. this class consist of more advanced players. they were pretty skilled and sparring was technical. each class was an hour long, its a bit too short for my liking. i wanted to spar with tim but it was rotational sparring. i didn't get a chance to have a roll with him.

    class breakdown.- 60min session/class

    10min-warmups & body weight conditioning
    10min- drills and positioning
    20min- techniques
    20min- sparring 5min x 4rounds

    the 2nd class i joined was the basic class. consist of over 20+ students. this class was lead by the brown belt. taught fundamental movements for beginners. they were a bit rough during sparring but it is expected from beginners.

    when i left i wanted to say farewell to tim but he was no where to be seen. i wasn't charged for my night of training. i would go there to train again when i get a chance to go back to vancouver.


    thank you gb van.


    H. from hk

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