I have been at Toronto BJJ for a little over a month now. This is my first experience with a MMA club, so I am writing this from the perspective of a beginner.
Toronto BJJ is located in Downtown Toronto right next to Christie Subway station. It's extremely convenient for students at the University of Toronto or Ryerson University. The club offers BJJ, Take-down Wrestling, Muay Thai, Boxing, Judo, sub-wrestling, and MMA. I'll try to give a quick review of the classes I've taken so far and talk briefly about the equipment at the gym, etc.
This is the main focus of the club, and they offer both morning (7 am - 9 am) and evening classes. The morning and evening classes are taught by a purple and a black belt respectively. The morning classes are excellent for students or people who work regular jobs. A lot of people show up to train for 7-8 am then go off to work.
The classes start with some drills, and then rolling. I've attended both the morning and evening classes, and the morning classes are a lot less structured (i.e. a lot of rolling, even if it's your first class). My first class at Toronto BJJ was at the morning class, and I was asked to roll right away, with no explanation of what grappling was. In contrast, when I attended an evening class the next week, the instructor took time to explain what was a guard, what was a mount etc, before going into any rolling.
Generally, about 8-10 people attend the morning classes, and 20-40 people attend the evening classes.
If you're a complete beginner to martial arts, it's probably a good idea to go to the evening classes. The morning classes may be a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you have no experience with any contact sport.
There are about three afternoon classes per week (unfortunately, Toronto BJJ's website appears to be down atm, so I can't be sure). The classes are taught by Eman, who has competition experience. Classes are usually attended by 10-15 students.
The classes are one hour, split into half on doings drills half on light sparring. I really enjoyed the sparring portion. You spar with each student for 3 minutes then move on to someone else. The students are very friendly, and more experienced students are happy to practice with beginners. Unlike BJJ, there is no skill division and everyone practices together.
I really enjoyed this class - actually sparring is much better than practicing punches in the air. Having said that, students are expected to spar starting from their first class - this might be uncomfortable for beginners. Expect to get hit a lot and hurt the next day. I also wonder how much of this is actually "Muay Thai" - I'm referring to the post here " 10 things to look for in a Muay Thai gym" http://www.bullshido.net/forums/show...+thai+beginner
Muay Thai at TBJJ: 1) did not teach clinch 2) no "thai conditioning" 3) no throws, sweeps 4) MT stance was taught, but not emphasized 5) It seemed that during sparring, the students were just doing whatever they knew from before (kickboxing, boxing, karate whatever).
Having said that the students are clearly good at sparring, and I learn a lot from them.
Of course, Toronto "BJJ" is a BJJ club, so if you're looking for a place to concentrate on Muay Thai then you should look for a Muay Thai club. Otherwise, I found the MT classes to be a good place to learn to spar.
Take down wrestling
I came in having no idea what this was, and this turned out to be my favorite class! There are 2-3 classes a week (again, sorry the website is down so I cant check) taught by a former canadian Olympic wrestler. He's a great instructor, and it's amazing to watch him execute wrestling moves in perfect, crisp form.
The classes start again with pummeling, some drills, then free wrestling. Most of the drills are done with full resistance. Classes are usually attended by 20- 30 students. As in the other classes, you rotate sparring partners throughout the class. There is no division by skill level and every one practices together. Unlike BJJ and Muay Thai, most students of this class were total beginners.
I have only been to one class - people here were obviously much more skilled than the students at BJJ basics. I spent the entire hour getting tapped out : (
Judo, MMA, Boxing
I haven't been to these classes. I've seen the Judo classes, and they have a small attendance of about 5-6 students per classes.
The building is small, and has 2 floors;
The first floor:
1) approx 800 sq ft area for striking with a boxing ring, no boxing punching bags (they are lying on the ground, I guess they used to be hung up but were taken down to make extra room?)
2) a pro store for selling equipment (curiously, they sell everything BUT the CUP, remember to bring your own cup before coming! None of the classes warn you about wearing a cup, if you're a beginner don't learn the hard way!)
3) approx 300 sq ft work out area: full set of free weights, a tread mill, chin up bar. Would be nice to have a barbell bench for bench press, and a cable lat pull down for lats.
A large (approx 2000 sq ft??) mats for grappling. Nice and new-looking.
Changerooms have 4 showers, are clean but small.
Overall, the facilities are good enough. I obviously do not expect luxurious and spacious facilities in the expensive Toronto downtown core. The facilities cannot compare to the pics I've seen of Kombat Arts, which is located in a more suburban location.
The students at Toronto BJJ make the club a great place to train. There are a lot of experienced and skilled students, so there will be lots of people to train with as you progress. More experienced students are very friendly, and are happy to train with beginners. Because some of the classes are large (30 students), so you can expect a lot of your learning to be from other students. There is a healthly influx of new students so you'll also find people of your own level.
I've enjoyed training at Toronto BJJ and expect to continue there. I would recommend it to anyone interested in MMA. They offer a full range of classes and an excellent schedule of morning/evening classes; it's easy to fit training into your own schedule.
However, complete beginners might have a moderately difficult time adjusting to the full-contact nature of the classes. All classes at Toronto BJJ expect you to spar, starting from the first class. I knew this was the case for grappling classes, but did not expect that for Muay Thai as well. Expect to get hurt, and don't push yourself too hard when you're starting(i.e. don't start training 7 days right away).
There is also no introduction (either a tour, a beginners guide, or a pamphlet, anything) to any of the sports they teach, or the equipment you will need. Beginners should remember to bring a mouth guard and a cup to the classes, because no one will be reminding you to wear one.... Since Toronto Bjj appears to be attracting people with existing martial arts training, perhaps the club managers thought introductions were unnecessary.
Also, the gym's focus is obviously on grappling, so if you are more interested in striking, you might want to check out other downtown MMA clubs like Toronto Kick Boxing & Muay Thai Academy http://www.tkmt.ca/
Another minor complaint: the administration at TBJJ is not great - when you join, you don't get a copy of membership policy, cancellation etc. Since I'm paying a sizable sum up front for 3 months in advance (approx $300), I would have like written policy regardining refunds and fees policy etc. (e.g. you get this when joining a racquet club, for example.) Maybe this is the standard case for MMA gyms, I don't know.
Finally, many MMA gyms have opened in downtown Toronto in the last year - it'll be great if other people can post their reviews!
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