Atlanta, Georgia - Knuckle Up Fitness (Sandy Springs)
After a little over a year of training at the Sandy Springs Knuckle Up I figure it's about time I give it a review. This will be my 4th gym review for Bullshido and the 5th gym I've trained at consistently.
Now before I continue I just want to point out that there are quite a few different little programs going on during any given day at Knuckle Up and you can go one of quite a few different routes for tailoring how you want to do your own training. Personally I participate in several of the programs so I'll have to describe each one to give a good idea of what my experience consists of. I guess what I'll do is take the long and detailed route of rating each program individually.
Monday/Wednesday 5:30pm - 6:30pm - Muay thai with Phillip Botha.
This is a pretty standard muay thai kickboxing class geared towards all skill and experience levels though the pacing and some of the drills can be a bit basic for more advanced strikers. Standard warm ups consist of skipping rope, shadow boxing, and bag work. Circuit training/conditioning is thrown in when Phillip see's fit (it's not every day, but often enough where it seems at least somewhat regular).
Pretty Typical kickboxing drilling, back and forth trading of given defensive and offensive techniques. Some sparring drills are usually included in these where students are given a set of parameters and then encouraged to be creative and keep things somewhat realistic (intent to land strikes, realistic speed, footwork).
Class generally ends with some kind of cool down exercise. Pretty typical but good all levels class.
RATINGS: (I'd just like to point out that I don't exactly agree with the rating guidelines that are in place and am going by what I would consider appropriate. The ratings in place are much too simplistic and sometimes seem more than a bit off to me. I am however still trying to use them to some degree as a base to think about how I should make my rating scores.)
Aliveness- 6 It's a good all levels class, but still an all levels class with the same drawbacks that any class with this sort of focus tends to have.
Now to a large degree aliveness really depends on you. Your trainer/coach/instructor gives you a set of parameters and given those parameters you can be as creative and realistic as you choose/attempt to be. That being said, the exercises in the class are as about as alive as you'd expect them to be.
Shadow boxing and bag work are left entirely up to you as far as aliveness goes. You'll be told to go harder and faster though how realistic you're being isn't really a focus. I would personally make it a point to make sure everyone is doing both of these realistically, but this really isn't the standard with anyone but my old boxing coach.
The drills are about as alive as you'd expect drills to be, especially for an all skill levels type setting like this. Phillip does do a good job of encouraging people to be creative and have intent in their strikes and generally the parameters of the drill are open enough to give students the freedom to keep things from devolving into a dead pattern. More experienced people are encouraged to take the parameters of the drill as a basic guideline and be a little more creative and mix things up.
Equipment - 7 (Obviously I don't need to repeat this for every class so I'm just going to write this once, same for gym size) Decent amount of long bags and kick shields, and there's a ring! Hallelujah there's a ring! Not much else, however.
For such a fancy, expensive gym, knuckle up seems to be a little stingy on providing equipment and loaner gear. There are no thai pads or focus mitts. Phillip has his own gear, but there really should be pads and mitts to cover at least half of any given class. They seem to provide new people with loaner boxing gloves (I think you have to pay like $5, this could have changed though since I haven't had to do this more than once and that was a while ago) but no shin guards. There are some loaner head gears but not many and they're really terrible. There are an ok number of long heavy bags though when the class gets more then 10 people you have to start doubling up. There is a boxing ring, which really is a must in my opinion, though it's often not available since there are so many different classes and personal trainers also using the facilities.
Gym Size - 7 Ya know it's actually a pretty big gym as far as square feet goes. 12,000 sq ft according the the rating system should warrant a 10, right? Unfortunately with about a zillion different programs, personal trainers, and just random people coming to work out, it could really stand to be a lot bigger.
As mentioned, while there's a ring, it's very often not available (pretty much never during peak hours), classes get crowded, and things can get a little cramped. Really it's biggest fault is it happens to be a really popular gym. The gym is also designed in kind of a bad way where everything is too compartmentalized, which really makes things cramped.
Really there's just too much going on at Knuckle Up, too many programs, too many classes. I'm not complaining, but it could certainly be better. For instance, Nashville MMA was I believe about 1 1/2 times as big with 2 full sized boxing rings and a full sized MMA cage and LOTS of mat space. It was also just one large room and you never really felt crowded. It's still a nice sized gym, just not the best by far.
Instructor/Student Ratio - 7 The class can get pretty big (around 20 students I think) and with Phillip being the only instructor, the ratio could definitely stand some improvement.
Atmosphere/Attitude - 9 Phillip is a very encouraging and motivating instructor/coach and very personable (in a funny mean kind of way). Since it's a decently big class and there are people coming and going all the time it's not as personal and there's not as much of a "team" feeling to it as there could be, but things remain friendly and focused.
Striking Instruction - 8 The class is taught by Phillip Botha, a multi time muay thai/kickboxing/boxing champion with 17 years of experience. Phillip is definitely one of the best coaches I've trained with (out of the 10 or so coaches I've trained with). He's very motivating and his many years of experience in the ring and training other fighters really shows. He really knows the game and he seems genuinely committed to training skilled and successful fighters (something that can often be lacking in a lot of instructors). One of the key things Phillip has as a coach is respect for you as your own fighter, without trying to mold you into his own style, be like him or claim any ownership of you or your career (a lot of coaches will do this). Why not a 10? Well pretty much you'd have to be a Freddy Roach level coach to score a 10 in my opinion.
Monday/Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm - Muay thai sparring with Phillip Botha
Pretty standard sparring class.
What can I say? Good old fashioned muay thai sparring. Headgear, shinguards, mouthpiece, 16oz gloves. One hour of 3x 2 minute rounds of medium contact sparring with 1x 2 minute round break in between. Phillip watches from the sidelines yelling at people for doing stupid stuff and it's all good fun. My only gripe is that this is usually NOT done in the ring, since the ring is generally being used by another class at this time.
Aliveness - 9 Geared up and reasonable sparring level contact. This is as alive as sparring should ever really be.
Instructor Student Ratio - 8 Usually no more than 6 people sparring at a time so not too bad. In my opinion it would be better to have 2 people spar at a time with more focused coaching.
Atmosphere/Attitude - 9 Pretty small group of people so it's pretty personal, though not always the same people so it's still lacking that "team" feel to some degree.
Tuesday/Thursday 5:30pm-6:30pm - Muay Thai with Matt Callahan
As far as class description goes, it's run more or less the same as Phillip runs his class, with some slight variations in the drills. There is also often a short session of light sparring done before the end of each class.
Aliveness - 7 Like I said, this class is run pretty much like Phillips class though some of the drills are a bit more free form sparring type drills.
Instructor/Student Ratio - 6 This seems to be the most popular of the kickboxing classes I go to and get get pretty damn crowded.
Atmosphere/Attitude - 8 Decent atmosphere though somewhat impersonal due to class sizes.
Striking Instruction - 7 Matt is a pretty decent instructor with a solid knowledge base though fairly inexperienced as a coach and while he has the knowledge to instruct people on the techniques of muay thai, he still lacks some real coaching ability.
Tuesday/Thursday 6:30pm-7:30pm - Muay Thai Sparring with Matt Callahan
Another free form sparring session. Basically the same as Phillip's sparring class. Same ratings apply.
Thursday 3pm-4pm/Friday 4pm-5pm - Team Training with Phillip Botha
This is a small and fairly personal kickboxing class which I believe is by invite only. As far as curriculum goes, the Thursday class is similar to the muay thai classes though with more emphasis on conditioning and sparring rather than drilling (drills are still done though aren't generally a focus). The big difference here is the feel of the class. Since it's kept small and seems to be by invitation only it maintains a "Team" feel and Phillip is allowed to give those in this class much more personal attention. This class also seems more geared towards getting people prepared for competition rather then catering so much to martial arts hobbyists.
Aliveness - 8 The drills are still drills, though usually kept fairly dynamic. Sparring is a primary focus. Conditioning is obviously not "alive" training.
Equipment - 8 Sparring is done in the ring which is great. The only downside is that 2 or 3 pairs of people often have to share the ring due to class size.
Instructor/Student ratio - 9 Small group of people and fairly personalized "team" feel to the class. Generally no more than 6-8 people and pretty much always the same group.
Atmosphere/Attitude - 10 Phillip does a good job of giving this group a very "Team" feel. Very personal and friendly group.
Striking Instruction - 8 As stated, Phillip is a pretty solid coach.
So there you have it. Knuckle Up is a pretty solid gym, decently geared towards competition. The only drawbacks of the gym are that it's VERY commercial and they will try and sell you on a lot of things (for instance, paying to participate in a "sparring league", or what most of us would consider "smokers") and the gym is fairly crowded and impersonal. There is also a fair amount of managerial drama with instructors coming and going somewhat frequently. Personally none of this has really effected my training so it doesn't bother me at all, but it is there. The instructors all seem to be good people though and fairly dedicated to giving good instruction.
The solid facilities and good coaching definitely warrant giving this gym a try if you're looking for a place to train near Sandy Springs.
That was a damn good, honest and detailed Review!
this is the best ive of any knuckle up gym. ive never really heard anything bad about any of their bjj classes and ive taken a few a while back at the one in kennesaw, and it was a gracie/ berra affiliate. but ive heard negative things about their muay thai, but this one sounds okay. one draw back to their whole mma thing is that they dont have a cage which is almost a have to now. ill have to check the sandy springs location out. thanks for the review:fist:.