It’s gym number 4 I’m visiting while in Melbourne and I’m on a bus out of the central district and over to 10th Planet BJJ, Melbourne.
Today is the advanced class, but as it was the only available day for me in Melbourne, I had kindly been invited down anyway by head coach, Frank Barca.
I arrive and meet Frank who shows me around the gym and points me in the direction of the changing rooms. I’ve got some shorts and a rash guard with me as, for this gym, I 100% knew for a fact that I would not need to borrow a gi!
For those who don’t know, the 10th planet system is a particular style of BJJ developed and popularised by 3rd degree black belt Eddie Bravo. To take a quote from Wikipedia:
Bravo’s style consists solely of no-gi jiu-jitsu. Bravo has repeatedly questioned the validity of the traditional approach to teaching jiu-jitsu with the gi for people who are primarily interested in mixed martial arts since it is illegal to wear a gi in most MMA organizations leaving fighters looking for sleeves or collars to improve their position when there are none.
Another, recognisable aspect of the 10th planet system, and in Eddie Bravo’s style is the flexibility required for some techniques in the system. Check out this sample image of one of the positions from his popularised and aptly named ‘Rubber Guard’.
Now, I normally consider myself quite flexible, but on this occasion, as I started stretching out on the mat which has now filled out to some 10-12 people…..my flexibility is looking remarkably average compared to everyone else.
Frank is already in the centre of the mat telling a story and everyone is completely engrossed.
“Did I ever tell you about the time I was cutting cheese for a living? Man, I was the best…….”, Frank starts and the story then digresses into meeting the parents of an Italian girl he met when he was a teenager…..then on to another topic…and another until it comes back around to the cheese shop. It was hilarious! I felt like I was getting a free stand-up comedy show :-)
Frank smiles at me after another punch line, “Bet you think this is strange, right? Once the class begins I’m going to be fully serious, but for the next 10 minutes I’m off the clock. I can do what I want. it’s Frank time!”, and starts telling another story :-)
The class starts with a set of warm ups, and then we start some warm up drills with a partner.
“We’re going to do some drills from the E-Series”
Everyone partners up and gets into position and I must just have a look on my face that clearly says ‘E-Series?’. Fortunately, my partner can tell I’m a first timer and takes me through the steps.
This is another aspect of the 10th planet system: Every position, sub position, and even the warm up drills are completely categorised and named.
I don’t think I fully appreciated how powerful this was until I was in this Tuesday night class, sitting down and watching Frank walk through the warm ups. Everyone in the room seemed to know the categorisation names by heart, and because of that, it seemed that so much BJJ information could be communicated in the class without having to demonstrate anything…it could almost all be done verbally!
Frank is going through one of the details in the position, “…….and here we’ve already got the double unders, so we can go straight through to ‘whip up’ from here, then we’ll try ‘old school’ first followed by ‘Plan B’ if we need to……..”. And nothing had to be demonstrated at that point, everyone in the class is just nodding away and can work out what is going on by the technique names, which leaves Frank with the ability to just focus and demonstrate on the main point of the technique he wants to show. It was amazing, like the whole class was fluent in the ‘language of 10th Planet BJJ’……..Well, almost everyone, and Frank, and my drilling partner are kind enough to spend a bit of extra time to put some demonstrations to the positions to me :-)
We also did some ‘dead zone’ drills. Another 10th planet training method (and competition tie-break suggestion), whereby the roll starts with one side having one of the dominant positions (Mount, Back mount etc). The dominant side has 60 seconds to finish and the other defend before switching positions.
We finished up with a few rounds of rolling. I tried a bit of rubber guard I had been playing with from an Eddie Bravo DVD (‘Mastering the Rubber Guard’). However, at this gym it was everyone’s bread and butter and I got completely shut down :-)
At the end of the class everyone was kind enough to stop for a class photo. Cheers for letting me drop by guys, it’s been a blast :-)