Final Destination? ..... Checkmat!

Final Destination? ..... Checkmat!

I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu extremely sporadically for the past several years. My first experience started up in upstate New York at what I didn’t know at the time was a McDojo. Unfortunately, the closest legitimate school at the time was over an hour and a half away, so options were limited. Since then, I’ve been to quite a few different gyms due to work, moving, and gaining a better understanding of my own needs when it comes to choosing a gym.

The first gym that I had joined started out fine as a small group of friends that would show up in our nogi attire, try YouTube techniques, and occasionally compete at the local NAGA or US Grappling tournaments. Because the scene was so green at the time, I did surprisingly well at the local tournaments. This was despite having next to no clue what I was doing. Things started going south at the gym when odd fees started popping up as well as asking for an absurd amount of money to have a purple belt come in and teach us occasionally. As things got worse, work coincidentally had me pick up and move up to New Hampshire, and my Jiu Jitsu “journey” was put on hold.

After a couple of moves for work, I wound up back in my home town in upstate New York a couple years later and I knew that I shouldn’t go back to the old gym. Luckily my other hobby at the time, powerlifting, introduced me to a really good group of people. The owner of the local powerlifting gym was a talented purple belt, and he put mats in the back of the powerlifting gym. I found myself in a group text with him, a couple of blue belts, and quite a few college wrestlers. He also shared his collection of Jiu Jitsu videos with me and I engulfed myself in the games of: Faria, Leite, and Hall. This gym was a great fit for me at the time. Competitive, but also laid back, and easy on the schedule. Unfortunately, I was hitting a lot of roadblocks as I was learning mostly through trial and error rather than through formal instruction. He had me tag along with him up to a gym in Syracuse, which was about an hour and a half drive from home. I fell in love after my first formal class, however, the commute was definitely a deal breaker as far as making this an everyday routine. Since then, I attended a few different seminars, but went back to learning through trial and error.

Fast forward to my big move from upstate New York down to sunny Charlotte. I was excited to be in a city where I knew I could find formal instruction with a schedule that I could work into everyday life. I joined a gym that was about a mile from my house and was affiliated under one of the big name Jiu Jitsu affiliates. The gym marketed themselves as a competition school with the best of the best, which made sense because the affiliation was winning most of the major tournaments at the time. This was a mistake on my part as I learned I shouldn’t have trusted the results of the greater affiliation when choosing a single location to train at. The students at the gym didn’t compete, and although I enjoyed the atmosphere and the people, the training didn’t push the pace to make me better like I had wanted it to. Most of what was shown were flashy techniques where the fundamentals that I desperately needed to be reinforced were glossed

over. I found myself learning these basics mostly through either the open rolls at the end of class or through a purple belt teammate that took me under his wing. I became more discouraged as the months went on for the reasons mentioned as well as other things I didnt agree with.

One of my teammates had told me about Michael Allen’s gym down the road and I figured that I should give his 6AM class a try. The first class that I took at Checkmat Charlotte, Michael went over how to fight and retain the underhook from bottom half guard. This was such a simple concept, but was something that I was doing wrong all along. This class was invaluable for me as I had built most of my game off of half guard. I went back to my old gym for a night class a day or two later and noticed an immediate hike in the success of my bottom half guard. The success I had sealed the deal, I needed to train at Michael’s. I continued to train at both gyms for a little while, unbeknownst to the first gym, and had similar breakthroughs. After about a month I made the change over to Michael’s school and have been a consistent student for the past year and a half.

My experiences training under several different gyms really reinforced two points. One, don’t rush into an extended contract at the first gym you visit. There are so many different types of Jiu Jitsu gyms out there each with their different cultures and priorities. I made mistakes when I joined gyms where their priorities did not align with what I wanted to get out of training Jiu Jitsu. This brings me to my second point, which is to be aware of what you’re looking for in a gym. I have friends that knowingly stay at schools that are not a good fit because that’s all they know. In my case, competition was on my mind and it was foolish of me to join a gym where that isn’t a priority. Live and learn though, I’m happy with where I ended up, although I wish I took a shorter road with less hops between schools.

-Daniel P. Schnitzler, MBA, Bluebelt, 2019 NAGA Charlotte World Champion



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