Here’s What It’s Like To Train At 2 Of The Top BJJ Schools In NYC

I recently made a trip to New York City to visit my best friend, and along the way, I made a point to train at two of the preeminent gyms in not only the city, but the world: Renzo Gracie Academy and Marcelo Garcia Jiu-Jitsu

I had the opportunity to train no-gi and gi at Marcelo’s on a Monday under Marcos Tinoco and Marcelo himself. On Tuesday at Renzo’s I trained in one of John Danaher’s classes.

Locker Rooms

Both gyms have quite small locker rooms so be prepared to get up close and personal, especially at Marcelo’s. This is to be expected in Manhattan and is simply a part of high-end real estate in this mecca of economic commerce. Plus being in New York City itself, the subways should prepare you for this before you even step into the academies.

Overall “Vibe”

Both gyms as a whole were welcoming, and I met some great people in my time up there. Everyone is ready to get to work. You can tell most of the people in the gym training in the first half of the day have schedules to keep, so they keep focus on the task at hand. I’ve also found that to be a bit more common from New Yorkers, as they are quite “work-centric” as a culture.

This creates an intensity inside the gym as many of the students at both places are looking to get the most bang for the buck and efficiency in the time they’re there.


Both gyms have day mat fees for $40. This gives you access to any and all classes during the day you pay the fee.

Teaching Styles at Marcelo’s

At Marcelo’s, they were quite “kinesthetic” with their teaching style in both the gi class he taught and the no-gi class taught by Marcos Tinoco. They showed movements and had us see the technique as a whole “flow of movement.”

We even practiced the butterfly sweep without a partner. This was exciting since much of my studies and line of work is around simplifying the complexity of coordinating of movement.

Also I noticed their speech matched the style. Marcelo had a melodic speech and his movement matched that. Marcos had a very quick tempo with his speech and expressed very much with his body. His movement also had that intensity of tempo.

I can tell Americans are quite more analytical with how they address things such as BJJ while Brazilians place more emphasis on FEEL and movement-based culture.

Teaching Style in Danaher’s Class

Training in John Danaher’s class again (I visited last spring) was revealing to his attention to detail. I expected this based on his methodology with his instructionals, but it’s a sight to be seen in person.

But what I loved about it was how he gives you plenty of time to work through the technique — there’s no rush to get to the next technique. It makes sense based on his approach and why he’s trained so many students to mastery. Nothing is glossed over, and this is why you see so much precise technicality from his students.

Final Considerations

Although it was eye opening and an honor to train under Marcelo, bumping elbows with several seasoned grapplers — Jake Shields, Craig Jones, Gordon Ryan, and Garry Tonon to name a few — at Renzo’s was the highlight of my trip. This created quite a strong atmosphere in Danaher’s class at Renzo’s.

Another striking detail is how this group simply showed up and listened — no fanfare or special treatment. Yes they were working in select groups (especially Craig and Jake, who were masterminding together in the corner) but it created an intensity to the training session. Top-class international competitors grinding alongside you brings out the best in your physical performance and mental focus.

It was humbling to say the least. And it also shows a simple formula too. Mastery is about repetition. It’s definitely made me more excited and confident to keep trekking this path and seeing how I evolve over time.

I cover more performance training tidbits with my ebook “The Foundations of Movement Autonomy, Vitality, and Performance” that will help you prepare, recover, and perform better on the mats.


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