The last time I wrote an article like this, I was sitting in a gym in San Jose, Costa Rica, having just finished teaching another class to about 20 jiu-jitsu players eager to learn and try to improve their game. There, I saw a very different style than most other schools, where everyone from white to black belt had incredible conditioning and was incredibly strong. Even the women I trained with had the strength of a pretty solid guy. That was the challenge I dealt with during that “vacation.”

This week, I am currently writing this article in Costa Mesa, Calif., on a giant Mac Computer in the Mendes Brothers’ gorgeous Art Of Jiu-Jitsu Academy. I have been staying here for an entire week now, and I can already see numerous differences from here, Costa Rica and even the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City.

One of the differences here is that the academy is all white. Literally, everything is white. When you train here, only white gi’s are allowed and it seems to bring a very calm feel—something that you don’t see at many gyms.

Another difference here is that there is the lack of a strength and conditioning room. Unlike Athletic Advance in Costa Rica, which had a separate floor for strength and conditioning training, the AOJ gym is strictly focused on jiu-jitsu. And the only thing you will find in here is mats. So, nowadays, with people looking for the “complete package” when looking for a gym, the Mendes Brothers’ academy is a rare breed that only focuses on one style of fighting.

Then, lastly, the most important difference at the AOJ academy than the others I have been to is the style and technique that is being displayed and used in training. Never in my ten years in the sport have I witnessed, attempted or had so many “different” and innovative techniques attempted on me. Rafael and Guilherme Mendes’ style of teaching and fighting is completely different from any other style I have ever witnessed at any other gym, and it has been a huge culture shock for me.

At the Renzo Gracie Academy, I’m accustomed to seeing the more “old-school” style of jiu-jitsu with heavier guard passing and more basic guards such as the closed guard, open guard and butterfly guard. Here in Costa Mesa, I have seen numerous white belts and eight-year-olds pulling off berimbolo sweeps to the back with almost perfect technique and precision. Remember, this doesn’t mean that one style is better than the other, but it is just amazing to see the contrasting differences between schools and what’s being taught.

On this trip, unlike the last one in Costa Rica, I am the student learning from the professors—Rafael and Guilherme—and it’s incredible to see the differences from what I’m learning out here compared to what I saw in Costa Rica.

Oh, the places you’ll go! Everywhere the enthusiastic traveling jiu-jitsu player travels to, they can find something new and unique at the gym he or she chooses to visit. In New York at Renzo’s, you will gain knowledge on the jiu-jitsu of the past and the more standard style of jiu-jitsu. In Costa Rica, you will learn a lot about the importance of having a good strength-and-conditioning routine or else you will not survive there. Then, in Costa Mesa, you will discover new techniques that you may have never seen before, yet they can be extremely effective and useful in today’s competition scene.

If you wish to travel somewhere in Europe or Japan or Australia, you are sure to find something different from those gyms than you have in the three mentioned earlier. Maybe the style and technique will be different, possibly the appearance or maybe the strength training, but either way you know you’ll find some type of quality that other schools will not have. There are an endless number of possibilities in this sport. Everyone brings something different to the game, everywhere you go, so don’t be afraid to explore…there’s so much out there for you to see! Osss!

Photo: The Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy (

About The Author

Gianni Grippo
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Contributor

Gianni Grippo is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Marcelo Garcia and trains at the Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York City. Besides being a big fan of the sport, Gianni is also an avid competitor and has ranked among the best in the World from blue to brown belt winning 6 IBJJF World titles and 7 Pan Championships. Still at 21, Gianni looks to continue to compete for many years to come as his main goals are to win the World championships at black belt and win the ADCC title.

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