After training in mostly “old-school” Gracie jiu-jitsu for my career, I recently made a change. I traded in my gi for spats and said goodbye to my beloved bow-and-arrow choke and double sleeve grips. I’m now a proud student at the new 10th Planet Ventura.
Now, I’m listening to rock n’ roll while I train and struggling to remember names like “The Dark Haven” and “Crackhead Control.” I’m out of my element and I love it. These guys are fun and laid back, but serious about jiu-jitsu. It’s been an adjustment, coming from a pretty conservative training environment. 10th Planet jiu-jitsu is a counterculture. Here are some of my big takeaways so far.
1) No one cares about rank.
The instructors have yet to ask me or anyone else what belt we are. It just doesn’t seem to matter. We don’t line up, partner up, or roll according to rank. This also extends to the way the system is taught. There’s not a huge distinction between “advanced” techniques and fundamentals. Everyone learns everything.
Personally, I’m okay with this. We’re treated like adults, the instructors don’t hover over us like overprotective parents just because we’re learning heel hooks. The students look out for each other and make sure to gently nudge newer students towards learning the basics.
2) We talk a lot more.
I guess I’d been taught that talking was bad during training. I’m used to hushed whispers when an instructor isn’t looking. At 10th Planet, there’s constant open communication. We talk during warmups, we workshop techniques as they’re shown. We even exchange friendly insults as we roll. It took some getting used to, but I’m learning more and getting to know my fellow students faster because of this.
3) Without grips, I lose about a third of my game.
I drastically underestimated just how much I use grips in my game.
It’s not that there are certain positions I can no longer do, but that I’ve had to make adjustments to nearly every position. Knee ride, side mount, back attacks — I use the cloth for all of them. As I make adjustments, my game is starting to change noticeably.
4) Everyone’s twice as fast without a gi.
You don’t always appreciate the hundred little ways you use the gi to slow people down, until you don’t have it. People have much more freedom of movement in their spats and rashguards.
I learned quickly that it’s harder to implement a slow, grinding game. You either embrace frequent scrambles or go the clinch route. 10th Planet is a clinch-heavy system. They use positions like the lockdown and the rubber guard as substitutes for those valuable collar and sleeve grips.
5) The system is always evolving.
These guys joke about stealing anything that works. They often reference how they used to do certain techniques, but then found a better way. I often hear things like, “This is how Marcelo does it,” or “This is how Renzo started doing it.”
10th Planet is a living system, always trying to improve. It’s a refreshing open-mindedness for me.
6) They’re not in a hurry to appeal to the masses.
I’ve trained at some very commercial schools, where the curriculum tilts heavily towards new students.
10th Planet seems totally okay not being for everyone. As BJJ becomes more user-friendly than ever, 10th Planet embraces a sort of radical individualism.
7) My leglock game is garbage.
I always thought I was decent at the whole leglock thing. I wasn’t.
My first night, a kid who had been training one year heel hooked me. Being largely illegal in IBJJF formats, I had mainly played around with them in the gym casually.
At 10th Planet, everyone does leglocks. Whereas they were always a novelty to me, these guys employ them as their bread and butter. And against a skilled leglocker, my technique is still leagues behind. They know all the counters to basic defenses, and they use entries I’ve never seen before.
8) The whole “stoner” thing is overblown.
When you train at a 10th Planet, there will be some inevitable stoner jokes thrown your way. I wasn’t sure how much of this was real versus a stereotype.
In fact, the gym is NOT a smoke-filled room with Bob Marley blaring in the background. It’s no different from any other jiu-jitsu school I’ve trained at. We’re all adults, and 90 percent of our focus in class is getting better at jiu-jitsu and being healthy.
9) I’m surprisingly into jiu-jitsu fashion.
Finally! I don’t have wear academy branded uniforms! I have a closet full of rashguards and shorts I’ve been unable to wear for a while. 10th Planet sells some cool apparel, but you can wear whatever you want. BJJ fashion has evolved a lot. You can look as ridiculous as you want now, and I’m having fun pushing the limits every night.
10) 10th Planet is still a very small and tight community.
10th Planet is more popular than ever, but it’s still a small tribe. Most students above purple belt are directly under Eddie Bravo. Everyone’s trained at 10th Planet HQ and probably has a funny Joe Rogan, Eddie Bravo, or Renato Laranja story.
If you’re a bookworm, I wrote a book about training in a martial arts school that became a full-on cult, which you can check out on Amazon.