Top 5 Reasons I Love My Gym – Palm Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Then and Now

Back in the day Coach Lauren used to contribute to the Advice column for White Belt BJJ. In a moment of nostalgia she decided to take a look at her old blog and found a hidden gem: the very first article she had ever written about Palm Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Saginaw, Michigan.

The post, titled “Top 5 Reasons I Love My Gym,” was a rundown of her favorite things about training at Palm. Re-reading the blog, she found that while some of the pictures were (very) dated, after 7 years the content still rang true.

And so, we’ve decided to repost here on the website; a dive back in time, with her own updated commentary on life at Palm BJJ – then versus now.

Top 5 Reasons I Love My Gym – January 13, 2015

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As many of you know, I’ve joined a new jiu jitsu gym. And because I’m so smitten with it, I’ve decided to write a blog detailing the specific reasons I LOVE training at Palm BJJ.

This post’s objective though, isn’t solely to explain my love for my new gym, but also outlines some very important check boxes that I believe are necessary to include on your “BJJ Wishlist” when searching out a place to train. After all, the success of your training is largely dependent upon the atmosphere and quality of the place you train…

So please, allow me to indulge for a minute here to totally gush about my new BJJ home.

Ahh, young Lauren…but let’s be real, I still gush about Palm any chance I get. I still love this place. And I still think the following are important items to include on your “BJJ Wishlist”.

Coach Lauren – Present (March 10, 2022)

5. TIME SPENT LIVE TRAINING

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My first session at Palm BJJ was rough. I managed to make it through technique (takedowns, yay! *insert sarcasm here) and class moved on to the live training portion. I was slightly appalled when my instructor set the timer for 6:00 minute matches, but my heart truly broke when I realized I would be rolling for at least 3 rounds. Coming from 1-hour classes where we were lucky to get in a couple of 3:00 minute rounds, I had cardio-shock big time.

After peeling myself off the mat following a particularly difficult roll with my instructor, I promptly scooted to the bathroom and threw up my dinner. I came out only to be informed that Advanced Class would be starting now.

That was fundamentals?!?” I cried in my head.

I looked to my instructor and told him I’d like to sit and watch because I didn’t think I was ready for Advanced Class.

He looked at me and told me there was no point in just watching.
To be fair, I don’t think he had any idea I had puked my guts out.

L: He totally did.

So I fumbled through Advanced Class and another 45 minutes of rolling. I was so dead. But when I woke up the next morning, feeling as if I’d tumbled down a 100-foot cliff, I couldn’t wait to get back.

Live sparring time is probably the most important part of your training. Now, I don’t want to sound too Kit-Daley here, but drilling technique will only take you so far. Implementing that technique with a real, resisting person, is how you truly master it. So if you’re not rolling for at least 20 minutes each session, your progression may be suffering. Find a place that has a good ratio of both drilling and sparring.

L: I came to Palm after training for roughly a year at another local gym where getting a decent amount of live sparring meant you had to pay for private lessons. So to come to Palm and get in so much live training time was a shock…but in a good way. This is STILL one of the special things about Palm. I don’t know any where else in the area that trains live as often as we do and I certainly don’t know of any other gym providing the competition training Palm does.

4. TRAINING PARTNERS

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For the first time in my BJJ journey, I have access to white, blue, purple, and brown belts every single training session. Which means I get to test my technique against people at different levels, with different body types, and different styles of game. I can’t say enough how important this has been in my progression these past few months. Before November, I trained with only white belts (with the occasional blue belt) and a brown belt I paid for private lessons. Now, I’m training with multiple brown, purple, and blue belts and even Palm’s white belts give me loads of trouble. I do this on a regular basis! Every day! And I love it.

Find yourself some good training partners people. Find partners that are better than you, partners that will push you, partners that will help you, partners that will let YOU learn.

L: Still true. Palm is the only gym in the area with multiple black, brown, purple and blue belts promoted according to International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) regulations. Classes are taught by upper level belts with YEARS of BJJ experience. And those colored belts and coaches spar side-by-side with the new students in every class. It’s awesome. The people at Palm are truly family, each person dedicated to helping the other grow. Love my Palm fam!

3. COMPETITIVE MINDSET

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I’m a firm believer that while jiu jitsu IS a sport for everyone, competition may not be for everyone. But for me, I knew I wanted to compete about three months into my training. Following my last tournament though, after losing my 6th match in a row, my confidence was shot and I began to struggle mentally. I seriously considered no longer competing.

But now that I’ve moved to Palm, I feel more ready to compete than I ever have. Most of that has to do with the level of training I do there (high-intensity, high frequency), but a large majority has to do with the encouragement I get TO compete.

Notice I said, “TO compete,” and not “TO win.”

Like I said, I’ve been struggling mentally with competition. And encouraging me to get out there and try, instead of pushing me to win, has made a huge difference. That, plus the positive support I’ve received from my new team, has helped me get ready for competition in a way that has me pumped to get out there and start showing off my skills!

L: Uggh, I miss competing.

So, if you’re looking to compete, make sure you find a good environment to prepare for competition. If your instructor gets angry when you lose a match, has “punishment practices” if your team doesn’t do well at a tournament, or you’re just not getting the support you need to help you compete, you might not be in the best spot. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad place, just the wrong place for you.

L: Following this blog post I did compete under Palm, multiple times, and won. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to compete but I can’t wait to get back. And when I do, I know I’m in the right place to prepare.

Palm’s competition team speaks for itself; World champions, National champions, state and local champions. Multiple competitors, competition specific training, coaches who are seasoned competitors, etc. And that’s not to say that you have to compete, you don’t. But if you want to, there’s no doubt in my mind that Palm is the place.

2. TRADITION AND AFFILIATION

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This may be one of my favorite things about Palm BJJ: they stick to the traditions of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Palm maintains a close relationship with their affiliate, Alvarez BJJ. Founder of Alvarez BJJ, black belt Dan Alvarez, visits multiple times a year and does all of the promotions himself. He promotes each student when they are ready and prepared. There are no extra belts and no belt tests. Every training session begins by lining up according to belt rank and ends with a bow and the BJJ hug (clasping opposite hands, and coming in for the ol’ one armed embrace). Although it’s not written, the atmosphere is enough to provide a sense of integrity, honor, and respect.

These things DO matter. It is important for a gym to have a strong tradition. It is important that a gym have an active black belt doing promotions and helping provide curriculum. It is important that there is no deviation from the traditional belt system. I would advise that every person interested in starting any sort of martial art make these things a priority when looking to find a place to train.

L: Who-doggy…people! If your gym does not have an IBJJF certified black belt doing promotions you might wanna start shopping for a new one. If your gym does not promote according to the IBJJF regulations you might wanna start shopping for a new one. If you’re getting technicolor rainbow belts every other month from a “jiu jitsu” instructor who hasn’t even heard of the IBJJF, you might wanna start shopping for a new gym.

Come to Palm. We got you.

1. LEADERSHIP

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I’m going to try to write this without blatantly tooting anyone’s horn, but I probably won’t succeed. Regardless, something absolutely should be said about the leadership at Palm BJJ. That leadership is centered around Alvarez BJJ brown belt, Carl Rabideau.

I remember my very first class at Palm. After 2 and a half hours of mad-dog training, he called up one of his longtime students. With cracks in his voice and tears held back he explained that this student would be moving away to pursue other dreams. He continued telling the class how special this student was and how sorely he would be missed.

It was in that moment I knew I was in the right place. I knew I had found an instructor that sincerely cares about his students as much as he cares about jiu jitsu and himself; more than money and more than how many medals they could win the team. And in a “no-excuses” manner, he pushes each person to achieve their goals while he continues to chase after his (he actively competes). Everyone achieving: together.

While he never misses an opportunity to jokingly call out the slackers, he also never misses an opportunity to praise those that have been putting in work and encourage those that may have slipped a bit. Not only that, but in the most humble way, he continuously expresses gratitude to those under him for helping him progress, advocating a team atmosphere, a family.

Great leadership is always #1. It is what makes or breaks business, gyms, teams, almost everything. Like I’ve said before, someone can be really good at martial arts and still be a crappy person. And THAT is something to remember when looking for your BJJ home. There are far too many stories of BJJ black belts abusing their power and influence. Make sure you find a leader who is as dedicated to progression as a person as they are to progression as a martial artist.

L: The leadership at Palm has only grown since it was just Coach Carl teaching classes. We now have a handful of amazing, dedicated coaches who espouse those qualities that have made Palm such a special place to train since I started 7 years ago. Aging like fine wine…

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Now that you’ve read why I’m probably the happiest I’ve been in quite some time, I encourage you to go out and find a BJJ home too. If you’ve already got one, excellent! If you’ve got one and you’re not sure about it, listen to your gut-instinct and never be afraid to find a better place. In fact, if you are afraid, that’s probably a big indicator that you SHOULD leave. This is YOUR journey, this is YOUR passion. Don’t ever let anyone or anything take it from you. Find a place that provides YOU with what YOU need for YOUR training.

I certainly have found mine.

L: Aww, little Lauren. Talk about a throwback! Seven years in and I’m even more crazy about Palm than when I started (although I might be a little biased now). Thanks for joining me on that fun trip down memory lane! I hope you got something from it!

See you on the mats.

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