I cannot tell you how excited I am to write this review. When I first decided to start this series, my biggest fear was that the first review was going to be of a program that was sub-par. Nothing could be further from sub-par than the experience I had while visiting Kaizen BJJ in Plymouth, MI. I truly could not have asked for a better experience as a visitor.
Let’s start with the Instructor:
For me, the vast majority of whether an experience is going to be good or not lies in the hands of the instructor. When I visited Kaizen, I took a beginner’s Gi class that was led by a Purple Belt, Ali Makhlouf. He ran a well-organized class that smoothly went from basic drills, to position specific techniques to rolling with specific intent to sparring. He was sure to move through the class (about 20 students) to give individual attention and instruction to each student. Great experience.
Now the school is owned and run by 4th Degree Black Belt Ryan Fiorenzi, who was at the gym while I was there but not rolling that evening. He provided me with the experience that impressed me the most while I was at Kaizen. At one point when we were working butterfly sweeps, he was invested enough in me (an outsider) to call me by name and give me specific feedback that I could apply immediately. If he shows that much interest in an outsider, who is there for only one class, a class he was not teaching no less….I can only imagine how much he helps his own full time students.
Next – The attitude towards outsiders:
I was not on the mat for more than 2 minutes before I had people coming up and introducing themselves to me. I have done back to back classes at schools where no one talks to me other than if we are drilling together. I felt completely welcomed, didn’t sense any animosity at all and really felt like this group was there to get better. Loved it.
Culture – What am I getting into?
If you look on the www.kaizenbjj.com website, they preach that they train “Leaving your ego at the door”. I can tell you they practice what they preach. Remember, I took a white belt class. During that class I rolled with 2 Blue Belts, a Purple Belt and a Brown Belt. As the higher belt ranks came in before open mat, they were quick to work with the White Belts. Not destroy them….work with them. It was awesome.
Additionally, Kaizen BJJ focuses on real world Jujitsu, not tournament Jujitsu. Everything they did had a self-defense bent. Nothing against tournament BJJ but I prefer the more self-defense oriented approach.
The mat was huge, in great shape and clean. For those interested, the facility is dual purpose with not only the mat but also a CrossFit gym next door. The only thing I would improve if they had the opportunity is to have a locker room. I arrived straight from the airport and changed in the restroom. Really not a big thing but if I get a magic wand, I am adding a locker room.
From my initial contact with the owner Ryan over email, to my arrival, to the training everything was handled with professionalism and efficiency. I can honestly say that if I was relocated to Detroit, I would make the commute to make this my home gym.
Thanks to Ryan and everyone at Kaizen BJJ for a wonderful experience. If you are in the Detroit area, I highly recommend you make a trip out there.