Meraki BJJ has been set up by a third-degree black belt (and UFC veteran) Kenny Florian in partnership with Jason Hunt (a Judo and BJJ Black Belt) to establish a place for people to learn both judo and jiu-jitsu in its purest form. Why the name? well, the gym name comes from a Greek term which means doing something with soul, creativity or love. Essentially when you put “something of yourself” into whatever you’re doing. This is designed to be the mantra behind the gym and approach at the gym.
Meraki stands alone as its own entity and isn’t currently affiliated to any particular team or affiliation so there are no BJJ politics making it very visitor friendly and indicating it was a place we had to visit on our recent trip!
The building itself is easy to spot as it is painted black with stylish windows and signage as well as a graffiti mural of a stylised bird on the side of the building. On arrival, the reception guys were also really friendly sorting us out with disclaimers, where things were etc. They also made sure to introduce us to who was teaching the class that day.
The stylish approach of the building is matched throughout its interior with white walls decorated with a variety of prints and stylish grey and white mats. The changing rooms are located to the left-hand side of the building (from walking in) and are separate for males and females. The female changing rooms are quite possibly the prettiest I have ever seen!
Again a lovely clean space with shelving for clothing and space for 4-6 females to change, There was also a spotless white towelled shower with free towels and basic toiletries (including mouthwash). The in changing room toilet, however, wouldn’t be out of place in a Northern Quarter trendy bar with black walls, white honeycomb flooring and even a rose gold toilet roll holder! It certainly raised the bar for gym changing rooms!
We took two lunchtime classes at Meraki BJJ – one with Jason and one with Kenny himself. Both were focused at guard retention with a focus on the de la riva guard.
The first class with Jason was predominantly white belts with a handful of coloured belts including myself and my hubby. It was essentially an exploration and pressuring testing of de la Riva guard retention using positional sparring drills at a differing range of intensity before progressing into rolling. It was great for training with the majority of people in the class but it did mean we didn’t really get to see Jason’s teaching style. However, I was fortunate enough to catch a roll with him at the end which was a tremendous amount of fun. You could feel his experience both in jiu jitsu and judo not just through his movement but the way he constantly got under my hips for sweeps and disrupted my balance (in other words I had fun being swept for 6 minutes!).
The second class we took was with Kenny himself which was much more of a “taught” session. There was also more balance between the numbers of white and coloured belts attending. However, as a class, it wasn’t about techniques specifically. It was very much more a conceptual approach to guard and guard retention. Kenny made a specific effort to remember everyone’s names during class (including ours) and spent time with every pair providing both generic feedback but also specific tips and pointers. It was clear that he was not only extremely knowledgeable but he was also an experienced coach – explaining really well the corrections and adaptations he wanted and the theory behind those concepts. Both hubby and I picked up a couple of pieces of jiu-jitsu polish were trying to remember and implement in our current rolling and drilling.
What was really clear from talking to the gym staff as well as to Kenny and Jason as instructors are that they are genuinely trying to build a friendly and welcoming learning environment for grappling. Despite it being a young gym (they have only been open for a year) they have a great foundation with really high-quality teaching and incredibly stylish space. There also shortly starting a Judo programme which will be a great addition to the schedule. Meraki BJJ is definitely a gym I’d recommend people to check out if they’re in the area.
In terms of the practical stuff, we did email the gym before arriving and had really good communication beforehand. In terms of fees, we paid a drop in day rate of $40 when we visited. there are no restrictions of brands or rashguards etc but you do have to wear white gis (except on casual Friday!).