Ultimate Fitness Evanston
823 Emerson Street
Evanston, IL 60201
Jeff Serafin – BJJ Black Belt (Jack McVicker / Megaton Dias)
Monday: 5:30pm Gi
Tuesday: 12:00 p.m. Gi, 6:00 p.m. No-Gi
Wednesday: 7:30pm Gi
Thursday: 12:00 p.m. Gi, 6:00 p.m. No-Gi
Friday: 5:30pm Open Mat
Saturday: 10:30 a.m. Gi
Sunday: Open Training
Serafin BJJ is located within Ultimate Fitness Evanston.
Parking: There is adequate parking around the building and on the street. Be sure not to park in the dry cleaner’s lot directly in front of the building. They are old and grumpy. Don’t park there.
Jeff Serafin has an amazing space to train in. There is a cage, full boxing ring, heavy bags, PLENTY of room for mats, weight equipment (including other training equipment like ropes and two additional rooms with even more equipment), lockers, and showers. There was plenty of space on the mat with all 15 people training on a Saturday morning.
Traffic was really good on my Saturday morning excursion to Serafin BJJ in Evanston, IL. Despite everything, I was late (more or less for my month), so I missed what would have been the first 10 minutes of a Natural Ginastica class. Anyway, I wanted to include it in the review because it’s an amazing addition to the classes offered at Serafin BJJ and is currently not listed on their website.
The warm up exercises for the class were short and simple, but definitely sufficient. From there we go directly to the technique.
The technique of the day (and of the previous classes as well) was to work the shoulder blade.
We check the entries in the shoulder blade and drill them.
We then discussed a way to break the opponent’s stance once we lock and pierce them.
Next up were two alternate shoulder blade locks (near and far lateral shoulders) and we drilled.
The last one was a shoulder blade neck choke based on whether or not the opponent gives you the opposite shoulder. This was also pierced.
I wrote this in a specific way to make a point. Jeff teaches each move individually and doesn’t overwhelm students with instructions (as some instructors can). I noticed that most of the students did not have great difficulties when they were allowed to practice on their own. Break things down into understandable parts.
Also, Jeff spent a lot of time talking about the theory behind what we were doing, why we were doing it, and why it would work. If you’ve never read Matt Thornton’s blog on the effectiveness of Aliveness training, you should. I don’t know if Jeff has it, but I think the method that Thornton and Serafin use to teach the technique is one of the most effective methods to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I loved what Jeff said about the shoulder blade being a stance/guard and not just a submission.
Along the same lines, after the technique, we sparred at 50-60% with a partner who already had the shoulder blade on. I won’t go into a big diatribe about why this is essential for understanding, but I was really happy that Jeff used this method to reinforce what he just taught. The things he taught that day stayed with me and immediately became part of my game because I was able to practice it on a slightly resistant partner. Very good idea to develop muscle memory.
The class was mostly made up of blue and white belts, but I don’t think this is typical of Serafin BJJ. Most of Jeff’s top belts were taking a break because the class I got to was right after a big competition and many of them were taking the day off to recuperate or travel. Still, Jeff’s blue belts are awesome. Almost everyone has been with him since his early days in BJJ and it was obvious.
After the silver shoulder sparring, we moved on to free sparring where I was paired with blue belts, and also had the opportunity to shoot with Jeff. All the blue belts caused me a lot of problems and I can say that the skill level in Serafin BJJ is very high. I have been to gyms in the past (before the start of this company), where I was able to dominate everyone except the instructor. This is NOT the case for Jeff’s students. I was swept, ridden, beaten, etc. by a very skilled group of guys.
The combat was very intense, but controlled. Each person played a unique game (this is good because some gyms have everyone trying to play the exact same game) and each match was competitive. Even the white belts I observed played games based on solid basics, each with their own individual style.
Shooting with Jeff was a fantastic experience. He stressed the importance of control and when I rode with him, I felt that control. Jeff has his own game of his and is very good at it (watch out for those kimuras!), but he is absolutely amazing at closing out your game. I tried everything:
From the shore? Nope.
Berimbolo roll? Nope.
Okay, guard closed? Boop
Half guard? Shit, I forgot he loves the half guard. Nope.
Good. He pulls off the guard. They sweep me like it’s my first day.
When the time came, I was both discouraged and overjoyed. He didn’t want the thing to end, but he had never felt the control and patience that Jeff had with me. I was different being controlled, but not crushed. Great experience.
Berimbolo total failure.
Jeff was exceptionally hospitable and very welcoming to a visitor. He surprised me to learn that the more he travels, the more I discover that we all know the same people. Jeff has been a part of the BJJ scene in the Northwest Indiana, Illinois and Chicago areas for over ten years. Jeff and I sat and talked for a long time after he finished class and I think that’s pretty typical of Jeff. He was very willing to give his time to benefit his students.
Evanston students are very lucky to have Jeff. His academy is great, he has excellent training equipment and excellent instruction. With that being said, I hope this review has been an accurate representation of him and his academy. When choosing an instructor, it is often necessary to take into account the instructor’s personality. I’ll (hopefully) be doing an interview with him soon.
Thank you for reading! A special thanks to Jeff for opening his academy to me!!
Once again, thanks for waiting so many weeks for this review!
I’ll have my Mota Martial Arts and Gracie Barra Chicago reviews next week so stay tuned!
More to come this summer!