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Earlier during the day and you would probably encounter Angela, she is the head instructor’s wife, Mrs Sciandra. She is very helpful, also the person that would probably return your phone calls regarding school information and the sort.
Several times when coming in later during the day I met Sensei Brian, a black belt level instructor that has been teaching at the school for over 20 years. He’s quite skilled, I could not penetrate his turtle position when sparring. All his movements are firm, sharp and quite concise, he stated we share similar body types so our strengths and style will end up being very similar. He’s a pretty nice guy, and so far a good instructor.
Shihan Sciandra, what can I say about this gentleman? The first thing I thought when I looked at his resume and moreso when I stood in front of him was “Wow, this guy is a beast!”. Physically he’s a very large man, heavily muscled, stern, chiseled face, short cropped haircut, visible signs of cauliflower ear (a battle scar that is a badge of honor in this game), and just an overall powerful presence.
He is physically an intimidating specimen no doubt, but also quite a pleasant and nice guy. He answered all of my questions via email, and also when I went into the school in person.
Even more impressive yet is his training pedigree. He sports multiple black belts in an array of disciplines, as well as a great wrestling background. When it comes to protocol, Shihan doesn’t care much for “Osu” or other forms of traditional procedures. He’s more of a modern instructor, I quote “I believe in mutual respect, as your Shihan I will respect you and I expect you to respect me as well. I won’t need you to say Osu and so on.” I can appreciate that.
If you are extended an invitation to watch a class, I’d advise you not to get on your phone to text or any of the sort. Exit the school and handle your phone business. Shihan does not appreciate people “loitering” in the school. If you are there to watch, then watch, don’t text. One gentleman had to learn that lesson the hard way. “Excuse me sir, what are you doing? I thought you wanted to watch the class? If so, please watch and get off the phone. If you really need to use the phone go outside and use it. I find that to be disrespectful to the school.” I think the guy learned his lesson. In fact he ended up joining the school. I think that Shihan’s commitment to training impressed him very much. We are here to train, no b.s please.
The location and rates are quite impressive. The school is located right on Queens Boulevard, steps away from the Union Turnpike F/E stop. They have been around for 25 years, so it’s safe to say the school is here to stay. For details on the rates, please drop a call to the school, but take my word, it’s very reasonable.
As far as the training itself, initially I was afraid that this was going to be a place where I’d be learning techniques but never applying them. I’ve always maintained that to truly learn how to fight, you have to actually fight against an opponent that is resisting and fighting back.
Somehow I got the impression that it was one of those traditional schools. I could not have been more wrong. From day 1 I was learning throws with a real human, heavy body, learning ground fighting techniques and points of balance. I was sparring from a standing position as well as from a seated/kneeling ground position. I have been very close to vomiting from the amount of energy I have expended in training. We also work stretching, core and conditioning drills before and after the class. A lot of the drills are similar to my old BJJ drills, ie: Hip escapes, jump to rolls, etc.
In short, it’s no joke. I am very pleased with the way training is going. Shihan Sciandra is willing to answer any questions we may have and fosters a good learning environment. As has been my experience before, the students are always willing and able to assist the new guys. I spent sometime yesterday with some of the higher ranking students and they assisted me in learning as well as providing a nice beating in sparring. I held my own, but their skill level was definitely much higher, combined with my terrible conditioning, I just took a beating. LOL. I love it.
There is nothing like the bond you share when you sweat, bleed and reach the point of total exhausting with training partners. Everyone shares that bond here.
After training Brazilian Jujitsu, and following the format that we had there for all those years, I really hoped that this wouldn’t be too different. It’s not. Shihan is no joke in training and I am learning a lot. An added advantage is that we learn stand up throws, trips and a host of take downs. This was a much neglected aspect of my Brazilian Jujitsu training. I joined up last Thursday. After these first few days, I wish I joined sooner.