Bali, Indonesia has been BIG on my YoloBJJ Adventure list for a long time! With great, year round weather (wet and dry season are a bit more mild here than in neighboring S.E. Asian nations), relatively low cost of living, and a plethora of activities to keep you active (like world-class surfing) Bali seems like a no-brainer! But, as we all know, there MUST be Jiu-Jitsu! So…..?
I trained for about two and a half weeks here in Legian, Bali (just north of North Kuta Beach, Bali) with Professor Niko Han and his team at Synergy BJJ/MMA and I will say right from the start that the experience did NOT disappoint!
As usual, per my five rules, I contacted the folks at Synergy about a week ahead of my arrival seeing if it would be okay to do a week or two of walk-ins and received a very quick response via their Facebook page, saying…”Yeah, for sure”!
I walked the 20 minutes from my hotel to Synergy BJJ (for your ease of reference – Synergy is located above the “Nakula Market” on Jalan Nakula and runs about 13,000 IDR from my hotel via cab (about $1.00 USD – once I realized this, I never walked to BJJ again :-)).
First things first: Professor Niko is about as down to earth as they get in the world of Martial Arts (or any world, for that matter). When people started showing up for the 12:00 gi session I could barely tell who were the students and who was the master.
Professor Niko (just some guy in shorts and a T-Shirt) came over and said…”Hi – welcome to Bali” !…I thought…”kind of looks like the guy from Facebook…?”…hahaha… he never cared about pointing out that he was “the boss” or “the black belt” or whatever…just a nice “Welcome”! This modesty / humility / love for the game was the over-all feel of my entire time here in Bali! I really liked that! – A sign on the wall said “No Egos” and it was totally true here!
So, it would seem like the theme at this Academy is “No Egos”…and yes, that is true, but I have been to a lot of Academies where this is true (like De La Riva’s Academy, Monarchy MMA, Phuket Top Team, Arete Bangkok, Barra Knoxville, etc…) but what really stood out about Professor Niko’s style was this: Straight up, old school, street effective, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!
Many of us train at “mainstream” Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools who’s focus, more or less, is on “Sport Jiu-Jitsu.” And, if you do, maybe you have been to a Royler (or Royce or Relson, or, etc…) seminar where they spent time on just “street effective” techniques.
Well, Professor Niko has really kept the “heart” of the art alive here in Bali. His style is 100% focused on street defense effectiveness.
An example of this was the first technique we went over while I was there. A fairly basic escape from top mount. When Professor Niko was showing the technique, a bridge with a “back-door escape”, he quickly turned to his left hip and brought his right arm up high, covering his face and head and then arched and bumped his opponent forward and off to Professor’s left.
“Professor”, I asked, “Aren’t you going to get arm-barred raising your elbow up to guard your face.” Professor Han simply said:
“Well, in a real life situation, your very first obligation has to be defending against cranial damage. If you get knocked out ANYTHING could happen to you. We’ll defend against the armbar, but first we are going to make sure we don’t get knocked out.”
It made perfect sense, it had just been a long time since I had really thought about BJJ as an actual “Self-Defense” art. It’s so easy to get caught up in the intricacies of sport Jiu-Jitsu that it is very easy to abandon some of the basic aspects of the art.
Another example: Professor Han mounted me and said: “Go ahead and show me a mount escape”. Okay, I thought. With my right hand, I reached across my chest and grabbed his right sleeve cuff preparing for a simple bridge and roll to his guard.
“Okay, stop”, he said. “This is a really bad spot for you in a real life situation. With your right hand trapped against your chest there is nothing stopping me from raining down on you with my left elbow.” (FYI…I immediately had visions of Pat Smith vs. Scott Morris in UFC two!) “Sports Jiu-Jitsu has conditioned you to think that you can simply secure the post, then bridge and roll, but in a real life situation, you need to protect your head first, then bridge, and THEN grab your opponent’s post when he reaches out to base off of the ground.”
These are just two examples of how Professor Han is ALWAYS thinking about real life application. Just, every technique he does looks out for the “real life” hazard of getting punched in the face! This is not to say that Professor Han is less than technical, quite the contrary I found his eye for detail to be just as sharp as any other Professor I have trained with in the last three years of traveling.
Professor Han and I rolled many times in the two and a half weeks I was there and every time it was pretty much the same result. Professor Han starts light, he let’s me play at some stuff, then – as soon as I get an upper hand – he springs into life, escaping, reversing and ultimately, tapping me with very little effort 🙂
Classes at Synergy run Mon-Friday with No-gi being the predominant class (on, Wed, Fri at 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm) and gi class running on Tue, and Thur from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm.
Mat size is medium large with enough space for, probably 20-25 people rolling or maybe 30 or so drilling. Locker rooms are available for both men and women with cold water showers ( a very nice feature – not all academies have showers).
It was definitely a very welcoming environment with good Jiu-Jitsu and humble practitioners. This gym is true to the motto on the wall: “No Egos” and every roll I had was a good one with calm, respectful training partners. I would not hesitate to go back and would be equally quick to recommend it to others.
Legian is a bit touristy for my taste (the area I stayed in was, of course, the tourist zone) but there are good beaches, good food, cheap (but nice) lodging and, of course, some good surfing down the beach at Padma and North Kuta beaches.
You can get in touch with the Folks at Synergy via their Facebook page (quick to answer and very responsive): https://www.facebook.com/synergybjjmmabali/?fref=ts
and their address can be found on their website here: http://www.synergymma.com/academies/