Jiu Jitsu has taken me on a wild and adventurous journey over the past 9 years. From starting as a student in a small 10ftx10ft, dark, crammed basement club with holes in the walls and the aroma of mildew in the air to opening my very own academy, Jiu Jitsu never fails to leave me in the absence of thrilling, colorful and adventurous experiences. I was excited to head out this past weekend to San Francisco and train at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu San Francisco, spearheaded by Denny Prokopos. Denny is a highly decorated, helluva grappler and is also Eddie Bravo’s very first Black belt. Denny began grappling at 12 years old and is one of the elite No Gi grapplers of this generation, winning the coveted title of World Champion in the IBJJF No Gi Worlds at Brown belt in 2007, the FILA World Grappling Championship and most recently crowned champion of the second installment of the Eddie Bravo Invitational. A expert and specialist himself, he is also a very open-minded student in pursuit to further enhance his knowledge in different areas; this is the reason our paths would intersect. In preparing for his return to the Eddie Bravo Invitational, Denny reached out to Sambist and Grappling Guru Vlad Koulikov and organized a 2 day seminar. A best friend, brother and Sensei, Vlad invited me to tag-a-long with him and that’s how I wound up in San Francisco for the first time.
FRIDAY: Day 1
It wasn’t long after Denny picked us up at the airport in his 2015 5.0 Mustang, that I realized Denny is one of a kind. A very colorful and vibrant personality, everything Denny speaks about is filled with energy and passion. A quick pit-stop by his house before grabbing food after the 6 hour flight, opened my eyes to his absolute love for kettebell training. A multitude of different size, shapes and weights of kettlebells I’ve never seen were laid about on the floor. With-in a few minutes we were at his family’s restaurant North Beach Pizza, I was in my glory with all the different delicious pizza options they had there. Denny is a disciplined practitioner and advocate of the Ketogenic diet which meant more pizza for me! After an hour or so after Lunch, we headed over to his Academy located in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. After training, I was so exhausted between traveling and the training I wanted nothing more than to sleep.
SATURDAY: Day 2
Being on NY time, Vlad and I were wide awake at 6 AM Pacific time, so we decided to walk around San Fran for a few hours. Denny came and scooped us for breakfast before the seminar and then we were off to his school for Vlad’s Seminar. Vlad has a dedicated following wherever he goes, a testament to both his instruction and personality. As he was reconnecting, I was meeting many people for the first time. There’s something special about the grappling culture, a group of like-minded students with the desire to grow their knowledge or understanding of techniques. It’s also in this same culture that you’re shaking someone’s hand with a genuine smile one second, only to be trying to choke them or hyperextend their joints a few short minutes later. After the seminar, our good friend Yoshi who we used to train back in NY with but had recently moved to LA, drove 6 hours just to have dinner with us(again only in grappling do you build friendships like this) and then drove 6 hours back home.
SUNDAY: Day 3
Our final day in San Fran was also the 2nd day of the seminar. After the seminar, we met up with our good friend through the grappling grapevine and fellow ny’er Sambo Steve. Steve was also in San Francisco doing a seminar, however he was spending a week in San Fran and also traveling to LA to teach at Erik Paulson’s CSW(a career highlight forsure). Steve is a cerebral instructor, often times connecting the tiniest dots in details for both beginner and expert grapplers. Any time spent with Steve is always a great experience. Denny brought Vlad, Steve and myself to his family’s restaurant for lunch before we departed for the airport to go back home. On the way back to the airport, Denny recorded an episode of his podcast “The Denny Prokopos Show” featuring Vlad as a guest(click here to listen), with the show literally ending as we were parked in front of the terminal.
A GRACIOUS HOST
I owe much gratitude and thanks to Denny, he is by far the most gracious host I have ever encountered. It was also awesome to find out that we share a similar experience as Pro Wrestling playing the role of the catalyst to finding Jiu Jitsu. A complete giver, he made my experience other-worldly. I also owe many thanks to my good friend Vlad for the opportunity to have such an amazing experience in the first place! Denny’s students we’re super warm and welcoming, his academy is genuinely filled with great people. 10TH Planet San Francisco should definitely be a destination to visit if you’re ever in the San Francisco or Bay Area.
My quick guide to San Francisco in 3 days:
- Philz Coffee gets the nod for Best Coffee Joint
- The Pork Cafe was the best breakfast joint I went to
- Union Sq was the most tourist friendly region
- North Beach Pizza best Pizza
- Villa Florence was an awesome Hotel real close to Golden Gate Bridge
- Alexander Book Company was a great book store(3 floors)
- HOMELESS People are like hordes of Zombies
- The graffiti art is truly something special
Mike Palladino is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Brown Belt. A two-time Pan American Medalist and the Head Coach of the West Point Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Team. A decorated competitor and Coach, Mike runs classes at Evolution Grappling Academy in Beacon, N.Y. If you’re interested in classes for BJJ in Beacon, NY or BJJ near Fishkill, NY give us a call to Schedule you’re complimentary class today! 845-214-8134 or visit us at 395 Main St.