When I tell people I train in Easton at 10th Planet Bethlehem people often look at me like I am crazy. I live in central Pennsylvania, so Bethlehem is about 2 hours away, or an hour and 45 minutes on a good day with no traffic. Particularly considering there is a good school about 20 minutes from my house where I started training and earned my blue belt, people are compelled to ask why I would decide to start training at a school so much farther away. The short answer as to why I train at 10th Planet Bethlehem is because they aren’t just a good school, they’re an exceptional school.
There are a lot of techniques in the jiu jitsu world that often just aren’t covered at traditional jiu jitsu schools. From my experience in competition, the easiest way to get caught in a submission is to not see it coming. If you haven’t seen certain techniques or submissions, you won’t know enough to be able to defend them. After I got my blue belt at my old school I registered for my first NAGA tournament and quickly realized that at NAGA pretty much all submissions are legal at the intermediate level, including heel hooks and even twisters, which are a 10th Planet favorite. All I could think was that I was going to go out there with no knowledge about leg locks or any of the more advanced techniques and get completely dominated by a 10th Planet girl that knew those types of things. It was then that I realized that I needed to become that 10th Planet girl and expand my knowledge so that I could be the one to go out there and dominate.
About two weeks before the NAGA competition I bought a 3 class pass and started training at 10th Planet Bethlehem. I had been there once before in September of 2015 right before my first competition for an open mat and it still stands out in my mind as one of the most enjoyable days of jiu jitsu I have ever had. When it came time for the NAGA competition I ended up getting into a leg battle with one of the girls I went against in my no gi division, but even with only 2 weeks of 10th Planet fundamentals classes I was able to stay calm and defend all of her leg attacks. That alone was a huge victory for me, since heel hooks have been widely demonized in the traditional jiu jitsu community and many are easily intimidated by the thought of them. There are endless techniques in the jiu jitsu world and the game is always changing, but Zach and JM make sure to stay up to date with any new moves that are being used effectively in high level competition. One of my favorite techniques that I’ve learned at Bethlehem is the truck, which is a great transition position to numerous submissions such as the twister or calf crushes, and can be used to take someone’s back. I feel like that is one example of a technique that is rarely taught at many traditional gi schools and I doubt I ever would have learned it had I not started training at 10th Planet.
One of my favorite perks of training at 10th Planet Bethlehem is that I routinely get to train with jiu jitsu competitors that I admire and am a fan of. People often pay $80 to $100 for just one 2 or 3 hour seminar with a well-known jiu jitsu competitor, but at Bethlehem you can pay only a little more than that per month and get access to top competitors as many times per week as you would like to train. A good few of my current teammates I had heard of before starting to train there, including Grace Gundrum, who is an EBI veteran, and Jon “Thor” Blank, who submitted a member of the infamous Danaher Death Squad not long before I started training there. Bethlehem was also able to claim 3 spots this year on Eddie Bravo’s Top 25 Pound for Pound Competitor list, which is quite an impressive feat considering how many 10th Planet locations there are around the world. Pretty much any night of the week you could end up rolling with competitors who have appeared on big events streamed on UFC Fight Pass or Flograppling.
In addition to fangirling over my teammates and coaches, the competitive atmosphere also does a lot to help keep me motivated to push myself. At my previous school it was mostly just a small group of students that were really motivated to compete and a majority of the students were just there to train as a hobby or for self-defense. At 10th Planet Bethlehem almost all of the students are eager to compete on a regular basis. Both the coaches and the students are on the front lines of the competition scene and are constantly putting themselves out there to test their skills. People who are training with competition in mind tend to improve faster than your average hobbyist, so I love that my teammates stay so active. I personally have seen a huge improvement in my competition results since I started training at Bethlehem. The most noticeable change for me is that I’ve had quite a few wins by submission now due to the submission only focused training at Bethlehem. Whether you are competing in a points based tournament or not, it feels like a greater accomplishment getting a submission in competition than it does winning by points.
I could go on for days honestly, but these are just a few of the reasons why I am willing to make the long drive to Bethlehem for my training. 10th Planet Bethlehem, in my opinion, is easily the best place to train jiu jitsu in Pennsylvania and arguably one of the best places on the whole east coast. Zach and JM really are a step above the rest and they both do so much to improve their techniques and acquire more knowledge, so that they can in turn pass it on to their students. I was accepted with open arms from day one regardless of the fact that I was training at another school and I have received nothing but support and awesome opportunities since I made the switch.
Especially if you already live in the area I think it is time to ask yourself, do you want to be good or do you want to be exceptional?
By Laura Kent