Academy Review: Eddie Kone Academy of Jiujitsu HQ

Looking through the archives of my blog I soon realised I'd visited and reviewed many academies both here in the U.K. and abroad, but never really written much about my professor's HQ academy here in north London. I guess it's natural as this is my home-base and the other places are ones I visit,  albeit some more regularly than others, so I assumed they'd be interesting for, well, other academy visitors too.

In retrospect, EKBJJ HQ has over the past few years had its own throng of visitors, ranging from white belts passing through town to 7th degree coral belt master delivering seminars. Either way, a review of the Academy of Jiujitsu was overdue.

The Academy's located on:

First floor, Unit DA4 Sutherland House
43 Sutherland Road  Walthamstow, London
E17 6BU

And has been for a few years now but that's not where I first met Eddie. While remaining in North London, the EKBJJ HQ has moved around a few times, constantly expanding and upgrading its premises and timetable of classes.

Within seconds of (taking your shoes off) and stepping inside the academy you're greeted by three things: the fresh smell of cleanliness, friendly voices and a deep sense of history.

As soon as you step through the door and deposit your shoes on the designated shelves, you can see people getting changed into their gis and while Eddie is open-minded, he welcomes the traditional gi colours (white, blue and possibly black).

As you walk past the cage wall that separates the main matted area from the students getting changed (there are currently no designated changing rooms, although it is planned to expand the premises in 2017), you notice that the walls are covered with photographs of Eddie learning from and even teaching alongside his mentors within the Gracie family, ranging from Grandmaster Helio Gracie, whom Eddie trained with privately, to his sons (Robin,  Rolker, Royce & Rickson) and his nephews (Renzo and Rodrigo)

But the lion share of the photos star one son of Helio's in particular: Master Royler Gracie. The man who guided Professor Kone's Jiujitsu journey all to way to the coveted black belt. In fact, during his visit to London in May of 2016, Master Royler awarded Eddie his second degree.

This sense of history and tradition permeates everything you see and experience at the academy. Classes always start with a traditional lineup (in belt order) and bow in to the masters and the professors and coaches and the curriculum is based entirely around the punch-safe style of Jiujitsu you'd expect to learn directly from the Gracies.

Safety from strikes, clinching against an aggressive opponent, self defence within the parameters of U.K. law (Eddie draws here from a long career as an officer with the London Metropolitan Police Force before becoming a full time martial arts instructor), situational awareness and basic defence against common weapons all help shape a curriculum that is meant to work in the gi or without it, whether you're competing (gi, nogi or MMA/Vale Tudo) or defending yourself against a bigger and stronger aggressor.

Speaking of the curriculum, this is a rotational syllabus of 36 fundamental techniques taught one technique per week. Yes you read it right: each technique (or scenario) is examined for no less than one week's worth of lessons and often two weeks. Take the spinning armbar from mount, for instance. The Monday lessons (lunch time and two evening classes) will examine a push, shove or surprise strike or any other stand up altercations and the follow ups to it that will land you in the mount and one variation of the spinning armbar from the mount. Wednesday's lessons will review the stand up portion and once on the ground, and Monday's armbar is reviewed, a new version is added and drilled, usually it's a response to a different action or reaction by the assailant / opponent or working within a different setting (gi / nogi / MMA/ self defence) and finally Friday's lessons will summarise the whole week's entry points so far and add to them with finer details and / or another transition that will help usher in the lessons from the next week. The whole curriculum is calculated very carefully to give a sense of continuation, but always allowing brand new students to work alongside seasoned purple and brown belts.

The curriculum is outlined on A4 cards with the students' names. Each student will find their card and mark themselves "in" on the correct day and date. These sheets are collected at the beginning of the lesson after bowing in and the EKBJJ management enter the data into a database to keep track of student attendance against the curriculum. It doesn't get much more "old school" than that!

The mats at the Academy will, as is often the case in Jiujitsu, host a wide cross section of society. Over the time I've trained there I've shared the mats with pilots, stay at home parents, doctors, full time university students, nationally acclaimed singers, BAFTA winning film directors and international MMA super stars and they all do their best to make you feel welcome and at home.

Did you know that Soul Singer and the man who plays King Mufasa
on the West End's Lion King, Mr Shaun Escoffery, is a Gracie Jiujitsu brown belt
 and a long time student of the EKBJJ Academy
During drilling, I've found students at the academy incredibly welcoming. Everyone is keen to welcome new students or visitors and ensure they're getting the best out of the class. Eddie is a strict task master but never shies always from answering questions and re-running through details, which has trickled down to all his students. The lunchtime sessions and evening sessions last 1.5hrs each approximately. This is technique drilling and learning time. After that, Eddie Will summarise the day's lesson and answer questions after which students line up again, bow out then everyone shakes hands with everyone.

This marks the end of the lesson itself and the beginning of the voluntary sparring session which will go one between 1-2 hours, especially on a Friday night when the mats get full with grappling bodies. Sparring will vary between gi, nogi and rolling with strikes, depending on the theme and focus of the week. The same gentle souls you trained with during the lesson become relentless attack machines during the sparring sessions. Everyone, from the freshest white belt to the seasoned black belts, oozes technical knowledge when it comes to defensive positioning and use of leverage but there are no easy rolls here. I often see people step aside and practice / drill techniques from that day's lessons and / or techniques out of the stand-up self defence curriculum (release from grabs, bear hugs, attaches with weapons...etc) but I've never seen anyone do positional sparring (sparring only from half guard, side control or mount, for instance), unless Professor Kone specifies that they do that. My theory is that since very few of the students from EKBJJ HQ compete at BJJ tournaments, the sparring rounds become their opportunity to sharpen their proverbial sword and test their metal.

On Fridays, after the last exhausted pair of students crawl off the mat, nearly all attendees, along with the professor and the coaches, go for a meal at a lovely Turkish restaurant down the road. This is a tradition that has gone on for as far as I've come to HQ and the staff at the restaurant are very familiar with our tired and hungry faces.

The facilities at the Eddie Kone Academy of Jiujitsu are brilliant - large windows shining on a huge and incredibly clean mat space, something that was approved by master Royler as he reminded us during his last visit:

"You don't get much closer to another person than when we do Jiujitsu and my daddy used to teach privates from morning till night. If your diet is not healthy and your mat is not clean, how will you avoid sickness?"

Master Royler Gracie kindly decided to return my left foot after the demonstration
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank to the crew and students at EKBJJ HQ for always making me feel so welcome and to professor Eddie Kone for for creating and maintaining this hub of Gracie Jiujitsu in London and for all the opportunities he has provided for me to take my knowledge and experience both in learning and teaching to the next level.

If you're in London, you owe it to yourself to visit the academy.



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