Serafin Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gym Review


Ultimate Fitness Evanston

823 Emerson Street

Evanston, IL 60201



Jeff Serafin – BJJ Black Belt (Jack McVicker/Megaton Dias)

Current hours:

Monday: 5:30pm Gi

Tuesday: 12:00 p.m. Gi, 6:00 p.m. Non-Gi

Wednesday: 7:30pm Gi

Thursday: 12:00 p.m. Gi, 6:00 p.m. Non-Gi

Friday: 5:30pm Open Mat

Saturday: 10:30 a.m. Gi

Sunday: Open Training

Mod cons:

Serafin BJJ is located inside Ultimate Fitness Evanston.

Parking: There is adequate parking around the building and on the street. Be sure not to park in the dry cleaner’s parking lot directly in front of the building. They are old and cranky. Don’t park there.

Jeff Serafin has an incredible space to train. There is a cage, a full boxing ring, heavy bags, PLENTY of space for mats, weight equipment (including other training equipment like ropes, and two additional rooms with even more equipment), lockers, and showers. There was plenty of space on the tatami with the 15 people training on a Saturday morning.

My experience:

Traffic was really good on my Saturday morning excursion to Serafin BJJ in Evanston, IL. Regardless, I was late (more or less for my month), so I missed what would have been the first 10 minutes of a Ginastica Natural class. Regardless, I wanted to include it in the review because it is an amazing addition to the classes offered at Serafin BJJ and is not currently listed on their website.

The warm up exercises for the class were short and simple, but definitely enough. From there we go directly to the technique.

The technique of the day (and of the previous classes as well) was to work the shoulder blade.

We checked the entrances on the shoulder blade and drilled them.

We then discuss a way to break the opponent’s stance once we lock and pierce them.

Next was two alternating shoulder locks from the scapula (near and far side shoulders) and we drilled.

The last one was a shoulder blade neck choke based on whether or not the opponent gives you the opposite shoulder. This was also perforated.

I wrote this in a specific way to make a point. Jeff teaches each move individually and doesn’t overwhelm students with instructions (as some instructors can). I found that most students did not have much difficulty when they were allowed to practice on their own. Break things down into understandable parts.

Also, Jeff spent a lot of time talking about the theory behind what we were doing, why we were doing it, and why it would work. If you’ve never read Matt Thornton’s blog on the effectiveness of ‘Aliveness’ training, you should. I don’t know if Jeff has it, but I think the method that Thornton and Serafin use to teach the technique is one of the most effective methods to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I loved what Jeff said about the shoulder blade being a stance/guard and not just a submission.

Along the same lines, after the technique, we sparred 50-60% with a partner who already had his shoulder blade on. I won’t go into a big tirade about why this is essential to understanding, but I was very happy that Jeff used this method to reinforce what he just taught. The things he taught that day stayed with me and immediately became part of my game because I was able to practice it with a slightly resisting partner. Very good idea to develop muscle memory.

The class was mostly made up of blue and white belts, but I don’t think this is typical of Serafin BJJ. Most of Jeff’s top belts were taking a break because the class I got into was right after a big competition and a lot of them were taking the day off to recover or travel. Still, Jeff’s blue belts are impressive. Almost everyone has been with him since his beginnings in BJJ and it was obvious.

After omoplata sparring, we moved on to free sparring where I was paired up with blue belts, and I also got a chance to ride with Jeff. All the blue belts gave me a lot of trouble and I can say that the skill level in Serafin BJJ is very high. I have been to gyms in the past (before the start of this company), where I was able to dominate everyone except the instructor. This is NOT the case for Jeff’s students. I was swept, ridden, beaten, etc. by a very skilled group of guys.

The combat was very intense, but controlled. Each person played a unique game (this is good because some gyms have everyone trying to play the exact same game) and each match was competitive. Even the white belts I watched played games based on solid basics, each with their own individual style.

Shooting with Jeff was a fantastic experience. He emphasized the importance of control and when I shot with him, I felt that control. Jeff has his own game of his own and is very good at it (watch out for those kimuras!), but he is absolutely amazing at closing your game. I tried everything:

From the shore? Nope.

Berimbol roll? Nope.

Okay, guard closed? Boop

Half guard? Shit, I forgot he loves the half guard. Nope.

Good. He pulls the guard. They sweep me up like it’s my first day.

When the time came, he was both discouraged and overjoyed. He didn’t want me to end the thing, but he had never felt control and patience like Jeff had with me. I was different being controlled, but not crushed. Great experience.

Total failure of berimbolo.

Jeff was exceptionally hospitable and very welcoming to a visitor. He surprised me to learn that the more he travels, the more I discover that we all know the same people. Jeff has been a part of the BJJ scene in the Northwest Indiana, Illinois, and Chicago areas for over ten years. Jeff and I sat and talked for a long time after he finished class and I think that’s pretty typical of Jeff. He was very willing to give his time to benefit his students.

Evanston students are very lucky to have Jeff. His academy is great, he has excellent training equipment and excellent instruction. With that said, I hope this review has been an accurate representation of him and the academy of him. When choosing an instructor, it is often necessary to take into account the personality of the instructor. I’ll (hopefully) be doing an interview with him soon.

Thank you for reading! Special thanks to Jeff for opening up his academy to me!!

Once again, thanks for waiting so many weeks for this review!

I will have my Mota Martial Arts and Gracie Barra Chicago reviews next week so stay tuned!

More to come this summer!

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