The Renzo Gracie Fight Academy of Brooklyn recently opened in a warehouse at 100 Bayard Street on the southeast corner of McCarren Pool. It's much more than a martial arts gym, offering members strength training and cardio equipment in addition to a full roster of martial arts - such as muay thai and even wrestling - and mixed martial arts (MMA) classes.
“If you go to the other martial arts gyms, on the members' keychains they have all of these tags for places like the YMCA or New York Sports Center because they need to get the cardio and strength training in,” explained manager Eugine Kang. “Here, we offer it all.”
What also makes the Renzo Gracie Fight Academy unique is its emphasis on MMA, a sport that employs the use of several types of martial arts. The gym's namesake – Renzo Gracie - is a champion MMA fighter, as well as a master of Brazilian jiu jitsu.
Instructor Rafael “Sapo” Natal has been teaching martial arts since 2005. He is also a jiu jitsu champion from Brazil, and began competing in MMA competitions about seven years ago. He will fight in a UFC bout on July 11 in California.
In a recent interview at the gym after teaching a Saturday morning MMA class, Natal explained the philosophy behind teaching mixed martial arts.
“Some guys are better at jiu jitsu, some guys are better at muay thai,” he said. “Then we try to put everything in balance, because for MMA you need to have everything.”
Kang said that while most of the people who presently train at the gym are interested in fighting in an amateur or professional bout at least once in their lifetime, he said the academy offers something for everyone.
“We have all sorts of members,” said Kang, who let his job as an engineer in South Korea two years ago and moved to New York City. “It's martial arts, but it's really fitness in the end. There a lot of people who want to get in shape, but they don't want to simply jog every day.”
Natal said that beginners can easily participate in the classes, and don't necessarily have to get in a ring or cage and fight.
“The normal classes are just drills,” he said. “You are going to learn how to punch, how to kick, how to scramble, but the sparring is just for the people who are advanced. If you have never trained in your life, you can still come in.”
Kang said the gym is also trying to broaden its membership by teaming up with local businesses and organizations. The gym is also offering a summer day camp for kids that begins on July 2.
“It's not just for the fighters, we want it to be for everyone,” he said. “That's why we offer the kid's and women's classes. We are going to be adding more and more classes as the membership grows”
The Renzo Gracie Fight Academy of Brooklyn offers a month-by-month membership of $225 per month, or $185 per month with a contract. Both memberships offer unlimited access to the facilities. The academy also offers discounts for members of the FDNY and NYPD.
For more information, visit renzogracieacademy.com.