Alongside immersive language learning, one of my favourite ways of pushing my personal boundaries is through combat sports. Jiu Jitsu plays a large role in that. Not a day goes by in which I don’t struggle and discover a new form of discomfort!
And while I really enjoy doing jiu jitsu / combat sports in other countries and languages (so far I’ve done it in five, aside from English, though TBH my “Jiu Jitsu” Turkish never was great), the nice thing about training in the US or America is I don’t have to focus too much on the language, and there are so many gyms — plus a culture of early morning classes!
I heard of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu a long time ago. Americans who do BJJ would know 10th Planet well. But for someone like me who has never lived close enough to a 10th Planet affiliate, my time at 10th Planet in Orange County was an eye-opening window into the realm of things possible in no-gi Jiu-Jitsu.
I visit Orange County periodically (usually every year) for family reasons. After two weeks of training in boxing / Muay Thai at Echo Park Boxing, I moved closer to a Jiu-Jitsu gym, and went back to working on ground game.
So below I’ll go over why 10th Planet is a bit special, and what I really like about the 10th Planet gym in OC (Fullerton, specifically)
I’ve updated this after my second stint there, in late 2023, which was longer.
Here are my latest posts on combat sports gym reviews from around the world, vocabulary for training in other languages, and other resources. If you’d like to have me visit and see your gym, please contact me — I love visiting new places and making new friends through combat sports.
About 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu
For those unfamiliar with 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, here’s a brief and unofficial overview.
Even though it’s still “Brazilian” Jiu Jitsu, focusing mostly on groundwork and some stand-up grappling, 10th Planet-style Jiu Jitsu is focused exclusively on no-gi jiu-jitsu. This means that most people will wear shorts and a rash vest, and may also wear compression pants, but never the “gi” or “kimono”, other than sometimes, for fun.
Before coming to 10th Planet, I had heard a lot about it, like “That’s a classic 10th Planet technique” or “So and so is a black belt in the 10th Planet system.” So I knew it was famous, and knew it was no-gi only, but that’s it.
To start at 10th Planet or any no gi gym is much easier, as you can do so in shorter gym shorts and a gym shirt. Although people buy gear pretty quickly!
10th Planet was founded by Eddie Bravo in Los Angeles, California. Eddie Bravo was a black belt in traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu already. Ostensibly, his goal in abandoning the gi was to focus on techniques more relevant to mixed martial arts (MMA), where sparring partners don’t use a gi.
But in reality, the 10th Planet style — while definitely still very useful in MMA, and much more so than traditional BJJ — has developed into its own system. In classes, anecdotally, people don’t worry too much about whether an opponent will strike them, for example, and don’t stress about keeping their guard up when initiating a takedown. The 10th Planet people I’ve spoken to in the classes compete more in no-gi Jiu Jitsu (e.g. ADCC) and in 10th Planet’s internal competitions.
One thing I noticed as soon as I entered 10th Planet was that it’s really its own style and system. There are many things unique — or that get extra emphasis — in 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, including guards, submissions, and even terminology.
I first came into 10th Planet having done about a year of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu already. And the second time I came, I had done another year, and a lot of private study. But I was still caught off guard (figuratively… also literally) by many names of things, including
- 100% Sweep — a sweep from closed guard with a trapped arm and head
- The “Five-O” grip (named for police)
- Carni — a crazy submission one of the coaches did on me, getting their foot under my throat in closed guard. I’ve tried it… I can’t get my leg that high with my ageing bones! I’ll try again (might be technique rather than flexibility that blocked me)
- Electric chair — A sweep and basically a submission from the rubber guard, getting them to do the splits (it’s very uncomfortable). I think the “Banana Split” is the actual splits sweep from this point.
- Lockdown guard — I had heard of this, but at 10th Planet I think I’ve seen it in 50% of sparring rolls!
- Honeyhole — a seated position where the partner has trapped your leg above the knee. This exist elsewhere of course, but has other names (411, outside ashi)
- Rubber Guard — pretty common in Jiu Jitsu overall, but still, a big thing in 10th Planet
- Truck — an entry into the Twister and other attacks
- Twister — I knew this, but it’s also illegal in many forms of Jiu Jitsu competition. But it’s permitted in MMA and also in 10th Planet comps.
You probably know of some of the above positions / submissions, either as is or by a different name. I knew of some of them (e.g. Lockdown Guard), but saw them to a much greater degree at 10th Planet.
Aside from that, 10th Planet tends to emphasise some positions more, like the 1/4 guard, and de-emphasise others, like closed guard.
About 10th Planet Community / Culture (in Orange County / LA)
The community and culture of a gym are everything to me. You can get nice mats, a fancy brand name, and decent pricing, but the community dictates whether people will stay and come back.
In large part, the community is dictated by the coaching and ownership, which I’ll get to in a second.
Briefly: The 10th Planet Fullerton community is excellent. The best of any gym I’ve been to. I have only stayed at gyms where I’ve liked the people, but I really like 10th Planet people. It might be 10th Planet Fullerton, or Orange County broadly, or maybe the LA area generally (which culturally is pretty similar to LA in the scheme of things… people are diverse and friendly, though less transient in OC than in LA).
Why is the 10th Planet community?
- Friendly as heck: After a week, I already felt like I was part of the community and making friends. After just a few weeks, I genuinely felt sad I wouldn’t go back any time soon, and others said the same to me! People always ask my name, chat with me, ask about me, and do so with genuine interest. So many people!
- Encouraging: I was shocked at how many people found something nice to say about something. I mean, I always do it too, but these guys were very generous with their compliments. And it’s not because I’m particularly good, they were just good with expressing it.
- Eager to teach: Whenever I asked, someone would show me how they did something to me. There’s so much I don’t know about the 10th Planet system, so this happened a lot.
- Limited ego: Almost without exception, people I rolled with weren’t gung ho about “winning”, and found something nice to say even if they destroyed me.
I’m confident that at least the other LA branches (after all, 10th Planet is based in LA) have the same culture. Membership to one gives you access to all the LA branches, and people come and go all the time.
I’m less sure about the other 10th Planet branches around the world, but I’m sure the culture is similar, with local differences (e.g., I think Australians on the whole are as friendly but aren’t as naturally chatty as Americans).
The culture at the 10th Planet Fullerton gym is fairly diverse, loosely representative of the area, I suppose. The one thing that stood out is that there are limited female participants (roughly 1:10 or less), but that’s a common trend among BJJ gyms. The exceptions — which are rare — are more notable.
Coaching style at Fullerton / Orange County
Hang-lean-rest,– Isaac, one of the coaches
I heard those refrains quite a few times. They’re reflective of Isaac’s coaching style — he goes into detail, but he pulls it up into some quick and easy-to-remember phrases that have a lot of depth in them.
I went to a mixture of 11am and 6am sessions. I’d just go to 6am, as I love that time of day, but it wasn’t every day during my time.
11am Classes — Isaac Cordova
At the 11am sessions, coaching was done by Isaac Cordova, who coincidentally received his black belt while I was there the first time.
Isaac’s a young guy (well, younger than me… but over half the people of the world are) with old-school maturity in his style of coaching. He has been training for over a decade, most of it with 10th Planet or in the style.
Having seen a bunch of coaches already, I rank Isaac among the best! (I like something about all the coaches I’ve had, so don’t want to play favourites.)
Isaac’s teaching style is really deliberate. He’s very articulate with explanations, like John Danaher (sans the repetition), very verbose as he’s demonstrating, and patient with questions. Also, I noticed he’s very encouraging when he sees people improving. I of course don’t do things perfectly as I’m still on the steep part of the learning curve, but he still is generous with praise.
The classes were usually 1.5 hours on paper but usually ran over, with open mat afterwards.
The classes at 10th Planet Fullerton follow a general curriculum with areas of focus — though it’s not a set year-round curriculum. For example, in one period of two weeks I was there, we did guard passing, with no work (or very limited work) on guard defence or takedowns. As I was leaving, they shifted to choke attacks. Then, in another period, we did just turtle attacks and defence, as it was relevant to an upcoming competition.
The general style of the classes is
- Brief intro
- Around 30-45 minutes of a series of techniques, building on each other, working with one training partner.
- A 5-10 minute period of positional sparring (pass / sweep / submit)
- Closing remarks
- Rolling / open mat
The rolling round were usually six minutes, but I suppose that might vary at other times. People went for as long as they wanted, and the gym generally closed after 10 rounds or so.
That’s right, no warm-up! No running around the mat in circles! No push-ups! No shrimps! Thank goodness, no shrimping.
Isaac won’t of course be around forever (coaches always move on, start their own studios etc.), but the locals are glad to have him.
You can book private training with Isaac and see his video on his site, dovadoggdojo.com.
6am Classes — Garrett Tringale
The 6am classes are different. They’re run by Garrett Tringale. During the time I trained with him, he did a lot of leg lock entries, attacks, and defence — thank goodness, because it has been a huge hole in my repertoire.
Garrett is a lovely dude, someone I felt on friendly terms with quickly. He’s actually an actor and model, so train with him if you want to be taken down and quickly submitted by someone more skilled and more handsome than you are. You have nothing on him! Just kidding.
Garrett’s classes do start with a warm-up, which I really need at 6 am (especially as I visit around Thanksgiving, when it gets chilly in the mornings). Otherwise, it follows the same structure as the 11am classes, with technique, some situational sparring, and then rolling.
I have enjoyed 6am classes everywhere I’ve gone. A different breed of person goes to those classes. There’s a lot of positive energy in the air, I think because people aren’t stressed out from their days, so there’s more experimentation and laughter. Nobody’s letting off steam at 6am! Anyway, Garrett’s classes are exactly that.
The sweetest part is he ends every class with a group photo, as every class is a special occasion. (That’s the photo in the community / culture part at the top).
The Space / Facilities at 10th Planet Fullerton
I don’t know how many square metres / feet / acres this gym is, but it’s massive. Twenty or thirty people can train there at once… in fact with 10 pairs of people rolling there’s still plenty of space. It’s America! There’s lots of space (well, outside the center of big cities, anyway).
The area is ~80% mat, plus some benches to put your stuff, and some locker rooms / bathrooms out back.
There are two full showers, plus a bathroom, and another locker room. The showers are a the individual style — no prison-style shower blocks here (which is the norm in Europe).
If you’re visiting and paying month-to-month (cancellable), membership at 10th Planet Fullerton is $210 per month right now. Pretty reasonable price for California, though of course that’s expensive for more. An ongoing membership is $159.99. You can see more on the site, in case this gets out of date, which I expect it will soon.
One notable thing is that membership gets you access to a network of gyms. So if you’re travelling around for work, you can drop into the others.
Quick note — I noticed while writing this post that the website “http://www.10thplanetorangecounty.com/”, which I used late 2022 to find out about this location, now redirects to “https://www.ocnogijiujitsu.com/”. I’m not sure if some rebranding is underway.
I really enjoyed my time at 10th Planet Fullerton. I’d love to go back for three months (or more!) and get more of the curriculum.
But I had more travels to do, so I first left mid-Jan for Argentina, to train in Buenos Aires. Initially, I planned on training at Breakers MMA. I wrote that “I haven’t found out much about it and reviews seem a little old, but they have a nice website and … we’ll see! I’m a little apprehensive, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll go somewhere else.” It turns out my fears were justified; it was a weird place, and I’m not alone in having that reflection. Here’s my review (and caution away from) Breakers MMA here.
Where I ended up in Buenos Aires was at Vera Fight Club, a place where I’ve made more friends than I have at any other gym in the time I stayed there. Check out my review of Vera Fight Club here.
I ended up back at 10th Planet in late 2023. It’s one of the few gyms to which I’ve returned. I’ll be back again!