Tokens and Types
Earn Your Way to the Ground: Blast Double

The Charleston Scene

As someone who is in the process of getting a non-profit up and running in the area with the goal of spreading jiu jitsu here in Charleston (see more here), it's in my vested interest to start bringing the various elements of the community here in town together. Gyms trend towards adopting insular and tribalistic attitudes--which may make business sense for the gym owners but which hurts the growth of the sport in the area.

As a pluralist about training and an open critic of the creonte mindset in jiu jitsu (see here), I thought I would start by posting a bit about each gym in the area (with links). Please help do your part to spread the word about the potential transformative power of jiu jitsu. If you have any experience with these gyms, please share your thoughts in the comment threads! I am hoping to organize and run a local submission only tournament here in town in the coming months/years. Let me know if that is something which would interest you!


Devine Jiu Jitsu James Island

This is my own home gym. We have a laid back attitude with overlapping but discrete crews in the morning and evening classes--which are generally run by different black belts. Given that we have six black belts who regularly teach or train here, it's a great spot for learning jiu jitsu whether you're just getting started or you've been at it for years.

The low key vibe is something the gym inherits from the head of our association--Scott Devine (who visits a few times per year). Scott is the first person to go from white belt to black belt under Red Belt Relson Gracie. If you come by the gym, ask for Jeff Roberston (morning classes) or Mike Sanda (evening classes). The monthly fee is $80 (with discounts for military/police/fire) and there are no contracts.

Devine Jiu Jitsu Summerville

One of Devine's local black belts--Maxwell Boyd--has started running his own chapter of Devine Jiu Jitsu up in Summerville at Pro Marial Arts Academy.

Checkmat Charleston

Owned by BJJ legend Leo Viera and run by Winsom Ramos and his wife (both newly minted black belts), this gym perhaps unsurprisingly has a competition mindset. Ramos is not only a world champion and up and coming star on the IBJJF circuit, but he is also launching his budding professional MMA career.

Charleston Krav Maga

This is not a jiu jitsu gym although they offer jiu jiu classes as part of their self-defense programming. The coach is black belt and UFC fighter Charleson Rafaello "Tractor" Oliveira.

Relson Gracie Academy

This gym offers classes by two Relson Gracie black belts--Jerry Brewer and Patrick McGuigan (both of whom have nearly 20 years of experience training and teaching BJJ). Brewer owned the first gym in the area back in the 1990s before jiu jitsu started spreading through the US. So, he has been a fixture on the scene here in Charleston from the beginning. Also, the gym has an active women self-defense program (see below for details).

Oceanside Jiu Jitsu

Oceanside is afiliated with the Relson Gracie Academy. It is run by Patrick and Amy McGuigan along with College of Charleston professor of Mathematics Amy Langville. The focus of OJJ is women's self defense.

ATT Lowcountry

ATT Lowcountry is owned and run by Malachy Friedman--who received his black belt from grappling legend Ricardo Libório who currently trains several UFC fighters. From what I have been told, there is a competition mindset at the gym--which is unsurprising given Friedman's background.

Arts for Fitness/Life

This Rigan Machado affiliate is another long-time staple on the Charleston BJJ scene--although they have seen a number of black belts rotate through the gyms over the years (which is often not a good sign). They currently have Professor Gilson Fernandes as their head instructor--a 4th  Degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu from the legendary Carlson Gracie Club and the highest ranking BJJ instructor in SC.

Tick Tock

This is the newest gym in the area--which is run by multi-time national and Pan Am champion Jacob McClintock. With a sponsored competition team, Tick Tock is clearly focused on the sport aspect of BJJ (which is fine, of course). Moreover, Tick Tock has already brought two high level grapplers to the areas to give seminars (namely, Jeff Glover and Bill Cooper). So,  Tick Tock is a welcomed addition to the grappling scene in Charleston.

American Judo and Jiu-Jitsu

I am including this gym here because of the shared lineage between judo, jiu-jitsu, and jiu jitsu. And while I am confident this is a good place to learn judo--the head instructor is a 3rd Dan and recent national champion--the lineage of the AJJJ instructor in BJJ (Eli Fletcher) is a bit suspicious. The bio suggests Fletcher has his second degree in BJJ whereas is seems he has been trained and promoted in more traditional forms of jiu jitsu. I leave that for readers of the blog to decide. 

Park Circle Jiu Jitsu

Owned and operated by Casey Collias purple belt Joseph Coker, PCJJ focuses on jiu jitsu for kids. Having spent some time talking with Joseph about the program, I am delighted he is dedicated to sharing jiu jitsu with kids in the lowcountry!

So, there you have it! A brief and admittedly biased overview of the grappling scene here in Charleston, SC as of March 2017! There are lots of places to receive top notch training in both the traditional and sportive aspects of jiu jitsu. Whether one is looking simply to get in shape, learn self-defense, or train for the next world championship, one ought to be able to find a suitable home base here in the area.




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