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School Review: Rising Sun - Ridgefield Park, NJ

Posted by Mark Figula on February 16, 2011 at 11:45 PM

By Mark Figula, The Mouth of MMA Senior Editor

In 1964, The Animals spent three weeks at number one when they said:

There is a house in New Orleans

They call the Rising Sun

And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy.

Well, tucked away on a quiet main street in a small New Jersey town, not more than 15 minutes from Manhattan, the House of the Rising Sun is doing anything but ruining poor boys.  Thanks to proprietor, Dennis Melone, this academy has become the place "poor boys" go to stay out of trouble.

Established in 2003 as a traditional Okinawan Karate school, Rising Sun Academy added BJJ/MMA classes in 2008.  Unlike most teachers of traditional martial arts, Dennis had a solid appreciation for MMA and saw how aspects of his style could apply in the cage.  Now, some three years after the program was established, Rising Sun has a wall full of jiu jitsu competition accolades, multiple winning amateur MMA competitors, and quite an impressive wrestling program for kids.  What sets Rising Sun further apart has been the willingness to bring in troubled youths and give them something to focus on and be a part of.  Unlike the song, this academy has been the salvation of many a poor boy. That, though, is a story for another column...

The first thing you'll notice when you enter the academy is that the atmosphere is much more upbeat and energetic than most BJJ/MMA schools.   With the number of competition trophies the school has, and with the quarter cage in the rear of the hall, you'd imagine this to be one of those "meathead" gyms.  It's anything but that, though.  The people you will find here are as enthusiastic about their training as any you've met and the mood is almost playful.  The head BJJ instructor somehow manages to deftly straddle the line between a relaxed type of class and keeping everyone focused.  Bringing in knowledge from his travels to just about every name academy on the left coast, he keeps a close eye on his students as they learn the techniques and is always adding details and making fine corrections for them.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say, with his students compiling more NAGA and Grappler's Quest wins than any other school within ballistic missile distance. 

The uniquely fun atmosphere doesn't end with the training, however.  Recently, the school has adopted "Friday Night Fights" which are open MMA sparring sessions run much like small MMA events.  The combatants pad up well and the environment is controlled, but the sparring sessions do get intense and the end result for the school's MMA competitors as well as those troubled street kids with need for an outlet  has been quite positive. 

The second brainchild of Sensei Melone is the "Gladiator Games" which are a series of competitive events held on Saturday afternoons.  The games are all designed to increase fight related skills while giving the competitors great cardio workouts.  Grabbing a flag off an opponents waist while avoiding cones (developing footwork), pugil stick battles, etc...  It makes one think of American Gladiators.  Again, the end result is people learning important skills and having a blast doing it.

If you are looking for an upbeat, if somehwat unorthodox place to train, I highly recommend you stop in and see what Rising Sun is all about. 

Rising Sun Academy Website


Mark "The Ezequiel" Figula is the biggest wuss to ever enter a cage... the most spindly chickenass dude to ever tap out at NAGA... the boy who was told that the pen is mightier than the sword... and thus he writes. Check out his home page of scribblings at


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Reply Anthony Di Gennaro
1:20 PM on February 28, 2011 
Being a witnes to the atmosphere, in this academy "Rising Sun" as well as speaking with Dennis, This commentary is spot-on. This is a great school that also offers ancillary services like Folk Style wrestling. I've tried them all in the Bergen, and Hudson County Areas, this is by far the best, as Dennis and his team are's all about providing the help geared towards every individual's abilities.
Reply Mark Figula
2:35 AM on February 19, 2011 
Yes this is a promo video the school did that I posted to show their Friday Night Fights.