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School Review: Silver Fox BJJ

Posted by Mark Figula on September 21, 2012 at 5:25 PM

By Mark Figula, The Mouth of MMA Senior Editor


In a quiet strip mall on a not so quiet street, barely 5 minutes from Billy Joel's Hackensack-ack-ack-ack is one of the best places in the country a student of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can go to learn the gentle art.  Headed by Renzo Gracie black belt, Karl Pravec, the instruction at Silver Fox BJJ is reflective of Karl's calm yet determined demeanor. 

My first visit to Silver Fox was early in the Summer, when I wandered in through the glass door after having spotted the "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu" sign from across busy Market Street.  The spacious room on the other side was Spartan but filled with a quiet, positive energy that immediately put me at ease.  Having been to (and oft-reviewed) over a score of schools across the country, I have walked into all manner of situations, never quite sure what to expect.

As the class got started that day, what I found was an attentive, highly technical instructor at the helm who paid close attention to what each student was doing.  After the usual warm-ups and review of basic movements, the students paired off and worked on one of the new moves for the day.  Karl walked around the room, watching closely and making corrections where he saw it was needed.  He then showed the move again to the whole class, but now with a review of common mistakes he saw being made.  The next step would be to practice the move anew, but with a step up in resistance.

While this may seem to be a common sense way to learn new techniques, I can assure you that it is often a missing link in many training programs where techniques are thrown out like so many jacks and a student goes from practicing with no resistance to trying to use it in a live sparring session.  Score one for Silver Fox on developing a more refined, tougher jiu jitsu player.


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I should note that Silver Fox separates "basic" and "advanced" classes such that basic classes work on drilling techniques and don't include sparring.  This progression for new students through the basic class before being able to roll live also plays a significant role in breeding fighters who haven't developed sloppy habits.  Score two for Silver Fox.

My visit was during the advanced class, though and next up was a live sparring session.  Most surprising to me was something that is also unfortunately rare at many BJJ schools and that is having your sessions closely watched by the instructor and often his assistant instructor(s) as well.  Karl informed the class they would do five minute rounds and then switch partners.  He walked over to the timer, got it started and then wound through the room, stopping to observe how his students applied all he had taught them.  Anyone who has trained for any length of time knows how important it is to catch mistakes in live sessions and how often one can find an instructor at a school chatting with someone rather than watching what his students are doing.  More attention to detail.  Score three for Silver Fox.

The scoring doesn't end there, though.  The aforementioned assistant instructors are worthy of praise as well, sporting a diverse set of talents and perspectives.  While it is clear that each has learned to teach through the methods Karl sets forth, each also brings a unique bag of tricks into his class.  There is even a healthy dose of wrestling being taught on certain nights, which is something I have been hawking as the missing link in far to many BJJ player's arsenals in today's fight game.  You can't use great jiu jitsu if your opponent stuffs every take-down and continues to pummel you to the TKO.

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Another aspect of the instruction I found to be refreshingly keyed in on was the practical self defense applications of techniques.  Often when teaching a new technique, Karl would stop to explain a detail of it that is specific to protecting oneself if it where a non-sport situation.  It can be very easy to get caught up in the competition end of BJJ, but it would be unwise to forget what might transpire off a mat.  Score five for Silver Fox.

Now, after a Summer training with Karl, his assistants, and fellow students, I have seen my game grow in very good and tangible ways.  The level of competition, the expertise of the instruction, and the completely positive environment will be tough to match as I travel out and continue to review academies.  The bar has been set anew.

To find out more about Silver Fox BJJ, visit their 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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