How Our Jiu Jitsu Gym In Baltimore Builds Strength And Success

What To Expect At First Jiu Jitsu Class
Take a look inside to learn how we build strength and success at our Jiu Jitsu gym in Baltimore. Zenyo Jiu Jitsu shares its six-step process to become unstoppable.

A Look Inside Our Jiu Jitsu Gym

Hi, I’m John David Emmett, the owner and head instructor of Zenyo Jiu Jitsu. I want to give you an in-depth look inside our Jiu Jitsu gym in Baltimore. I’ve trained  in martial arts for the past 22 years and have dedicated my life to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

I’ve been blessed to work with amazing instructors who’ve taught me incredible lessons — what I’ve come to realize are superpowers. I want to share these lessons with you so that you, too, can have superpowers.

As a coach, my mission is to lead students to be strong physically and mentally. I coach them to realize they can be successful no matter what. Success, no matter how small, builds unstoppable momentum. Success is our superpower. 

The purpose of this post is to give you an inside look how we run our Jiu Jitsu gym in Baltimore. So, here is what you can expect to experience in our Jiu Jitsu classes at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu. I hope you will join us. 

 Part 1:  Jiu Jitsu Basics: Unbeatable

Process and technique are the path to unbeatable skill

Part 2: Jiu Jitsu Workout: Unbreakable

Build functional strength for an unbreakable body

Part 3: Jiu Jitsu Philosophy: Unstoppable 

Mindset and community create unstoppable progress 

Part 4: Jiu Jitsu Learning: Unrivaled

Faster learning with less confusion using scientific principles for unrivaled practice

Part 5: Jiu Jitsu Kids: Independence

Kids jiu jitsu as a path to focus, strength and confidence

Part 6: Jiu Jitsu Gym: Baltimore 

Jiu Jitsu classes In Baltimore at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu

Watch the video below to learn more about our Jiu Jitsu gym in Baltimore. 

Section 1

Jiu Jitsu Basics


In life, there are no judges to decide who wins and loses. Only one thing matters: If you are willing to fight, you will be unbeatable.

The Ultimate Skill 

Each day presents obstacles and challenges to achieving your goals. The more you learn how to fight through these barriers, the better you can create the life you want, to be unbeatable. 

Being unbeatable does not mean you never lose. It means that Jiu Jitsu gives you tools to develop unbeatable skill. Fighting is the ultimate skill. 

In most martial arts you lose by being knocked to or held down on the ground. Jiu Jitsu is the only martial art that doesn’t count getting knocked down as losing. Jiu Jitsu does not impose rules to protect you—which is the same as in a true fight. Your training prepares you to defend yourself no matter what.

Jiu Jitsu fighters have proved this to the world for hundreds of years. Jiu Jitsu legend Royce Gracie proved it by winning the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Before him, his family in Brazil proved it in challenge matches against tough fighters in other styles. 

The fighting attitude of Jiu Jitsu has always been the same. We prepare for everything. “You put the devil on the other side, and I will come to fight,” Royce said. 

Unbeatable Technique 

Learning to fight—learning Jiu Jitsu—is a process.

The process is the science of setting—and achieving—goals. The process is focusing on the small steps that make the big steps possible. Everything gets broken down into smaller and smaller steps: small wins. Too small to fail is the idea behind the process. 

Understanding how to apply Jiu Jitsu principles of the process can give you a way to improve every aspect of your life. Process is the path to success. Moment by moment, you can win the process. Creating these small wins pays big dividends. 

Training at Zenyo focuses on six skills: strike, block, grab, trip, get up and submit. All these skills are utilized in five basic Jiu Jitsu techniques. These five—our foundation—work equally well for students of all ranks and for self-defense, mixed martial arts or sport competitions. They are some of the most successfully applied moves used at the World Championship level. 

Zenyo’s program blends skills, techniques, and practice together seamlessly to build the base critical for future success.

Watch the video below to learn the most important Jiu Jitsu basics. 

Section 2

Jiu Jitsu Workout


You have to be strong to fight the battles you face on and off the mats. Developing your strength in the right way makes you unbreakable.

Strength For Lifetime Training

Strength is how you prepare your body for the challenges of moving in the dynamic and unpredictable circumstances of Jiu Jitsu. Real strength is intelligence in movement. It’s not the load; it’s how you carry it. Strength used in the right way makes you unbreakable.

To understand how to create a strong and healthy Jiu Jitsu workout program, it is helpful to know that the body is designed with muscles for different purposes. The muscles of the limbs—the legs, hips and arms—are designed for motion. The muscles of the spine are designed to stabilize against motion. Core muscles help hold the spine in neutral. 

A neutral spine is a strong spine. 

Many old-school Jiu Jitsu workouts have been shown through research to break down your spine. At Zenyo, we avoid traditional exercises like sit-ups, leg lifts, and bridges. We use scientifically proven methods to build and strengthen the body. 

Our program is guided by the research of world-renowned spine expert Stuart McGill. “Recent investigations into injury mechanisms have revealed that many back training practices actually replicate the loads and motions that cause the parts of the low back to become painful and even injured,” McGill writes. “For example, pain is often triggered with repeated forward flexion motion of the spine in the jiu jitsu athlete more than heavy load. Better skill means less force is required.”

The Jiu Jitsu workout we use at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu in Baltimore builds strength and endurance around your spine and keep it in its most protected alignment. These exercises directly challenge your core to maintain good alignment and stability that are critical to successful training. 

Watch the video below to practice the Jiu Jitsu workout we use in our gym. 

Section 3

Jiu Jitsu Philosophy


No one gets to the top without a fight. With a strong mindset, you have the power to be unstoppable. 

Culture of Inclusion

I clearly remember one of my very first martial arts classes. We did lots of calisthenics. Then I was rushed through one basic technique. 

I was put to spar almost immediately with an experienced student. I told him I didn’t know anything. I asked him to go easy on me. 

The next thing I know, I’m getting punched in the face over and over again. My partner smiled at me the whole time. He would show me how to punch, and then immediately counter me. Pow. 

Now that I run my own school, I would never allow that to happen.

Our goal at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu is to create a culture of inclusion where everyone is welcome and working together to do their best. 

Our brain is always scanning the environment to make sure we are safe. We make judgments of new people within eight seconds of meeting them. That’s why I started a handshake rule at our Jiu Jitsu gym. We all shake hands at the start and end of every class. (We may have to elbow bump now.) I’ve asked all our students to greet every new visitor immediately and welcome them to the gym. 

We are here guide you in a way that creates a great welcome to martial arts. No one will punch you in the face as you are clueless how to defend. 

You should expect to feel like you are meeting new friends. We are happy to have you with us to learn Jiu Jitsu. We will introduce you to the group and make you feel like you belong right from your first Jiu Jitsu class.

Mutual Benefit

You start to develop your potential in Jiu Jitsu through competition. We compete with each other to learn what works and what needs improvement. This element of competition is essential to success. 

There is more to competition, however, than winning. In fact, competition has not always had the connotation of winning and losing like it does now. In Latin, competition means “striving together.”

In striving together, both participants benefit. By helping your teammates get better, you also increase your opportunities for improvement. The idea is called mutual welfare and benefit. We use it at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu as the philosophy for our training

The goal is for everyone to benefit together. Research shows that by helping others, we feel happier, work harder and actually perform better. 

You develop your own potential to the fullest by helping others. This is what is meant by the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle.

Section 4

Jiu Jitsu Learning


Practice has the power to transform you. Unrivaled practice creates small miracles on the mats every day. 


A Path To Success

Jiu Jitsu has thousands of techniques. You could spend a lifetime trying to learn an almost infinite list of moves. If you did, you would be wasting your time. 

Jiu Jitsu has six skills that you need to master. That’s it. 

At our Jiu Jitsu gym in Baltimore, we teach everything you need to know in one class. After that one class, you should understand how to handle yourself in a fight. 

We cycle through the techniques, breaking them down into their skill components and then spiral through them over and over in different ways to ensure students understand them and can use them for real. (See Joe Rogan And Ben Askren talk about how many Jiu Jitsu gyms get training wrong.)

Training consists of fight simulations in a controlled manner. Many of the drills at Zenyo are based on a constraint-based model of play for advanced learning

There is a ton of science backing both play and constraint-based practice as highly effective in helping athletes progress quickly while developing the essential skills of anticipation and problem solving. 

“The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods that nature has created to allow a complex brain to create itself,” writes author Stuart Brown in his book, Play: How It Shapes The Brain, Opens The Imagination And Invigorates The Soul.

A positive learning environment that is fun creates committed students who will progress in Jiu Jitsu long term. 

Watch the video below to see how we use fight simulations to run a fast-paced Jiu Jitsu practice that prepares students for real resistance from a training partner. 

One of my students, Andy, was amazed at how he was immediately able to accelerate his takedown ability with a grab concept.  He marveled, “That’s all I have to do?!” And then made a throwing motion. Pow. 

To see how we use play—and constraints— in our Jiu Jitsu for beginners class, watch the two videos below. Notice the constraints of the drill. In the first video, person on bottom must block getting the head touched.

In the second video, we use overload (more than one partner) to increase the challenge of a guard-passing drill

Four Keys To Real Progress

In the quest for “maximum efficiency and minimal effort” in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there are always new discoveries to be made. Learning never ends. Learning structure is one of the most important elements to build success for students. 

Our method for Jiu Jitsu learning focuses on a simple concept. Students learn best when they repeatedly see the things they are expected to learn. We learn best in a spiral, not in a linear fashion like a straight line. The technical name for this is spiral curriculum.  

At Zenyo, we spiral through our lessons in each class. This way ensures students utilize two of the most important methods of learning: interleaving and spaced practice. (The other two are active recall, more later, and initiative.) 

Basically, what this means is that practice is combined into many elements and learning is spaced out between sessions. In this method, basic skills are learned first, without worrying about complex details. In our case, we focus on learning the six skills first, rather than an in-depth breakdown of one skill. The magic of this method is that it works for adults and children. 

Each class cycles through the skills, and we use the spiral, to review what we’ve been working on. This way skills and concepts are consistently reinforced and refined. In a linear curriculum, if you miss a class, you might not revisit that topic for some time. 

One of my students, Dave, a teacher himself, has started to incorporate the method into how he teaches his college students. “It’s amazing,” he said about how the spiral curriculum reinforces learning.  

In the spiral, students focus on improving their retention and application each class. Much of what we teach in our bjj gym is centered around a process of active recall. 

Make It Stick, The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown extensively covers the power of active recall. 

“The best way to make learning stick is to focus less on getting knowledge into the brain and more on getting it out,” Brown writes. “This is because we learn best by trying to retrieve an answer and this holds true even before we have been taught what the answer is. The struggle to figure it out opens the mind to gaps in our knowledge and helps to embed new learning, connecting it to what we already know, and making it easier to get hold of again when we need it later.”

Since changing my teaching to using active recall, I’ve seen significant improvements in my students. Mostly notably, they are all able to spar better and feel comfortable on the mat much sooner. 

They also enjoy class more.

Focusing on strategies for learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has helped them progress more toward mastery rather than short-term fluency.

Once students realize the learning process, they can transfer those benefits to other areas of life. They can learn effective, efficient ways to solve many problems. Treating training as a path for learning can make it fun and rewarding and something students can do for the rest of their lives. 

This is the approach to Jiu Jitsu learning I take at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu in Baltimore.

Section 5

Jiu Jitsu For Kids

Jiu Jitsu For Kids

Zenyo means the best use of physical and mental energy. You’ll learn fighting skills and life skills at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu. 

Teaching Kids Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu teaches kids how to develop skills that transfer from the mat to daily life. They learn to focus, become disciplined through practice and work together in partnership. 

Kids are wonderfully adept at learning. That’s why I teach our kids jiu jitsu classes in Baltimore in almost the exact same manner as the adults. I have never found a reason to dumb down my teaching for kids. When we set high standards, kids are then able to rise to meet the standard.

This is a cognitive theory advanced by Jerome Bruner, who wrote, “We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development.” Bruner believed, as do I, that even the most complex material, if properly structured and presented, can be understood by very young children. Our Jiu Jitsu for kids program starts at 4 years old. 

I learned very early on that a traditional structure for teaching Jiu Jitsu class was not effective for what I wanted to accomplish. The usual method of demonstration, explanation, repetition, and more detailed explanation left kids bored and confused—same with the adults, but they are better at hiding their boredom. 

Learning is active. We learn by doing. The kids love a fast-paced, active environment. Their minds engage and they want to take on new challenges. 

The first skill in learning, according to author Peter Brown, can be described as initiative. We learn best by trying things first. 

Kids are amazing at this. With a framework to jump right in, they gain initiative and confidence in their own abilities. They build our primary goal—autonomy—the ability to learn and do for themselves. 

“When people feel successful, even with small things, their overall level of motivation goes up dramatically, and with higher levels of motivation, people can do harder behaviors,” writes Stanford behavior scientist BJ Fogg in his book Tiny Habits

Seeing other kids be successful is inspiring. But success can be an unequal coach. Some kids do great, while others get left behind and struggle. The goal of a good coach is to make sure that no one gets left behind or overlooked. We focus our Jiu Jitsu classes on building success for all kids.

Watch the video below to see how we work to build strong Jiu Jitsu kids

Section 6

Jiu Jitsu Gym In Baltimore

Start Your Path To Superpower

Zenyo means best use of physical and mental energy. You’ll learn fighting and life skills at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu. 

Our BJJ Gym In Baltimore

Thanks for sticking with me. That is a lot of information. 

 Now you know exactly what to expect from training at our Jiu Jitsu gym in Baltimore. I hope you will stop in for a free class at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu. (See our Jiu Jitsu Schedule.)

Zenyo is focused on learning Jiu Jitsu, but it is much more than that. It is a way to build the skills to become unstoppable in whatever you choose to pursue. 

You won’t master the process all at once. It takes time. But you will get there.  

Don’t worry about the path ahead. To make the most of your life, do what you can right now, no matter how small. Nothing is so small that it doesn’t matter. Be gentle; work to be efficient as possible; help yourself and others progress. 

The most important lesson you’ll learn along the way in Jiu Jitsu is how to improve your skill in practice. Practice has the power to turn “I can’t” into “I can.” 

I’m blessed to see this success all the time, for example in my student Dave. He’s been a student at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu for three years. In that time, he has seen his learning and skill expand exponentially. 

“John’s teaching has taken my practice to a level I never thought possible,” he writes. “Before, rolling was mostly a battle of muscle and stamina. Coaching in proper use of body mechanics and movement changed my practice profoundly. I think and move effectively, roll safely and thoughtfully, have more fun, and am learning more than ever.”

This is the process. Dave’s results are possible for everyone. Follow this process and you will have your own superpower.

Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore is committed to creating a great environment for all students. For your first class you can expect to feel welcome and safe, to have fun while being challenged. We will guide you on the way. When you are ready, we are here. We hope you will join us on this amazing journey so you can have your own Jiu Jitsu benefits.

If you liked this article, please leave a comment and share with me what is the one thing you most want to learn in Jiu Jitsu. 

Before you go, make sure to download our free ebook: Superpower: How To Build Fighting Strength For On And Off The Mats. In it, I cover more of our process and show you how to create the superpower of unstoppable progress.


Hit the I’m ready button below to sign up for your free class. We can’t wait to meet you. We are stronger together.

Best, John

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