Gym Review: Academy of Combat Arts (Fargo, ND)


Off the bat, I suppose that I should admit that maybe my first appearance at the Academy of Combat Arts wasn't exactly the most professional review I've ever done. I may have showed up halfway through class. And I may have drank a pitcher of beer immediately prior. And I may have forgot my grappling shorts at home. And I may have been wearing a Thundercats t-shirt instead of a rash guard...

Okay, so this was DEFINITELY the least professional I have ever done.

Still, regardless of my tardiness and what I can only assume was a linger aroma, the owner and head instructor Dylan Spicer (a three stripe brown under Greg Nelson/Pedro Sauer) welcomed me in and almost insisted that I step on the mat and work drills.

Guest instructor and BJJ brown belt Justin Chapweski was leading class when I showed up and I was, admittedly, lost.

Maybe it was the Coors Light to blood ratio in my veins, or maybe it was because he was going over some cool s*** that I rarely if ever work in my own game. Probably the latter.

From De La Riva, to reverse De La Riva, to a kind of crazy combination of reverse De La Riva/Butterfly, Chapweski showed several different sweep combinations, some of which were immediate transitions into a single leg takedown.

Very cool stuff.

Now, this isn't the kind of gym you go to if you are looking for a cross-fit area, boxing ring, half cage or really anything more than the bare bones essentials.

But who said you need more than that? UFC veteran Pablo Garza seems to make do.

After the main instruction we worked about a half hour of drilling using a different set of rules than I'm used to (butterfly guard versus kneeling/standing, however the kneeling couldn't submit and needed mount or back. This freed up the bottom person to work more aggressively and utilize different angles).

I had a couple chances to roll with Spicer and believe me, his rank is earned.

It's been a while since I've been to a gym that had that Rocky III feel, maybe since Dave Menne's old gym, and I had a blast.

It was a hot day, the mats were filled and everyone was working their ass off. Regardless of experience level, it really felt like everyone was trying to work technique that best fit their game. My Thundercats shirt left looking more like a used swimsuit (which I almost wore in lieu of board shorts).

For some reason, the Main Ave in Fargo has about five martial arts places within a mile, but I have to say, that if they bring half the environment that Academy of Combat Arts did, Fargo must be filled with some tough mother f***ers.

Now if they could only invent a green-turn arrow that lasted for more than five f***ing seconds. But that may be more of an issue for the City Council.