Ultimate Fitness Evanston

823 Emerson St

Evanston, IL 60201



Jeff Serafin- BJJ Black Belt (Jack McVicker / Megaton Dias)

Current Schedule:

Monday: 5:30pm Gi

Tuesday: 12:00pm Gi, 6:00 pm No-Gi

Wednesday: 7:30pm Gi

Thursday: 12:00pm Gi, 6:00 pm No-Gi

Friday: 5:30pm Open Mat

Saturday: 10:30am Gi

Sunday: Open Training


Serafin BJJ is located within Ultimate Fitness Evanston.

Parking: There is adequate parking all around the building and on the street. Make sure not to park in the dry cleaner’s parking directly in front of the building. They are old and cranky. Don’t park there.

Jeff Serafin has an incredible space to train in. There is a cage, full boxing ring, heavy bags, a LOT of mat space, weight equipment (including other training equipment like ropes and two extra rooms with even more equipment in them), lockers, and showers. There was a lot of room on the mat with the 15 people training on a Saturday morning.

My experience:

Traffic was really nice on my Saturday morning excursion to Serafin BJJ in Evanston, IL. I arrived late regardless (kind of my m.o.) so I missed what would’ve been the first 10 minutes of a Ginastica Natural class. I wanted to include it in the review anyways because it’s an awesome addition to the classes offered at Serafin BJJ and it is not currently listed on their website.

The warm-ups for class were brief and simple, but definitely sufficient. From there we moved straight into technique.

Technique for the day (and for the previous classes as well) was working on the omoplata.

We went through entries into the omoplata and drilled those.

Then we discussed a way to break down the opponent’s posture once we lock it in and drilled it.

Next were two alternate shoulder locks from the omoplata (near and far side shoulders) and we drilled.

Last was a collar choke from the omoplata based on whether the opponent gives you the far side shoulder or not. This was drilled as well.

I wrote this in a specific manner to make a point. Jeff teaches each move individually and doesn’t overwhelm students with instruction (as some instructors may do). I noticed that the majority of students were not having great difficulty when allowed to drill on their own. He breaks things down into understandable chunks.

Also, Jeff spent a lot of time talking about theory behind what we were doing, why we were doing it, and why it will work. If you’ve never read Matt Thornton’s blog about the effectiveness of ‘Aliveness’ training, you should. I don’t know if Jeff has, but I believe that the method that Thornton and Serafin both use to teach technique is one of the most effective methods for teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I loved what Jeff had to say about the omoplata being a position / guard and not just a submission.

Along those same lines, after technique we sparred 50-60% with a partner with the omoplata already locked in. I won’t go into a large diatribe about why this is essential for understanding, but I was really happy that Jeff uses this method to reinforce what was just taught. The things that he taught that day have stuck with me and immediately became a part of my game because I was able to drill it on a lightly resisting partner. Very good idea for building muscle memory.

The class was made up of mainly blue and white belts, but I do not believe this to be typical of Serafin BJJ. Most of Jeff’s higher belts were taking a break because the class I came to was right after a big competition and many of them were taking the day off to recuperate or travel. Still, Jeff’s blue belts are nothing short of awesome. They’ve almost all been with him from their beginning in BJJ and it was obvious.

After the omoplata sparring, we went into free sparring where I was paired with blue belts, and also had the opportunity to roll with Jeff. The blue belts all gave me a great deal of trouble and I can tell that the skill level at Serafin BJJ is very high. I’ve been to gyms in the past (prior to the inception of this venture), where I was able to dominate everybody except for the instructor. This is NOT the case with Jeff’s students. I was swept, mounted, tapped, etc. by a very skilled group of guys.

The sparring was very intense, but controlled. Every person played a unique game (this is a good thing because some gyms have everybody trying to play the exact same game) and every match was competitive. Even the white belts that I observed played games based on solid basics each with their own individual flair.

Rolling with Jeff was a fantastic experience. He stressed the importance of control and when I rolled with him, I felt that control. Jeff has his own game and is very good at it (watch out for those kimuras!), but he is absolutely amazing at shutting down your game. I tried everything:

De la riva? Nope.

Berimbolo roll? Nope.

Okay, closed guard? Nope

Half guard? Crap, I forgot he loves half guard. Nope.

Okay. He pulls guard. I get swept like it’s my first day.

When time was called I was simultaneously bummed and overjoyed. I didn’t want the roll to end, but I’ve never felt control and patience like Jeff had with me. I was different being controlled, but not being smashed. Great experience.

Total berimbolo fail.

Jeff was exceptionally hospitable and very welcoming to a visitor. I was surprised to learn that the more I travel, the more I discover how we all know the same people. Jeff has been a part of the BJJ scene in Northwest Indiana, Illinois, and Chicago areas for over ten years. Jeff and I sat and talked for a long time after class was over and I feel that’s pretty typical of Jeff. He was very willing to give his time to benefit his students.

Students in Evanston are very fortunate to have Jeff. His academy is large, has great training equipment, and excellent instruction. That being said, I hope this review has been an accurate representation of him and his academy. When choosing an instructor, often times you need to look at their personality. I will (hopefully) be doing an interview with him soon.

Thanks for reading! A special thanks to Jeff for opening up his academy to me!!

Again, thanks for waiting so many weeks for this review!

I’ll have my reviews of Mota Martial Arts and Gracie Barra Chicago up next week so keep your eyes tuned for that!

More to come this summer!

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