Back to the Basics at Gracie Barra Long Island

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Professor Joe Scarola begins the fundamentals class at Gracie Barra Long Island by bowing in / Photo by Erin Herle

On a clear and crisp day in early January, traveled on a train ride to GMA Gracie Barra Long Island. The town of New Hyde Park is located in the middle of Long Island, NY and mostly seen as a commuter type of town. The train tracks run right through and given the amount of traffic from the Long Island Rail Road trains, the gates on the North/South are often bowing down.

But the trains aren’t the only route through the town, and the crossing gates aren’t the only ones bowing. Should you drive on the main highway, Jericho Turnpike, you can’t miss the Gracie Barra academy with it’s large window signs of white lettering and smiling faces that welcome any character inside. Looking in,students bow into class and when entering and leaving the mat any time of the day– morning, noon and night.

Joe Scarola is the man in charge who has planted this academy’s roots not far from where his own Jiu-Jitsu journey began. Originally starting the art when he was 18, he found places to get his training in no matter the weather or circumstances even traveling to Brazil often. In 2005, Joe received his black belt from Renzo Gracie and Matt Serra.

After a short stint on The Ultimate Fighter that he chose to leave, he ended up leaving behind his entire life as well. With no home academy to train or place to teach, he began his own make-shift location and held classes in a community center kitchen in Queens. Fifteen students was enough loyalty for him to expand, and in May of 2008 he established Scarola Jiu-Jitsu.


Students practice headlock defense / Photo by Erin Herle

Today, Gracie Barra is the official affiliation for the Long Island location but Scarola Jiu-Jitsu is very much the essence of Joe’s academy he calls home. As the train neared on the morning of January 14, two students of Scarola’s named Carlos and Frank were there to make sure the trek to the academy was a short one. A quick drive to the back of the academy and through the MMA cage entrance led to a two-part mat area, front desk with a hardwood-floored sitting area as well as a changing room around the other side.

The noon class on Mondays is a basic curriculum geared towards self-defense and the fundamental understandings that every practitioner must know. Joe ran a class with mostly white belts but an occasional blue belt, purple belt and brown belt mingled among the newbies. Every technique was direct and within a context of self-defense that was easily translated to a striking or attack circumstance. The guard pass shown below in the video is a pass on the knees that is a starting point for many being introduced to that aspect of the art.

The rolling session of the class was specified for strictly guard work and guard passing, allowing the students to immediately apply what they learned. Joe’s attentiveness to his students gave a formal setting of respect and integrity while also opening himself to concerns and questions. His watchful eye and constant movement around the mat area made sure that mistakes were corrected before there was any question from the student and that the element of safety was endured throughout the class period.

Thanks for the visit and the kind hospitality to Joe Scarola, Frank and Carlos! See you soon!

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