"Professor Rob would absolutely hate for someone to call him a sensei, master, or dare I say, guru, but perhaps he will accept the title of Jiu-Jitsu doctor... Just not the Japanese kind. I've trained at some of the top schools in Ontario and without question the level of instruction at Island Top Team is heads and shoulders (and countless IQ points) above anything I've encountered. Rob was immediately able to identify the areas in my game i needed to refine and actually offered solutions and strategic adjustments, which is sadly rare in my experience. As a professional educator, I am able to see a clear pedagogy being followed and Rob has taken instruction to an unrivalled level of professionalism. This is likewise reflected in his talented students who are able to both utilize principles and offer insights that transcend their years of experience. As someone who has trained mostly in the gi, I now have a far greater appreciation for just how much more technical no gi grappling can be compared to its grip masking cousin, especially once viewed and practiced through the modules taught by Rob. Island Top Team definitely helps one build a much more balanced "universal" grappling system, which also happens to be on the cutting edge of techniques and training. Rob's hospitality was incredible. He is an honest, humorous, and hardworking instructor, and I am happy to have discovered this hidden gem before it no doubt becomes the gold standard for jiu-jitsu instruction and a mecca for grappling enthusiasts. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Island Top Team and Professor Rob Biernacki."
Marcus Kumala, BJJ Purple Belt
I just wanted to say thanks again for letting me come out and train with you all for a month! I really appreciate the opportunity - it's such a positive environment and genuinely such a pleasure to visit!
I don't know a huge amount about jiu jitsu (obviously), but I did train at a lot of different dojos over the years while I was doing judo, and it seems clear to me that you've built something really special at Island Top Team. It's really rare to find a place where everyone is so supportive, generous, and focused on helping one another improve. You seem to have somehow managed to foster an atmosphere that both demands high standards and is still incredibly welcoming to and respectful of those who haven't reached them yet. It's a real privilege to get to be an occasional interloper and impose upon your hospitality!
Whenever I'm in Nanaimo, I feel like I learn a huge amount in a short time from you, from Shane, and from many other people at the club who are kind enough to offer their time and share their knowledge with me. It's really striking how clearly you're are able to articulate basic principles, explain why they're important, and show how they're built upon to create more complex techniques. It sticks with me so much more than the "this works for me" explanations that I often receive when I ask why I should work on a particular move. Even in a month, jiu jitsu makes more sense to me now.
Anyway, I'm sorry for gushing, but I wanted to make sure I properly expressed my gratitude and let you know how lucky I feel to have the chance to learn from you!
"From the first time we saw Rob instruct, we liked what we saw. When my son joined Island Top Team it was confirmed, Rob's philosophy toward BJJ came from a true love of the acquisition of all aspects of knowledge that would benefit the elevation of one's game. His teachings are extremely comprehensive. From the technical, conceptual and physiological, to the psychological factors, he has a very structured curriculum that is carried out with clear, thorough explanations.
His Core Concepts and concept before technique approach gives one an excellent understanding of why the strengthening of key fundamentals is so essential. So come to Island Top Team with a genuine will to train, two good listening ears, consistent workouts, and watch your level be elevated with good speed. His approach is a great fit for us, it will be a great fit for you."
Frank, former owner of Wydel's gym,
Father of Island Top Team Student Connor
"I first started training with Island Top Team to learn martial arts but Rob taught me much more. At my age I thought I had learned most things, boy was I mistaken. I am a much better person than before I started at Island Top Team. Now I'm well on my way to being a valuable team member and good BJJ practitioner. Thanks ever so much professor Rob."
"Robert articulates Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in such a way that has allowed me to gain maximum efficiency out of my training. I have been doing judo for most of my life and have always had a passion for groundwork. Previously, I never had the local resources to elevate my game much further. I found that to be incorrect as I started training at Island Top Team. Robert has allowed me to progress much quicker than I ever could have expected. Not only can Robert teach in a clear and coherent matter, he displays his teachings very well when he rolls. Through Island Top Team, I believe anyone can learn effective Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because Robert teaches everyone moves and principles capable of defeating the most technical BJJ practitioner."
Shane Malone, Former National Judo Competitor
"Gold in Nanaimo! I was first exposed (my bjj game literally;) to ITT through recently competing against Shane at the UGF’s Washington State Grappling Championship. Although I’ve had some tournament success I was thoroughly bewildered at how easily he controlled the match through solid fundamentals and I was equally impressed with the success of the whole team. I could tell right away they were doing something different and came away knowing this wouldn’t be the last time we’d see each other. Although I live 5-6 hours away north of Seattle with multiple options to train I decided to get in touch with Robert to see if I could come for a visit and see what ITT was all about.
First impression, I was immediately taken back by his generosity. We had only met briefly at UGF and communicated through email yet he offered to provide transportation to and from the ferry, let me train at ITT and stay at his place! I admit I was a little apprehensive...who does this I thought? But this was something I couldn’t pass up.
Having had the opportunity to train at a number of clubs and academies including in California, I’ve been exposed to some world class talent and teaching. To my surprise that is what I found at ITT. Rarely is a Black Belt so willing to share everything he knows. From the start Robert seemed to withhold nothing and made it evident that he takes great pride in seeing his students take what they’ve learned from him and apply it even if it's at his expense!
Robert has traveled extensively to train with some of the best over the years and has honed his craft...acquiring the skills few have. He adeptly sees the big picture, focusing on essential fundamentals and discarding techniques that rely on strength or work only at the lower levels. Through his cerebral approach he has a keen ability to break down and conceptualize the art, but more importantly he has the ability to communicate it clearly. From day one he trains the brand new beginner and the season practitioner alike with the same goal...to beat Black Belts and take each individual to their highest potential.
Traveling to train with Robert and the Island Top Team has been one of my best investments in BJJ to date and I can’t wait to get back there. If you love BJJ and you’re on the island you need to visit, if not you need to plan a trip!"
BJJ Blue Belt
"Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is like trying to put a complicated puzzle together without complete illustrations or instructions. Professor Robert Biernacki has the whole picture and instruction booklet for you! Listen to his concepts and perfect his modules and the puzzle becomes easy! I traveled to BC all the way from Ontario specifically to train at Island Top Team with Robert. Thank you once again Professor."
John Ventresca, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Brown Belt, Mississauga Ontario
"Island Top Team is without a doubt the premier place to find quality Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Nanaimo and Central Vancouver Island, BC. Prof Robert's methods of instruction through concepts matched with ultra fun training partners make an excellent learning environment. Being a soldier, I've learned "techniques" and "moves" from a lot of instructors from around the world, Robert takes the bits and pieces and makes you understand the fundamentals to put it all together. I have developed my grappling more in the past five months with ITT than I have in my last five years of training. If you live in Nanaimo or ever find yourself there, ensure you make Island Top Team a place to visit."
MCpl James Locke, BJJ Purple Belt, Petawawa Ontario
"I started attending Robert's BJJ classes in late 2012. I had joined because I wanted to get a better understanding for how the submission game works. As a huge MMA fan, I decided I no longer wanted to be an armchair fan, but instead wanted to develop a first-hand understanding. Rob's classes were not what I had expected. I expected a class filled with alpha males who were all there to submit others and build their egos. Rob's classes are nowhere near that. He emphasizes patience and safety. Rob treats his classes like a "lab", where egos are checked at the door, or you can find another gym. The club has an excellent atmosphere, and everyone is respected."
"Robert was my first grappling trainer, when I started learning from him I had no background in any combat sport whatsoever. His ability to convey the principles of the sport, coupled with his knack for explaining why he teaches the techniques he does, lead me to finish first in my class at the Ontario grappling championships (winning every one of my matches by submission) after less than 1 year of training with him. Since he has relocated I have yet to find an instructor capable of matching his innate teaching prowess, I would recommend taking the opportunity to learn from him to anyone."
Exhumed from litost.
I believe it to be a positive choice to link rewards with achievements, and I learned the hard way what happens when the former arrives to the party without the latter. I received my blue belt in 2012, and to be clear I was well aware that I was not a great white by any means, but I didn't think I was plankton either. Being a peripatetic grappler with out a home club, or a pronounceable name for that matter, I sought out opportunities to learn and help develop my skill set, so I packed up and moved to Nanaimo, BC for the summer for the sole purpose of improving my BJJ. I arrived on April 28 and started ebulliently training right away only to be disproved that I was in fact plankton. Students who had just begun training no less than 6 months prior were exhibiting movement and technical ability that simply exceeded my skill set. I was repeatedly swept, strangled, and submitted. At the beginning of my trip, I was contemplating joining some of the Island Top Team (ITT) competition crew on their journey to the IBJJF World's 2013 Championship at the end of May, but that amount of failure started to take its toll on me and I began to question what I was thinking when I booked that plane ticket in the first place. Here's the thing, I thought I was higher up in the food chain and quickly that delusion was exposed - the mats are brutally honest. We all suffer at some point, in some aspect of our lives, and you can succumb to attrition or you can muster up some resilience and keep going. So I took off my blue belt, dawned on a white belt and tried to just enjoy the strangles in stride while maybe earning my stripes. I decided to compete in the World's and lost in the Quarterfinals. Sure I was disappointed, but I was also proud for stepping on to that platform despite all my inner reluctance. I kept training and over the 3 months I earned a stripe, and soon another, and then another. I ended up earning medals too, a gold, the next day another, and then another. I mentioned to Professor Rob that with all this training, once I earned that next stripe, I'd treat myself to a box of Oreo's. Days went on and I began finding my stride. I really practiced the structured modules ITT teaches, and worked on the curriculum everyday. I went from being walked over, to giving a hard time, to being competitive, to dominating, and then to submitting some of my beloved team mates. We all elevated one another, and the beautiful thing was that when one person became better, they inspired others to challenge themselves too.
Yes, it was an immensely difficult summer for many reasons, but I am thankful to Professor Rob and ITT for their lessons, for how can one truly appreciate great heights without the experience of profound depths? So I encourage you to challenge yourself, and if you ever find yourself in Nanaimo, BC, please treat yourself by visiting Island Top Team. You learn biomechanically superior techniques which are structurally supported by conceptual instruction borrowing from an array of sciences including human physiology, kinesiology, mechanics and physics. And you'll leave with an idea that may grow inside you, asking you "Can I be more and am I courageous enough to find out?"
And in case you were still wondering, I never actually earned those Oreo's. I earned my Blue Belt instead.
BJJ Blue Belt