Where is the gym located?
312 Palmer Road, Suite A
Madison, AL 35758
How many people train there?
Currently we have 30 kids training and 9 adults, hoping to continue to grow both the adult and kid classes.
Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
We are growing! Albeit slowly, we’ve been adding 1-2 people here and there. It’s still our first month of operation so people are just finding out about Pirate BJJ. We have had a couple new kids since opening and a couple new adults.
What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
Highest belt is a 1 stripe purple. The lowest is a no stripe white belt with a couple weeks of training.
When did Pirate BJJ, USA open?
Labor Day – September 4th, 2023!
Some facts about you:
Name: Seth Spratlin
Belt: 1 stripe brown
Profession: Mechanical Engineer
Years in BJJ: 6, my jiu jitsuversary is August 7th, 2017
Other martial arts: None
Currently living in: Madison, Alabama, United States
Originally from: I was born in Charleston, South Carolina. My dad is a Marine so growing up we moved every three years all over the US. I would call the southeastern US where I’m from. Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina are where I’ve lived the most.
Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
Well, like all good pirate stories, my gym began as a mutiny. I had been training at the same gym since starting Jiu Jitsu, and after a couple years had created and was running my own kids class. This former gym was set to move to a new building and was merging with a karate program into a mega-martial arts thing. I have long had a tumultuous relationship with my former coach, and I found out he was plotting to steal my kids’ class from me in the move and reorganization. So I struck first, and opened Pirate BJJ, taking my kids class and a few adults with me in the split.
Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
I call them the Skeleton Crew: those few plucky adults who came with me in the move. They are less traditional, less formal than many practitioners. Most of them, myself included, are nerds. We like watching UFC, and we all have engineering and/or military service backgrounds. We don’t like silly warmups before class, and everyone is excited that I am moving to the ecological approach of teaching jiu jitsu.
Why do they train in Pirate BJJ, USA?
Everyone has their own reasons. I know one is a lifelong martial artist who discovered he liked BJJ the best, another is former military who fell in love with BJJ after training combatives in the Army. Some are high school wrestlers who do BJJ because it’s like the pickup basketball version of their sport, and some are just coworkers of all these people: they got pestered enough to try it and now we won’t let them quit.
What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
There are two main challenges I’ve faced so far. The first being the wearing of many, many hats. I’m not just an instructor, I’m the adult class instructor, the kids class instructor, the mat enforcer when out of towners visit, I’m also doing construction work to remodel the inside of my building to function as a gym better, I’m a businessman getting all the appropriate licenses and equipment, I’m the accountant doing billing and payments, I’m the IT guy running our website and social media presence (Pirate BJJ on FB and @piratebjjllc on Instagram!). If it’s related to running the gym then I’m either doing it myself or coordinating getting it done.
The other big challenge is one of the hats – advertising. Just getting the word out so that people know we exist. But doing that cheaply because everything about opening a gym is expensive. It’s tough.
How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
There’s a ton of potential here. We’re in Madison, but basically a suburb of Huntsville. There’s a huge Army base here, tons of law enforcement, and lots and lots of other engineering nerds like myself. Along with the ever-increasing popularity of BJJ, there’s just going to be a ton of growth in the area. I think there will be several more gyms that open in the next few years, hopefully mine has grown dramatically in that time.
What’s the best thing about Pirate BJJ, USA?
The merch! Everybody loves a pirate theme! Ha, but seriously the openness. I have belt requirements and expectations available for anyone to review, so what I think constitutes each belt level is not a secret. I’m always happy to talk with anybody about what I’m doing or why in terms of how I teach classes and how I do promotions. I actively encourage everyone to go train anywhere and everywhere, and we gladly welcome anybody who wants to train, regardless of whatever gym they call home. And we have an excellent group here. We like to train hard and get after it and help each other get better, but we all have jobs to go to the next day so we take care of each other as well. Everybody here is just chasing skill, trying to get better at this crazy art we all love.
What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
The NASA Space and Rocket center is not even 5 minutes away from Pirate BJJ. It is a fascinating place to tour if you are remotely interested in space or the US history of space travel. A lot of retired engineers who worked on programs like Apollo just hang out there and they are happy to talk about what it was like and what they worked on.
We have a ton of fabulous local breweries, restaurants, and food trucks right here in Huntsville and Madison. There’s a thriving classic car scene here as well. We’re also close to a lot of cool places to visit: Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Nashville if you like blues and country music, and Atlanta is just around the corner too.