While I write this, I’m waiting for a flight to Boston (might try Fenix Fight Club, since I’ll be stuck in Burlington, Mass without a rental car) and planning a trip to Argentina in a few weeks (just starting my research there). So, before I’m off on these next adventures, I wanted to get down my wonderful experience in Panama for anyone else who may want to follow in my footsteps.
In my last post, I talked about my plans to train Jiujitsu while in Panama for a wedding. The first thing I did was check out Christian Graugart’s BJJGlobetrotter blog for posts on his time in Panama. He mentions three gyms — Fightshape, Gracie Barra Panama, and Spartan — but doesn’t provide much detail on the actual locations.
Some Googling turned up Facebook pages and addresses for all three, but this wasn’t the end of the search. Apparently, Panama hasn’t gotten around to numbering buildings. This fact, combined with the rapid rate of new construction and changes to street names, makes Google maps next to useless in locating places. I’ve put together the map below to give you a more exact location on Fightshape and Gracie Barra Panama. (Update 7/30/11 – added approximate marker for Spartan) Generally, addresses are given in context of some local landmark like a store or shopping mall. (Panamanians love their shopping malls.) Panama’s not the most pedestrian-friendly city, either. Fortunately, taxis are plentiful and cheap — $3 to $5 for most trips. (If it’s more you’re getting the Gringo Tax.) I used Radio Taxi, 221-1932.
Location: Calle 65A Este – between San Francisco and Via Porras, 01100 Panama City, Panama
On our first day, my wife went for a run in the Parque Omar and afterwards we went looking for Fightshape. The gym is right on the corner of Avenida Porras and Calle 65 which is four blocks from the Southwest corner of the park. It’s easy to spot since it has a bright yellow sign. Everything looks brand new and its a really stylish mid-sized space. There were mounted fans to combat the tropical heat which is essential given that it was already above 90F degrees when I showed up at noon. In addition to BJJ, the schedule has Muay Thai and Fightshape, their eponymous conditioning class. Classes were $12. I can’t really speak to anything other than the facilities because I ended up spending most of my time at…
Phone: (507)396-7600 Mobile (507) 6675-0885 U.S. Direct Line (305) 428-2220
Location: Punta Pacifica (In the Super 99 shopping plaza), Panamá, Panama
Once I found Fightshape I had planned to just cab it back there for the evening classes. All I knew about the Gracie Barra Panama was that it was near a Dunkin Donuts and a Super 99, but not being a local that didn’t give me a lot of information to go on. In an amazing example of BJJ karma, I mentioned this to the groom. He takes me to the balcony of the apartment I was renting and points at the back of a building across the street and tells me that it is the Super 99 (which is a popular supermarket). This was great because I could just walk there — even though this involved walking near a shanty town, over an ditch, up a steep embankment and across a highway overpass. Did I mention that Panama isn’t pedestrian-friendly?
Hands down, this is the best experience I’ve had visiting a gym thus far. I ended up going each of the three days I was in Panama City. Hector Vasquez, the owner, was very warm and welcoming from the onset and I found everyone else there to be the same. Each of the instructors spoke English fluently and were really great about making sure I was following everything. While my Spanish is decent, I found that very thoughtful of them. There was a true family atmosphere. The children’s class was just before the adult’s. I got a real kick watching one of the instructors ‘roll’ with an adorably precocious four year old girl who laughed hysterically each time she got swept. (see the picture below) I suspect she was somebody’s daughter, because she was a fairly permanent fixture on the mat. So while she’s cute now, she’ll probably be a certified assassin by the time I get back there. All the guys closer to my weight class were also very cool. When I was saying my goodbyes, I was told that this was now “my house” and I was welcome back any time. You can’t beat that.
Gracie Barra has a really nice two-level space complete with A/C. Adult BJJ classes are every weeknight at 6:15, 7:15, and 8:15 except Fridays. Saturday classes start at 10am and open mat is at noon. (see full schedule) Mat fee was $10 per day. There’s a nice gym upstairs called Power Club Punta Pacifica that offers day passes if you want to lift.
Location: Ave Juan Pablo II, PLAZA PORTISOL SEGUNDA PLANTA. Near the Freeway., Panamá, Panama
The closest I came to finding Spartan was seeing a bumper sticker on a Jeep in Casco Viejo. If anyone can provide a Google map link to a more exact location, please add it to the comments.
Update 7/30/11 – As per Miquel’s comments, Spartan is near Edificio Siglo XXI and Plaza Edison. This helped me add an approximate location marker for Spartan on the Google Map above.Thanks, Miguel.