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Starting Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

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What's Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Like? - This article is part of a series.
Part 1: This Article
My Introduction to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu>

My Introduction to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

In May of 2022 I began training Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I was inspired to embark on my training when a coworker of mine mentioned one day the he had recently started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Gracie Barra. I discovered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu way back in 2007 and the desire to begin training has been with me off and on since then. Do to various factors in my personal life, family, time and money; I never got around to training. I did try Judo for six months before I broke one of my ribs. That experience put me off of the idea of performing any type of marital arts training for eleven years. With the encouragement of my coworker, I decided to give martial arts another go and found a Gracie Certified Training Center near me and signed up.

Why I Choose Gracie Jiu-Jitsu>

Why I Choose Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

This simpiest answer to this question is money and my proximity to the gym. To expand on this answer, the Gracie Certified Training Center where I train at is five miles from my house. It is the least expensive of all of the gyms within a ten-mile radius of me. Knowing I don’t have to spend more than fifteen minutes driving to training allows me to be more motivated to show up three times a week. A short time ago another gym opened up closer to my house but I continue to train at the Gracie Certified Training Center for two secondary reasons. The structured curriculum of the Gracie Combatives program and the safe environment in which to train. I’m coming up on my 40th birthday next year and my body doesn’t recover as fast as it did twenty years ago. I can’t afford to be out of commission for months due to an accident at the gym. My coworker who begun his training a month before me has already missed a total of two months of training. He injured both his shoulder and neck within the first few weeks of his jiu-jitsu training. Injuries are prone to happen; I did have to miss a week of classes because of a rotated vertebrae, but this was several months after I began training. The approach of spending eight to twelve months gaining a foundation of jiu-jitsu prior to rolling appeals to me. I recognize this will help reduce my exposer to injury when I do move into the advance class.

Gracie Combatives Program>

Gracie Combatives Program

The Gracie Combatives program is where everyone begins when training Gracie Jiu-Jitsu regardless of pervious experience when attending one of the many Gracie Certified Training Centers. This Combatives program is a self-defense focused program consisting of thirty-six fundamental techniques designed to protect you in a physical altercation against an untrained opponent. The techniques include takedowns, controls, and submissions. In the beginning as an out of shape middle age man this appealed more to me than the sport aspect of Jiu-Jitsu. As I have progressed in my Jiu-Jitsu journey, I have shed a ton of weight. I now have more of a desire to move onto the sporting aspect of Jiu-Jitsu. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it I have to finish up the Combatives program prior to moving onto the advance Master Cycle classes. Luckily I only have a couple of months of training left before I can test for my Combatives belt.

Finding Information Online About Gracie Jiu-Jitsu>

Finding Information Online About Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

Before I signed up to train Gracie Jui-Jitsu at one of the Gracie Certified Training Centers I tried to learn as much about the program as possible. Surprisingly there is a lot of confusing information on the Internet of not only who the Gracies are but what exactly the difference is between Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It seems like every Jiu-Jitsu gym out there tries to algin themselves with some member of the Gracie clan. It becomes confusing when you try determining which Gracie is who and what their focus is. There seems to be a split in philosophy between self-defense and sports Jiu-Jitsu. It was a little overwhelming at first and truthfully still is when trying to decide what I wanted out of my training.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu>

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

When first diving into my research I keep running into the same question over and over. What’s the difference between Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? From the information I’ve gathered here’s the difference between the two.

  • Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the trademarked term for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training developed by the Gracie family.
  • Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is heavily focused on self-defense. This is seen within the essential thirty-six techniques of the Combatives program. In the advance Master Cycle program students participate in weekly fight simulation drills to practice these and other more advance techniques.
  • For a technique to be considered part of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu it must be able to be performed by anyone and focus more on leverage and timing instead of strength and speed.
Gracie Univeristy’s Mastery of SEO>

Gracie Univeristy’s Mastery of SEO

An important part of my research was first hand accounts of people’s experience with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I found it difficult to encounter anyone with an honest and thoughtful opinion of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Gracie University (Gracie Univeristy is the part of the Gracie family that holds the trademark for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu). This was one of the primary reasons I wanted to write about my experience with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. My hope is someone will find my blog posts and utilize them when evaluating if Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is right for them. With that said, if you do happen to find these blog post please reach out to me and let me know. My email is naughtrobot@pm.me.

What makes research into Gracie Jiu-Jitsu difficult is Gracie Univeristy’s mastery of search engine optimization. Every web search I tried merely brought up page after page of results for either Gracie Univeristy or the many Gracie Certified Training Centers. This was of no help because every web site had the exact same information. I’m certain there’s a standard template to follow for your website if you’re a Gracie Certified Training Center. When I did find people’s opinions if was often harsh criticism of Gracie Univeristy’s online training program.

Criticisms of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu>

Criticisms of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

The best place to find criticism of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Gracie University is non other than the Subreddit r/bjj. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a polarizing topic within this online community with people of strong opinions on both sides. I find it hard to get an reliable assessment of people’s experience with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Gracie University. Most of the debate seems to center around a few topics of interest.

Online Learning vs In Person Learning>

Online Learning vs In Person Learning

The detractors of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu constantly bring up Gracie University’s online training videos and video evaluations for belt promotion. Their primary criticism is that there needs to be a real-life opponent to effectively learn Jiu-Jitsu. They’re not incorrect, you can only learn so much with solo drills. Much of the techniques need to be felt to comprehend how the movements effect the human body. Do they think someone is solely going to practice by themselves or with a training dummy? If two or more people train together what is the difference between training at home and training in a gym? I think the Gracie Certified Training Centers negates this some criticism, but I do think they have some valid points when it comes to training without a proper gym. I’m fortunate to live near a Gracie Certified Training Center, so this isn’t moot point for me.

Online Only Blue Belts>

Online Only Blue Belts

The single biggest criticism against Gracie University is the practice of awarding blue belts to those who completed the Combatives program online. This was accurate when the Combatives program was first created. However, this hasn’t been the case for some time. A Combatives belt, a white belt with a blue strip, has replaced the blue belt that was awarded after completion of the Combatives program. I would have to agree with the critics on this. I don’t believe the knowledge of thirty-six basic self-defense techniques is enough be considered a blue belt. With the introduction of the Combatives belt, this shouldn’t be an issue, yet you continue seeing this argument pop up from time to time. I did read somewhere on the Internet that the Combatives belt would be close to a two strip white belt at most BJJ gyms. I haven’t earned my Combatives belt yet nor have I trained at another gym, so I can’t say for sure. But this does seem like a reasonable assessment to a person holding this belt’s skill level.

Lack of Rolling as a White Belt>

Lack of Rolling as a White Belt

It’s accurate, as a white belt you don’t roll until you’re in the Master Cycle class. To some this is a cardinal sin of learning Jiu-Jitsu, but I regard it as a plus. Throughout the time spent in training in the Combatives class I’ve seen plenty of people who employ sloppy techniques against a nonresisting training partners. With the addition of adrenaline flowing through them while rolling their techniques could severely hurt someone or themselves. I mentioned my friend was injured within the first few weeks of his Jiu-Jitsu training. This isn’t something I want to experience. I’d rather wait until I understand how to safely apply an armlock or kimura before I start to roll with someone.

Rener Gracie>

Rener Gracie

There is a lot of online hate directed at Rener Gracie, one of the head instructors at Gracie Univeristy. I’ll be the first to admit he’s a bit over the top when talking about Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and some of his excitement does seem disingenuous. I completely understand where he’s coming from; he’s trying to direct business to Gracie Univeristy. I’ve never met the guy, so I have no knowledge of what he’s like with the camera off. I’ll hold judgement until I actually meet him one day. When speaking of his family, Rener does romanticize many the aspects of the family’s promotion of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. For people who look into the Gracie family’s history, I can see why some are upset with this portrayal of the them. The Gracie’s weren’t perfect and they did push Gracie Jiu-Jitsu aggressively, but this shouldn’t take away from the effectiveness of the techniques they developed. I suspect some of the hate towards Rener bleeds over from the days when blue belts were awarded for completion of the Gracie Combatives program.

My Experience Thus Far>

My Experience Thus Far

In the six months that I have been training at my local Gracie Certified Training Center I have mostly enjoyed the time I have spent training. It’s been nice knowing I’m unlikely to get hurt when I train as I learn the basics and the instruction has been top notch. I do enjoy the benefit that training at a Gracie Certified Training Center offers me with access to the online lessons through Gracie Univeristy. However, a few things are starting to irritate me. As I undertake my journey through the Combatives program, I am starting to become bored with the lessons. I’ve seen most of the lessons three times by now and feel I have a grasp on the concepts. It took me a while to get to this point, but now that I’m here I’m ready to move on. As I understand it, you have to spend a minimum of eight months in the Combatives before you can test for your Combatives belt. Since I have about two months until I get to that point I’m not extremely concerned the lessons are becoming stale.

Another thing that bothers me is the lesson structure. I’m unsure if every Gracie Certified Training Center does it this way, but where I train the order of the lessons are staggered. For example Monday might be lesson one, Wednesday lesson twelve, and Friday lesson eighteen. To begin with there were times where I didn’t completely follow a particular technique. I would have loved spending multiple days in a week drilling the same technique. With the lessons staggered it might be three or four weeks before I would have a chance to perform on that particular technique again. Some times the lessons would line up in such a way where the techniques would flow into each other. For example we might work on establishing the clinch against an aggressive opponent one day. Then another day we might work on a takedown once the clinch had been established. I found this useful in the beginning, but it didn’t happen often enough to my liking.

The last thing that irritates me is the lack of explanation behind some of the lesson. I’m not talking about how the techniques are taught. In fact I have nothing but good things to say about technical break down of each technique. I would just like a little more explanation of some of the details. For example why do you place your hands a certain way when you assemble some of the grips? Why are some positions more dominate than others? What submissions achieve a more significant percentage of success against a resistant opponent? I’ve discovered the answers to these questions on my own. I think I would have been able to grasp some of these techniques better if the theory behind them would have been better explained from the beginning.

All things considered I would say that my experience training at my local Gracie Certified Training Center has been positive despite the few things I mentioned that irritate me. These things are uniquely personal to me and shouldn’t prevent anyone from training Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I did want to call them out in case anyone else felt the same way I did. Ultimately Gracie Jiu-Jitsu isn’t going to best training for everyone, each person has their own goals they want to achieve. I merely want to offer my first hand account of what I’ve experienced training Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at my local Gracie Certified Training Center. If you find it useful then please let me know.



What's Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Like? - This article is part of a series.
Part 1: This Article
Robert V. Bolton
Author
Robert V. Bolton
Hi, I’m Robert, and I have somewhat of an interesting life — every so often I write it about my activites for others to read.