Gracie University

Tony Dismukes

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 11, 2005
Messages
7,546
Reaction score
7,566
Location
Lexington, KY
I'm on the record as being skeptical about the effectiveness of online/video martial arts study, so I thought it only fair to post my review of the Gracie University online curriculum and what they seem to be doing in this arena.


Background - due to scheduling issues with the brown & black belts at my BJJ gym, I've recently taken over teaching our white belt/beginner BJJ classes. (I'm a purple belt in BJJ.)

Like many BJJ practitioners, I've learned by what you might call the "chaos method." I've taken classes from a wide variety of instructors with different approaches to the art. Typically these instructors have taught according to who showed up for class or according to whatever came into their heads on a given day. Beginner techniques, advanced techniques, sport techniques, self-defense techniques, gi, no-gi, agressive game, defensive game - I've got them all kind of blended together into a game that seems to work for me.

When I started teaching, I wanted to take a more organized approach for the sake of my students. I wanted to give them a comprehensive basis in the fundamentals starting with street combative methods before we moved on to advanced techniques or sportive methods. Once I got started, I realized that this was more difficult than I realized, because my own game was such a mish-mash of different parts from different sources (including my experience in other martial arts).

At this point I decided maybe it was worth checking out the Gracie University online courses for inspiration in organizing my curriculum. They offered a 5 day free trial period, so I figured I could check out the videos for free and then cancel my membership without paying anything. I had been impressed with the videos that Rener & Ryron offer for free on YouTube, so I figured they'd have something worth watching.

After getting started on the videos, I decided it was worth paying the monthly fee to maintaining my membership for the time being. Their course is aimed at students who are teaching themselves with a buddy without access to a regular school, but the videos are probably even more valuable to someone who has a regular training group.

I believe their ultimate goal is to have instructional videos covering all the way up to black belt, but right now all they have is material up to blue belt, 2nd stripe. That's still quite a bit of material. Right now they have 36 lessons (averaging about 1/2 hour each) for white belts and 68 lessons (averaging about 1 hour each) for blue belts. They also have additional material for women's self-defense and law-enforcement tactics.

I've been a collector of martial arts instructional videos for years and I have to say that Rener & Ryron's videos are better than anything I have ever seem before by an order of magnitude. Each lesson (1/2 hour to an hour) typically covers just one technique (with some variations) or a short sequence of related techniques. In the lesson, they cover the fine details of the technique, when to use it in a fight, the principles that make it work, how it fits in combination with other techniques the student may have learned, common mistakes to avoid, what to do when something goes wrong, safety precautions for practice, training drills, how to coach your partner and practice most effectively with your partner so that both of you progress as rapidly as possible. The wealth of information may be a bit much for those students who tend towards impatience, but for detail-oriented folks like myself it's great.

Besides the quality of the individual lessons, I appreciate the fact that the material fits together into a cohesive curriculum. The techniques and principles from one lesson feed right into the next lesson and the practice drills presented typically make use of material from previous lessons.

The 36 introductory lessons covered techniques that I was familiar with, but they reminded me of details that I had forgotten or that I was doing unconsciously. They also gave me useful drills for burning in pattern recognition and reflexes that my students have responded well to.

The blue-belt level lessons include plenty of techniques and details that I did not know. I've been applying that information for my own development and I've been seing the improvement on the mat.

I have no plans to pursue rank through the Gracie University, since I already have an instructor I'm happy with. I will say that I'm less skeptical than I was about students working their way at least to blue belt via GU courses and video testing. If someone has a modicum of athletic ability, at least one good training partner, dedication, and a really good attitude towards following all the instructions given in the videos, I could see them reaching competent blue belt level just with this course. (As confirmation, I posted a video a few weeks ago of the first GU online student taking his blue belt, 1st stripe test in person at the academy. He looked reasonably respectable.) I'm not so sure about someone reaching purple belt without a stable of tough, technical sparring partners to work with. Then again, I don't think anyone has reached purple belt through the GU online classes yet. When someone does, maybe I can check out the video and see what I think.
 

Instructor

Master of Arts
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2012
Messages
1,605
Reaction score
495
Location
Knoxville, TN
I've heard it's a pretty good program. I wonder what the feedback is like if you submit a progress video to them?
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
23,224
Reaction score
8,890
Location
Pueblo West, CO
Thanks for the review.

This supports what I've always said - book/videos/YouTube are an excellent supplement to, but not a replacement for, traditional classroom or individual training.
 

punisher73

Senior Master
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Messages
3,933
Reaction score
1,012
For me, one of the biggest advantages of the program is for those students who already study BJJ at a regular school that may be more sports oriented, but they are looking more for self-defense. I think these videos can help bridge that gap to see the difference and how to apply the techniques in that manner.

As for ranking in GJJ through the video, I have my doubts for taking a complete newbie with no grappling experience and then saying that they are a blue belt.
 
OP
Tony Dismukes

Tony Dismukes

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 11, 2005
Messages
7,546
Reaction score
7,566
Location
Lexington, KY
For me, one of the biggest advantages of the program is for those students who already study BJJ at a regular school that may be more sports oriented, but they are looking more for self-defense. I think these videos can help bridge that gap to see the difference and how to apply the techniques in that manner.

That could certainly be a benefit, seeing the large number of schools out there which primarily emphasize the sportive aspect.


As for ranking in GJJ through the video, I have my doubts for taking a complete newbie with no grappling experience and then saying that they are a blue belt.

Having seen the video they posted of one of their video students taking his blue belt 1st stripe test, I'm less skeptical than I was before.
Supposedly this guy had no prior martial arts experience.

I suspect it has a lot to do with the individual. If you have a student with some natural talent and he/she has at least one training partner with natural talent or some grappling background, then I can see them making some good progress with the curriculum. The downsides, of course, are the lack of immediate feedback from an instructor and the lack of experienced training partners to roll with. The upside, besides the detailed explanation of the techniques, is the excellent presentation of ways to drill and train the techniques being taught. I've been in way too many BJJ classes where the teacher shows a couple of random techniques and then just has the students roll for an hour, with no real opportunity to apply the techniques they've just learned. (A really good BJJ instructor won't structure the class this way, but not all skilled BJJ practitioners are good teachers.)
 
Last edited by a moderator:

jthomas1600

Blue Belt
Joined
May 13, 2010
Messages
242
Reaction score
3
Location
S E Texas
I train at an MMA gym where we have no high level bjj instructors. The guy that runs the school is a good grappler in a general sense, but has no bjj background. He's used the DVD series as a basis for instruction to some degree and I think it's worked well. I think they do a good job on the DVDs of hitting a lot of key details and explaining the fundamental principles that make the moves work.

The one exception I take to the instructions is that they seem to say in every lesson that one of the reasons these techniques would be successful on the streets is that 99% of the people don't know bjj or anything about grappling...like they would be befuddled by what you are doing. I think it's been around long enough now and with the popularity of the UFC and other organizations that no bully is going to be confused by being pulled into your guard.
 
OP
Tony Dismukes

Tony Dismukes

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 11, 2005
Messages
7,546
Reaction score
7,566
Location
Lexington, KY
The one exception I take to the instructions is that they seem to say in every lesson that one of the reasons these techniques would be successful on the streets is that 99% of the people don't know bjj or anything about grappling...like they would be befuddled by what you are doing. I think it's been around long enough now and with the popularity of the UFC and other organizations that no bully is going to be confused by being pulled into your guard.

That's not quite what I took from what they are saying. I understood them to be saying that they are presenting the defenses against common real-world attacks before they start teaching the counters to techniques that you might expect from a skilled martial artist. In other words, if someone ends up on top of your guard in a street fight, they are 99% likely to either try punching you, choking you, grabbing your head and leaning their weight on you, or standing up rather than attempting a sophisticated jiu-jitsu guard pass. Therefore they require beginning students learn the defenses against an attacker who is trying to punch them, choke them, etc first and save the sophisticated guard-pass counters for blue belt and higher. This makes sense to me.
 

jthomas1600

Blue Belt
Joined
May 13, 2010
Messages
242
Reaction score
3
Location
S E Texas
I get that Tony. And as long as that's the mindset of the student it's OK. I just think it's important not to minimize the ability of any potential attackers.
 

arnisador

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 28, 2001
Messages
44,573
Reaction score
456
Location
Terre Haute, IN
Very detailed review--thanks for sharing your opinion and experiences! Most martial arts books and videos are hard to learn techniques from, but i found BJJ was better suited to it b/c I could actually experiment with the techniques when rolling.
 

James Kovacich

Senior Master
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2002
Messages
2,900
Reaction score
51
Location
San Jose, Ca.
Very detailed review--thanks for sharing your opinion and experiences! Most martial arts books and videos are hard to learn techniques from, but i found BJJ was better suited to it b/c I could actually experiment with the techniques when rolling.

I did train a few years in a bjj school in the '90's but my overall opinion of video training based on owning and using videos from most every style I've trained in is that bjj works well because it is heavily technique based vs theory/principles/concepts based. You have to get on the mat and work it. With that said, if one can bring that aspect to their video training they may find decent results from other styles too.

Sent from my DROID3 using Tapatalk 2
 

arnisador

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 28, 2001
Messages
44,573
Reaction score
456
Location
Terre Haute, IN
I studied BJJ for several years--so I wasn't just flying blind. That would not have worked, I'd wager.
 

James Kovacich

Senior Master
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2002
Messages
2,900
Reaction score
51
Location
San Jose, Ca.
I wasn't suggesting that. I'm sure you know that. :) I bought Joe Moreiras videos before I started bjj in the '90's. Joe told me over the phone that he had a brown belt student (which was a high rank back then) teaching in San Jose. I didn't head there though. But I attended a leglock seminar in that school and it turned out to be the guy that Joe had told me about. After the seminar I signed up. It turned out to be some real solid training that led to many classes taught by both Joe Moreira and Roy Harris when they came to town along with 1 on 1 training with the both of them. Joes videos were exactly the same as the way he teaches in person. Although I can't say how he teaches his advanced classes as I didn't take it in that direction.

Sent from my DROID3 using Tapatalk 2
 

rframe

Green Belt
Joined
Feb 23, 2012
Messages
161
Reaction score
3
Location
USA
I've just recently started using Gracie University. I've wanted to learn some BJJ basics for a while but the logistics of attending another martial arts class a couple times per week is just not practical for me right now as I'm already seriously involved in another art and there's only so much open schedule and money available...

I've been very impressed with the GU content, the forum feedback, and while I'm not currently interested in rank they provide several example grading videos other students have submitted showing what's right and wrong (including outright test failures) which is great feedback.

One thing the Gracies stress about GU is that you do not learn BJJ watching videos. You learn the concepts and moves but you must have a knowledgeable partner to train with to bring the pieces together to develop reaction and the details of application. They have a program called the Gracie Garage designed to encourage people in geographic areas to get together to work on the material together.
 
OP
Tony Dismukes

Tony Dismukes

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 11, 2005
Messages
7,546
Reaction score
7,566
Location
Lexington, KY
rframe - how did you find a training partner for practicing your GU lessons? Did you get someone from your karate school who was interested in BJJ or did you use the Gracie Garage directory?
 

rframe

Green Belt
Joined
Feb 23, 2012
Messages
161
Reaction score
3
Location
USA
rframe - how did you find a training partner for practicing your GU lessons? Did you get someone from your karate school who was interested in BJJ or did you use the Gracie Garage directory?

I am just training on some basics with a friend right now, there's only one guy in my karate school who has an interest in BJJ currently and we haven't done any grappling together yet. We have no Gracie Garages anywhere near my area, but if I decide to stick with the program I will consider "starting" one myself. I'll need to give it a little thought as I kinda have a lot of "irons in the fire" right now and while it seems there's very little commitment required in starting a GG I dont want to bite off more than I can chew and then resent doing so.
 

Latest Discussions

Top