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Gracie News - The Ultimate Breakdown

May 30, 2011

May 20, 2011 from Randy Naviaux

"I received my Blue at John-Jaques Machado academy in 98. I received my Purple from Pedro Sauer in 2006. Obviously, I am a slow learner but there have been large gaps dues to marriage, family and the other dramas that life can throw at you.

After receiving my purple I started to become a little disillusioned with the subject as it seemed like all I had ever been learning was how to counter other bjj practitioners. There is nothing inherently wrong with that as it is certainly a part of the learning process to Black Belt. Yet how many times had I really practiced head lock escapes or techniques from the guard wherein the other person was trying to knock my block off? Not many.

This was starting to bother me as I was getting interested in passing this art onto my sons. Yet my original goal for learning bjj wasn't really fulfilled in my eyes... read more.

Also the format of group classes had a real weakness that I had discovered with my inconsistent attendance of a period of ten years. Moves and positions would come into favor and pass out depending on a variety of factors. If you missed a month you might have missed learning an important piece to the puzzle jiu-jitsu.

On the other side of the equation the instructor had to teach the same basic techniques year in and year out to new students. Nothing wrong with this of course but with a collection of students with different skill levels the needs of each student could be vastly different.

Sylvio Behring came and did a seminar at Mr. Sauer's school about ten years ago. This was a great seminar which covered a lot of material that amazingly I actually remember. (At least a majority of it!)

However, Sylvio made a comment at one point in the seminar that at the time really didn't sit well with me. He said the secret to learning jiu-jitsu was private lessons. At the time I thought "Oh, He's just trying to drum up some business." Also if this was true how was I to ever learn jiu-jitsu if the real secret to getting good was private lessons. It really felt like a door had been shut in my face as I couldn't see how I could afford to pay for a couple privates each month much less each week or one every day.

Years later, see I told you I am a slow learner, I realized that having an expert practitioner walk you through a comprehensive curriculum one step at a time would indeed be the best way to learn the entire art. This would get around the obvious weaknesses of the group class format.

I mentioned to Pedro Sauer more than once that he should record every class he gave so there would be a record of all his knowledge. He did come up with some great instructional videos that presented a collection of techniques. But not what I was looking for, an A through Z curriculum that would standardize what needed to be learned by every student. I even attempted to put together something but my attempts were rather inadequate.

After a while I pretty much gave up on the entire subject. While jiu-jitsu was fun I simple didn't have the time to attend every single class to ensure I didn't miss some essential details that could make or break some aspect of my game. Also, while trial and error is a valid way to learn many things if you had to learn everything that way it's a sure-fire way to get very old and still end up rather stupid. I certainly enjoy learning some subtle variation on a move when rolling or practicing but what if that variation has already been learned? Is there a way to teach it to the student so he doesn't have to accidently come upon it through trial and error? What if he never discovers it?

Then the Gracie Combatives program came along with all the conflict and controversy an internet warrior could hope for.

This exactly fulfilled my desire of a syllabus for a brand new person. With this my first year in jiu-jitsu would not have been so frustrating. (As an aside, it would be interesting to compare student retention rates from schools that don't have this program in place with those that do.) I'll cut short my praise for this as I've said enough in other posts here and there about GC and I really want to discuss the Master Cycle.

One doesn't have to do the Blue Belt test to access the master cycle lessons. (At first this was going to be a requirement which I was going to be happy to do despite already being ranked as a Purple.) The Gracie Academy has almost finished releasing all the chapters for the first strip. There are still leg locks and standup self-defense chapters to be released. So far they have released Mount, Side Mount, Guard, Half-Guard and back Mount.

This must be the material covered in all those classes I missed over the years as these lessons are truly eye opening. Almost every lesson has one of those moments which has expanded my understanding of jiu-jitsu ten-fold. Some point that clarifies and provides a fundamental base for everything I have learned over the years.

Starting from the Super Hooks lesson, which is free, all the way to defending the choke when the bad guy has Back Mount on you, there are numerous "ah ha!" moments. Some are of the type where I realize something I have been doing wrong and others are of the variety where I remember the moment I learned it through the aforementioned trial and error period. Sometimes a lesson will point out something I have been doing for a long time that I haven't been aware that I was doing or that it was correct.

I'm sure "traditional" bjj students out there have learned these lessons for themselves already. Like I said I'm slow. I've been known to ponder a point for a long, long time before coming up with an answer. Having Ryron and Rener tell me that indeed I was correct for questioning something and then showing the answer to me has been valuable indeed.

Since the GC program has come out I have restarted training and been using their curriculum to guide my own journey. Not all problems are solved as you really need someone else to match you step by step all the way to get the most out of what they are offering. This can be problematic due to the problems of life and livingness.

The end result of this massive project the Gracie academy has undertaken is this: You can, in essence, have private lessons from A to Z in your jiu-jitsu journey. At a much reduced financial cost. Someone else can run the numbers if they want to know how much they are saving.

Even if I was training at the Gracie Academy every day and never missed a class I would still use their online material. Why? I would get the theory study out of the way before class so I could focus on just drilling the techniques in class. The learning curve would be shortened. Trial and Error would be kept to a minimum. I've seen black belts that have learned things they didn't know from this curriculum.

I have a small collection of instructional video lessons and have accessed various online programs. I have found value in them all. So this is certainly no knock on other offerings out there. There are differences one should be aware of. I've seen lessons on a basic armlock technique that were just a few minutes long. A typical lesson in the Gracie University is an hour long. This isn't the same thing done over and over but rather a complete breakdown of many different aspects from how to do the technique to when to do it, etc.

Just off the top off my head; I have dvd sets which probably have 60-70 techniques covered in a 6 hours period. On the Gracie University you might cover 6 lessons in that period of time. Maybe 18 techniques total. The cost for the dvd set may be a hundred dollars or less depending on what discount you use. The cost for the 6 lessons may be half that, again depending on taking advantage of a discount.

At first glance it seems like the 60-70 technique deal is the better bargain. And for some I'm sure it would be. From my perspective I find the instruction on GU to be so thorough that I can use what I have been taught and I almost never have a question or doubt about the technique in question.

Due to time constraints its simply not possible to go into great detail on a dvd. There were many techniques I never bothered doing because the beginning of all of them I was never able to successfully pull off. Wouldn't you know it; One slice of one lesson in the Back Mount chapter of the Blue Belt Stripe 1 curriculum sorted my issue out so know there is a large chunk of tools/techniques now available to me. Simply because I thought it was my body type that was not allowing me to get to transition to a certain position. I was so used to it that it simply had never occurred to me that I might be missing a detail that was preventing me from going from technical side mount to taking the back.

If you have read this far then I might as well say one other thing. What would an article like this be without a controversial statement or two? It may well be that the ground covered in the strip one curriculum could be more than many blue belt students ever learn on their path to purplebelt. Just my opinion but I know it certainly applies to me. I'm having a hard time imagining what more I might learn on the next three stripes for blue belt. I'm sure it will be a great journey though.

Thanks so much for making this available to us slow guys!"

Randy Naviaux