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Gracie News

New Article: Affiliation vs Certification

August 26, 2015

How a 16-Year Old Blue Belt Can Teach Jiu-Jitsu

Houston Cottrell completed the Instructor Certification Program at the Gracie Academy at just sixteen, making him the youngest person ever to accomplish this feat. Cottrell started teaching Gracie Combatives and Gracie Bullyproof when he was seventeen, on a full-time basis, to an expanding group of novice students in Madison, MS. The majority of jiu-jitsu instructors start in their twenties, thirties or forties and will have trained as adults for over a decade. Due to this, critics have suggested that Cottrell lacks the experience to teach adult students effectively.

In other jiu-jitsu organizations, new instructors work as affiliates under reputable black belt instructors, devise their own curriculums and interpret the martial arts for their students. In contrast, Gracie Academy instructors become certified. This means that they work from a set curriculum, and are shown precisely how and when to teach different techniques. Because Cottrell has been following this strict guidance, he has received glowing reports from all his students.

Gracie Academy Head Instructor, Rener Gracie's Exclusive Interview With Jiu-Jitsu Times

At 16 years old, Houston Cottrell became the youngest person to ever complete the Gracie Academy Instructor Certification Program. At 17 years old, he turned an empty warehouse into a state-of-the-art Level 1 Certified Training Center and began working full-time to teach Gracie Bullyproof and Gracie Combatives to a growing number of beginner students in Madison, Mississippi.

Although he is a very unique exception and most instructors come to us well into their 20s, 30s, and 40s, it comes as no surprise that the emergence of a 16-year-old blue belt jiu-jitsu instructor has shocked some members of the jiu-jitsu community, since most jiu-jitsu blue belts will be the first to admit that they don't feel qualified to teach anyone, let alone run their own schools.

To help people understand the uniqueness of Houston's situation, I feel inclined to share some not-so-known facts about the Gracie Academy Instructor Certification Program (ICP) and the quality control measures we have in place at our Certified Training Centers around the world.

Affiliation vs. Certification

In the growing jiu-jitsu industry, "affiliation" is the most common type of business relationship between master instructors and their associate schools. Typically, a dedicated practitioner has the unique opportunity to train with a reputable black belt, enjoys the training, and then goes online to apply for official affiliation under the instructor. They agree to pay a monthly affiliation fee, and periodically the master instructor visits the school to teach seminars and issue belt promotions. In this model, the master instructor is relying on the past experience and knowledge base of the affiliate instructor to maintain quality standard at the school.

At the Gracie Academy, we do not "affiliate," we "certify." Our number one priority is that the student experience at every Certified Training Center mirrors what is provided at the Gracie Academy in Torrance. Rather than leaving it up to each individual instructor to decipher jiu-jitsu for their students, we provide a complete curriculum and teach them exactly what to teach, when to teach it, and how to teach it so that anyone can learn. By providing each CTC with a complete instructor's roadmap and leveraging technology to implement extensive quality control measures, our vision has become a reality and we have 100+ independently owned Certified Training Centers that offer the unique student experience only found at the Gracie Academy Headquarters...
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