#191 Rener Gracie, Jonathan Torres

by Caleb on December 6, 2009

Rener Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Rener Gracie

Last week on The FightWorks Podcast we heard from New York-based Renzo Gracie, who helped fill in our knowledge of the late Rolls Gracie. Renzo went on to make some comments regarding the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California, which is lead by Helio Gracie’s first born son, Rorion Gracie. Renzo did not mince his words. Today on our humble Brazilian jiu-jitsu internet radio show, we bring you Rener Gracie, Rorion Gracie’s son. Rener responds to Renzo’s comments and goes on to tackle some criticism that has been directed their way regarding their online jiu-jitsu training program called Gracie University.

Also in this episode, we will get to know Jonathan “JT” Torres, the twenty-year old black belt from Lloyd Irvin Martial Arts who has been tearing it up on the competition scene. Despite his youth, his BJJ technique has propelled him to coming in second place as a brown belt at the 2009 BJJ World Championship. He was awarded his black belt shortly later and in September won his weight division at the American National Championship, and came in third in the absolute division. (You can see video of his match against the gold medal winner Joao Assis here.)

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Jonathan Torres Lloyd Irvin jiu-jitsu
Jonathan Torres plays guard against Gracie Barra’s Bruno Amorim at the 2009 BJJ World Championship.


TRANSCRIPTION OF RENER GRACIE INTERVIEW

The FightWorks Podcast: Hey family, we are here on the line right now with Rener Gracie, of the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California. As I think the Mighty 600,000 know, there has been an awful lot of chatter online in the last couple of weeks, due to a couple of recent interviews we had on the Fightworks Podcast. That started with Relson Gracie, I think on the 22nd November, and then a week later, on the 29th November, we had Renzo Gracie come on and give a couple of opposing viewpoints to the points Relson raised the week before.

In that conversation, there were some comments made about the Torrance Academy. So, I thought it would only be fair to get a representative from the Torrance Academy on the show to address those, and then move on. So, family please welcome Rener Gracie. Rener, how are you?

Rener Gracie: Thank you bro, appreciate it man, and it’s good to be back. Congratulations on all the success of the show, and thanks for having me.

The FightWorks Podcast: Thank you very much, we appreciate it. Ok Rener, so I’m going to turn it over to you, although I may interrupt you a bit.

Rener Gracie: Feel free.

The FightWorks Podcast: So, I’m guessing you heard the show.

Rener Gracie: Absolutely, I heard the show. So let me take the time to say, first of all, I apologise to my Uncle Renzo. Listening to the interview a week or two ago, it saddened me to know that words which supposedly originated here at the Academy offended him so deeply. I have nothing but respect for Renzo: he’s an amazing fighter and teacher. I just wanted to say that I would never say anything intentionally to demean him or anyone he is associated with.

After listening to his interview, it became clear to me that what bothered Renzo is that someone from the Academy here, either myself or one of my brothers, supposedly told one of his students – correct me if I’m wrong – that we teach the pure Gracie Jiu Jitsu, compared to what everyone else teaches, which is not pure or whatever. That’s kinda what I got from it.

Although I don’t remember the specific incident Renzo is referring to, I do want to acknowledge that we do sometimes use the term ‘Pure Gracie Jiu Jitsu’ to describe what we teach here at the Academy. Now more than ever I can see how that can be offensive to other jiu jitsu instructors, in the family and outside the family, especially when I don’t take the time to explain to the student in that incident.

I have never really openly explained what we mean by ‘pure.’ That’s kinda what I wanted to take the initial time to do here.

When people ask us what the difference is between what we teach and what is being taught elsewhere, and we say that we teach pure Gracie Jiu Jitsu, we’re not claiming to be better fighters, or that we have secret techniques that no one else knows, and we’re really not saying that we have a better capability to produce world champions, here at the Academy.

All we’re saying is that we are teaching the art in accordance to the original fight philosophy of my grandfather, Grandmaster Hélio. If you recall, during Renzo’s interview, he shared his belief on who created the art. If I remember correctly, he stated that Carlos was the first one to learn from the Japanese, as we all know, and that most of the innovative techniques came from Rolls.

Then he went on to say that the only contribution made by Hélio was that he added the defensive aspect, to the art. Do you remember that?

The FightWorks Podcast: I remember most of what you’re saying, but I’ll put it the way I remember, and you correct me: somewhere in the middle is probably what Renzo said.

Carlos Sr was the first to be expose to, and learn jiu jitsu, from Maeda, the Japanese.

Rener Gracie: Sure, sure, sure.

The FightWorks Podcast: From there, after Maeda was doing his own thing somewhere else, presumably, Carlos exposed Hélio to it, and from there at some point down the line, Hélio took it on as his own. As Renzo said, he was the Einstein of taking what Carlos passed him, and refining that into the defensive stuff you’re talking about.

Rener Gracie: Yes.

The FightWorks Podcast: Then from there, Rolls added some different twists.

Rener Gracie: Correct. The truth is, the way it came out to me is that the main thing he attributed to my grandfather was adding the defensive aspect to it.

The FightWorks Podcast: That’s maybe the self defense aspect, is that what you mean?

Rener Gracie: I think more than that. I think what he meant, and I know what he’s talking about, is the survival aspect: the idea that you can beneath somebody and be ok, not have to impose yourself upon them. The overall idea that you can be patient during the fight, and not have to go and attack before you defend. Basically, defense first, then attack later.

The FightWorks Podcast: As a smaller person.

Rener Gracie: As a smaller person, exactly. Now, what Renzo did not say, when he mentioned that my grandfather developed the defensive aspect, was that this defensive mindset enabled my grandfather to survive the Japanese champion Masahiko Kimura for thirteen minutes, and survive against the much younger Waldemar Santana for three hours and forty minutes, when he was about forty years old. It was the defensive mindset that enabled Rickson (when he was younger), to defeat Zulu back in the day, and it was that defensive mindset that put Gracie jiu jitsu on the map back when Royce beat Dan Severn in UFC 4.

Now, what people don’t realize is that when my grandfather added the defensive aspect, he added a philosophy, which was “if you don’t lose, you will eventually win.” That philosophy, more than any other technique or strategy, is what differentiates our jiu jitsu from its Japanese counterpart.

If you think about it, that philosophy is what make our system unique from every other martial art on the planet. As you know, other arts, what they teach is, if you don’t win fast – you’ve got aggression, punch, kick, eye gouge, break him right away – if you don’t win in a hurry, you might lose.

In fact, other martial arts, based on the fact that they teach so much about aggression and overcoming, and basically overwhelming your opponent with aggressive behavior, shouldn’t even be called self-defense. They should be called self-offence, if you ask me.

So when people reference sometimes, in the family and outside the family, that Hélio created Brazilian or Gracie jiu jitsu, it is not because he was the first one to learn the Japanese techniques, or that he created a certain number of moves and added it to the art. It is because the people who say that acknowledge that he added what Renzo called the ‘defensive aspect’. Or, the one thing that made the art useful for smaller people against larger people in real fights.

Now, the problem is that the defensive mindset that is so characteristic of this amazing art is not being taught at 99% of Brazilian jiu jitsu schools. Here’s why: any instructor whose primary objective is to prepare students for MMA or sport jiu jitsu competition cannot teach the defensive mindset, the survival mindset as the ultimate fight strategy, because patience will not lead to victory in the sportive setting. Any time there is an artificial time limit, you have no choice but to adopt a fully ‘offensive mindset’ (as I call it), otherwise you will lose when the time runs out, by points, or by judges decision.

Now, this offensive mindset is ok when you’re fighting someone in your weight class, and you can count on the clock to save you when you’re exhausted. But, as family history and all the fights show, the only reliable way to defeat a giant is to adopt the Grandmaster’s 100% defensive philosophy.

If you got into a fight with Brock Lesnar, for example, and you tell yourself, “I’ve got to win within five minutes, I’ve got to win within this five minute round right now,” what are you going to do? You’re going to fight for your life to make something happen, exhaust yourself in the process, and then expose yourself to get smashed. Like the people who’ve crossed his path, right?

The only reliable strategy against someone that strong is to enter the fight with 100% concern with avoiding defeat at all costs, and wait for them to create an opportunity for you.

The FightWorks Podcast: Which is what you’re saying came from your grandfather.

Rener Gracie: Exactly, and that is the critical mindset which is no longer being taught. Now, it wouldn’t be so bad if schools, Brazilian jiu jitsu schools, taught the defensive mindset for the first few years, and then once it was clear the student had the patience to survive against a giant – and we’ve found that it takes between three to five years for them to really embody this patient, this Grandmaster mindset – at that point, began teaching them the offensive mindset needed to prevail in a sportive setting.

That would make sense, and that wouldn’t be so bad, because then you know that the student is ready for the worst case scenario. Unfortunately, that isn’t a reality, because every sport school is so concerned with creating sportive competitors out of every person who walks in the door that they don’t want to spend any time on any strategy that will not lead to a gold medal.

So when people ask my brothers and I, for example, why we don’t fight MMA, it’s not because we don’t believe in what we’re teaching, quite the opposite. It’s because we have to abandon the one principle that we believe in most: patience.

In order to prevail, we would have to adopt a super-offensive MMA mindset, to entertain the crowd and to please the judges. Obviously, it wouldn’t be worth it. Now, we’ve trained with many UFC fighters out there, and we know the calibre of the guys that are out there. We would win some and we would lose some, like everyone else who plays the game, but for my brothers and I it’s not worth it, to abandon the one thing that our grandfather stood for, just for the quick paycheque.

The FightWorks Podcast: Let me interrupt you Rener, because I don’t want to go too far down the conversation, because you said something earlier that was interesting. I’d like you to clarify a little bit, maybe. It sounded like you’re saying there is a significant difference between the approach to teaching jiu jitsu at the Torrance Academy compared to, based on what you said, 99% of the schools out there.

Rener Gracie: Yes.

The FightWorks Podcast: Is it safe to say, I mean, are we comparing apples and oranges? I know they are two separate ways of thinking about jiu jitsu, but are they really two separate things, almost?

Rener Gracie: I mean…I guess so, I mean it’s becoming that. I would like to think that the schools who do sport jiu jitsu, could be like in the old days, when they had these pure Gracie jiu jitsu schools, who had guys who participated in sport, but the self defense and the survival aspect was the primary focus, and the sportive participation was kind of a by-product.

But now, everyone is so concerned with creating a world champion, something that people in my family do incredibly well – some people in my family, some people out of my family – that there is no time to focus on the aspect that we think is the most important thing about jiu jitsu, the Brazilian way or the Gracie way. The number one thing is being forgotten, more for the sportive aspect.

Let me give you an example, three weeks ago a woman who was a blue belt came down from a school in North California, to do a class with us. During the class, Ryron of course tries to spar with the students who come visit. Ryron was sparring with this girl in the class, and he sidemounted her. When he sidemounted her, he established full control, tight sidemount.

She went berserk, completely crazy to get out. She fought for her life! After about thirty seconds, she exhausted a 100% of her energy, and she gave up, tapped out, “ok, I give up.” Then Ryron asked her, “what were you doing?” Her response was, “I was trying to escape your sidemount,” of course.

Now, it was very clear that she didn’t make this stuff up. There was some sport jiu jitsu or MMA coach out there telling her that when you get trapped on the bottom of sidemount, you must escape at all costs.

Imagine if that same woman got in a real attack, a sexual assault, and a man held her down – got her in the side mount or mount, or whatever – tight, against her will. She would resort to the exact same “escape at all costs” strategy. That would immediately deplete all her energy, at which point she would be helpless against the attacker. That’s when it really starts to get serious.

The major difference between the Gracie Academy and all the sport BJJ schools lies not within the techniques that we practice, although I’m sure there are techniques out there that my brothers and I don’t know, innovative new sport techniques, some that we haven’t learned, just as my brothers and I have developed tricks of our own that we haven’t shared yet.

Essentially, we’re all using the same leverage, we’re all breaking the same arms, we’re all choking the same necks. The real difference lies in the fight philosophy that we promote from the very beginning. We teach our students to avoid defeat at all costs, then attack as soon as the opportunity arises, whereas sport jiu jitsu schools teach to attack as much as possible within the artificial time limit.

So, even though the terms ‘Brazilian’ and ‘Gracie jiu jitsu’ both originated from the same place, when people ask us what the difference is, we say that Brazilian jiu jitsu is the sportive practice of the art, that’s kinda what it has become, whereas Gracie jiu jitsu, or pure Gracie jiu jitsu, is the version of the art that is taught according to the defensive philosophy of the Grandmaster Hélio Gracie.

This is the same philosophy that each and every member of the Gracie family relies on, including Renzo, when facing an opponent who has a significant strength or size advantage. So, all the family members have the philosophy and they know the philosophy, but sometimes they have no choice but to push it aside and omit it in their teachings to prepare world champions.

Ultimately what it has come to is that if we don’t find a way to preserve the philosophy of the Grandmaster, the defensive mindset that put Gracie jiu jitsu on the map, we’ll be lost forever. So my brothers and I, as well as the Valente brothers at Gracie Miami in Florida, who also learned directly from my grandfather, have essentially dedicated our lives to the preservation of this pure Gracie jiu jitsu. Not so that we can create world champions, out of amazing athletes, but so that the underdogs of society always have an art that they can count on.

The FightWorks Podcast: Ok, so here’s another question for you. So, I’m sure you would agree that the guys who are at black belt, who do compete out there, are probably pretty secure compared to everybody else out there in a self defense situation. They’re probably going to be just fine.

Rener Gracie: Correct.

The FightWorks Podcast: So if we pare it back and peel back the onion, brown belts are also probably pretty safe out there, and – I hate to do this to you – but white belts, from what you’re saying, are probably not as exposed to the kind of thing that will keep them safe in a self defense situation.

Rener Gracie: Correct.

The FightWorks Podcast: So somewhere along that spectrum is going to be a person, guy or girl, who has been training jiu jitsu in a “sporting academy”, and somewhere in there they are going to learn the stuff that’s going to make them safe.

Rener Gracie: Yeah, good question! That’s a really good question. I think the blue belt lady who came here is a great example, you know what I’m saying? It’s a great example of how she basically didn’t reach that point yet. That’s the problem, I think it’s flipped. What you’re saying is “Rener, somewhere deep in their career, they’re going to be ready for a street fight scenario.”

At the Gracie Academy, that’s the first and 100% priority before anything else, and then somewhere deeper in their career, they’re going to be so skilled at the street fight scenario and the mindset, and they’re going to have so many techniques – we’re teaching essentially the same thing, the difference is the philosophy – that somewhere deeper, a purple or brown belt from here can go against any sport purple or brown belt out there and fare just as well.

So it’s like, yes, they cross paths somewhere down there, right? The question is, which path should they start on? You know what I’m saying? At the Gracie Academy, we realize that people should start on the path that they came for. Any time somebody walks in the front door of the Academy, we’re assuming – and I think it’s pretty accurate – that they’re coming here to learn how to defend themselves against a larger, stronger opponent in a real fight. Protect themselves, protect their family: they saw Royce in the UFC, and they want to learn that.

They’re not going to the school saying “Hey, I want to get my white belt and win my first gold medal.” You understand? So that’s why we’ve chosen the self defense/survival path first, and then let the competition, if the student ever wants to compete, be a by-product of their several hundred or thousands of training hours, they have the skills, they have the reflexes, and they transfer.

But, in the beginning, what we can’t do is teach the students that if they’re trapped in the bottom of the sidemount, they have to escape at all costs, they have to get out. That’s happening every day at schools around the country because they’re training them for the three, five, seven minute time limit that exists in a tournament jiu jitsu match. They have to, otherwise they have no chance of victory.

The FightWorks Podcast: There’s folks out there who have heard the stories, or have been exposed to folks who – and this is going to play right into what you’re saying – of guys who may be blue belts or even purple who may not have been exposed to a correct escape from a headlock.

Rener Gracie: Yes! Thank you! There are purple belts who come here who don’t know how to block a punch from the guard. There are people who go to our online University – which by the way we have to talk about in a minute or two, because Renzo also bashed that pretty hard, which I understand – but there are people who go to our online University, who train for several years at a sport jiu jitsu school, then they show up at Gracie University.com, and they’re like, “wow, I never learned how to escape the mount against somebody who is punching me!”

This is major stuff. So, later in the interview, Renzo expressed his concerns regarding our efforts to make the complete curriculum available online through Gracie University.com. Since he’s not the first family member to express his concern, I’d like to take a few moments, if you’d let me, to clarify the matter.

The FightWorks Podcast: Yeah, we’ve got about ten more minutes, so let’s slip into that.

Rener Gracie: First of all, in order for you to understand Gracie University.com, you must understand why my grandfather fought in the ring. He didn’t fight to show that he was the baddest. He fought because he modified these techniques, he fought to develop his own conviction in the techniques, to believe in them, and to show his viewers that it worked, so that they would let him teach them.

His passion was to teach, so much so that one week before he passed away, he was teaching a class on a Brazilian television show. His passion was to empower others with the art. With that said, the three phases of the overall Gracie family objective can be understood.

Phase one, of the Gracie family overall objective, was to create the most effective system of self defense that the world had ever known. My grandfather did that, his brothers, everyone added to it, everyone added to it. That’s great.

Now, phase two was to show the world the necessity for the art, by proving it’s effectiveness against other disciplines. That was done by my grandfather, a lot of it, but also by the other uncles: Royce, Rickson, my father when he created the UFC, Renzo every time he fights, these guys are proving it’s effectiveness against other styles, to show the necessity for it.

Phase three, was to teach this system to the world. Phase three of the Gracie family purpose is to empower others. Any Gracie will tell you that. We are here to share, and empower the lives of others.

My brother and I were born and raised during phase two. Ryron and I was raised during phase two. As we matured into adulthood, we had to choose what we were going to spend our time and energy on. What we would dedicate our lives to, basically.

The following two things were most significant in helping us make our decision: first, by the time we were eighteen years old, every UFC fighter had adopted or added Brazilian jiu jitsu to their arsenal. Secondly, and more significantly, as of 2003, the entire US Army had adopted Gracie jiu jitsu as their primary hand-to-hand combat system.

Together, these two points were evidence that phase two was accomplished. The world had accepted Gracie jiu jitsu as the premier martial art, and though I will admit that our egos wanted to fight professionally, to continue proving the effectiveness of the art in the ring, we realized that eventually someone in the family had to stop focusing on proving it and start focusing on sharing it.

That’s when my brothers and I decided we would dedicate our lives to teaching the pure Gracie jiu jitsu to the world. At first we weren’t sure how we were going to do that, since the traditional way of certifying instructors was too slow, and would take forever to accomplish the mission, not to mention it’s hard to find instructors who could uphold the integrity of the art.

That’s when we decided that the only way we could reach the world was through the internet and DVD. Now, we weren’t the first ones to think of this: there are many others who have produced great videos and DVDs, and online courses, including Renzo and several other members of our family, but the one thing we realized was that all those were produced to complement the live training that somebody received at a school of martial arts.

If someone didn’t have a school to train at, these DVDs or online videos would be of little help. My brothers and I knew that the only possible way to teach the world through video would be if we organised the entire art into a linear curriculum, from white to black belt, something that had never been done before, and then capture every detail of every technique in the exact order and lesson format that one would experience if they were to receive private lessons from us for ten years straight. So we developed Gracie University.com and we went for it.

In order to track the progress of each student, we also created a revolutionary video evaluation process through which any student can digitally record themselves performing the techniques, upon completing each section of the curriculum, then upload those videos to Gracie University.com for us to evaluate. If they perform all the techniques perfectly, they can qualify for an official belt promotion through this process, and if not, we send them a detailed evaluation report outlining each and every mistake they made at the exact time code at which it occurred.

Unlike ever before, students in the middle of nowhere can learn self defense through the internet and get ultra-specific feedback from their instructors without ever having to spend thousands of dollars having to travel to a school.

The FightWorks Podcast: So, and I want to make it clear for our listeners, whether or not you guys would say that this should take the place of a school nearby. I mean, does this replace the necessity to train with a person live? If somebody has the access to something like that locally, they should…

Rener Gracie: [interrupts] If they have the access to a quality school, that will probably make it easier to reach the top, yes, of course. The goal here is to make it possible for somebody to learn completely on their own, but of course, if you have a school, if you’re next door to the Academy, you should be training here, correct.

Put it this way: you’ll get to the top faster, if you have somebody guiding. If you’re on your own, you have to figure things out on your own, it takes much more discipline and dedication.

Since this had never been done before, we knew we would face opposition from a large segment of the population in and out of the family, and we couldn’t have been more accurate, basically. As soon as we released the Gracie Combatives course, our white to blue belt curriculum, on DVD and online, we received a visit from two of our uncles – I’m not going to say who – who told us that the course should not be released because it was too good.

They said “Rener, if you release these DVDs, why would people go to a school to learn?” They saw the DVDs of course. “You’re giving away the teaching secrets, everything that makes the Gracie family unique.”

What my uncles did not understand at the time, and what all instructors around the world still don’t understand, is that we’re not doing this to take students from the brick and mortar jiu jitsu schools, Gracie or not. We’re doing this to make the art learnable for those who live hundreds of miles away from a legitimate school, or cannot afford to pay $200 dollars a month.

My grandfather always said that the world would be a better place if everyone knew Gracie jiu jitsu.

The FightWorks Podcast: We’re not going to argue with that. [laughs]

Rener Gracie: All we’re trying to do now by giving everyone, literally, the opportunity to learn.

The FightWorks Podcast: Yeah, and I’ll agree with you, and you hear this: we get emails on the show from people who say “I live in the middle of nowhere, I’m so jealous of you guys in Southern California, and all these other places that have great jiu jitsu all over. We have maybe a blue belt in town at best.”

Rener Gracie: Right!

The FightWorks Podcast: So there is a need, I can’t argue with that.

Rener Gracie: Let me take it one step further. By, my brothers and I, releasing the curriculum online, and on DVD, in such a comprehensive and engaging format, we are actually helping every instructor in the jiu jitsu community, right? Here’s how. MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world, we all know that, but I’m willing to bet that more than 95% of the viewers would never even consider practicing anything that has to do with the UFC, not even jiu jitsu, since their only perception of the art is what they see in the cage, and they want nothing to do with that.

At Gracie University.com, we’ve made Lesson One of the Gracie Combatives course free for anyone to view. In doing so, we’re giving everyone in the world the opportunity to experience the amazingness of Gracie jiu jitsu, in the most structured and technical format ever put on video, all from the comfort, all from the comfort and safety of their own home. Invariably, once they see it, they fall in love.

Basically, by giving people all over the world their ‘intro classes’, as we call it, in their homes, my brothers and I have created students out of tens of thousands of people in 144 countries who would have never otherwise considered practicing the art. Of the students who fall in love online, some have the desire and the necessary discipline to learn from home, but most of them, as you said, will want to end up joining a local school, to help them make it to the top.

The FightWorks Podcast: Which is what we want from everybody anyhow.

Rener Gracie: Yes! So rather than fear we’re going to take food off their table, every jiu jitsu instructor, in the family and outside the family, on the planet should be thankful that we have dedicated our lives to creating more students for the art as a whole.

You know what I’m saying? My dad taught me, from a very young age, my father taught me, that any time you do anything revolutionary, you will have half the world on their side, and you will have half the world against you, and as usual, he was right.

Every major advance in the last twenty years, Caleb, from calculators to online courses, has been met with resistance from those who only saw the limitations of those advances. Gracie University.com is no exception. Those who don’t understand it hate it, but those who are now learning pure Gracie jiu jitsu because of it think it’s the best creation of all time.

So I’m willing to live with the 50-50 support from the population, as long as everyone goes to Gracie University.com and watches Lesson One for free before they choose which side they’re on.

The FightWorks Podcast: Ok, so we’ve got to wind down, so let me start to close, but I think one of the questions that raised some eyebrows, or that people first thought about when they heard about your course is that technically, from what you’ve described, it is possible to receive a black belt having never trained with somebody live before, in person, only over video. Is that accurate?

Rener Gracie: Yeah, when you say “haven’t trained with someone live,” I mean, a little more specifically, they’re training with one, two, three, five, ten people, they’re training with a lot of people. They’re not just watching and sending in a written test, they’re actually learning and doing the techniques.

Now, regarding the black belt. No. The black belt cannot be earned, they have to come to the Academy. What happens is, through the video evaluation process, the highest rank someone can get, if they want to train online, at home, in their living room, for ten or twelve years straight, whose to say they can’t learn the art, right? The highest rank they can earn is a brown belt with four stripes.

So they can go all the way up, they can earn these stripes, they can test every single stripe along the way, that they test for, and if it’s perfect all the way up, and they know the techniques…now, the tests are pretty extensive. Now basically, they show them sparring, gi and no-gi, demonstrating every technique, right? They can get to four stripe brown belt, if they train, but it’s going to take a long time, several years.

If they get there, we invite them out to the Gracie Academy so they can participate in a five-day, live black-belt qualification test, here at the Academy, 100% free to them. There’s no cost to participate in that, because of course by then, they’re family right?

So the answer is yes, someone can climb the ladder from home. It’s hard for anyone to understand how that is possible, until they see the lessons. They’ve got to see Gracie Combatives. Once you see that, you have to see the Master Cycle, our path from blue belt to black belt.

The Master Cycle, bro – I mean, it’s not even released yet, on the air, it will be there in a few months – but, it’s incredible. We don’t just teach the techniques, you know? What me and Ryron do is every single morning, we come in, we load up the cameras, we shoot lessons, and we don’t just give the techniques, we give the techniques and all the reflex development drills, the sparring exercises…we demonstrate everything and say what they’ve got to do.

We teach them how to raise the intensity…I mean it’s literally as if you were in my living room, and I was verbally coaching you every step of the way, and you had a partner and I was watching you. It’s linear, so every single class builds on the previous lessons. So they’re not just like there…

There are lots of online learning sites right now, by the way, that are great, lots of information, but there are so many videos that a student who jumps on board doesn’t even know where to start, right? They just see three hundred, five hundred, a thousand videos, and they’ve just got to kinda choose their own path, and that’s not worth doing.

As you can see, in Lesson One of Gracie Combatives, we’re taking them by the hand and we’re showing them the exact path, with the details and everything in between, so it’s pretty incredible.

I understand, because it is so unique, this whole process, I understand all the hatred from the instructors especially out there, and all the animosity and the split support. But guess what: when I get an email from someone right in the middle of nowhere, who is like “Rener, this is the best thing I’ve ever seen, I’ve been following you guys since ’93 and I’ve been waiting for this. This is a godsend and you guys are incredible”?

Forget about it, I don’t care what anybody says negative about it, if that person, all the people out there on their own are learning, it is a 100% worth it to me and my family, because that’s what my grandfather would want. My grandfather, ultimately, would say “Hey, let’s make it available to as many people as possible.” He didn’t even know that technology could do this, right? He killed himself, broke his back, to basically teach thirty or forty private classes a day.

His claim to fame was “Rener, I used to change my gi twenty times a day,” just teaching private classes. In other words, “Rener, look at what I’m doing to help life, to help other people.” He could fight professionally, and just chill between classes, and between fights, like many other professional fighters do. But no, he was fighting one day, and the next day he is back on the mats, teaching the President of Brazil. His passion was teaching, his passion was sharing it.

We found a way, and naturally there is going to be some anger, which we accept and understand, as long as the people learn all over the world. I’m 100% ok with that.

The FightWorks Podcast: Yeah, like you said, if there are folks who otherwise would never even touch it, who find this as a vehicle to get into jiu jitsu, who can argue with that.

Rener Gracie: Yes, and the thing is we’re creating more students, the instructor should be grateful. Now, if you recall, at the end of Renzo’s interview, he seemed pretty upset, and he even challenged my brothers and I, saying that he wanted to come down here and show us the real jiu jitsu.

I hope that in this interview, I was able to clarify any misunderstanding that caused this anger towards us, but if not, I just wanted to say that I would rather give Renzo whatever title he is looking for before I would ever fight him or any other member of the family with malintentions.

Now, with that being said, if he wants to come down and choke us out a few times, like uncles are supposed to, my brothers and I would be honored, and the invitation is always open.

The FightWorks Podcast: [laughs] I was just about to ask you if you had any closing statements referring back to the interview, but you just nailed it there. Unless there is anything else, I think it’s probably time to wrap up.

I think you addressed a lot of the concerns that Renzo had, right? You talked about his concern about the student visiting and the online stuff, so anything else in general you want to say to our audience, the might 600,000, before we let you go?

Rener Gracie: No sir, thank you for the opportunity, and thank you for the call. It’s all good, it’s all family. Again, in the end, we’re all after the same thing: a world of Gracie or Brazilian jiu jitsu, everyone on the same page, everyone learning this incredible art, all our lives getting better because of it. I appreciate the support, the students, and I’m here to share. My life is dedicated to sharing, and that’s what it’s all about.

The FightWorks Podcast: Ok, Rener Gracie, thank you very much.

Rener Gracie: Thank you, bro.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Darragh O Conaill December 6, 2009 at 7:07 am

Just wanted to say thanks for including and giving your answers to my question!

slideyfoot December 6, 2009 at 12:02 pm

While I think it’s great that Rener was willing to come on the show, I have to say I’m a little disappointed with his response. He basically took the opportunity to deliver an extended sales pitch on why he thinks Gracie University is so awesome.

Even when Caleb did mange to get a word in, such as the important question about people getting all the way up the ranks without ever actually training live, Rener brushed it off.

Apparently being a four stripe brown who has never been physically present at a BJJ class is fine: the lack of resistance training (or ‘aliveness’, to use the popular term explained so well by Matt Thornton and his student Cane Prevost) was pretty much glossed over, in my opinion. There is no sparring in Gracie Combatives, and IMO, that is the biggest problem, especially if you can even receive rank without ever actually testing your technique against somebody fully resisting.

Rener did mention sparring in connection with that, so perhaps it is somehow addressed in later parts of the course: that would rectify the problem to a degree, at least after blue belt. I hope I have to chance to see the later parts of the course, if they ever get released on DVD (as I can’t see myself paying a monthly subscription fee for something I can only stream rather than own, no matter how high quality).

I also found it a little dubious that Rener took the example of one poor blue belt sparring with his brother Ryron and applied it to everybody training at what he calls a ‘sport’ jiu jitsu school. The first thing everybody learns how to do, because of sparring, is relax. If your rolling style involves struggling and straining with all your strength, you’re going to blow all your energy fast, just like Rener said. I agree, that would clearly be a bad idea in self defence.

However, it would be equally foolish in a competitive setting. Nobody intends to go into a match and expend all their energy in the first thirty seconds, and no sensible BJJ teacher would put that forward as a strategy. To escape side control, you don’t blow all your energy, you use timing and leverage.

I can point to a very highly respected teacher of ‘sport’ jiu jitsu (though as I’ve said in the past, I think the ‘sport’ vs ‘self defence’ divide is something of a false distinction), a certain Saulo Ribeiro. His Jiu Jitsu University book explicitly states that survival is the central concern of white belts (citing Helio), with escapes the main goal of blue belts. Ribeiro only deals with submissions in any depth at the very end of the book. It doesn’t appear that his very intense involvement in competition (he’s a champion, his brother is a champion, his students do well competition) has had a detrimental impact on his teaching.

In regards to the frequently used “competition has time limits and points, so it isn’t real” line, I would like to know if Rener and his students would therefore enter a Submission Only tournament, as organised by US Grappling. Those feature no time limits or points, just submission, so would seem to address the common criticisms Rener repeated.

It terms of instruction, the Gracie Combatives DVDs are indeed something to be proud of: I’ve watched them many times over, and the actual instruction can’t be faulted. Indeed, as they have finally got my girlfriend interested in doing some training at home with me, I may well end up having considerable cause to thank Rener, should she stick with the course and discover a love of jiu jitsu.

However, the manner in which Gracie Combatives removes resistance training (especially the complete absence of sparring, even merely positional sparring) is a very serious flaw, in my opinion. So, hopefully that is dealt with in the Master Cycle.

radamez85 December 6, 2009 at 2:07 pm

thanks again for this interview!
JT’s story is very personal to me. thanks Caleb for the continued hardwork. <3

Chris December 6, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I think that what Rener said was very fair in terms of the contrast in training philosophy and I think if that was the explanation given from the very start, we may have heard a less passionate response from Renzo. I think Rener was trying to be as objective as possible in his summation of the current state of affairs in BJJ and I respect his candor. I think what was important to hear him say was that it wasn’t necessarily about the teaching or exclusion of techniques because they’re inferior or aren’t “Real JiuJitsu”, but the emphasis on maintaining a certain level of defense competency before going onto to sport emphasis.

I think what really caused problems were Relson’s statements earlier. I don’t think he articulated his position as well as Rener. With all due respect to Relson, I think that the tone of his argument was abrasive and it would’ve served him better to respect what others in BJJ are doing, specifically Gracie Barra, rather than deriding them. Rener did that.

Kudos to you guys for another great show and for your attempts at making the discussion fair. Keep up the good work!

franck December 6, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I think Rener and Renzo have two different mindset both are respectable , but Rener is definitely smart and articulate but he is also a good sales man for sure .I am more sensitive to Renzo’s vision that I feel to be more humble and genuine.

TMDalbey December 6, 2009 at 4:49 pm

In all fairness, we could all be wrong. The Gracie Combatives Program could be an effective way of teaching BJJ and the online ranking/video submission thing could be reasonable and just. What needs to happen is this: a scientific experiment. Lets take as many Gracie Combative students as we can and pair them up with equally ranked students from other schools (might I suggest Renzos?) and score their success. If Rener or Relson would like to set the rules (as part of their complaint is with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition rule set) then I am sure Renzo would be open to accepting those rules. The bottom line is this though: their online system isn’t tested to the BJJ community standards – right now it’s just a sales pitch. Personally, I strongly disagree with handing out belts until some more thorough testing takes place.

franck December 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Thanks for the Cane Prevost link Sidleyfoot!…

Meerkatsu December 6, 2009 at 5:54 pm

The Relson-Renzo-Rener trilogy of Podcast shows has got to be compulsorary listening for all BJJ practitioners from now on. Great shows well done and nice summary at the end.
There has been a lot of debate on forums about the topic of sport BJJ vs Gracie Combatives.
In my mind, the two ‘styles’ appeal to two very different types of students and the world is arguably big enough to contain both.

CoolerUK December 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm

If you look at what Rener said, the scientific experiment that TMBailey suggests is not quite justified as a solution: Rener states that at some point deep in the students’ careers their paths will cross. The question is which path to start from..

So Pairing Gracie Academy Blue belts with BJJ blue belts is not an accurate experiment since they are not at the “crossing point” that Rener refers to. The Belts represent different and incomparable accomplishments.

If one really feels the need to satisfy one’s curiosity with such an experiment – the best situation is to find a rank level where the students paths are considered to be “crossing”- perhaps purple to brown – and pair them up. But the Combatives and blue belt is not accurate “scientific” input for that experiment, if you want realistic and unbiased results.

I think both paths are valid – BJJ or Gracie Jiu Jitsu – the question is not about which is better… rather, which is better FOR THE INDIVIDUAL STUDENT based on their Individual training objectives.

It would be much better for the two forms to simply co-exist side by side with eachother. And let everybody choose what they want to learn, without criticism and hate. If people don’t like the Combatives or MasterCycle, so be it. Nobody is forcing them to do it. By the same token if people don’t want to compete – there’s nothing wrong with deciding against joining a sportive club.

It’s all Jiu Jitsu – and respect to anyone learning it – no matter what form they chose.

Just my 2 cents.

Great show!

MD December 6, 2009 at 8:26 pm

The Gracie’s are preserving the integrity of the techniques taught by Helio..and doing a great job! They are hard-working, and genuine!

johnny December 6, 2009 at 8:54 pm

To suggest that Renzo Gracie is simply teaching for sport MMA is completely ridiculous! Especially when he himself not Rener has tested his art in many real life situations outside of the ring, let alone no rules bare knuckle matches years before the UFC! I can also assure you that any student learning from Renzo Gracie is learning all of what Brazilian Ju-Jitsu has to offer be it for sport and or street self defense.

I can also bet that any student taking the online course will be no match to any equally ranked student who trains at Renzo’s and or a Gracie Barra academy and most likely any other.

As far as I’m concerned it was mostly great sales pitch and most of what we all already knew about the different mind set of the Torrance Gracie Academy.

In the end everyone has there freedom of choice to decide who they want to learn and train with. I’ve made my choice. So be it! :o)

patrick December 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Thanks to Caleb and Dan, and the fightsworks podcast for putting these interviews and transcripts and ABSOLUTELY amazing shows together!

Jason December 6, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Thanks for the historical podcasts- great work!

Rener took the high road, apologized and showed considerable restraint after what was said about him, his brother, father and the academy. It sounds like something minor was blown out of proportion- taken or said the wrong way. Maybe somebody told Renzo’s student that at the academy, the focus is more street self-defense oriented BJJ (so any Joe Blow can defend himself against a larger opponent) as opposed to Renzo’s MMA approach and it went downhill from there. Dunno, just speculating. Renzo deserves much respect for his accomplishments & talents, but he’s hot-headed. Hopefully both parties can make amends and move forward.

Regarding TMDalbey’s comments (“…their online system isn’t tested to the BJJ community standards – right now it’s just a sales pitch”.)

What exactly are the BJJ community standards? Serious question.

JT December 7, 2009 at 12:16 am

HELIO GRACIE – THE GENIUS OF THE GRACIE DYNASTY

“Give me the right leverage and I will lift the world” – Helio Gracie

“If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it” – Adolph Hitler

From the day Al Gore first invented the internet it has been used as a tool to communicate ideas, many of them false. Basic psychology teaches us that people will tend to twist their perception of reality to match their fantasies. In an anonymous and consequence free environment like the internet lies regularly become “fact”.

Naturally, when it comes to the life of the great martial artist, Helio Gracie, there are plenty of internet myths. We are here today to set the facts straight.

In 1610 Italian astronomer, Galileo, revolutionized the way we see ourselves when he applied the laws of physics to his observations and proved that the earth was not flat. (Thankfully, Galileo lived before the time of the internet critic and only had to deal with the Spanish Inquisition). Just like Galileo before him, Helio Gracie applied the laws of physics but instead radically altered the principles of unarmed combat.

By applying the principles of the fulcrum and the “length of lever” to human physiology Helio was able to analyze any situation in a fight and scientifically determine the optimum body positioning.

The cross choke used to defeat Japanese champion Kato is a classic example of innovation from Helio. By modifying the traditional hand placement and body alignment, Helio discovered the precise grip that would offer the optimum choking leverage. The choke had existed in its rudimentary form from the time of Alexander the Great until Maeda taught it to Carlos and his brothers, but it was Helio who perfected it.

It was this insight that allowed Helio to dominate his older and more experienced brothers from his first days on the mat. From that time on Helio took over the lead role of teaching at the academy while Carlos became the guru of the family. Not only a teacher, Helio would lead from the front and fight in many no-rules challenges to prove the effectiveness of his Jiu Jitsu. While all generations of the Gracie family would benefit from his innovation, not all would follow Helio into the ring. Some of the family members would instead dedicate themselves to the development of the sportive applications of Helio’s Jiu jitsu rather than the combative aspect, but make no mistake – all roads lead to Helio.

Aside from looking to maximize leverage, the other staple of Helio’s new Jiu Jitsu was the defense-first philosophy. Helio discovered that to heighten ones chance of victory in a fight, priority must be given to protecting oneself rather than attacking the opponent. Simply put, the best offense is a good defense.

This counter intuitive strategy was particularly important when facing a physically superior opponent. A by-product of this law however was that the heavier and stronger the opponent, the longer the fight would last. While most students of Helio were glad to choose a slow victory rather than a quick defeat, others would try to add different martial arts to Jiu Jitsu. This was a grave mistake evidenced from the very earliest days of Jiu Jitsu such as when Helio’s older brother, Jorge, thought it was necessary to use boxing as an offense alongside jiu jitsu and suffered a number of defeats as a direct result.

By adding boxing, judo or wrestling the fighter was sure to be more entertaining for spectators and perhaps had a prospect of a fast and spectacular victory, but at the same time it would significantly increase the chances of defeat. Helio, the purist though remained dedicated to victory in combat rather than aesthetics and pleasing onlookers and this guaranteed his legacy.

As decades have passed and memories faded, individuals for cultural, nationalistic, or personal reasons have tried to downplay the pivotal role of Helio. The undeniable fact is Gracie Jiu Jitsu as we know it today did not exist until Helio Gracie stepped onto the Tatami. The prowess of Rolls, the guard of Royce, the mount of Roger, are all offspring of the teachings of Helio.

If you only ever do it once in your life perhaps now is a good time to stop and think for a moment about the way your own life has changed for the better thanks to Helio. Remember that without Helio, there would be no sport of Mixed Martial Arts, no UFC culture, no MMA discussion forums. Helio’s legacy has allowed thousands to put food on their table and benefitted the lives of many more be they teacher or student, fighter or fan.

By looking at the state of martial arts today we can be sure of one thing – whether due credit and recognition is given to the genius of Helio or not, his legacy will live on forever in both sweat and blood.

Brad T. December 7, 2009 at 1:11 am

Just would like to throw some thoughts out there for all to consider…Our school was the test bed for the Combatives program and I was one of the first to be promoted. We had been doing what is now considered a blend of the current Combatives and Master Cycle techniques to supplement our Karate. So I kind of equate us to a part time Jiu-Jitsu school even though we offer Combatives as much as Karate.

One must understand Rener is very charismatic and is extremely passionate about this program. He speaks with conviction as would you with something you believe so strongly in. This, I’m sure, is why he comes across as selling the program.

In their 80 plus years of training/fighting the Gracies have got it figured out and the focus is perfecting the technique to the best of your ability and in the Master Cycle Rener streches this out to mean knowing it’s limitations. At the Certified Training Centers like ours you have to attend each class a minimum of two times and have at least two stripes before you can participate in the Reflex Develeopment classes after that you need each class at least 3 times, 4 stripes and 12 RDC classes. This allows you to better comprehend the techniques before you start to modify them and put yourself in a worse condition because you don’t know, what you don’t know at this stage. By the time you’re ready to test having done all of these you’re ready becasue you demonstrate it in a free flow fight simulation drill for at least 4 mins. and if you’re not you don’t receive your belt. There have already been people that have failed. At our school you get a blue belt for this and we make it pretty real, meaning we go pretty hard and don’t tell you what techniques we’re going to feed you.

As being a former instructor in the Navy and a probationary Combatives instructor(hopefully fully certified this week) I can tell you every one learns differently. I know that while I was training I went on the road for travel with my job I trained at another school and was able to hold my own pretty well with the blue belts as a 3 stripe white belt and I consider myself an average learner. My student that I produced to blue belt was a prodigy and did it in 2.5 months. He continously watched the DVD videos to supplement the private instruction I was giving him. He has since moved on to another local school to pursue MMA since we tend to focus on self defence and with just his Combatives training he’s hanging with all the others in that school. For sure there is much to be said for instructor led training as we can fill in the questions that arise. If you don’t have that option because the nearest school is 3 hours away you have the forum on Gracie University.

The only thing constant in life is change and you should always approach it with an open mind…
Thanks for your time,
Brad Taylor

David Webb December 7, 2009 at 2:48 am

Another great interview from Caleb and the guys at FightWorks podcast. Compelling listening for any BJJer. I have to echo Slidy’s comments at the top of this section, still leaves a lot of unanswered questions and I feel slightly disheartened by the way many of Caleb’s questions seemed to be brushed over during the responses…

Keep up the good work guys!

geezy December 7, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I think the main reason why Renzo was so heated was because, his student was told that basically Renzo wasn’t teaching him/her how to fight or survive in a real street fight! So of course Renzo would be upset, I mean the man has been teaching for how many years now, a 5 stripe black belt, which by the way is the same as Reners, and his style is basically discredited because his students compete in MMA and submissions tourneys. So if you think about it wouldn’t any master/teacher be heated if some one said your teaching is wrong or wouldn’t work in this scenerio…Another reason was that in Relson saying that Roger Gracie is the only one in Gracie Barra that does pure Gracie Jiu Jitsu, basically takes all the credit away from every professor Gracie barra has including Renzo and Carlos Jr. himself….I think the vibe that Renzo got from Relson and the vibe that he got from Gracie Jiu jitsu Torrance was that if you didnt learn from Grandmaster Helio directly, then your teachings aren’t worth shit….which is why Carlson and now Renzo always has to try and defended their schools against their own family members………..

dan December 7, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I often find the Comments originating from Torrance abrasive and arrogant (concerning crosstraining, other belt certifications etc.).
In Defense of Rener´s position I have to say that I live in Germany and there is close to none BJJ here (though lots of old school Judo etc.). Here its just not the same Bjj infrastructure as overseas for a hungry German eager to learn BJJ!
I was not satisfied with the grappling aspect in my Dojo and completely fell in love with BJJ. So I built myself a grappling Dummy and started to train with the combatives programm. And although the community bashes it I have never seen better instruction and learned more from any other Bjj instructional DVD period. I do not intend to do the belt testing online stuff at all but I got hooked and will join a real life Dojo offering BJJ.

slideyfoot December 8, 2009 at 4:47 am

Dan’s experience above sounds exactly how Gracie Combatives should work: a way into BJJ for those who don’t have a school nearby. That, I don’t have a problem with.

It’s the ‘self defence vs sport‘ and online belt testing that I think are dubious.

However, I think it’s worth emphasising that the level of instruction is excellent. You can’t fault Rener as a teacher: if people are able to take the philosophy and online belts with a large pinch of salt, then personally I’d be happy to recommend those DVDs.

Awanigaabaw December 9, 2009 at 1:55 am

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!!! Too many people are knocking it without even trying it. Gracie University (“GU”) works! You want hard data that it works, here is hard data:

I attend both a local sportive BJJ gym (as a white belt, 2 stripes) and do the online GU course. My training partner (who trains the Combatives with me) ONLY does the Gracie University. He had no prior experience. I did have a good 4 months of experience on him (because I joined the local gym 4 months before we started the Combatives course), but we both trained the GU Combatives course together. Let me tell you, the reflex development drills and the fight simulation drills aren’t easy! They give you a work out, more so than I get at my local bjj gym.

Anyways, in the beginning when I had more experience than him, I could easily tap him out. Now that he and I have finished the Combatives course, I can NO LONGER tap him out! He has done nothing but the online Combatives course. I, on the other hand, have a ton of “rolling” hours and almost a 100 “live” classes at the local gym, and I hold my own with the blue belts at my local BJJ school (I’m a white belt, two stripes at the local school). Sometimes I can even hold my own against some purple belts (albeit, some purple belts can have their way with me). :) To be expected. The point: he is as good as I am without having gone to a live classes at a local gym. It’s frustrating, but its the truth. :)

You have to realize that the Combatives course is not your run-of-the-mill video series. They present the techniques, their variations, IN DETAIL. They leave nothing out! Then, you and your partner practice those techniques till you master the basic application and variations, THEN you do the reflex development drills and the fight simulation drills. Those are what ensure you have the techniques mastered, accompanied by the proper “punch safe” reflexes.

The problem I see at the local gym is that I never see the same technique twice. So, I don’t remember most of the techniques that we’ve learned. With the Combatives course, you can view the video as many times as you need to refresh your memory. As a result, I learn each technique with better accuracy and precision than I do at my local bjj school.

In response to a comment above about Saulo Ribeiro’s book Jiu-Jitsu University. I have it and have read the white belt section. It’s clear to me that many of those techniques are not punch safe, since they do not show you how to remain safe from punches while underneath your opponent. He advocates for a position (while being side mounted) where your “outside arm” is tucked on your belly, and your “inside” arm is guarding your opponent’s left arm. In tournments, this is not a problem, since you have no worries about being hit in the face. But in a real street fight, this is dangerious since your opponent could be “clocking” you with punches with his right hand while he’s got you side mounted. So many of those positions do not require you to guard your face. The Combatives constantly emphasize that the techniques MUST be “punch safe”. So, what Saulo APPEARS (I can’t be sure) to mean by “survival” is tournament survival, not street survival per se.

Anyways, try the combatives course for yourself! You won’t be disappointed. Rener and Ryron are excellent teachers!

NFX December 9, 2009 at 11:28 am

Rorion and his sons are about bringing GJJ to the world. Sharing it’s greatness.

Others in the Gracie family are about promoting the Gracie name through competition.

Both are valid ways of promoting their passions. As a person who is not looking to compete and just want to be more self confident about my ability to protect myself and family, the Torrance academy is more for me.

I also admire Renzo’s passion for what he does.

As Rener says often in class “It’s all good”

Mario Mastro December 9, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Very interesting interviews from both sides. I just want to say i am 49 yrs old and have ben in Martial arts since I was 12. I also had the pleasure of training with Rickson Gracie for 2 days in Massachusetts some 16 years ago and have been a Gracie person ever since. I admire the art and their upbringing as people and it bothers me to hear one family member say to another they are going to go and beat them down. But I know those are family things that are said sometimes.

I purchased the Gracie combatives 13 disc set about 2 months ago. I will tell you it is anything but easy. People are talking like you just watch a disc and get a belt. I own 2 business (one of which is a karate school) and would never have the time to go and train in BJJ school on their schedule. Between veiwing discs, practicing moves on my own and training with my students at the dojo I put in about 10 to 12 hours a week, on top of everything else. I’ll bet there are a lot of students going to schools that do not put in that amout of time. It is the most excited i have been about learning something new in years. I am a third of the way through the course and i already see an improvement. And also in case you were wondering no I don’t want to be a world champion at 49 yrs old. There is only one Randy Couture out there. Train the body hard and the mind harder, for your mind is the best weapon you have, Peace

Romeo December 10, 2009 at 11:31 am

As much as I love GU it has one MAJOR Flaw which really cant be fixed sadly due to the nature of the course ; that flaw is it does not take body type or disabilities into account during the lessons. I’ll use myself as an example, I have cerebral palsy and a curved spine as a result have limited leg strength and poor balance. Therefore, mount is an unstable and very limited position for me and the trap and roll mount escape as its taught in the course is of no use to me. Luckily, I only use GU to supplement my training I get at my local and my instructor already taught me the mount escapes that work for my body. One of the chief selling points AND principles of BJJ is it works for everyone. Even the Gracies all fight differently. In short your BJJ style must fit your body type and physical abilities. and GU(combatives) isnt designed for that and since you must pass a test to get to the other escapes/techniques that takes the entire program down a notch IMO. You shouldn’t be forced to do something that you cannot physically do. Thats bad instruction. Its better as a supplementary tool.

Mario Mastro December 10, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Romeo,
In their blue belt testing procedure they say let us know if you have any disabilties that will keep you from doing a move when you introduce yourself on the tape before you do your drills. As I stated earlier I own and operate a dojo in Mass. and I have a 12 year old student with CP and he also has limited flexibity and poor balance as well. He has a tough time just sitting on someone in a mount position but man you should see him punch, do push-ups and chin-ups. I will sincerely say to you what I say to him do what you can and work as hard as you can doing it and I bet the Gracies would feel the same way. At GU you are your own teacher in one sense so you should know how to push yourself but also lay off a bit if something bothers you. All the best to you.

Shannon Durbin December 10, 2009 at 3:28 pm

I listened to the interview and the rebuttle and having been to both the Academy to train in their law enforcment cource and doing the online cource ( I bought he video’s so I could play them anywhere) I must say alot of people have the worng idea about the online course.

I am a former police officer i now do homeland security and am a holder of 2 black belts. I would like to say while taking the police course whitch is a week long 8 hour a day course I seen guys their who have brown and black belts in BJJ nad other arts who tried also fought in mma bouts and won. I have to say I watched the be in awe over Rorion, Renner and the other gracie brothers while doing private lessons I wathed these guys come out so tired they couldnt walk and Renner not even braking a sweat, so coul he beat anyone good in a fight I think he could easly. I work with ex marines guys who own BJJ schools and whith what I have learned from the videos and the class I have taken them down and taped them easly. I think what alot of people here are not looking at is everyone has their own skill level. But I dare anyone here to go to the gracie academy and try to just beat down any of the gracie brother lol good luck. PS for those all set on sparing all the time my experiance is you mostl get injuries and cant fight anyways. stick to intence training.

Christopher Wall December 10, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Caleb,

I just wanted to write you and first compliment you on your podcast. Great show, you have created a new fan.

I am a student of the Gracie University and I can tell you that it is an incredible curriculum, superb detail and easy to use, learn and 100% effective.

The Gracie university has taken my ability to defend myself through Jiu Jitsu up by 1000%. It has also allowed me to practice more often and increased my desire to learn and find a school when I have the opportunity. I have also had the opportunity train at a school and I can tell you that the instruction through the university in my opinion is actually superior in the sense that I can stop, rewind, review zoom in and analyze the technique as much as I want and enhance my learning. My motivations for learning Gracie Jiu Jitsu/ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is for self defense, as of yet I have no desire to compete although I think competing can enhance my technique. That being said, I think Gracie Jiu Jitsu is superior for self defense compared to the way most schools are teaching BJJ now, simply for the way the Gracie academy teaches the core techniques to help you survive and prevail in a real fight first. For example at the sport oriented school I was at, I did not learn how to escape a full mount, where this is the first technique taught in GJJ. This one technique is potentially life saving and I have no idea how long it would have taken me to be first exposed to this technique at the sport school. In my time at the sport school I learned a lot about side mounts and cross collar chokes and arm-bars, maybe a complicated sweep but not the basics.

I would actually recommend that every BJJ player at least go through the core combative course (blue belt) in the GJJ curriculum and continue their sport school. it will only enhance their training and maybe save their life.

Thank you again for having such a great show. I will be sure to continue to tune in….

Respectfully,

Christopher C Wall
Sultan, WA
Semper Fi

Zacharias December 14, 2009 at 8:38 am

I have been a student at the UKGJJ academy for 6 months now learning Gracie combatives. My attendence has been 100% at the academy, I have also watched the combatives course many times, had many many private lessons and I am still not quite yet a blue belt. The standards are very high and the attention to detail is immense. Let me assure you that although Gracie university exists the standards have not dropped although it may appear like that to some. There is no substitute for a real academy and neither do I believe that this is the intention of Gracie university. No doubt it is possible to get there using only the university but it would not be easy and it would take you a long time. I personally see the university as a means to help people find a path into Jui-jitsu but most certainly not as a factory for blue belts.

Trey December 14, 2009 at 10:51 am

As a Japanese jujitsu (JJJ) student that dabbles in BJJ, I found this interview very interesting. My JJJ training is very self-defense focused. It’s far more similar to Gracie Combatives than the BJJ classes I’ve taken. After four years of JJJ training, I’m confident in my self-defense abilities but know from rolling with BJJ guys that my grappling is very limited by comparison.

ChairibOfJustice December 14, 2009 at 2:56 pm

There isn’t anything here that I haven’t heard before. It’s the same old stuff that has been going around for years about the different Gracie factions. Yes the different Gracie factions don’t like each other very much and there’s always been a lot of infighting and backstabbing between the different family members. Mostly it’s just more of a reminder of how much I can’t stand the bickering and politics that go on in the Jiu-Jitsu world.

I remember hearing about “pure Jiu-Jitsu” back in the 90′s when I was studying BJJ in LA. Originally the line was something like “the pure waters of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” with Helio Gracie of course being the symbolic fountain or source of purity from which Gracie Jiu-Jitsu came from. Rorian has been pushing this idea that Helio is the sole creator and innovator of the art since day one. Relson was just stating the party line in his interview and Renzo was just saying something everyone has known for ages. Don’t forget Renzo used to teach there, it’s where he met his old business partner Craig Kukuk.

This purity idea was also an attitude that would manifest itself within the students over at the Torrance Academy. They thought their Jiu-Jitsu was the only real Jiu-Jitsu as well as the underlying belief that everyone else’s Jiu-Jitsu was a cheap knock off. That attitude of purity also made what was taught at the Torrance Academy very rigid and dogmatic. I know guys were not taught things in the old days like leg locks, foot locks, and ankle holds because Rorian didn’t like them. And yes people used the word “cult” when referring to the Torrance Academy as well.

And lets not forget back then the “purity” line was also meant to be an insult to the other Gracie schools who operated in America back then. Including their cousins the Machados, who ran a nearby school that competed with them. There wasn’t ever anything said publically but Rorian felt the Machados came in and made a living off of teaching Jiu-Jitsu by undercutting his prices.

But back then the majority of insults were mostly directed towards the late Carlson Gracie, his students, and the school he ran up in Hollywood. This was around the time when Vitor Belfort still went by “Victor Gracie” and was calling himself the adopted son of Carlson. Rorian’s camp would love telling anyone who listened that Carlson’s students were poorly trained, bad fundamentally, and were nowhere in the same league as someone from Torrance. Mind you Rorian did ask Carlson to come help train Royce for UFC 2 because Carlson’s style was more suited towards Vale Tudo. That’s why you see Carlson in the Gracie Train back then. And lets not forget that Rorian also used some of Carlson’s students including Murlio Bustamante in his old “Gracie In Action” tapes as well.

In the end it took two well publicized matches to set everyone straight about how good Carlson Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu was. The first was Mario Sperry’s match against Royler Gracie and the second was Royce Gracie’s infamous match with Wallid Ismail. Not only did Royce and Royler lose to Carlson Gracie students but they both lost to the same move: the clock choke. Royler lost and Mario Sperry became the first guy to make a Gracie tap, while Royce got choked unconscious. Remember this was back in 1998, in the Jiu-Jitsu world it was like someone dropped an A-Bomb.

Here’s the thing, the clock choke was something neither one of those guys even saw coming. Especially Royce. Why? Once again were back that idea of “purity” again. Those guys are in a bubble and instead competing and getting better, they refused to grow and learn and they kept their own students from learning as well.

Though now a days that “purity” line sounds more like an excuse than anything. Though it does sound very much like all they’ve done is take the same old style of Helio’s and repackage it as “Gracie Combatives.”

slideyfoot December 15, 2009 at 12:48 am

Great post, Chairib.

There is a long history of the Gracie Academy pushing itself as ‘pure’ jiu jitsu, and interestingly enough, that has also been in terms of attacking self defence courses too, specifically Carlson Gracie Jr’s old tape series (though to be fair to Rorion, he did try and address this point on the Gracie University forums).

You can trace the various battles through Rorion’s court case against Carley, Helio’s interview on the old Gracie Jiu Jitsu Advanced tapes, another court case involving Rickson, not to mention the situation with Carlson (perhaps most notably this).

To an extent, any big family is going to get into arguments. It gets much worse when there is money involved, so there has unfortunately been fighting over who has the ‘real’ Gracie jiu jitsu. Gracie University is the latest way for Rorion and his sons to stake their claim, but it is the first time they have actively tried to remove the most essential part of Gracie jiu jitsu’s success: efficacy against fully resisting opponents. As ever, I hope that is rectified by the Master Cycle.

Jay5 December 15, 2009 at 7:55 am

Please read ChairibOfJustice’s post….enough said.

There isn’t anything here that I haven’t heard before. It’s the same old stuff that has been going around for years about the different Gracie factions. Yes the different Gracie factions don’t like each other very much and there’s always been a lot of infighting and backstabbing between the different family members. Mostly it’s just more of a reminder of how much I can’t stand the bickering and politics that go on in the Jiu-Jitsu world.

I remember hearing about “pure Jiu-Jitsu” back in the 90’s when I was studying BJJ in LA. Originally the line was something like “the pure waters of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” with Helio Gracie of course being the symbolic fountain or source of purity from which Gracie Jiu-Jitsu came from. Rorian has been pushing this idea that Helio is the sole creator and innovator of the art since day one. Relson was just stating the party line in his interview and Renzo was just saying something everyone has known for ages. Don’t forget Renzo used to teach there, it’s where he met his old business partner Craig Kukuk.

This purity idea was also an attitude that would manifest itself within the students over at the Torrance Academy. They thought their Jiu-Jitsu was the only real Jiu-Jitsu as well as the underlying belief that everyone else’s Jiu-Jitsu was a cheap knock off. That attitude of purity also made what was taught at the Torrance Academy very rigid and dogmatic. I know guys were not taught things in the old days like leg locks, foot locks, and ankle holds because Rorian didn’t like them. And yes people used the word “cult” when referring to the Torrance Academy as well.

And lets not forget back then the “purity” line was also meant to be an insult to the other Gracie schools who operated in America back then. Including their cousins the Machados, who ran a nearby school that competed with them. There wasn’t ever anything said publically but Rorian felt the Machados came in and made a living off of teaching Jiu-Jitsu by undercutting his prices.

But back then the majority of insults were mostly directed towards the late Carlson Gracie, his students, and the school he ran up in Hollywood. This was around the time when Vitor Belfort still went by “Victor Gracie” and was calling himself the adopted son of Carlson. Rorian’s camp would love telling anyone who listened that Carlson’s students were poorly trained, bad fundamentally, and were nowhere in the same league as someone from Torrance. Mind you Rorian did ask Carlson to come help train Royce for UFC 2 because Carlson’s style was more suited towards Vale Tudo. That’s why you see Carlson in the Gracie Train back then. And lets not forget that Rorian also used some of Carlson’s students including Murlio Bustamante in his old “Gracie In Action” tapes as well.

In the end it took two well publicized matches to set everyone straight about how good Carlson Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu was. The first was Mario Sperry’s match against Royler Gracie and the second was Royce Gracie’s infamous match with Wallid Ismail. Not only did Royce and Royler lose to Carlson Gracie students but they both lost to the same move: the clock choke. Royler lost and Mario Sperry became the first guy to make a Gracie tap, while Royce got choked unconscious. Remember this was back in 1998, in the Jiu-Jitsu world it was like someone dropped an A-Bomb.

Here’s the thing, the clock choke was something neither one of those guys even saw coming. Especially Royce. Why? Once again were back that idea of “purity” again. Those guys are in a bubble and instead competing and getting better, they refused to grow and learn and they kept their own students from learning as well.

Though now a days that “purity” line sounds more like an excuse than anything. Though it does sound very much like all they’ve done is take the same old style of Helio’s and repackage it as “Gracie Combatives.”

andreas January 6, 2010 at 12:17 am

Rener is horrible to listen to and I think he is wrong on so many levels that I kept rolling my eyes like an Idiot while listening to this podcast.

Thanks for all the work you put into this caleb, dan, bruce

CheebaHawk From New York January 6, 2010 at 2:29 am

I give respect to what CoolerUK said earlier. “It’s all Jiu Jitsu – and respect to anyone learning it – no matter what form they chose.” I feel this is the statement to live by. I grew up in the streets. I have no interest in doing “sport”. I dont want to “compete” with you. I’m interested in surviving! So before a bash fest erupts, first figure out what you are bashing. Is it people who like to be competitive with BJJ or the people who want to follow GJJ in the defensive mindset. Theres enough to go around and much like they’re many parts to the Gracie Family, Gracie Combatives is yet another portion of training offered by the Gracies. Its stil pretty fresh, so let it take off and judge it after there is more testimonial, updates and following, NOT while its in the beginning phase because that is not fair. I have the dvd set and I like the apporach they use. Other than the fact you would benefit from a partner, its a great alternative for those who arent near Cali or Florida or just dont have deep pockets. I am from a family of 11 brothers and sisters and let me tell you, tuition isnt CHEAP! All of us are street fighters by nature and some are training with the program with me and we are learning alot. Just decide your path and follow it. We got enough hating on Martial Arts as a whole, we dont need to hate each others training preferences and or formats just because its not the conventional or mainsteam method.

As for “testing” the knowledge acquired from the DVD’s, I gladly extend an open invitation to Non Gracie Combative practitioners to come to the Bronx (for people in the NYC, NJ, Conn Area) and get on the mats with any of us Gracie Combatives Practitioners to see if its so different or if it can work…purely a live test invite. Dont worry…all of you Honda Si, BMW, Lexus driving types can be assured that your vehicle will not get jacked or vandalized ;), we got strong Police presence in my area. I never took Jiu Jitsu before and have a Boxing, Street Fighting Background. I fight to survive and put food on the table, not to do fancy moves to electrify the crowd, so its clear as to what my training path will be. Whats yours?

slideyfoot January 11, 2010 at 4:27 am

I don’t think it is necessarily ‘hating’ to make legitimate criticisms of something: I’ve got the Gracie Combatives DVDs too, and I think the level of instruction is excellent.

However, I also think that the online testing concept is deeply flawed, and I’m dubious about the alleged distinction between ‘self defence’ GJJ and ‘sport’ BJJ. To me, it looks like a marketing ploy, which has apparently been quite successful.

Still, I agree that this is still in its early stages, so it remains to be seen how it pans out. Once the Master Cycle becomes available, I’m hoping that can answer a lot of the criticisms.

Paul January 19, 2010 at 6:58 am

I think the Combative Course is the Best Thing since the invention of the PC. There is a clear instruction path (which lacks in my BJJ school) and there is alot finer detail (which lacks too in my BJJ school) . It is also a quick path to learning techniques as after a month at school I still didnt know if I was Arthur or Marthur.
Remember this is still a ‘beginners’ course, you cant just practice on your dog and get your brown belt. I will be highly suprised to see someone reach there Brown Belt without sparring a number of opponents. All I can say is 10 Stars out of 5.

Bryan January 25, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Rener says, “Now, we’ve trained with many UFC fighters out there, and we know the calibre of the guys that are out there. We would win some and we would lose some, like everyone else who plays the game, but for my brothers and I it’s not worth it, to abandon the one thing that our grandfather stood for, just for the quick paycheque.”

I think the proof is in the pudding. If it is so great then get in the octagon. Renzo has legitimate gripes with them. They claim no UFC because it’s not about the paycheck yet they spam these courses all over the internet like a “Shamwow” commercial. C’Mon.

I think losses in the “sport” world have forced this “defensive” stance. It is crap and Renzo has a right to be mad and embarrassed.

APACHE February 14, 2010 at 3:12 pm

What 4th Degree Black Belt, Draculino, thinks about Online belts like the ones The Gracie University give out. See 2nd questions…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKZ0pFBUGlM

..nuff said.

Shaolin Bro'Ham April 14, 2010 at 2:55 am

Eh yo Cheeba – Much respect on standing up for the Torrance Crew…thats for real yo..I think they bring the chance to learn Gracie Jiu Jitsu closer to home at a fraction of the cost of the centers. BUT, I too want to see what the master cycle brings since they are some questionable areas of training effectiveness that most people want to have answered.

slideyfoot – To me, conflict seems to be the best advertisement as BJJ’s own peoples are tearing at each other despite that its all Gracie…it SHOULD BE “all good”. Support one anothers projects. But, a slight misunderstanding and some training path differences, combined with a tool to project both sides and throw an audience in the mix and you have E drama of the Jiu Jitsu kind! Thats the only successful form of ad I see here. AS for the claims that Rener and Ryron make regarding the effectiveness of the combatives program, wait for the chance for them to have their students display the works!

Paul – You hit it on the head Brah! “36 essential techniques” is hardly the ENTIRE Jiu Jitsu art form and I think people forget that. Its taking the most street applicable techniques and running with it. Not “learn the 600+ techniques in a month with GRACIE COMBATIVES”! Once people see the program for what it is, the confusion will go down.

Bryan – Funny about spam…if you dont like it, click the block, delete or hit the x…all that goes away! Losses in the sport? What basis do you support that opinion on? Honestly…I’m with Cheeba on the sport thing, f it….I’m trying to get it on in the street not the “OcTaGON”. I’m on some old school s…t. No guns, no knife, no cameras, no TAPOUT shorts….just the one on one so we gots to fight son!

Apache – No comment. Behind every person working to make something happen is a group of haters who look to tear down all the efforts.

Foot, your blog was the most fair on this subject!

http://www.slideyfoot.com/2009/08/dvd-review-gracie-combatives-rener.html

John Brunetto December 24, 2010 at 4:26 am

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the transcript of the interview with Rener gracie. I have 2 comments. 1st.,Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is kind of like the dog known as the “Pit Bull”. In the family of Pit Bulls, you have many variations. One man prefers the “Red nosed Pit” while the next man prefers the “Brindle Pit”. There is nothing wrong with either variaty, it’s a matter of preference. Second, I am very thankful to Ryron and Rener Gracie for developing Gracie University because it has given me an opportunity to start learning Gracie Jiu-jitsu. I am lucky that, because of my initial dedication to learning online, I have someone who is willing to pay my tuition at a local Jiu-jitsu academyhere in Palm Coast ,Fla. (Rilion Gracie Association Of Palm Coast). I beleive that it is unfair to say that , because a person might lack the financial ability to pay tuition at a local school, they should not have the opportunity to learn an Art that will change their lives.I give much respect to my local instructor as he does not wish for us (white belts) to compete in a sportive setting before developing a sufficient defensive mindset which he doesn’t beleive that we will aquire until at least blue belt level or higher. He himself is a competitor who believes in the Gracie way of doing things. Thanks for the chance to have my say!

John Brunetto December 24, 2010 at 5:13 am

I just finished reading every one of the comments submitted so far. On Romeo’s(who has Cerebral Palsy)comment I have one thing to say. Eric Ingram, who I believe trains at Norfolk academy in Norfolk, Virginia is a quadriplegic man who is the first ever to recieve ablue belt thru the Gracie Combatives course who did it via a modified blue belt test. His test was modified to acount for his disability (all 4 of his limbs are affected by his disabilti) He is not able physically to go to what is referrred to as Full mount. Ect., Ect. Romeo, please go to You Tube, type in Eric Ingram and watch his blue belt test. I think you will see that there is not a problem with the instruction. I myself have a small disability in that on my right hand I have the index finger amputated and the middle finger does not bend at the first knuckle. This makes it extremly difficult to do certain grips needed in GJJ. one of the first things I learned in GJJ was to adapt aand overcome my problem. my problem solving ability has increased tremendously becausse of my training with Gracie University.

todd April 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

…haters hate…that’s what they do.

John January 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I think it is very important to maintain the standards in bjj for belts. To get your blue belt, you should be not only knowledgeable, but should have considerable sparring experience and also some competition in my opinion. We love this martial art and it’s sad to see blue belts handed out after 8 or 9 months of training to guys that don’t know the fundamentals.

Rorion made a great contribution to promoting bjj but it seems to me that jiu jitsu is a way to make a living for him, a business, but he is not a true fan the way others are. Renzo is a true martial artist, athlete and a legend of the sport who has created champions and I respect that a lot more than a guy who is a good salesman and PR guy

Jim S. June 20, 2013 at 6:45 am

GU provides common sense and aplicable techniques. The training is very cost effective and meets your immediate self defense needs first. It is perfect for someone like us who each have a wife and 4 kids isn’t willing to sacrifice family time in order to train more competition-based technique. For those who have not tried it out for themselves and still critical, I am telling you from experience that it is apples to oranges argument to compare it to your sports based school… or maybe sour grapes to oranges.

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