Posts Tagged ‘Combatives’

I traveled not too long ago to Coronado, CA for some business.  I did some sight-seeing and touring of the area and a few drop in’s.  One stop was Gracie Jiu-Jitsu of La Jolla.  I really enjoyed my experience there.  Here’s a quick review.  If you ever get the chance, go check them out!  Congratulations to Matthew Becker on his recent promotion to Purple Belt!

gjjlj front

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu La Jolla, a small dojo in the heart of La Jolla about 30 minutes from Coronado, California, where I was staying. It was very clean and organized. The mats were not dirty and no one stunk. The dojo didn’t smell like a gym, which is definitely a plus.  Although it was one of the smaller professional training locations I’d been to it still easily fit 10 people on the mat.

I was met by Dione Becker, a Blue Belt herself and the wife of GJJ-LJ’s head Instructor and (then) Blue Belt, Matt Becker.  She greeted me at the door, had me sign the standard liability paperwork and gave me a quick tour of the dojo.  She showed me where the dressing room was.  After introducing myself to a few of the guys, changing, stretching and warming up, I met Matt.  We talked briefly and he then started class.  I caught them in their review week of leg locks for the Gracie Master Cycle.  Matt briefly reviewed the attacks they had covered over the past few weeks, the associated defenses and then paired us up to work through them for the first half of class.  After that we started a round-robin format, where Matt set the timer and we lightly sparred for a few minutes before rotating to the next individual.

I wouldn’t really say I learned a great deal from a technique aspect point of view (although I did get a few good pointers).  He wasn’t teaching, they were reviewing.  What I did get was a unique opportunity to gauge and compare GJJ-LJ’s Blue Belts against other Gracie Academy Blue Belts I’ve sparred with.  Granted, there are many factors here, such as no one was going full out, it’s not a tournament, we’re specifically reviewing and stopping and talking – but the overall impression of the individual was given and learned within that hour.  It would be unfair for me to judge Matt’s teaching style as a whole since it was a review day and he didn’t necessarily get into teaching any specific technique.  He knew what he was talking about and felt very comfortable leading his students throughout the class.

As a whole, I’d say the Blue Belts were all well versed in their techniques.  They were competent, able to flow from technique to technique and defend themselves with ease.  Which is the primary definition of any Gracie Academy Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt.  They weren’t “grippy”, either.  They didn’t grab hold of my lapel and try and smash and pin me relying on physical effort alone.  They weren’t looking to hold a position.  They were quick to release when it became advantageous for them to do so.  Overall, I was impressed with their transitions and movement.

I can honestly recommend Gracie Jiu-Jitsu La Jolla for anyone interested in training.  I can, and will say, with confidence, that they meet the Gracie Academy standard.  Matt’s review of the techniques were the exact same ones featured in the Master Cycle online videos.



Let’s face it, there are multiple belt systems being used today in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  We’ve got people running around with light blue, dark blue, blue belts with no bands, blue belts with red bands, white belts with blue stripes, and that’s just the blue belts!.  We look crazy!  And yes, I mean WE.  WE are a brotherhood.  It doesn’t matter if you practice the self-defense aspect of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or the sportsman game of competition style Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  WE are not Eddie Bravo or Rorion Gracie so WE need to unite under a system that is simple, easy to understand and still maintains our traditions.

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) tried to standardize the belt ranking system some time ago.  A lot of schools use it but most kept what they already had in place.  Why?  I personally believe that it’s tied to money.  The IBJJF want’s you to pay them a yearly due.  To get promoted your school has to pay a yearly due to the IBJJF in order to be recognized by their promotion body.  So, if you don’t have the money to pay and your school does not desire to pay, then the IBJJF belt system of validation becomes irrelevant.  And why should you have to pay?  Isn’t your school already paying affiliation fees to be recognized by their promoting body?  I’m a personal believer in keeping the integrity at home.  Let my instructor and professor judge me and my skill level and promote me accordingly.  I’m not knocking the IBJJF, I’m just not sure we should have to pay them to be recognized or use their system.

I’m not asking anyone to pay to adopt this system.  If your affiliation says that you’re a purple belt, that’s good enough for me.  It’s not my place, or the IBJJF’s for that matter, to issue you rank.  What I’m asking is that we unite under a belt system that we can all understand and use.  If your Professor says that you’re a purple or brown belt, that’s fine by mean.  Just don’t be the fool that wears a purple belt with a red band that’s 10 inches long.  I did not spend any time working on the kids belt system.  I think that Jiu-Jitsu is a valid sport for children, and the children’s belt system needs to be addressed, I just haven’t devoted the time to doing it… yet.

In developing this system, I relied heavily on the Gracie family and history; I think you have too.  Even if you don’t agree with the origins of Jiu-Jitsu, you have to admit that the Gracie family did play a major influence in what is today’s concept and application of Jiu-Jitsu.  You can read about Helio Gracie’s belt system as recounted by Relson Gracie and the difference in the Gracie blue belts from the Valente family to learn more about the history involved.

My Vision for what the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Ranking System Should Look Like. Click the Image to Open a PDF Version with More Details.

There are five tier levels to the belt system.  The Practitioner, the Instructor, the Professor, the Master and the Grand Master.

The Practitioner:  The Practitioner is your everyday, run of the mill, Jiu-Jitsu student.  He comes to class, he participates and learns, and progresses accordingly based on his skill level.  As he furthers along, he helps his fellow student’s learn.  There are five different belts that the Practitioner can earn:  white, light blue, purple, brown and black.  The white belt does not have the 10 cm black band.  Blue, purple and brown will have 10 cm black bands.  The black belt does not wear the 10 cm red band until after two years.  The highest rank attainable by the Practitioner is 6th degree black belt.  An example of the black belt Practitioner could be the driven competitor who does not own an academy, or a professional MMA fighter.

White Belt with Proper Spacing in Between Degrees

The White Belt:  The white belt is the first belt worn by all students who begin their journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  The white belt does not have the 10 cm black band.  The white belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to the light blue belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch black stripe, with .5 inch spacing in between each degree, with the first degree starting one inch from the tip of the white belt.  The minimum requirement for promotion to blue belt is one year as a white belt and be at least 16 years old.

The Blue Belt:  The light blue belt is the second lowest rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  It indicates a strong understanding of the fundamentals and a basic understanding of some more advanced techniques.  A blue belt should have the ability to properly defend oneself.  The light blue belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The blue belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to purple belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to purple belt is two years as a blue belt and be at least 16 years old.

The Purple Belt:  The purple belt is an intermediate belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamentals, a solid advanced technical understanding and a developed idea of strategy and tactics (i.e. two moves ahead).  The purple belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The purple belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to brown belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to brown belt is two years as a purple belt and at least 18 years old.

The Brown Belt:  The brown belt is an advanced intermediate belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamentals and advanced techniques.  A personally developed strategy and tactical base have been formed.  The brown belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The brown belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to black belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to black belt is one year as a brown belt and at least 18 years old.

The Black Belt:  The black belt is an advanced belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamental and advanced techniques.  Technical savvy and strategy are the norm.  The black belt does not initially have the 10 cm red band.  The black belt student will earn three intermediate degrees prior to promotion to the black belt with red bar.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with a .5 inch spacing in between each intermediate degree, with the first intermediate degree starting one inch from the tip of the black belt.  After one year the red bar will be added and the black belt student may earn up to six degrees.  Each degree will be .5 inch white stripe with .25 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .25 inch from the tip of the outside edge of the red band with each degree placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to 1st degree is two years as a black belt.  Requirements for subsequent degrees is 3 years up to 3rd degree black belt.  Requirements for subsequent degrees is 5 years up to 6th degree black belt.  The 6th degree black belt is the highest attainable rank for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.

Gracie Academy Blue Belt Instructor with 1st Degree

The Instructor:  The Instructor is a student who does more than show up for training.  These are the practitioners who have a true passion for the sport, are engaging, outspoken, and have a really strong understanding of the fundamental techniques and can clearly, concisely explain and demonstrate them to fellow students.  The minimum requirements for an Instructor are:  1.)  Be at least a blue belt;  2.)  Be at least 18 years of age;  3.)  Successful completion of an Instructors course in the students respective affiliation;  4.)  Current certification in first aid and CPR;  and finally, 5.)  Direct supervision and tutelage under a Professor or higher.  Note:  The Professor need not physically be on site.  For example, an Instructor could have his own affiliate academy under his Professor’s academy in a different city.  What’s important is that the Professor and Instructor have open dialogue to assist the Instructor in conducting training in accordance with their affiliations guidelines.

The Instructor will follow a slightly different belt system.  If beginning their instruction at the blue belt level the Instructor will be awarded a navy blue belt, darker in color than the standard light blue belt to be worn by Practitioners.  After blue, the colors will match those of the Practitioners until the black belt.  If promoted to black belt as an Instructor they will be award the black belt with the red bar.  The Instructor will wear two additional .5 inch white stripes on the outer edges of the 10 cm band to distinguish themselves from Practitioners.  Time in rank and age requirements remain the same for promotion.  If at anytime an Instructor fails to meet any of the listed requirements the Instructor status shall be removed and the Instructor will revert back to Practitioner status.  As with the Practitioner, the highest rank that may be achieved by an Instructor is the 6th degree black belt.

The Professor:  The Professor is an experienced Instructor and Practitioner.  The minimum requirements are:  1.)  Be at least a black belt for two years;  2.)  Be at least 21 years of age;  3.)  Successful completion of an Instructors course in their respective affiliation;  4.)  Successful completion of a Professors course in their respective affiliation;  5.)  Current certification in first aid and CPR;  and finally, 6.)  Direct supervision and tutelage under a Master or higher.  If at any time a Professor fails to meet any of the listed requirements the Professor status shall be removed and the Professor will revert back to Practitioner status.  The highest rank that may be achieved by a Professor is the 9th degree Grand Master.

The Master:  The Master is a Professor who has met the time in rank requirements for promotion.  A 6th degree black belt Professor is eligible for promotion to 7th degree red and black belt after 7 years as a 6th degree black belt.  A 7th degree red and black belt Master is eligible for promotion to 8th degree red and black belt after 7 years as a 7th degree red and black belt.

The Grand Master:  The Grand Master is a Master who has met the time in rank requirements for promotion.  An 8th degree red and black belt Master is eligible for promotion to 9th degree red belt after 10 years as a 8th degree red and black belt Master.  The 10th degree red belt Grand Master is reserved for the originators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and will not be awarded as a form or respect, honor and appreciation for their contribution the gentle art.

In conclusion, I realize I might be rocking the boat here.  Who am I to tell any one to fix their belt system?  I’m no one, really.  However we have to be honest with ourselves.  People are calling for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to become an Olympic sport, but we can’t come to terms with how we want to identify players in the sport.  This is a simple fix that, if WE as a brotherhood can set aside the personal and political feelings between affiliations, can make happen.  Leave your responses and let me know what you guys think!

It’s my first week back on the mats at Gracie Pensacola (well, second really but I only went once last week, so…). It felt good to be on their mats. I felt home. I was worried my skill set had lessened since I had been on hiatus for a few months playing in my garage. I’m super-uber proud of my promotion to blue belt with Gracie University, however, there’s the lingering fear that I might get tapped by a rookie white belt. Truth is it’s not the rookie white belts I worry about. It’s the one with 3 or 4 stripes who has started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and has one or two tricks I haven’t seen in a while and is able to sneak a choke or arm lock in on me. You know the guy, the sandbagger at the tournament who has been doing Jiu-Jitsu for 2 years and some change and taps every other white belt in under a minute. Is this what the Gracie brothers mean when they talk about ego and leaving it at the door? Should I care if I get tapped by a white belt, experienced or not? Having another colored belt tap me doesn’t bother me, so why should I care if a white belt gets me?

Turns out that following the Gracie University program with a few buddies worked out well for me. I think my defense and understanding of what the other guy was doing has actually improved. I spent some time rolling with a couple different white belts and did fine. I was able to defend until I decided it was time to be offensive and then I was able to execute my game plan. I got a chance to roll with a purple belt, the great Tony Baker, and although I couldn’t impose my will (or stop him from imposing his) I was definitely able to identify what he was doing and actually execute a few counters and even escape once or twice. I’m sure he was letting me, especially since we were both playing real lose, but it still felt good afterwards. I need to get in and play around with a few blue belts and see where my game falls in. I think I might even tape myself and try and break it down objectively and see where I can really improve and smooth out my skill set.

It’s good to get some personal instruction, too. Head Instructor Pat Vito knows his stuff and we’ve spent the last week moving through the “power-hour” of Jiu-Jitsu. Always working from stand-up to ground, as is to be expected. We’ve been drilling the same inside leg sweep but with different passes or sweeps once we get there. Today we introduced an elevator sweep to mount, a triangle setup from the elevator sweep position, an Americana from the triangle setup position (should they attempt to pass) and an armbar if they decide to stack. Fundamentally these are nothing new to me but I haven’t played with these from the half- guard or triangle setup position in awhile so they were good drills and I was happy to do them! Hell, I’m happy any time I’m playing on the mats! I look forward to getting back in and training a bit more!

Brazilian and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu may have had an explosion of followers after the introduction of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the United States but it hasn’t been until recently that we’ve seen the market grow.  This might be in part to the fact that the UFC fell out of the main market with sanctioning issues and had to evolve in order to become legally accepted as a sport making a recent comeback a few years ago.  With their return also came the MMA market.

Mixed Martial Arts has also evolved into an accepted workout for gym-junkies with hybrids of CrossFit and Kettle-Jitsu.  We even have it penetrating our military forces as the modern form of hand-to-hand combat training.  The Army has adopted a Combatives program and the Marine Corps has developed their own, calling it the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP).  With the evolution and acceptance of MMA and its growing popularity comes the demand for a supply of training gear and apparel, which has carried over with the same demand for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training gear and apparel.

We all know the brands who play in the Majors; Tatami, Scramble, MMA Warehouse – just to name a few.  However, what we may not be aware of are the ones who provide the gimmick that makes them unique in this environment.  MMAHQ and BJJHQ, Sixth Minute, BJJ Life are only a couple that have made themselves relevant lately with their ideas and concepts.

MMAHQ and BJJHQ are unique in what they offer – one great deal a day!  With the product explosion that’s happening (and the fact that you have to triple stich a pair of shorts that are going to constantly be pulled on by some ape in a raspberry t-shirt) product prices are never on the low end.  That’s where MMAHQ and BJJHQ come in.  Need a pair of shorts or a new rashguard or even a pretty sweet gi?  Odds are if you stalk their website for a few days you’re going to get exactly what you need (and want!!).  Join their Facebook page and receive updates on their sales in real time!

The Sixth Minute is a little bit different from MMAHQ and BJJHQ in that they offer incredible deals but not every day.  You sign up with them and you’ll get an email with their latest deal when it’s available, usually about every other week.  The real difference however, is the magnitude of the deal.  They partner with companies for two-day events where everything on their site is %50 off.  Right now they offer their sales with up-and-coming production companies but once the larger industry Mongols get on board their sales are going to be AMAZING!  Check Sixth Minute out on Facebook!

BJJLIFE’s gimmick is all its own!  They’re not reselling a different brand in their own way, but producing their own.  Not only that, they’re building themselves as a Legion – the BJJ Legion!  It’s a genius concept in that you complete missions in order to get sponsored.  The missions are pretty easy and straight forward, like changing your Facebook image or recruiting a friend.  As you complete the missions you gain rank, going all the way up to General.  By joining the Legion and completing missions you can get tournaments paid for, gym dues paid, a %15 discount in their store, free gear and whatever else they feel like throwing out there.  BJJLIFE’s gear is pretty sweet, too.  I wouldn’t say there’s really anything unique about the build or material but they produce some custom designed stuff that is pretty awesome; like tuxedo rashguards and BJJ belts for your jeans.  I haven’t met anyone with the balls big enough to wear a white belt around their Levi’s but I definitely like the idea of it!  And, of course, you can follow the Legion on Facebook.

So, what’s the deal?  Head over to BJJHQ, Sixth Minute, and BJJLIFE and find out for yourself!

There are plenty of iOS Jiu Jitsu apps out there. Want to learn NoGi Jiu Jitsu? There’s an app for that. Want to learn the Spider-Guard? There’s an app for that. However, a lot of apps are technique oriented. You don’t get the bigger picture. The Gracie360 app gives you more of a lifestyle look into Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Mobotory, the company who publishes the Gracie360 app, promotes the app on their website, “The official Gracie Jiu-Jitsu App. Discover the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pioneered by the Gracie family, find new recipes from the Gracie Diet, watch videos with breakdowns from the latest UFC fights, learn new moves and more. Available at the iTunes App Store.” Sounds great! Lets check it out!

When you first open the app you come to the main screen. It’s clean and crisp. A nice news feed scrolls across the top, clearly defined links, all the aesthetics the eye could possibly want. Upon closer examination, however, the news feed isn’t actually publishing any new news. Just ads for you to check out their GracieKids and GracieDiet website. Shame on you, Gracie360!

The Quick Lessons category has promise, providing MMA Breakdowns, Gracie Philosophy, and One Minute Moves. The MMA Breakdowns are good. Really good. The Gracie brothers do a great job dissecting techniques that UFC fans will love! The One Minute Lessons and Gracie Philosophy are great too. The Gracie’s really know their stuff. Their smart, energetic, charismatic, and articulate. I can’t recommend their training material enough! The breakdowns are old, though. It’s starting to look like the app isn’t updated. I know the brothers have done more breakdowns. I’ve seen them on their website and in their monthly e-mails.

Moving to News and Seminars, again, not updated. What’s going on here, guys? Where are the updated seminars you just released via e-mail? I see them on your website. Why don’t you have them linked? And why are seminars from February still listed? Even the store seems out of date. You can find items on the app that are no longer available on the website? So can I, or can I not, buy a pair of Jiu Jitsu rank shorts from the Gracie’s? I don’t know. Someone please tell me!!

The Gracie Timeline is probably the best part about this app. It provides you with an easy to read background of the Gracie family. Well worth the download and read, if just for that simple piece.

Again, though, the more I move through this app the more it feels like it’s been ignored. It’s a brand new app! I don’t get it. Where are the promised updates? IF the Gracie’s want to make this an app that people are going to want to download and enjoy, it’s got to become relevant to the user. As it stands right now it’s simply not functional. The thing that really separates the Gracie brothers from the rest of the pack is their recognition and adoption of the utility of the internet. With the creation of Gracie University they really brought Jiu Jitsu into a modern world. Gracie University is the trunk of their digital tree. Everything else has to branch from there.

For the Gracie360 app to be relevant it has to link back to Gracie University. Users should be able to access their individual accounts and watch techniques they’ve purchased on the web on their mobile devices. The news feed should provide news, not ads. The News and Seminars section should be updated! You know where a good place to advertise your latest updates would be? Yup, in the news feed across the top of the home screen. The store should be interlinked and new products should be available while old ones gracefully exit. These are common sense applications of a digital product in an age where users demand more!

Overall, I give the app a 3 out of 5 stars. It has potential to be a really useful training tool and provides enough unique material that it’s worth the free download. Just remember, you’re getting what you pay for.

Check out Gracie University and the Gracie360 app!

Turns out the Gracie Academy thinks I’m somewhat competent in my techniques.  I’m nowhere near perfect scoring an 81% (with 80% being the minimum passing score).  You can check out the qualification videos (big THANKS! to Paul for helping with this) on my companion YouTube site:

00:50 (*on ALL elbow escapes !) – Did not maintain the closeness (hug the back with your free arm and keep your head close to the chest)

02:01 – Incorrect arm work (do not swim both hands together & inadequate shoulder angling

02:05 (*onwards) – Insufficient modification of the mount (back knee too low, rear hook out of position)

Note @ 02:14 – Control the shoulder during the remount

02:47 – Insufficient frame (incorrect ‘thumbless’ grip and flat blade positioning)

03:18 – Incorrect finishing grip (should change back to thumbless after the head loop)

Note @ 03:34 & 03:49 – No chin alignment and do not crossed feet!

04:02 (*onwards throughout the entire test) – Incorrect finishing grips (should be x2 ‘thumb-full’) / Errors include: 04:10 – Insufficient mount modification & 04:16 – Incorrect finishing grips / Errors include: 04:25 – Incorrect grips (should be thumb full on wrist and thumbless behind elbow) 04:28 – Incorrect grip (must be thumb full when under the neck) / Errors include: 04:47 – Incorrect grips (should be thumb full on wrist and thumbless behind elbow) 04:50 – Incorrect grip (must be thumb full when under the neck) 04:53 – Incorrect grip (should be x2 thumb full during figure four) 04:59 – Incorrect finishing Grips (should be x2 thumb full grips.

00:55 – No head control

01:14 – Incorrect leg work

Note @ 01:35 – Incorrect timing (move your framing arm ‘before’ stepping over the head)

Note @ 03:44 – Use fall momentum to help facilitate the sweep following up

01:32 (*onwards on ALL frames) – Weak Frame (must be ‘solid’ arm positioning with a ‘thumb full’ grip on wrist)

Note @ 01:09 (*onwards) – It is easier and have greater control to pass guard in the direction you are facing)

02:01 – Did not release your grip just before reaching the ground


Note @ 02:44 – Brace the inside of the knee when stepping in for the take down and increase your ‘level drop’ to create the important momentum needed

03:08 – Did not ‘unlock’ the knee with yours.

Note @ 00:29 & 00:32 – * As mentioned previously

Note @ 00:36 – * As mentioned previously

Note @ 00:48 – * As mentioned previously

02:02 – Incorrect arm work


Note @ 02:43 – * As mentioned previously

Note @ 03:50 – Insufficient arm wrap ?

04:01 – No kick stand (back leg out)

“Good job Jonathan, overall your demonstrated a competent  understanding of the Gracie Combatives techniques. There are however a number of errors that still need to be addressed but we are confident that after reviewing ALL your notes and deductions that you will be able to identify and correct ALL these areas of concern. With that being said you should be proud of what you have and will continue to achieve as you are already setting an excellent example for others. Your goal of becoming one of our certified instructors is STILL realistic and viable and if you choose to retake this test with that in mind then consider all these notes and deductions as an invaluable blue print of exactly how to do go about doing it. Congratulations on your blue belt.”  – Gracie University

You can also search out my Gracie Jiu Jitsu profile at:  Remember to subscribe to my blog and YouTube channel and come back often!