Should you train with a Gracie affiliate, with the big-name Gracie in front of it?
That’s a really interesting thing to look at, so let’s talk a little bit about who the Gracie’s are. If the idea of training in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu really appeals to you because you’re like “I want Jiu-Jitsu from the source”, I commend the way you’re thinking, like the way you’re thinking is a good way of thinking. You’re thinking about authenticity, you’re thinking about ‘am I going to get the best form of this martial art form?’ and this is worth looking at now. I guess you would be thinking primarily about something like Gracie university, and I can give you my two cents on the Gracie university and how I feel that stacks up against SBG Texas located in New Braunfels and, based on what I’ve seen in this area, I think Rener and Rorian Gracie are really great ambassadors for Jiu-Jitsu. I think that they’ve done an amazing job of spreading what Jiu-Jitsu is far and wide and the Gracie’s just in general. If you are a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, I think you owe at least a mild debt of gratitude to the Gracie family for all of the work they did to make this martial art something starting to become somewhat mainstream now.
There is a little bit of issues with Gracie university, Rener and Rorian had this vision of spreading Jiu-Jitsu into overdrive, as far and as wide as possible, utilizing a great marketing name like Gracie to do it. So, there’s something brilliant about it, they wanted to use the online presence and videos and all that kind of stuff to spread their knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu as far and as wide as possible.
Now I actually think the mission statement and the goal is a great goal but to look at what they’ve done uncritically would be folly because there are some real issues with the way that they’ve decided to do this. One, they make all these great videos, and the videos are great, there’s great Jiu-Jitsu in those videos, I really wouldn’t dissuade someone from purchasing access to the videos, however, you’ll see Gracie university’s starting to pop up everywhere and they’re typically run by someone who’s maybe a blue belt, and I really want to put emphasis on the maybe there because in the drive to spread this as far and as wide as possible, one of the things that the Gracie’s did was they tremendously lowered standards for belting promotions teaching certification. They wanted to get it out as fast as possible and the feedback I’m kind of continuously receiving is that a lot of these gyms are run by people who really do not possess sufficient knowledge to teach those techniques and do the art that they’re teaching justice and that’s really something of a problem.
I just keep hearing it over and over again and I’ve seen it with my own eyes, people who have trained and they have credentials from those programs. But, in my opinion, coming from a program and coming from a teacher lineage that I think is fairly authentic and is based in the Gracie family as well, I feel like the standards for those promotions are just too low to be taken seriously.
Now, New Braunfels, Texas, we’re SBG Texas, where did my credentials come, to say these kinds of things?
Well, my teacher was John Frankel. Let me talk a little bit about who John Frankel is.
John Frankel, for one, has a PhD from Harvard in Korean literature. He’s a very intelligent and educated individual, he got his blue belt from Rickson Gracie okay his blue belt came from Rickson Gracie and his black belt came from Roberto Maya. Well, who are Roberto Maya and Rickson Gracie? Well Roberto Maya learned from Carlos Jr. That’s where he got his black belt and Rickson Gracie is the son of Hélio Gracie, so he got his belt from Hélio Gracie. Carlos and Hélio are pretty much the root of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu right there so I don’t really feel terribly removed from the Jiu-Jitsu legacy that they started. But, what I can say is, I think that as much as I absolutely respect Renor and Rorian as businessmen and I really respect their Jiu-Jitsu too, but I can’t really say that I feel deeply removed from the Gracie tradition just because my last name isn’t Gracie and, I think there are a lot of great instructors out there that have kept alive standards that are probably a lot closer to the standards of someone like Hélio or Rickson Gracie. That’s my only gripe really against Rener and Rorian is I just feel like the standards dropped. There’s a little bit of a Rex Kwan Do type of approach to everything where it’s a little fakey and they’re not really training with a whole lot of aliveness, or the aliveness is so sloppy and crazy that it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an accurate and powerful application of the art form.
So, that’s all I would say about the Gracie’s. I mean I wouldn’t mind delving into their history, and I mean one of the things that the Gracie’s will try to sell you on is that they sort of invented Jiu-Jitsu, which isn’t really true at all.
Obviously, Jiu-Jitsu sprang from techniques taught in Japan, being a Japanese word and Kano in the early 1900’s was the one that packaged it together saved it from the gangsters who had inherited it from the samurai, and some of his people started teaching it and practicing it in different parts of the world. One of his students was Maeda, Maeda took it to Brazil, eventually taught the Gracie family, whether directly or through an intermediary, one of his students, and the Gracie started practicing this Jiu-Jitsu in a very self-defense, no rules, type of way.
What the Gracie’s should really be remembered for is not the creation of Jiu-Jitsu or the principles of Jiu-Jitsu and leverage and stuff like that, but the two real accomplishments of the Gracie’s is, they made it a mainstream idea by inventing UFC and that’s huge. They created UFC, just to show off Jiu-Jitsu, which is an amazing thing that they did. But the other thing that he did that is less known to most people is in the 1960s, Judo became an Olympic sport and most of the followers of Kano that had spread Jiu-Jitsu and Judo around the world started exclusively teaching Olympic-style Judo.
And I love Judo, but the truth is that Judo became such a sport, and a lot of the self-defense aspects of Judo and Jiu-Jitsu as one art form became muddled and lost a lot of their potency with regards to real fighting. And the Gracie’s just stubbornly refused to practice Olympic Judo. They wanted their Jiu-Jitsu for self-defense and for real combat and fighting and I think that’s a really cool thing, honestly, it’s the way that I conceive of Jiu-Jitsu still, and if you come and you train with us, what you’re going to find in my foundations program right when you get started is we’re learning self-defense and we’re learning how to save ourselves when somebody attacks us. I’m not going to teach you sport right out the gate, I’ll teach you sports, sport is fun and it’s a good thing to have some competitive atmosphere to build your technique and drive your technique forward, but I’m going to start with self-defense. I’m going to start with an understanding of Jiu-Jitsu as it relates to combat, that’s always first and foremost on my mind.
So, I really feel like we keep the Gracie tradition alive at SBG Texas, even without anybody having the name Gracie there. I don’t think you need the Gracie name specifically to learn fantastic Jiu-Jitsu.
Why don’t you come down and check out our gym, I think you’ll have a great time training with us.