So, what is the difference between Gracie Barra jiu jitsu, Gracie Jiu Jitsu more widely and the jiu jitsu you would practice at SBG New Braunfels?
First off Gracie Barra was founded by Carlos Gracie Jr. He had a heavy focus on trying to get BJJ athletes’ sponsorship and to earn a living from competing in Jiu Jitsu tournaments. Carlos Jnr also was the driving force and founder behind the IBJJF which left Gracie Barra and the IBJJF in quite a unique position with the biggest club and organising body being led by the same person. Gracie Barra probably fields more athletes into IBJJF competitions than anybody else and they’ve been very successful in that regard. They’ve also probably got the most clubs in terms of Carlos Gracie Junior’s jiu jitsu versus the Gracie Jiu Jitsu practiced by Helio Gracie and his Rorion and his direct descendants out of the Gracie Academy.
I would say that the Gracie Academy focuses far more on self defence, rather than Jiu-jitsu for winning jiu jitsu competitions. In both types of clubs, you will get sparring without question. You’ll get some elements of self defense and you’ll get some people compete but there is certainly, within Gracie barra, a greater emphasis upon jiu jitsu geared for the competition mat. So, for example, jiu jitsu competition doesn’t have to account for strikes, and will inevitably focuses a lot on jiu jitsu based around the rules, scoring points and advantages, etc. That’s not to say they don’t do some self defence, they certainly do, but there is a greater emphasis on the competition mat within Gracie Barra, within Helio Gracie’s jiu jitsu/the Gracie Academy.
If you then look at the type of jiu jitsu that SBG New Braunfels practices, it’s much more Rickson Gracie orientated in its approach. SBG New Braunfels is a member of Rickson Gracie’s Jiu Jitsu Global Federation, through Rickson’s strong ties to Straight Blast Gym (SBG). Going back to the founder of SBG, Matt Thornton received his blue belt from Rickson Gracie and his instructor Chris Houser continues to train with Rickson Gracie to this day. You will quite often see Chris Hauter appear in pictures on Rickson’s website where they’re training together. And many of Chris’s students also train with Rickson Gracie.
Matt Thornton had Rickson Gracie to a seminar in Portland a few years back. So, they have a strong tie into that and also SBGs I’s methodical approach to training was really giving a name to Rickson Gracie’s own unique approach to jiu jitsu instruction. This differs greatly to most of the other Gracie’s, in that what Rickson does when he coaches jiu jitsu is he introduces a technique in a 3 step process.
- He firstly allows the training partners, his students, to test that technique with very, very low resistance they can have a conversation about how the technique is going, they can help each other and provide feedback and so on. This is the Introduction phase.
- They then, once they’ve usually learned one, two or three techniques, will focus on what’s called an isolation round (Isolation phase) where the timer is set. And they increase the resistance. There’s no talking during isolation, they increase the resistance against each other up to something sort of close to almost the full sparring of that specific technique or position.
- Then the third part of it is integration where they then introduce it during free sparring – many of the students will actually be encouraged to try to work this specific position of that day and then that might break out into a free sparring session.
Also, Michael Heinz, SBG New Braunfels founder, is heavily focused on meditation and breathing methods. This breathing emphasis is a unique element in Rickson Grace’s Jiu-jitsu that you rarely will hear about from Gracie Barra instructors or Gracie Academy instructors in their curriculum, or even in passing. Whereas Rickson spends the first hour of any seminar simply discussing breathwork. Rickson describes this as the foundational base of his jiu jitsu and adds that breath work is the single most important element in Jiu jitsu. Jiu jitsu is the perfect vehicle for people to begin to learn breathwork. Breathwork can have a great influence on people’s wider lives too; whether it’s getting to sleep at night, dealing with anxiety, dealing with arousal, both positive and negative, and all manner of other things just basically staying calm under pressure. These are important distinctions.
There are also biomechanical differences in Rickson’s approach to jiu jitsu compared to most of the other members of the Gracie family. Rickson Gracie was heavily influenced by wrestling. You’ll notice that in many of the side mount positions or side control positions, Rickson Gracie and his students have a strong emphasis upon making the opponent carry their body weight with their knees typically off the mat. This is in stark contrast to the vast majority of other Gracie’s, who use a side control called head and arm, where the shins are on the mat, the knees are on the mat, the glutes are effectively on the mat and weight is often distributed into the arms as well. This means that the opponent isn’t carrying weight, even if it feels like a secure hold. The opponent isn’t carrying bodyweight and one of the heavy emphasises of Rickson Gracie’s approach to jiu jitsu and some of his students like Henry Akins who frequently seminars at SBG New Braunfels, is that they place a heavy emphasis upon making your opponent carry your weight at all times.
Rickson Gracie also competed a lot in Vale Tudo which was the original mixed martial arts. Guys would basically wear no gloves but also pretty much allow all strikes (including headbutts, which is banned in MMA). So, if you want to learn the original kind of self defence, SBG New Braunfels is the place to be.