Category: Aesopian.com

First Complete Review of Mastering the Crucifix

Mastering the Crucifix launched on Monday, and the first full review has since been posted. It’s by a Sherdog poster you may know as GambleDub. He creates megathreads with dozens of GIFS and videos for specific positions like the Williams Guard. He backed the Indiegogo campaign and helped me with testing the product right before launch. Here is his review:

Where Is It?

First off if you want to purchase the Mastering the Crucifix instructional you can get it here, if you weren’t part of the Indiegogo fundraiser. You can also read the Introductions and browse the chapter and section list if you wish to find out what the Instructional covers.

http://artechokemedia.com/mastering-the-crucifix/

You can also view one of the chapters for free here…

http://artechokemedia.com/mastering-the-crucifix/crucifix-fundamentals/

What Is It?

For those who don’t know Artechoke Media (http://artechokemedia.com/) is a company ran by Author and BJJ purple belt Marshal Carper and BJJ black belt Matt “Aesopian” Kirtley. (http://www.aesopian.com/)

What Artechoke Media have done is put together a highly innovative new method of delivering and presenting grappling instructionals, combining text, animated GIF’s and video as a way to teach and demonstrate techniques. Marshal also released his own project through Artechoke before Mastering the Crucifix which was called 3D Jiu Jitsu, it is available free at http://artechokemedia.com/3dbjj/ and again is a great way to observe the unique format that Artechoke uses.

Who Am I?

While I was aware of what the crucifix was before this instructional, and that it was a position that interested me. I had never really experimented with it, or gone for it at the gym. To me the crucifix was like another language (let’s say French) while I could identify it if I saw it (or heard it) and I knew of a few techniques (or words) there is no way I would consider trying it live in rolling (or conversation) because I knew my technique (or pronunciation) would be sloppy as hell.

If the crucifix was like French then for me the reverse omoplata was like Klingon, I was aware somewhere out there people were doing it but I had no idea what it actually was. In other words while the crucifix was on my BJJ bucket list, outside of watching some competitions and Marcelo instructionals I would consider myself less than a novice, even more so when discussing the reverse omoplata.

Full disclosure I also did some media testing for Artechoke on this instructional. While I am not part of the company, nor was I paid (early access was enough incentive for me!) I feel like I should mention it. Also I’m currently nursing an injury and haven’t been training, so I have yet to try and implement any of the material in this instructional so far. It is also worth mentioning that at the time I was on holiday and Aesopian’s crucifix seminar was released as part of the perk I got when I initially purchased the instructional as part of the Indiegogo fundraiser, so I watched through this twice before starting on the Mastering the Crucifix instructional.

Production Quality

It is quite difficult to offer a comparison between other instructionals on the market because, at least to my knowledge, nothing else like this exists. The text, GIF’s and videos complement each other well. The text is easy to read and conveys all the important information clearly. The language is good enough that non-native English speakers shouldn’t have too much problem understanding it, but no so basic that the ideas of the technique get lost. It’s hard to explain but I think it works well at explaining the broader picture behind the technique and how it works alongside the other techniques. I like the anecdotes and inflections about the techniques that have been added in the text too.

The GIF’s are brilliant, I like how multiple angles are shown, and how Matt and Marshal also show troubleshooting (failing) aspects as well. This makes it a really handy feature as a skim through to show you how to do the technique, while reinforcing the critical aspects of the technique. I could see it being really handy in situations at the gym if I had it on my phone for quickly getting the important points ingrained before drilling/rolling etc. I also like how GIF’s focusing on different positions such as in the side ride section; the last frame has been extended to clearly show the emphasis on the final position.

The videos serve as the in depth how to of the instructional. The camera angles switch well between being zoomed in for explanations and detailed demonstrations, and zoom out nicely to see the overall technique. Matt sounds clear and I didn’t have any problems hearing or understanding what he was saying. The instruction is really good, Matt speaks well and doesn’t end up sounding monotonous causing me to zone out, even on techniques I had already known (I even learned some good tips!) plus the occasional mention of ninja skills with Bruce Lee sounds, traumatic wrestling experiences & nipple tweaking also does well to avoid the instruction fatigue I get with some instructors. What I found really good was how he would explain the purpose behind all of the movements and show what happens if you don’t do them, I think many instructors lack this. I think that will benefit beginners such as myself especially well. Matt’s videos and YouTube channel are also well worth a look at to further examine his teaching style. (https://www.youtube.com/user/Aesopian/videos)

Navigation throughout the instructional is great, I like how in the introduction of the chapters specific subsections have been linked to as they are discussed and the chapters along the side allow for quick and easy referral to specific techniques. Also there is a comment section at the bottom where according to Matt he will answer questions and film new material if neccesary.

In particular the GIF’s were a huge selling point to me. If you have seen some of my posts I often post GIF’s when discussing techniques. And I have seen the value of GIF’s for a long time, many people enjoy mind maps I have always preferred to GIF up the instructional videos I have and organise them into folders instead, so I can put them on my phone and take them to the gym to work on.

The format Matt and Marshal have gone for, has worked far better than I expected. You have the instructional videos, but chaptered like a book so there is no guessing times on DVD players or VLC etc. However unlike a book there are GIF’s and videos rather than comic book strips of techniques which are difficult to extract timing and subtle movements from. I really hope Artechoke have set a trend for the future of BJJ instructionals. I really believe they have set a new benchmark! Add that to the fact its online and I can access it anywhere from my phone, this is next level stuff!

Overall the production quality is top notch, from the camera zoom, to the angles of demonstration, audio quality, frame rate and size of the GIF’s and how they have been paused at the end to emphasize position when applicable.

Content

The initial welcome page gives some background to what Artechoke is about and Shouts out to the sponsors of the project.

The introduction details Matt’s story of how he came to train Jiu Jitsu.

The first chapter, chapter one relates to setting up the crucifix. Either from stand up off single leg attacks, or from turtle positions such as side ride and sprawl positions. The spin behind off the different guard passes was a particular highlight for me. I generally have a Darce heavy game when attacking the turtle, and I managed to pick up a bunch of really great tips from the side ride chapter. “Catching the crucifix in transition” is the last section and threads together many of the techniques previously demonstrated, showing how they can be chained together, I thought this was a nice way to demonstrate how the various techniques from the first chapter can relate to one another.

Chapter two (which you can read for free) involves crucifix fundamentals. Namely rolling from the kneeling crucifix to the traditional crucifix, positional control and maintenance, recountering escapes and submissions from both crucifix positions. Overall this was my favorite chapter. The techniques flow nicely together and you begin to see how the different techniques flow and complement each other, rather than just saying “hey look at this cool move you can do, ok here’s another cool move” Aesopian’s take on the crucifix comes across as a system rather than a couple of nice tricks you could add to your game. There is really no wasted add on techniques that I wouldn’t choose to do, every technique has its place and reason, Matt and Marshal have done a great job conveying this.

Chapter three, is the chapter focusing on the reverse omoplata. To be completely honest I was looking the least forward to this section, I didn’t really see the reverse omoplata as something I would do. However I have to say this instructional has sold me! I can understand how the reverse omoplata functions well as a new attack series that complements the crucifix perfectly, especially when the opponent hugs your leg with their trapped arm pointed towards their knees, or off the straight armbar. I don’t know whether or not, not knowing about the reverse omoplata made me pay more attention in regards to attempting to understand it. But I feel like up to this point in the instructional this is one of the positions I walked away with retaining the most info, and having that a-ha moment of it clicking together, again Matt & Marshal have done a great job of conveying why you should learn the reverse omoplata and how it is an integral part of Aesopian’s crucifix system. With that being said as the reverse omoplata has a reputation of being dangerous, I still walked away feeling uneasy about the safety aspect. In one of the sections Matt discusses it and how you can be controlled. But I’m not sure I would feel confident in applying the rolling variations without significant drilling with feedback. However there is a comment section which Matt will answer so I’m sure he would be happy to answer any questions regarding using the reverse omoplata safely

Chapter four details advanced crucifix set ups. Set ups from passing the guard, from bottom guard and an advanced turtle set ups are covered. This was the section I was really looking forward to, I expected some serious technique porn and it definitely delivered! I have to say though, to make an analogy of it I expected “supermodel” techniques, that is stuff that looks really good but would never work for me. But something strange happened, a couple of sections into this chapter. I began to see how the crucifix would be possible, as I began to spot the concepts and principles that make the crucifix possible to work even before Aesopian had really explained the technique in depth. His explanations had slowly ninja’d their way into my brain, and I think my mind set – especially when attacking the turtle is going to change significantly because of it. The techniques shown from the top of the guard reinforced how much I had slept on and underestimated the reverse omoplata. The crucifix from the sitting guard was my particular favorite from this section I can’t wait to try this one! The stuff from bottom guard was also really eye opening, and I would have never imagined being able to get crucifix’s from these positions.

Overall

As I said earlier I am a complete novice in regards to the crucifix and the reverse omoplata. The only other dedicated crucifix instructional I have seen was the section on Marcelo’s last dvd release, and while this may be blasphemy to the BJJ gods, I liked this one better! For the $35 I spent on the initial Indiegogo fundraiser I am more than happy, I would have paid more for the crucifix and reverse omoplata alone, there is a ton of information with no filler. Coupled with the seminar and the ebook version, I feel this was great value. As I said before the production values are very good, the unique format and the technical instruction all come together very well, also knowing Aesopian and Marshal both post on Sherdog and the instructional has a comment section, being able to ask questions is great. The chapters I enjoyed the most were 2-2 and 2-5 (I am a stickler for anything to do with positional control) I expect they will soon become burned into memory after the amount of times I refer back to them. With that being said I think the best part is that I don’t feel it’s a specific technique or section that really shines, it’s the overall product and how it flows together and each chapter compliments the other that provides a deeper conceptual understanding of the positions.

I feel like I have finished this instructional with a much deeper understanding of both the reverse omoplata and the crucifix. I really can’t wait to go and start drilling these techniques and try them during sparring. I know for sure I will be on the lookout from future releases from Artechoke. If you have any doubts check the free chapter (it has my personal favorite sections in it) and see for yourself! I can’t wait to drill, spar and add this to my game, I will keep you updated as to how it’s working out for me, hopefully I’m crucifying people like the Romans sometime in the not too distant future!

Buy Mastering the Crucifix now.

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Mastering the Crucifix is Live! Did You Get It Yet?

Mastering the CrucifixMy big crucifix and reverse omoplata instructional is now out at ArtechokeMedia.com! Buy your copy for $39.95 or read an entire chapter for free first.

So what do we call this–book, e-book, video, website, or what? It has written explanations, multi-angle animated GIFs, and video instruction. You can access it as a responsive app-like website on any modern device with a web browser. You can download it in ePub format for your e-reader. You can ask questions on any page to get feedback directly from the author. It’s the Swiss Army knife of BJJ instructionals.

If you backed us on Indiegogo, you should have received an email with your login credentials. Let me know if you didn’t or you had problems. You can log in anywhere on ArtechokeMedia.com or within Mastering the Crucifix itself.

Now that I’m no longer spending all my time working on getting this out, I’ll get back to updating my site and podcast. Expect behind-the-scenes looks at what it took to get ArtechokeMedia.com up and running (I did all the web development) and previews of upcoming projects.

Buy Mastering the Crucifix now.

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Indiegogo Success!

The Indiegogo goal was surpassed by over $1700 and we’re moving on to the next stages of production! Thank you for your support!

All the filming gear has been ordered and is en route now. Marshal and I are picking dates and securing filming locations.

Later this week I will leak more seminar footage as a preview of what’s to come. The full seminar is being edited together now, and we will be contacting those who purchased it once we have the delivery method finalized.

More announcements coming soon, but for now I just wanted to thank everyone who made this possible and let you know we’re hard at work!

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Win a 93 Brand “Charlie” Gi from rollmore.com!

rollmore.com generously donated a 93 Brand “Charlie” gi to help promote my Indiegogo campaign. Entering is easy. Simply like and comment on this Facebook post! Contest winner announced Friday night.

We’ve broke $1600 on your way toward the $4000 crowdfunding goal. Every dollar counts. Please support this project if you want us to keep working on innovative BJJ media. Check out a sample of what we’re trying to do by reading 3-D Jiu-Jitsu: An Introduction to Thinking Conceptually.

Hollah if you run a BJJ company and want to get exposure for your product by tossing a freebie our way!

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Listen to me on Verbal Tap Cast!

Raf and Kevin had me on their show Verbal Tap Cast to talk about BJJ, MTG, D&D and our course my latest Indiegogo project. Listen to the show here.

Looks like my appearances on Open Mat Radio sparked a lover’s feud between Raf and his archnemesis Paul Moran.

Don’t forget to check out 3-D Jiu-Jitsu: An Introduction to Thinking Conceptually! This is the test model for what we hope to do with my crucifix and reverse omoplata instructional.

Marshal is giving away 10 copies of his latest Victory Belt book on his site!

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I Need Your Help!

Today’s a big day! Today I launch the Indiegogo fundraiser for my crucifix and reverse omoplata instructional and Marshal D. Carper releases his free instructional 3-D Jiu-Jitsu: An Introduction to Conceptual Thinking.

Watch this video to learn why we need your help and why we’re releasing 3-D Jiu-Jitsu for free.

Super Magic New “eBook” Format

Take a look at a page of 3D Jiu-Jitsu, like 2-05 Ankle Grip Counter. You’ll see a written introduction to the technique, like with all BJJ books. You’ll see moving pictures, a feature usually reserved for the Harry Potter universe, with each technique being shown from several angles with animated GIFs. And to complete things, you can watch a video of the technique being taught, just like in any DVD. This was Marshal’s idea for a new mixed media ebook, and that’s what we plan to do for the crucifix and reverse omoplata that I love so much.

We hope you like the “text + gifs + video” format and how it works across every device with an internet connection. We’ve been testing it on Macs and PCs, iPads, iPhones, Android phones, and anything else we can find with a web browser and a screen. We have more refining to do, but we hope you like the new approach as much as we do.

What Your Support Means

Why do we need help with fundraising? Here’s the story:

Marshal runs a BJJ publishing start-up called Artechoke Media. The BJJ book market has slowed to a halt, and that bummed Marshal out. He has big plans, but so far he’s been testing the BJJ ebook market with Don’t Wear Your Gi to the Bar and now 3-D Jiu-Jitsu.

He’d brought me in as a bona fide black belt to be his first “big” instructional. I’ve had an outline for a crucifix and reverse omoplata instructional for a long time (since that’s kinda my thing), but I was waiting for a cool way to do it instead of just making a DVD. Marshal showed me tests of his “multimedia ebook” idea and I loved it. We got started on my instructional, with him flying me out to Pittsburgh to film it. But after experiencing catastrophic camera failure and trashing everything we’d recorded, then Artechoke losing its web developer, and a drying up of funds, our projects were put on indefinite hold.

That’s where your support comes in. With a successful Indiegogo campaign, we’ll be allow to:

  1. Finish my crucifix and reverse omoplata instructional using the innovative mixed media format pioneered by 3-D Jiu-Jitsu.
  2. Establish the Artechoke Media studio and make it capable of producing future high quality instructionals with more BJJ black belts.

I took over web development, and that’s how 3-D Jiu-Jitsu got finished.

How’s This Different Than Pre-Ordering?

Using crowdfunding like Indiegogo allows us to be fully transparent about where your money is going. Neither Marshal nor I are Mr. Big Bucks. We both work day jobs in addition to training and trying to get this BJJ publishing company off the ground. Your backing will be used to complete this project, and ideally carry us into making more products without the need to run another crowdfunding campaign.

Plus, Indiegogo lets me do cool stuff! Instead of pulling the usual sales high pressure “buy now” B.S., I get to give out bonus perks like discounted GrapplersGuide.com 1-year memberships, copies of Kesting’s DVDs, an autographed photo of Kyra Gracie, a guest spot on Open Mat Radio, and even my entire personal BJJ book and DVD libraryTake a look at the perks.

How You Can Help

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What’s Coming Soon

New podcast coming as soon as I get my voice back from this head cold! No one wants to hear me stuffed up and wheezing into the mic. My SoundCloud account has been upgraded thanks to listener donations, and now the upload cap is gone. How are you enjoying the show so far?

After my podcast about grappling dummies, the makers of the as-yet-unreleased Combat X Trainer sent me their crossbreed between a grappling dummy and a balance ball to review. This was kind of them, especially considering that I compared grappling dummy builders to the Unabomber, but I will do my best to give an impartial opinion.

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a Valerie Worthinton seminar at Steel City Martial Arts (and the displease of driving through Pittsburgh). You may recall SCMA as the location of my last seminar with Marshal D. Carper as host. Val, Marshal and I are planning out some joint project, starting with a blog post (or maybe a podcast) about gender issues in BJJ. Val’s seminar ended with a round-table discussion and Q&A that was popular with attendees, and we want to see if we can hit the same vein.

Val and her partners Emily Kwok, Hannette Staack and Lola Newsom run Groundswell Grappling Concepts and Women’s Grappling to put on women’s BJJ camps and seminars. I’m going to try to get into the next co-ed one near me, or see if I can pull a Tootsie to sneak in

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Listen to the New Aesopian.com Podcast!

Last week when I released a 15 minute video on standing up from guard, I let slip that I’ve been working on a podcast too. The first episode is up now. You can hit play below to listen while you keep reading about the new podcast:

Submission-Only vs Points Tournaments

Listen to “Submission-Only vs Points Tournaments” by Aesopian BJJ on SoundCloud

My goal for these podcasts is to answer the questions I receive through my site’s “Ask a black belt” widget (seen up in the top right corner). Each podcast is only between 4-15 minutes, with most at about 8 minutes. I am recording these using my iPad whenever and whenever I have free time. Editing is minimal and I don’t have any music or sound effects or co-hosts. As you can hear from the background noise of cicadas buzzing and birds chirping, I’m often outside in park.

Over 120 questions came in through my site’s “Ask a black belt” feature, and while I tried to answer as quickly as I could (seen here), I quickly got overloaded. That’s why the recording for this podcast are so quick and simple. They wouldn’t get done otherwise. I can record 4-5 of these in the time it takes me to type up my blog post.

Please send me any feedback you have on the podcast. I’m not used to sitting alone and talking to “myself” and my iPad, but I’m trying to work on my radio voice. Let me know if anything distracted or annoyed you so I can try to do better in the future!

If this podcast proves popular, I’ll see about making improvements like generating transcripts, getting better recording gear, seeking out interviewees, and getting listed in iTunes and Stitcher.

Want to do me a big favor?

Since quitting my job and moving to a new state, my funds are getting low. In the past (probably 7 years ago), I’ve asked for donation when I’ve needed help paying for web hosting costs, and now I’m asking again for this podcast.

The basic SoundCloud (my podcast hosting) plan cuts off at 2 hours of audio, which I have already passed. It costs $132/year to upgrade to the Pro Unlimited plan. People often tell me my site helps them more than most DVDs, and I don’t even charge for it. If you’d like to help keep this site going and support the new podcast, please follow the link on this page to donate via Paypal.

Let’s spice up the deal a little. If you donate through Paypal and contact me afterwards, your question will go to the top of my list. You’ll get an answer from me, maybe by video, a podcast, a blog post, or a personal email. Be sure to include which email you used on Paypal and how much you donated.

With your support, I’ll keep putting out new podcast episodes (and videos) on a regular schedule! Here’s what’s coming soon:

Future podcast topics (already recorded!)

  • How to defeat the smaller, weaker opponent
  • What I think of mandatory school gis and Gracie Barra gis
  • How to be less defensive and loosen up in sparring
  • How to spar with higher belts without spazzing or self-defeating
  • Caring for jacked up fingers
  • Hygiene tips to keep you from being a social outcast
  • What to do while recovering from injury
  • How a good gi should fit
  • How to stop being “too nice”
  • If grappling dummies are worth the time and money
  • Earning belts when you only train no-gi
  • Should you be offended if you don’t have a blue belt but are sure you’re awesome?
  • Training without the desire to earn belt rank

I’ll be posting one of these a day for the rest of the week to launch the new podcast. And I’ve got another 15+ minute video ready too!

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Crucifix seminar in Pittsburgh on May 5 (only $30!)

Who’s in Pittsburgh? Come train with me! I’ll be at Steel City Martial Arts on May 5 to give a seminar on the crucifix. You can RSVP on Facebook or by contacting Marshal Carper at mcarper@gmail.com:

Here’s the full seminar info:

Matt Kirtley, the founder of Aesopian.com, is giving a seminar on his favorite position, the crucifix. This seminar will introduce the crucifix position, explore entries, counters, recounters, transitions, and finishes (including the reverse omoplata). All skill-levels welcome.

Matt is a black belt under Eduardo de Lima and an accomplished jiu-jitsu writer. He will be available for privates and group privates following the seminar.

Details:

May 5, 11am-2:00pm at Steel City Martial Arts
3842 Library Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15234 (Directions)

  • $30 for full seminar
  • $100/hour for private
  • $60/hour per person for a group private

Please contact Marshal Carper to register. Spaces are limited.

Presented by Artechoke Media, promoting the organic growth of jiu-jitsu thought, theory, and technique. ArtechokeMedia.com

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The case for dividing classes by belt rank

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My school Gracie Barra Clearwater moved to a new, bigger, nicer building in the last month of 2012. GBCW has been my home for the past decade, and it is where I have earned all my belts under my teacher Eduardo de Lima. This move has been a big step forward for us. It has been a lot of stress and hard work, but it’s also very exciting. My first class was in a bare bones warehouse, and now I’m a teacher in our professional training studio.

Along with the better facilities came changes to the class structure and membership plans as we fully adopted the modern Gracie Barra school model. I wanted to share my perspective on these with you, since many people seem interested in how this works. What you’ll read below comes from what I’ve shared with my students and teammates.

The GB model involves splitting classes into Fundamental (all belt levels, but especially white belts), Advanced (three strip white belts and higher), and Black Belt (blue belts and higher). It appears Marcelo Garcia and the Mendes brothers and other high level instructors use a similar class structures, and this is a growing trend if not already a standard practice.

At our old warehouse gym, we had half-heartedly tried running separate Fundamentals and Advanced classes, but we didn’t divide them well, and we didn’t keep track of who should be in which class, so eventually it fell apart and reverted back to “one big class for everyone.” So when I first learned about the plan to split the memberships up at the new school, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

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Like a lot of the long time students, I remember how when I started, I just got tossed into a group class before I even knew how to tie a belt, then had to bumble through warm-ups I didn’t know, do more push ups than I’d ever done in my life, then be put up against the higher belts to spar (while trying to not pass out from heat stroke). After class, it was left up to me to figure out how to pay for classes and how buy my first gi, then let to wander away, maybe to never return. (This is also after it took me three tries to find the old gym back in the warehouses.)

So I understand the old school pride and the “you kids have it easy these days” attitude of old timers. Many of you from the garage days have much gnarlier stories than I do, and I’m one of the kids who had it easy in your eyes. Those were special times to train and learn jiu-jitsu.

As we approached the opening of the new school and I got involved with the planning, I had my own concerns. Would we be “losing” something by splitting the classes up? Would we be “softening” or “dilluting” jiu-jitsu to appeal to a broader market? What if I liked our gym being “underground” because I’m a jiu-jitsu hipster who did it “before it was cool”? With all of these changes, would it be the same school I loved?

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You may have your own answers to those questions, but for me, after teaching and training in the new classes, and seeing the new business practices in action, I am very happy to report that all of my concerns have disappeared. The changes have been for the best of the school, the students (even the crusty higher belts) and Eduardo. The new system has only raised the standards for training, and given the school a real chance to grow and attract new students.

After seeing the way the new classes run, and the other changes to the business operations of the school, here’s what I see us “losing”:

  • Getting to inflate our ego with the “pride” of being “too tough” for 90% of new people.
  • A needless risk of injury that often ended new students’ journeys into BJJ before they really started.
  • Classes where the instructor has to walk the tightrope between teaching green beginners and seasoned competitors, only to leave both disappointed.
  • The attitude that “jiu-jitsu just isn’t for everyone” that comes from not knowing how to give people the right kind of training they need in their personal development.

And, sorry, but the hair and lint tumbleweeds are no more thanks to heightened cleaning standards.

We aren’t cutting out sparring, we aren’t lowering the standards for earning belts, we aren’t selling belts, we aren’t “softening” the training for the experienced guys. In fact, I’ve had some of the toughest and most technical training in years at the new Black Belt classes, since Eduardo is now free to really let out the techniques he’s had to hold back not because he wants to but because he has to struggle with making the a single class “work” for everyone. We’ve been doing takedowns and sparring from standing in almost every class so far, and up to an hour of sparring. Like I’ve been telling the class every time I teach, by making a place for the beginners, we’ve opened up room at the top for the higher belts to get the training they need too.

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When I was a white belt, Eduardo told me an analogy for jiu-jitsu that always stuck with me. He said the path to black belt was like climbing toward the summit of a tall mountain. You can see the goal far ahead of you, but you still have to take one step at a time and focus on making steady progress.

This mountain climbing metaphor offers us many valuable comparisons for how we think about training and learning this beautiful art. Let’s look at the new Fundamentals and Advanced classes we are launching at Gracie Barra Clearwater in this way.

New students doing the Fundamentals and Advanced classes are climbing the same mountain as every past student. All that has changed is the path being followed.

With the new curriculum, we have more clearly drawn the map, especially at the beginning of journey, so people can get their feet on the trail. Now we can steer new students in the right direction, making sure they see all the landmarks, and keep ourselves from veering off into unnecessary detours.

We used to send people right up against the sheer cliff faces of jiu-jitsu, even if they had no idea where they were going, leaving it to them to find the many pitfalls the hard way. That approach gives you “tough” fighters through survival of the fittest (or the stubbornest) but it also drives away students who had real potential but who needed a different introduction to the art. Some people love this rough path, and I can’t blame them because it’s fun it its own ways.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Jiu-jitsu doesn’t need any help being harder to learn. It is challenging enough on its own. That’s what makes it such a fun and interesting pursuit. An instructor’s big responsibility is to provide a path that each student can follow on their journey to black belt (and beyond) without getting hopelessly lost, seriously injured or quitting. The instructor’s goal is not to eliminate challenges, but to make the student ready to face the right challenges, ones that will further their personal growth.

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With Gracie Barra’s new three levels of classes (Fundamentals, Advanced and Black Belt), we have a clear structure that both students and instructors can use to improve the quality of training. These programs don’t replace the insight and expertise of a skilled instructor, but they are useful tools. By the end of the Fundamentals program, both the instructors and the students can be sure that the major areas have been addressed. This frees the instructors in the Black Belt classes to take students further into the highly advanced and intricate topics without worrying about students who can’t keep up.

The mountain isn’t made any smaller by having a smoother path to its summit. Those who pioneered the way should be proud of their hard work, and those who are just beginning should be grateful they can benefit from their work too. What we want to create are intelligent, technical and determined martial artists, and to present them with challenges that bring them higher on their paths to jiu-jitsu mastery. We’ve never had a greater opportunity to do this than today!

I hope you are as excited about the changes at the new school as I am! See you on the mats!

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