Why is Gracie Jiujitsu appropriate as a Self Defence Art?

Please watch this short demonstration of the Gracie Jiujitsu self defence curriculum and competition sparring by masters Rickson & Royler Gracie. 

I recently found myself on the train to my professor Eddie Kone's HQ academy to teach the Wednesday introduction and advanced classes. As always, the focus and centre of all the sessions at EKBJJ is Gracie Jiujitsu as a complete art of self defence and my reading companion for the train journey today is: Brazilian Jiujitsu Self Defence Techniques by Royce Gracie, Charles Gracie and Kid Peligro. 

If you're not familiar with the book, I highly recommend it as a 103 position / technique encyclopaedic overview of how the Gracie Family approach self-defence but before you get to these positions, there's a 17page introduction that is already worth the price of the book. The technical portion of the book deals with the how (and to a certain extent, the when) but that intro delves nicely into the why and why not. We're given a brief historical overview of Jiujitsu in Brazil but also two articles that, unfortunately, many academies I've visited around the world ignore. I'll share here a couple of bits out of each that I feel sum them well:

What is it about Brazilian jiu-jitsu that makes it so effective as a self defence system? 

We can break the answer into four main points:

1) it is designed to work even when you are surprised and in a poor position 
2) it is designed by small people to defeat larger ones 
3) it allows you to develop instantaneous reactions by practicing in extremely lifelike exercises and 
4) it provides you with a range of severity in dealing with your attacker

Now I invite you to rewatch this clip and ask yourself:

1) could those techniques have worked even when you are surprised and in a poor position?
2) would those techniques have allowed a small person to defeat a larger aggressor?
3) would it be possible to create extremely lifelike exercises and drills for these scenarios that'd facilitate instantaneous reactions? 
4) did you witness a range of severity in dealing with your attacker?

Training Guidelines:

Class structure: this is something I have quizzes every son or grandson of Grandmaster Helio's that I've met: If someone is on a tight schedule and can only make a one hour session 2-3 times a week, how should the professor structure their session?

Every single one agreed on one thing: Technique drilling and repetition and positional training / sparring is far more important, and therefore should hold the lion-share of a lesson, than free sparring. Check this excellent study by Gracie Jiujitsu black belt Mr Josh Vogel of positional sparring.

Study the art. Don't just train aimlessly and hope for the best.



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BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to leglock like Garry Tonon

Leg locks of all variety are gaining a huge momentum in both Brazilian jiujitsu, MMA and of course Submission Grappling. There are many different ways to attacks the joints of the leg such as straight foot locks, heel hooks, figure - 4 footlocks, knee bars...etc. But how can we learn to leglock like a champion of Garry Tonon? Well you need to know how to set up the leg lock from a variety of positions. In this video we see the standard basic entry to the straight foot lock from the open guard by Professor Ryron Gracie, head instructor at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California:

What is often missed when entering the foot lock (and the guillotine, as Garry explains below) is the invisible details during the transitions. These are the details that will win or lose the leg lock battle:


BJJ / Grappling Tips: Escape Side Control

Thursday sessions at Eddie Kone Academy of jiujitsu focus on NoGi training and Striking For MMA. It is not unlikely to walk onto the mat and see the main class to be run by an experienced coach while Eddie is on the side taking a student through their paces on the pads or through grappling drills. I remember recently walking in and seeing the grappling coach taking a class thru side control escapes / guard recovery and he was doing a great job emphasizing the importance of creating space by constantly establishing frames and moving away from them. As I turned to my left I saw Eddie and one of his higher blue belts drilling and discussing the finer details of leg locks, laying a clear focus on staying tight on the opponent thru-out the series of movements.

It was a beautiful moment. The contrast couldn’t have been clearer between the two sides of the same coin and I’m positive neither party was aware of what the other was doing. Fantastic BJJ / Grappling Coach Roy Harris once said that when you are attacking, space is your enemy. You want to be on your opponent like a wet towel on a basketball. When you are escaping, however, space is your best buddy.

I’d like to add that when in transitions (whether between positions, attacks, postures, escapes…etc.) then space becomes a more complex question! Tightness alone just isn't enough and too much space is definitely not the answer. What you need is a state of negotiation.

Think about it. There is a moment when you are passing the guard when you definitely need to create space and that is usually followed by one where you need to eliminate all possible space to secure the new, more superior position you have negotiated for yourself.

Also, there is a moment after you have broken someone’s posture down in your guard and eliminated space where you need to actually give them a little bit of space to correctly affect the palm-up palm-down choke or spinning armbar. That’s where sensitivity can overcome strength. That’s where the magic happens in BJJ.

How do I get there? Through relaxation and thousands of repetitions against a variety of levels of resistance. You need to dare eliminate the space but also dare negotiate some back to be able to move in the most optimal way.



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BJJ / Grappling tips: Master Rickson Gracie's advice on training part time vs full time

I once explained to master Rickson Gracie what this website / movement is and what being a part time grappler is all about and sought his view on the matter and what he said really calmed me:

Me: I'm talking about the professionals like the doctors, teachers etc who only train 2-3 times per week for 1-2 hours each session. They can't compete with the full timers. What advice do you have for them?

Rickson: Balance. These guys can join the navy, but they will never become navy seals! My son (Kron) lives jiujitsu and I constantly advise him to balance his energy. Energy for training, energy to live and energy to love. 

It's so important to remember why we started to train and to plan our lives and set our attitudes accordingly.

The speedboat of top level competitors skims across the ocean of Jiujitsu. Those who fool themselves into thinking they can hang with them while training 3 hours per week inevitably fall off it into the surges after an exhausting year or two of hard and injurious sparring. 

We, The Part Time Grapplers, are the smart ones. We are the ones riding wakeboards behind the boat, using their bobbing heads for 720 tricks. 

We'll never make it to the top, but we'll always be having a great time.



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BJJ Seminar & Summer Grading: New School BJJ with Helio "Soneca" Moreira

The day started with 7 black belts
I recently had the pleasure & honour to attend Professor Helio Soneca's Summer Grading and seminar at Ernest Bevin College in Tooting, South London. The seminar was open to all and was immediately followed by New School BJJ's Summer Grading.

The Instructor

Helio Pires Moreira, aka Soneca, is a big deal. The man is a bit of a legend to be fair. He's one of the first black belt produced by the powerhouse Gracie Barra back in the old days. The NAGA, Brazilian Nationals- & Mundial champion has a lot to teach so when I heard he was coming over to London for the third time to teach and grade at his affiliate New School BJJ, I jumped at the opportunity. I mean, how many black belt do you know who started jiujitsu at the age of 8? Exactly!


BJJ Gi Review: Globetrotters Competition Gi - New Release!

Short BJJ Gi Review

BJJ Globetrotters is a world spanning, yet accidental, Brazilian jiujitsu team. I say accidental because the founder Christian Graugart describes it like that and while indeed you can register for IBJJF and UAEJJF competitions through the BJJ Globetrotters, they represent far more than just another BJJ team. They’re a movement:

I reviewed the BJJ Globetrotter’s travel gi not too long ago and it’s still one of my favourite gis to train in. Understandably, the super light, ripstop gi is not competition legal so when I heard that they’d released a competition legal one, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. 

They real seem to have done their homework as the gi is both beautiful, aesthetically designed and tailored to the tooth. It's light enough to train in regularly and do local, national and international comps in.

Simple and aesthetically pleasing reminders of the general ethos of the BJJ Globetrotters are strewn throughout this project.

Disclosure and cost:

Christian sent me this gi to review. BJJ Globetrotters normally sell the BJJ Globetrotters Competition gi for $199 which works out to around £150 (€180) but they're currently offering it for $175 (£132 / €158). Did I mention free shipping worldwide?!


BJJ School visit: Gracie Barra Fulham in London, UK

Gracie Barra as a jiujitsu team have worked hard at spreading their brand of the art to all corners of the world. One such corner is Fulham, a South-London neighbourhood just a short cycle away from the school I work at as a maths teacher.

Stripe Promotions at Gracie Barra - Fulham

Stripe Promotions at Gracie Barra - Fulham

Stripe Promotions at Gracie Barra - Fulham
I had heard about Gracie Barra Fulham from two separate sources. One is from one of their instructors: Professor Paul Hartley who has worked tirelessly to promote Jiujitsu an Gracie Barra in the north of England, where I used to live. I had found out that Paul had recently started teaching down in London at his instructor's academy. The instructor being none less than the amazing Lucio "Lagarto" Rodrigues and the academy being the old Gracie Barra Knightsbridge.


Kron Rickson Gracie MMA FIGHT Hideo Tokoro

Rizin FF have started booking matches for their next event (late September 2016)- Rizin Fighting World Grand-Prix 2016. The first advertised (and largest draw) fight is one involving Kron Gracie (2-0) and Hideo Tokoro (33-28)


BJJ / Grappling tips: impassable guard? Start from the bottom of the side control

Master Rickson Gracie demonstrating 
his open guard on me

The open guard is a core position in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Competitors and fighters within and outside the Gracie family have used it for generations to stay safe on the bottom, escape back to their feet or even reverse or submit their opponent but what good is a guard as a defensive / offensive tool if it's constantly getting passed?

Do you want to make your open guard impassable? Start every sparring round from the bottom of the side control. Don't even worry about escaping to begin with. Just focus on preventing the mount / knee on belly / North / South and defending their submission attacks. 

Why will this improve your guard retention?


Master Rickson Gracie discusses the future of jiu-jitsu with master Pedro Sauer and the head instructors at the Gracie Academy HQ: Ryron and Rener Gracie.

In a new video shot at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California, Master Rickson Gracie discusses the future of jiu-jitsu with master Pedro Sauer and the head instructors at the Gracie Academy HQ: Ryron and Rener Gracie. Here's the video and the subtext to the video as published on YouTube:

Published on 7 Jun 2016
Jiu-Jitsu has reached a critical point in it's evolution. On one hand, it is one of the fastest growing sports on the planet, on the other hand, it is at risk of losing its identity and suffering the same fate that has negatively affected nearly all other martial arts. What made made jiu-jitsu famous in the 80s and 90s was its unprecedented effectiveness in real fights, yet today, most jiu-jitsu academies do not teach the elements that make the art applicable in a real fight.


BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to take the back from closed guard

Taking the back from the closed guard is a basic transition that no one in jiujitsu should get to blue belt without learning properly. It features in sports jiujitsu (gi and no gi), MMA and of course when defending yourself against a bigger, stronger aggressor who managed to take you down in an altercation.

Below are three version of how to take the back from the closed guard that I really like:

Getting their arm across your belt line, as demonstrated by Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida:


BJJ / Grappling tips: How to improve your guard, half guard and every other jiujitsu position by focusing on pit stops

Something I've always enjoyed exploring in grappling / jiujitsu is the use of pit stops. In this context, pit stops to me are points along the path of a roll / grapple / match where you can stop, secure & re-evaluate before you close the deal (submission, new position or even escape).

Over the past few years I have come to really appreciate the value of pit stops. In my opinion they are even more important than submissions. Not only do they slow the game down and allow you to be more cerebral, but the very nature of a BJJ / Grappling pit stop means that they often present you with a few directional choices (e.g. the chance to change submission or switch to a sweep / positional transition)

A few of my favourite ones are:

Penelope, aptly named, after Penelope Pitstop, during a no-gi session on tightening triangles

Spider-web a la Eddie Bravo