Training Gracie Jiujitsu at EKBJJ HQ

This Monday I spent just under 6 hours on the mats with several regional instructors going thru the self defence curriculum of Gracie jiujitsu under the watchful eyes of Eddie Kone, head instructor of the EKBJJ Association and what an experience that was. Mind blown indeed.

Eddie started the day with a fantastic metaphor regarding how he sees the links between self defence, MMA, sport Jiu Jitsu and no gi grappling and I was very happy to find that we agreed on everything. He described the self defence  techniques and principles as the heart and blood of the art: it permeates his whole vision of how he learnt it from Helio, Royler, Royce and Rickson Gracie and it is also the drive behind everything. If a technique or strategy deviates completely from this then it's not a core element. Other aspects exist (pure competition techniques such as the deep half guard, strategies that may work 1-on -1 but not in a crowd such as always favouring the mount to say knee on belly, techniques that may rely on a specific set of attributes such as grip strength or flexibility such as spider guard or the rubber guard...etc.) and he acknowledged that they are very valuable for the practitioner but no where as important to him as being prepared to defend yourself. In fact, he supported my theory that you could indeed build a very strong and effective competition game plan (gi, Nogi and MMA) on the foundation of self defence techniques and strategies, citing famous world class examples of Gunbar Belson, BJ Penn, Kron, Royler and Roger Gracie, Xande and Saulo Ribeiro and many others. 

The training day itself consisted of working thru the original self defence curriculum used back in the day at the Gracie Academy. I've often read in interviews with Gracie family members and their contemporaries such as Rickson Gracie coral belt Pedro Sauer, the head of Alliance Jacare Cavalcanti or the head of Kioto jiujitsu Francisco Mansur that when you started training jiujitsu under the watchful eyes of Helio Gracie or his sons and nephews they'd start you with 20-25 private lessons that covered the fundamentals of self defence and safety against acts of violence such as grabs and strikes. I knew this foundation programme existed within Eddie's curriculum but I didn't know he'd learnt directly from the old man in private sessions. It was great to not just learn the techniques and their finer hidden details that you just can't perceive from a book or DVD but also strategies and tactics behind why you did them a certain way and when you changed from one version to another. I had studied a chunk of the curriculum in private sessions with Eddie in the past and it was a great feeling to get his stamp of approval on my level of comprehension and retention. I also got a chance to drill the techniques and spar with a variety of partners of all shapes and sizes and experience levels which always great fun. 

One of the most valuable parts of the training day from a coaching point of view was the lunch time class. It's one thing to have a curriculum on paper, another to actually teach it to a group of students of varying abilities and seeing / participating in that session was a great eyeopener. Eddie's lunch classes are often packed and it was invaluable to see how he managed the room, checked understanding, delivered his lesson plan and ensured every participant was thoroughly yet appropriately challenged with zero injuries, all done with a great smile on everybody's face. It felt like I was back at Fighting Fit Manchester. No wonder people from other academies often flock to his sessions. 

The day ended with a discussion around how Eddie sees the curriculum influencing future gradings within the EKBJJ association such as the big one coming up in September of this year. He made several hints towards people who may indeed be tested for the next level and urged them sharpen up their knowledge of the curriculum and the self defence aspects of the art. He also explained his vision for the testing procedure (IBJJF relevance, external assessors, situational testing, grappling performance...etc.) and left no stones unturned. 

I can't wait to drill what I learnt with my brother and other private students, starting today!

Now check out this fantastic video of Eddie's old instructor Royler Gracie and his daughter drilling.

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