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Don't play dice with your BJJ students

What would the perfect BJJ gym look like today — at once connected to modern times and to the traditions of the martial art?

To Rickson Gracie, one of the main aspects would be the quality of the dojo in relation to the teaching both of self-defense and competition techniques, without the practice of one being neglected in favor of the other. 

"The perfect jiu-jitsu gym needs these two environments that many judge to be contradictory to connect," he says. "That is, the teacher must teach both audiences, from the older lady who just wants some exercise to the young man anxious to become world champion."

More than exemplary didactics, this is to Rickson the only way to stop most students from giving up in the first month:

"When you introduce jiu-jitsu to the newcomer through fighting, with more-demanding maneuvers and techniques seen in competition, you are playing dice with your white-belts," Rickson teaches. "If the student is tough and has a warrior's heart, and is lucky not to get injured against a more experienced partner, the teacher has gotten lucky, and maybe they'll stay. Most of the time, however, that doesn't happen — and there are studies that guarantee that more than 80% of practitioners give up on the gi in those first few weeks. When the students don't see themselves as prepared (yet) to deal with confrontation, they jump ship at the drop of a hat. And they never give jiu-jitsu another chance."

That's why, to Rickson, any new student's starting point must be in the gentle environment of self-defense, of the simple defensive moves that enhance any person's mental and physical power. "Starting with self-defense, when the student starts becoming comfortable in jiu-jitsu, then indeed do they feel the confidence to test themselves against other students' technique, in that popular game of chess that are competitions. If the newcomer possesses that competitive spirit, they can get started at the gym in that game of 'my jiu-jitsu against yours': 'Will he pass my guard?' 'Can I finish him?' And so on. It depends on each person's taste, but the role of a good gym is clear: we need to offer self-defense as introduction and sport techniques only to the most advanced. Competition is not for everybody, but jiu-jitsu is. Self-defense is accessible to each and every student profile."

So pay attention: playing jiu-jitsu against someone who knows jiu-jitsu is lots of fun and reinvigorating. But you must leave your gym ready to face an attacker who knows zero jiu-jitsu, but whose only resource, although not very versatile, may be truly dangerous: they just have to know one punch, one headlock, or have one heavy stick, to ruin your day. But only those who don't learn complete jiu-jitsu need worry about that. 

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What is Rickson's favorite technique?

The other day, a student enrolled in Rickson.Academy's virtual classes asked what Rickson's favorite technique was out of all the ones he teaches and demonstrates in detail. 

Rickson, with a discreet smile, said: 
"Well, this is a slippery one. I'll explain: I have a car that is my favorite. But I couldn't decide which part of my car is my favorite. I mean, I like the tires. I like the engine and the design, and the leather on the seats. And I like the music that comes out of the radio. I love that car, but it's complex to subdivide and point to a piece that is my favorite. What's nice about the car is its functionality, how it works perfectly when it's complete."

He added: "In the same way, in Jiu-Jitsu I don't believe I can compartmentalize and say that I prefer the defense against stabbing over the defense against clubbing, or the choke; I love all the techniques equally. Because they fit together and connect perfectly to give us that extra dose of tranquility, of inner peace, of confidence and calm when it's time to act, which makes us successful in whatever field. So I love everything from the mount escape seen in the first few lessons all the way up to the inverted foot lock I teach the higher-ranked students."
Rickson concluded his thoughts with quite a piece of advice:
"But you may have your favorite technique, of course. I just advise you to have fun learning all of them, so you can then point to your favorite."

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Is there a BJJ technique Rickson dislikes?

Could there be a jiu-jitsu technique that Rickson Gracie might find not to be all that? Recently, upon answering a classic question from one of his followers, the master made clear what displeases him when it comes to his endless range of resources.

"I love all the techniques in our jiu-jitsu, but my favorite ones are those that are performed without effort, at the right time and in the most effective manner," he said. "Everything that comes out imperfect, with too much wasted energy, gritted teeth and use of force bothers me, and I end up not liking it even if the movement in the end works out."

Check out the question asked by the Rickson Academy member, and Rickson's answer, here.


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Latest Comments

Manoel Do Vale Avatar
Manoel Do Vale commented:

I'll try this tomorrow rs

December 06, 2022 05:56 PM

Kevin Outten  Avatar
Kevin Outten commented:


December 06, 2022 03:10 PM


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