I have visited many different jiu-jitsu schools in my travels. From the tiny one room spaces with enough room for 2 pairs to roll all the way to state of the art, World class training facilities. Truth is, you can learn great jiu-jitsu regardless of the size of the academy. But the approach and philosophy of the instruction must be well designed or the students just won’t can not learn at an optimal rate.
I have witnessed wildly varying approaches to teaching the class. The instructor shows up 20 minutes late, shows a sweep that he saw on YouTube the day before and then says “ok, let’s roll.”
I visited the original Gracie Barra in Barra de Tijuca in Brazil a few years ago to see how the classes at the main academy were conducted. I came away not only with some fantastic new techniques to share with he students at the home GB schools, but also with a clearer understanding of HOW jiu-jitsu is taught.
The Gracie Barra Method is comprised of 6 parts:
Curriculum, Pre-requisite, Class, Training Methods, Minimum Attendance, Belt System
The 3 aspects I see most misunderstood in many bjj schools are:
Curriculum: Set of coordinated techniques organized in the best possible way to facilitate student’s learning processes. All Gracie Barra curriculums are 16 weeks;
Would you try to learn to speak a new language or a new software application just by jumping in any old place? Or would a progressive system that takes you step by step be the most efficient way to learn?
Of course, a set curriculum is the best, most organized way to learn a new skill. jiu-jitsu is no different.
The student is guided through the early fundamentals, progressing to more advanced techniques as they develop the jiu-jitsu skills.
Class: The defined period of time during which the student learns the techniques that comprise the curricula using several different training methods or appropriate instructional techniques;
GB teaches the idea of a “class clock” where each portion of the class (ex. warm up, standup, ground, cool down) are given the optimal amount of time. The time and energy of the students are best directed to the fastest progress while ensuring safety for all of the students.
I have witnessed some schools that featured exhausting 30 minute conditioning s4essions to start the classes and yet lacked sufficient time for important aspects as teaching takedowns. Following the class clock ensures a great learning experience for everyone: the students maximize their learning and then quickly out of the academy and back to the rest of their life and responsibilities.
Training Methods: Specific drills and training practices designed to convert the knowledge represented in the curricula and taught by the instructor into knowledge and skills, insuring that the student is able to apply their knowledge and techniques under real circumstances (or under authentic conditions);
I have seen classes where 1st day students are “thrown to the wolves” and put into live rolling. Without any knowledge or understanding of positions, they struggle to survive. hardly the best way to introduce someone to jiu-jitsu.
Gracie Barra introduces students to positional sparring as a way to bridge the gap between learning a technique in class and a way to employ it in live rolling.
It isn’t just how many gold medals the instructor has won in competition or how many times he can tap you out in a roll. The program structure is SUPER important for the optimal training experience.
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam