Is BJJ being watered down?
Ive read a lot of criticism lately of the Gracie University program, specifically criticism of Rener and Ryron Gracies offering of belts through the mail. There has even been an interview with their cousin, Renzo, that has surfaced in which he slams them for what theyve been doing. Are the progeny of Rorion wrong for trying to monetize Jiu Jitsu? Are they selling out the ideals that their grandfather put into place?
For starters lets take a step back to the 1980s and early 90s. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wasn’t readily available in most of the USA. The only exposure most people had to BJJ apart from videos was the occasional Gracie seminar, and many people who attended these seminars will tell you that details were withheld by the individuals teaching in order to avoid creating their own competition.
Moreover, at that point in time, very often people would be promoted not by direct and constant instruction by the person who promoted them but rather by going to frequent seminars and eventually being granted belt promotion that way; a far more expensive and difficult experience for early practitioners.
Today, the market is becoming more and more competitive. New schools pop up every day, and new black belts are forged on a regular basis. I had a conversation with Michael Mihas, one of the hosts of the BJJ Hour thebjjhour.com and an old timer (started training in 1996) and he told me his opinion that a white belt with about a year of training today often has equivalent skills to a purple belt of about 15 years ago. The reason is that the flow of information has been facilitated greatly.
Now lets look at what Rener and Ryron are doing They offer a service quite similar to the services offered by their uncles in the 1990s. Through relatively indirect contact with their students they assess based on information that may or may not be indicative of the persons actual level of understanding.
Is Gracie University watered down in comparison to the constant pressure that people who train at BJJ academies around the world experience? Yes. No questions asked. Is Gracie University watered down in comparison to what was available to people interested in BJJ in the 1990s? Im not so sure
The experience of training means different things to different people. With the internet being what it is, we are able to determine today whether or not a place or system is worthwhile. Gracie University is an easier path than most of us choose to take, and that relative ease makes it less valuable in the minds of many.
What do you think? Are Rener and Ryron tarnishing the legacy of their family? Or are they simply doing what their uncles did for years in order to monetize Jiu Jitsu while making its techniques available to people who otherwise wouldn’t train?
Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer and https://instagram.com/emilfischerbjj