Is Jiu-Jitsu Being Watered Down Or Is It Better Than Ever?

Is BJJ being watered down?

I’ve read a lot of criticism lately of the Gracie University program, specifically criticism of Rener and Ryron Gracie’s 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 they’ve 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 let’s 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 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 let’s 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 person’s 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? I’m 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 and



  1. Nice article ! On a side note seeing Michael Mihas name is a blast from the past I competed against him in Columbus Ohio at Relson Gracie tournament in 1998!

  2. I watched their video on the changes occurring at their school. I believe you can only receive a certain type of blue belt, through a video, then receive your actual blue belt when you test at a Gracie Academy. Their are many ways to teach, and they are trying something different to help with safety when sparring. They trying to retain students who would try a lesson, and get demolished while “rolling” and never return to a class. Many times the best teaching method, is not a traditional one.

  3. visit a Gracie CTC and train for a week….nothing is watered down. If anything, they spend a lot of time on technique and ensuring that the students are performing everything correctly. It’s just a different training methodology than what you may find elsewhere. I’ve been training GJJ about a year and love it.

    • About the same time and I do love it as well, caught the GJJ bug!
      Rener and Ryron are experiencing with the delivery of information and from a white belt now transitioning to blue, I can tell you this, the steps are you finish combatives then test and get a white/blue belt then within 6 months or 60 advanced classes you get your blue belt as seen fit by your certified instructor. That is my understanding. Nothing wrong with that!
      Their focus is on getting the student ready for self defense once that is done then you can expand your knowledge into competitive moves etc…

  4. This article is embarrassingly biased, shallow, and short-sited. My background: I use the Gracie University (GU) site and have since 2009. I have also trained at a number of different schools in the U.S., mostly drop in visits while travelling for work. Currently, I train with friends at a gym, without a black belt instructor, because I’m almost 40, divorced, and I am a single father of three 50% of the time (i.e. no money, very little time). And I F*****G LOVE Jits. I honestly feel like my time on the mat (and the friends I made there) saved me while going through that divorce.

    This article is NOT a discussion on whether or not the Combatives or other curriculum on GU is watered down jits, this is a rant about GU because they are awarding “Technical Blue Belts” to people who have not put in the mat time YOU (or others) think they should. While I would tend to agree with that sentiment (and I was awarded a blue belt from GU long before they called it a “technical” blue belt), students that get through the Combatives curriculum will learn faster once they are on the mats. I had this experience myself, and I’ve seen several others have the same experience.

    A student will not/cannot develop real skill on the mats without putting in the mat time. If BJJ/GJJ was a language, GU would be a great way to learn vocabulary and language structure – FOR ANY STUDENT. Mat time develops that student’s fluency in the language. How is that “watered down”? Your conclusion is wrong; biased, misguided, and inaccurate.


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