Jiu-Jitsu Self Defense And Sports: One way Vs Another

Photo by: Daniel Ray

There has been a lot of talk lately on the way Rener and Ryron Gracie are doing things at the Gracie University.  They say their Jiu Jitsu is pure and superior to all else.  I can’t argue any of their quotes nor can I say that what they are saying is untrue.  What I can say is this, it doesn’t matter what another academy does or how they present themselves, there will always be someone who disagrees with them.


So they have a set curriculum that says “if you do this, then you get this” is this a bad thing?  Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with it from my standpoint.  Why? Because it doesn’t affect me and my Jiu Jitsu.  Our school isn’t going to change the way we are to satisfy anyone else.  Let’s be honest here, if Rener promotes a student to blue belt without him ever truly rolling, who does that hurt?  Not me, not you, hell it doesn’t even hurt Rener, the only one this hurts is the student.  He will go on thinking he is a noticeable force in the Jiu Jitsu world until he wraps his legs around a “tournament” Jiu Jitsu player.  He will more than likely have his ass handed to him and either realize he isn’t a true blue belt or that he chose the wrong path in his journey.

Photo: coachjarrodbjj.com
Photo: coachjarrodbjj.com

I once spoke to a representative of Gracie Jiu Jitsu he said to me, “a self defense style of Jiu Jitsu isn’t the best system for everyone, it’s counterpart (tournament style) is also not the greatest.  We have to see it as two different triangles, where as, a self defense style learns only the basics one step at a time until he reaches his goal, this is the upside down triangle to symbolize starting small and ending with a large amount of knowledge.  Then there is the tournament style, he learns a vast amount of techniques to better understand what his opponent might do next.  This is the normal triangle, this shows a large amount of input and gradually honing to his specific style that suits him best.”  He then added, “the job that we as instructors need to accomplish is to be sure that each side meets somewhere in the middle.  That somewhere along the line their skill level and knowledge should be very close to one another.  This builds a successful student.”

What I took from that statement was your way of learning is never going to fit into everyone’s way of teaching.  That just because you started on a different path, it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one and it won’t get you to the same goal.  If what one academy is doing brings more people into our Jiu Jitsu community then let them be.  I’m sure they lose just as many students as any other school does.  The ones that stay, they still love Jiu Jitsu.  That doesn’t make them any less worthy of being part of the rest of us.  This is just my opinion of course.  Roll safe everyone!! Oss!


  1. So they aren’t a “real” blue belt because they would lose in a tournament? They (Ryron/Rener) make it very clear that a blue belt from the Gracie Academy has ZERO to do with competition. It is a completely different standard, and the have been very transparent about that. If I want to learn BJJ but don’t want to compete in tournaments for whatever reason, should I never be able to be promoted?

    As someone that is older and has a couple of significant injuries, I appreciate that they have a beginning program dedicated solely to self defense. Once I complete that, I can decide if I wish to continue in my journey to learn more “advanced” and sportive techniques. The academy I attend is laid back, and couldn’t care less if students compete, but will support them if they do. Ultimately, this is my personal BJJ journey, and shouldn’t be subject to the judgement of others on their own journey!

  2. I am at a loss with this idea that one way or the other is “more BJJ” because of where the “fight” takes place. Maybe I am too old and too slow to get it, but the first and foremost requirement for anyone to be a blue belt is self defense not scoring points in a competition. If scoring points on a competition mat was the only mark of an advanced student, every wrestler would start at blue belt or higher. Having said that, being able to handle a trained person who is trying to submit you does often take a higher level execution of BJJ. This argument is much like any debate of styles, because there is clearly a different style of BJJ being practiced by people doing deep half sweeps or worm guard than those doing MMA or more of a street self defense. The only concern we should all have is that BJJ does not turn into karate of the 80’s…all flash, quick promotions, and completely useless for real world application. Have fun learn it all, and being able to protect yourself on and off the mat. BJJ works….Good BJJ works everywhere.

  3. The two posters above also make valid points. The problem ‘jiu jitsu’ is going through is there are 3 styles competing for the title “this is how bjj should train”. There is the self-defense schools, the competition schools, and the mma schools. There are people who train only mma and see the ‘gi’ as useless. These guys hate the gi. But the gi has practical usage for the streets. The competition guys train sport bjj so much they focus on beating ‘other bjj’ guys using the new innovative tricks. That might not go well in a street fight against tough guys who will ‘strike’ and use weapons. I have a friend who carry a pocket knife with him all the time when he walks around. The self-defense guys who ‘avoid live rolling’ will be in for a surprise in the event of when ‘shit hits the fan’ scenario and have to fight guys are who are athletic, strong, and have size and they won’t know how to deal with this.

    That being said. Rener and Ryron Gracie are appealing to people who normally would not train in any ‘martial arts’ to train BJJ because they are making the argument that this grappling knowledge will benefit you even if you aren’t aware of it right now, down the road. They are absolutely correct in those beliefs.

    I am a new blue belt that just got promoted in a school that does heavy live rolling and I am appreciative of this fact but I discovered in my journey so far(coming from someone who was not raised around training sports or martial arts) that 70% of the people who train bjj are either former athletes, roughneck blue collar guys, or fitness buffs who don’t necessary need to know bjj to kick someone’s ass in a street fight but seek out the training because it is tough and a challenging art to master and having that additional bjj knowledge and skills only make them more confident people.

    Mean while, the un-athletic, not in shape, low confidence guys and girl who will benefit tremendously from training aren’t training and these are the men and women Rener and Ryron want to reach. Not the former athletes who are now doing crossfit.

    • I absolutely agree with you Vincent in regards to who Ryron and Rener are trying to reach. As a former athlete (if you count 20+ years ago in high school, lol), who is now a father/husband, is out of shape, and has a couple work injuries, I would never have started BJJ if my only option was a competition based school.

      Luckily I’m blessed to have a Gracie CTC, ran by a second degree black belt, just 15 miles from my home. After multiple years of watching Gracie videos, I finally took the plunge 5 months ago and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve dropped 25lbs, increased my flexibility, and finally have a workout I look forward to doing. I am their “target” audience, and I’m glad they have taken the approach that they have so that others like me can learn this incredible art. I will likely never compete, but can get in live rolling in an environment where everyone wants to help each other, not hurt each other!

  4. I would like to add my experience to this discussion.
    Having started BJJ at 53 years old, if it were not for the system from the Gracie University, I would have very likely no stayed this long. I am getting ready for my Blue Belt Test and have no intention of ever competing.
    My goals were get in shape, lose weight, gain skill and agility, feel safe in case if it ever happens that I have to use the skills learned. I lost 15 lbs, gained a lot in terms of health and fitness level, I love Gracie BJJ and I’m looking to new things like rolling a bit more (had very little experience, got tapped several times, but had a huge smile in my face) learning more moves, spending more time on the mat…
    There is space for this right here! Actually for the majority of people that just want self defense this is perfect!


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