The Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Fundamentals, four-DVD set was recently released to the public and I had the chance to sit down and review it for GRACIEMAG.com.
As a blue belt, I’m a self-proclaimed BJJ “addict,” a novice student who asks a lot of questions about the sport and longs to learn how to put all the techniques together efficiently and effectively. I’m always looking for tools to educate myself on the subject so, I was happy to check it out.
The GB Fundamentals DVD set is a comprehensive, 16-week curriculum that covers 32 classes (two a week) and over 60 BJJ techniques in the series. It’s comprised of BJJ and self-defense strategies that are divided into three phases, which include avoiding strikes, creating tight clinches, performing takedowns, and once on the ground, how to improve your level of control over your opponents through submission moves. The DVD set is geared towards both beginning BJJ students (including those with no BJJ background at all) and advanced students looking to master their BJJ skills.
The instructor in the videos is the Head Instructor of GB America, Marcio Feitosa. Feitosa is a 3rd-degree black belt who became a GB student at the age of 12 and a Jr. Instructor at the age of 14 at GB’s Main School in Brazil. He is a 3-time World BJJ Champion and Abu Dhabi champion, Brazilian Nationals, Brazilian Team Tournament and Pan Ams Champion. He grew up on the GB mats under the guidance of Master Carlos Gracie Jr., so he is an obvious choice to teach Master Carlos’ BJJ methods and philosophies.
I spoke with Flavio Almeida, Director of the GB Association, about the GB Fundamentals DVD to see what he thought I would get out of them, “How cool is it for you as a student to be able to review all the BJJ techniques you practice in class, at home? Regardless of a person’s belt level, there is always something new to learn or revisit. At the same time, you can better understand the history and philosophy of BJJ by watching the Master Carlos Gracie Jr. interview.”
Almeida went on to say, “There are over 300 GB schools worldwide. The majority of these schools use this curriculum to introduce their students to BJJ. But this video is not just geared to GB schools and students. It’s a huge asset that the whole BJJ community now has available to them, so we’re hoping that every BJJ school will use it. Master Carlos is the son of the founder of the art of BJJ. He learned BJJ from the source, including from his brother Rolls and his uncle Helio. This video represents what he defined as the fundamental techniques for BJJ and it’s a contribution from GB to the BJJ community at large.”
After my inspiring interview with Almeida, I went home to watch the video, armed with the knowledge that BJJ is like a puzzle and that each technique I learn is one more piece that will help me put the whole puzzle together. He told me that the purpose of these videos is to compliment my training. There is no order to the GB Fundamentals. Like a puzzle, I can add pieces to my over-all BJJ picture, by choosing whatever set of techniques I’d like to learn more about on any given day.
I started the video set by watching the Master Carlos Gracie Jr. interview. Listening to Master Carlos speak, I was impressed to learn that when he created a new school in Barra da Tijuca, he wanted to give the school an identity more relational to the city itself than to himself, so he called it Gracie Barra. He said that there were so many other Gracies involved in the school, he didn’t want to value his own name only. He wanted to put the focus on the entity as a group and not one person. This selfless, community-oriented vision impresses upon the viewer the true character of this inspirational leader.
After the interview, I moved onto the actual techniques. There are four volumes to the DVD set. Volume 1 covers Defending the Guard, Volume 2 trains on Side Mount Control & Escape, Volume 3 describes Back Control & Escape, and Volume 4 instructs on Passing the Guard. I started with Volume 1 and I have to say, I was instantly transfixed. The videos cover all of the classroom training that we receive during a regular Fundamentals class, but the video is far more descriptive than classroom training. Feitosa spends a lot of time explaining and detailing out each technique.
For example, in instructing on the Front Choke Escape 1 and Ready Stance, Feitosa explains why you’d use this technique – to escape whenever someone grabs our neck. He then instructs on every aspect and detail of the technique from keeping your feet parallel and getting a good stance, to shrugging your shoulders and tucking your chin down because it makes it impossible to be choked, to bending down and making a shield in case of leg strikes to stepping back and circling your head out to prepare your ready stance, along with every aspect of ready stance – what to cover, measuring distance, and learning to walk in your ready stance (he makes a whole drill out of it).
As I watched, I realized that this instruction probably added at least 10 extra minutes to each technique learned in class with extra time spent on the finer points of each technique; things they don’t have time to teach in class, but are very important to learning the overall fundamental technique. For a question-asker like me, the video answered questions I could ever think of asking about each technique. I found myself nodding in assent to Feitosa saying, “OH! Now I get it. That makes sense to me.” If I had been watching the video with a friend, I would have made her get on the floor with me to practice each technique until I mastered it.
All in all, the GB Fundamentals DVD is a great educational tool for BJJ students to support their learning at home – it’s definitely worth the investment in your BJJ training.