Review: Gracie University Online

A few years ago, Ryron and Rener Gracie created The idea is that
students can set up a trining space in their garage, find a training partner, and progress
through the ranks of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu training exclusively through Rener and Ryron’s online instructional videos and testing for belt ranks via video as well.

I’m have some pretty serious reservations about the concept of training without a live
teacher, but I’ve been using the videos for almost a year now as a supplement for my
training at my regular gym and I’m offering up this review for anyone who’s curious about
the quality of the video instruction.

Price: Varies by tier. $35/month gets you a gold membership which includes all the video
lessons (but not some of the bonus extras). If you plan to test for rank, they charge a fee
for each rank test.

Content: I believe their ultimate goal is to have instructional videos covering all the way
up to black belt, but right now all they have is material up to blue belt, 2nd stripe.
That’s still quite a bit of material. As of today (July 2013) they have 36 lessons (averaging about 1/2 hour each) for white belts and 91 lessons (averaging about 1 hour each) for blue belts. They also have additional material for women’s self-defense. They seem to be adding a new batch of lessons about every 4 – 6 months.

Quality: Remarkable. I’ve been a collector of martial arts instructional videos for years
and I have to say that Rener & Ryron’s videos are better than anything I have ever seem
before by an order of magnitude. Each lesson (1/2 hour to an hour) typically covers just one technique (with some variations) or a short sequence of related techniques. In the lesson, they cover the fine details of the technique, when to use it in a fight, the principles that make it work, how it fits in combination with other techniques the student may have learned, common mistakes to avoid, what to do when something goes wrong, safety precautions for practice, training drills, how to coach your partner and practice most effectively with your partner so that both of you progress as rapidly as possible. The wealth of information may be a bit much for those students who tend towards impatience, but for detail-oriented folks like myself it’s great.

Besides the quality of the individual lessons, I appreciate the fact that the material fits
together into a cohesive curriculum. The techniques and principles from one lesson feed
right into the next lesson and the practice drills presented typically make use of material
from previous lessons.

The 36 introductory lessons covered techniques that I was familiar with, but they reminded me of details that I had forgotten or that I was doing unconsciously. They also gave me useful drills for burning in pattern recognition and reflexes that my students have responded well to.

The blue-belt level lessons include plenty of techniques and details that I did not know.
I’ve been applying that information for my own development and I’ve been seeing the
improvement on the mat.

Who this is for: If you are looking for the newest and most esoteric competition techniques to surprise your opponents at the tournament, then this is not for you. The material they have up at this point is aimed at building a super solid grasp of jiu-jitsu from the foundation up. If you want to polish your fundamentals, then I believe these videos provide useful information for white belts, blue belts, purple belts, and even brown belts.

These lessons are also probably not for anyone suffering from ADD. I know some students who can only follow a few minutes worth of instruction before their minds begin to wander and they need to start practicing and figuring out for themselves. If you are one of those students, then a 45-minute lesson explaining every last nuance of how and when and why to perform a given technique will probably be too much. If you love details, on the other hand, then these lessons are for you.

Final thoughts: I’m still somewhat skeptical of Rener & Ryron’s aim of producing high-level
students purely through online lessons. The instruction is absolutely top-notch, but part
of the learning process in BJJ is time spent on the mat rolling with a wide variety of
training partners. Over the years I’ve rolled with hundreds of training partners, with
completely different body types, training backgrounds, personalities, and movement styles. I’m not sure you can replace that with time spent training with a buddy in your garage no matter how good the video lessons are. On the other hand, if you are just looking for a training supplement, then these lessons are excellent.

You can find more details at

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2 Responses to Review: Gracie University Online

  1. Tony, do you have an opinion on using these videos with a grappling dummy instead of a live partner? I think that it would be a terrible idea for a grappling dummy to be one’s only partner–I mean as a way to train at home between sessions at the gym with real people. As a beginner, my only reservation is that learning new techniques with a dummy might form bad habits that I would pay for when rolling with a real opponent. Any thoughts?

    • tonydismukes says:

      To make sure I’m understanding your question – you train BJJ at a regular gym and are asking about practicing the techniques from the videos at home using a grappling dummy in-between classes?

      With very few exceptions, I think it’s not practical to develop any kind of real skill on a technique using the grappling dummy. It’s just too different from a real person.

      I suppose there could be a use for the dummy as a memory aid. If you have a friend at the gym who is willing to drill the techniques with you outside of class but you can’t work out the schedule for your friend to come over and watch the video with you and you aren’t certain you can remember the techniques accurately, then you might try a few reps on the grappling dummy just to hold the basic sequence in mind until you get to the gym. Taking good notes is probably more important, though.

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