Carlson Gracie Jr Seminar Review

Sometimes it just takes a while before I’m ready for certain lessons.

I’ve mentioned before that I love attending weekend training seminars. Over the years I’ve attended dozens of seminars taught by a wide range of instructors covering a variety of arts. Besides the fun of learning new material and meeting new training partners, it’s always interesting to see how different teachers approach the same art.

My BJJ instructor is a second-degree black belt under Carlson Gracie Jr., so we get Carlson out to our gym about twice a year for seminars. I’ll be honest. When I first started showing up for those seminars (as a blue belt) Carlson was my least favorite of all the BJJ instructors I had seen. He didn’t have the fluid agility I’d encountered in practitioners like Renzo Gracie. Despite being 5 years younger than I am, Carlson moved like an old man with bad knees. Of the material he showed, half I thought I’d seen before and the other half I didn’t see the point of.

Times change. As a brown belt, I’m much more appreciative of what Carlson has to show. He does have bad knees and probably some other old injuries as well. He’s no longer particularly athletic or flexible. As a result, his style of movement is very economical – what I like to refer to as “old man jiu-jitsu.” Seeing that I am rapidly approaching my 50th birthday, this is a style of movement I am trying to emulate. It seems more sustainable in the long term than a more athletic approach.

I’ve also come to realize that I was mistaken about the material I thought I already knew. Carlson often shows moves which superficially resemble standard basics but which actually work very differently. It took time and experience to recognize what he was actually showing instead of shoehorning the moves into a pigeonhole of my own preconceptions.

The moves I didn’t see the point of are now recognizable as part of a deeper, more sophisticated game than I was familiar with as a blue belt. Carlson doesn’t usually explain so much about the larger context of the moves in the seminar – that I had to pick up from my regular instructor.

All this goes to explain why I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar that Carlson taught last weekend at Four Seasons Martial Arts. According to my notes he taught a total of 9 different techniques, mostly sweeps and guard passes. Of those moves, I had done only one before – and he gave me some refinements on that one. The rest introduced me to some new ideas about movement that I will be exploring in the upcoming months.

Carlson himself is very friendly and personable. He makes a point to walk around the room to watch every participant do the techniques and he is always available for questions. I’m looking forward to the next time he comes to town.


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