Man, time flies. Life got hectic, I lost my psychological momentum for writing, and the next thing I realize it’s been thee years since I last posted. I’m making a commitment now to try getting back to posting at least once a month.
To start with, here’s a review of the Robert Biernacki Online Academy.
I’m a big fan of BJJ instructional videos, but not all instruction is created equal.
Some videos just show new techniques or variations I’m not familiar with. These are fun, but not always good for much more than a distraction. I already know enough techniques to keep me busy for a lifetime and have probably forgotten just as many.
Some videos show new techniques, but put them together as part of an organized game and explain the details that make them work. These can be more useful, if the game being covered is one that I can devote serious mat time to. Unfortunately, I only have the time and energy for a limited number of these. I’m an AARP-eligible amateur hobbyist and I only have so many hours I can spend on the mat before my body starts threatening a general strike.
Some videos show how to refine and improve the fundamental techniques I’ve been using for years. I love these. Nothing makes me happier than discovering a better way to execute a move I’ve been using for 20 years. I really wish more videos and seminars would be devoted to this approach.
Then you have the truly rare instructional series that teaches concepts in a way which illuminates everything – old and new, advanced and basic, big picture and microscopic detail. This is the case for Rob Biernacki’s online academy at https://www.bjjconcepts.net. ($20/month or $200/year)
Rob joins an increasingly crowded field of online sites offering video instruction for a monthly fee. Unlike some of the others, he is not a world champion or a world-class competitor and his last name isn’t Gracie. From my perspective, he’s something much better – a world-class teacher. I’ve been subscribed to his site for a month now and have already gotten much more value than I have from some much more expensive videos from much higher ranked practitioners.
Rob’s lessons are laid out in a series of short easily digestible videos, typically around 3 – 7 minutes long. These are organized into levels and subject groupings. The place to begin is his “Core Concepts” page. The videos on this page lay out the underlying principles that every single technique video in the following sections are built on. I cannot emphasize this enough. Every single subsequent video refers back to these concepts. He shows plenty of precise details, but every time he shows how each detail is just an application of one of those concepts in a particular context. After a while, it starts to change how you understand and analyze new information.
I’ve actually been working in a similar direction in my own practice and teaching for a while now, but Rob is much further down the path. His organization and articulation of the concepts is better than mine in most cases. He’s also doing a better job of applying the concepts universally. More than once already I’ve come across a detail where I think “huh – I already apply that principle in a bunch of other techniques, why didn’t I think to apply it here?”
The site is relatively new, so the number of topics covered to date is limited. However there is already plenty of material to keep you busy for a while and they seem to add a fair number of new videos every week. So far, the focus seems to be on sport application. I’m more of a street self-defense application guy, but I don’t mind. The underlying concepts all still apply.
The topics covered so far are a bit scattered. I think maybe Rob is choosing the lessons to create based on how well they illustrate the physical principles he is trying to instill. As of this date, for example, there is no closed guard material.
Speaking of sport, my sport game is fairly basic because I don’t have the time to get into the weeds of all the new guards and passing approaches that seem to be invented every month. After just a month of studying Rob’s approach, I feel that I not only have plenty of material for improving my current game, but I have a better understanding of what my more sport-minded peers are doing.
As for any video instruction, this site is valuable as a supplement to (not a replacement for) regular classes. I wouldn’t recommend it for a brand new student, because he presupposes some base knowledge of vocabulary, positions, and intent. Other than that I’d say anyone with at least a few months of experience could benefit from what is being taught. I’ve been involved with BJJ for about 20 years and I’m getting a lot out of it. I’m also selecting some details and explanations to share with my white belt students.
The only downside I’ve encountered with the site so far was an issue with videos freezing. That appears to have been a browser-specific problem. I was using Safari on my iPad and when I switched to using Chrome the problem went away.