Rhalan Gracie: When Teaching Beginners, Stick With The Fundamentals

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Budo Jake, a BJJ black belt under Carlos Gracie Jr., is also the owner of Budo Videos and produces the awesome “Rolled Up” series, where he visits and rolls with various high-level jiu-jitsu figures.

Last month, Jake visited Rhalan Gracie, BJJ black belt, son of Relson Gracie, and grandson of BJJ founder Helio Gracie.

The two had an interesting conversation about instruction in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Jake: So, perhaps a controversial question, what’s the biggest mistake you see maybe teachers making when they’ re teaching jiu-jitsu or when they’re sparring?

Rhalan: I don’t like to judge other people’s approach, but sometimes I say like first with instruction, I think sometimes, and I think this has to do a lot of times with the pressure of the class. Because when you are teaching a class, you want people to be entertained and you want people to have a good time and enjoy your class. Sometimes that pressure makes you want to teach and show things that are very fancy and very elusive. But for a beginning student might not be the right time, or a technique that has a very sound and fundamental aspect to it.

It might look good and it might acquire two points, but I think as an instructor, for the most part, especially when you’re talking about building a new generation of jiu-jitsu, I think it’s very important to embrace the first thing fundamentals.

Like my dad would always say, you can’t build a house on mud right? That always stuck with me. And so sometimes I know that if the fundamentals are taught well, I think that it can be very entertaining and people really actually start to absorb it. They’re intrigued by it because it’s leverage, it’s timing, it’s details right?

These details make you faster, make you stronger, make you heavier, right with good details. But if you don’t have that. If you don’t have a very sound upbringing in jiu-jitsu where you have you know, not just a good guard but good mount escape, good mount attacks, good back mount escape, good back mount attacks, good half guard, good top. Of sound, complete game. As an instructor I think that’s very important because I think when you are holding that responsibility, it’s kind of your duty to give a beginner that complete sound fundamental game.

Like I said, I don’t like to judge anybody on their approach. I think that there are instructors for all different styles and some people you know focus maybe, they’re very good at a certain part of the game and that’s what they give to everybody and they disregard maybe other parts of the game like mount escape.

I see a lot of schools not emphasizing a good mount escape and so going back to the beginning part of your question, what I see in training when people are training, like “protect your neck! Keep your arms tight!” When things don’t go in your favor, in your way, there are a lot of times people are quick to like scramble and do something a little bit high risk. When in my mind I’m thinking “Ok, maybe its not favorable for you but weather the storm. Protect your neck, protect your arms and kind of build your way back out of that hole. So being able to dig yourself out of a deep hole is something Gracie jiu-jitsu and my father (Relson Gracie) really implemented in me.

And I think a lot of times where I would say like that when I see other situations is a lot of times they focus on the sweep, on this and then when it comes down to defending yourself and like knowing how to defend yourself when you’ve got a beast on top of you. Putting all kinds of pressure (you) stick to your guns and believe in what you were taught.

That’s what I appreciate.

Do you feel a BJJ instructor had a responsibility to teach sound fundamentals to the students?

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