It’s been the better part of two years that I’ve been training at two schools consistently. Since mid-2018, my daily schedule has consisted of school or work during the day, driving to Torrance for night class at Gracie University, quickly cleaning myself up after class, and driving straight to 10th Planet HQ in downtown Los Angeles for Eddie Bravo’s 8:30-10:30 PM class. Los Angeles traffic is notorious for being among the worst in the country, but it significantly dies down by this late in the day. The drive takes no more than 30 minutes, especially if I take the express lane.
Some of the most frequent questions I receive are, “What are the main differences between the two schools?” “How do Rener and Ryron Gracie run a class in comparison to Eddie Bravo?” “Which school would you recommend going to more?”
As a precursor, note that Eddie and his band “Smoke Serpent” put out a song years back called “Jiu-Jitsu” where the message is about bridging the gap between gi and no-gi, the Gracie family and the ways of the 10, the lineage of two being represented as one since it is truly what we all are. This song has become an anthem for me on my drives from Gracie University HQ to 10th Planet HQ. It is literally an exact personification of the evening, it has been an inspiration to become a regular at both academies.
Let me start by saying that I love training at both locations, they both have their pros and cons, their attractive qualities and their drawbacks, and they both cater to different types of individuals. I am of the belief that in the quest to become a complete jiu-jitsu practitioner, one hip with the old school and the new school, you can gain a lot by complementing the two. There is a reason I go to both, there is a reason that more of my cohorts have begun to follow suit, and there is a reason why both locations are internationally known hubs of jiu-jitsu, albeit in entirely different respects, commonly being the number-one spots that people base their ‘traincations’ around.
If I had to break it down in a nutshell, here are the main similarities and differences I’ve found from the extensive data I’ve gathered by being a regular at both schools.
The 10th Planet curriculum is centered mainly around a set of ‘warm-ups’ that are positional flows of techniques. There are 32 flows in total, each subdivided into eight categories (e.g. top half-guard passing, open guard, etc). One of the eight categories will be the focus of the day’s lesson, and Eddie’s class will begin by running through the warm-ups like clockwork. There is incredible depth within each technique; each flow is worth a seminar on its own. During class though, you are to run through the warm-ups quickly so that precious time can be invested in the day’s lesson, whatever Eddie feels needs to be worked on. There are fundamentals and intermediate classes taught by Eddie’s students that chop them apart and teach them as their own moves. Eddie’s classes, though, assume you already know them, and they are used for the warm-up purpose as their name implies.
You may not go into adequate depth on a position to really clean it up within a period of a week or a few weeks if Eddies’ are the only classes you’re attending, but over time, you’ll have seen the position enough that the pieces start to come together. They cycle through a laundry list of moves and repeat, repeat, repeat. This is ideal for drop-ins looking to gain a lot of exposure to techniques in a short amount of time.
This is in contrast to Gracie University, where they run on a positional chapter system. They will spend roughly four months on mount, four months on side mount, etc. Subdivided, that becomes one month of mount control, one month of mount escapes, one month of attacks, and one month on defenses. There are exceptions to the rule, but this is the general layout. It’s a much more comprehensive, albeit significantly slower moving, conservative pace. They take you through virtually every detail of one position before they move on to the next, whereas at 10th Planet, they’ll cycle through virtually everything in a couple weeks and then recycle back through it from perhaps a slightly different angle.
Gracie University’s model may not offer as great of a variety of techniques for the average drop-in, but they will leave with key details on a position that is the main focus of the month. Naturally, 10th Planet will leave you with more of a penchant for offensive attacks, namely rubber guard, lockdown, truck/twister game, and leg locks galore, whereas Gracie will be looking at every position from more of a defensive standpoint.
I always semi-joke that going to the Gracie University is like going to the Jedi Temple and going to 10th Planet HQ is like going to the Death Star. The analogy has taken a life of its own, as I see great correlations between the light side and the dark side in looking at Gracie and 10P, respectively. The Gracie facility has green mats, white walls, spacious locker rooms, massive parking lots, and overall caters to the 9-to-5er looking to blow off some steam after a long day. The Torrance facility is located in a large warehouse that doubles up as the shipment capital for all Gracie-branded gear as well as Rener’s Quikflip Hoodie.
The 10th Planet facility has black mats and a spacious locker room as well, located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles near the Staples Center near the hustle and bustle of the theater and financial district. It’s not as commutable, which is why Eddie strategically has his classes start at 8:30 PM when traffic has died down. There is metered parking, but payment ends at 6 PM, so you needn’t worry about paying the meter fees if you were to become a regular at the night class. It’s safe to say that a majority of the people attending 10th Planet classes have an agenda to consciously get better at jiu-jitsu and see it as more than a hobby.
Fortunately, both locations have multiple showers, so you needn’t worry about keeping yourself sanitary. As far as uniform requirements, it is generally accepted that you will have Gracie gear if you train with the Gracies and 10th Planet gear if you train at 10th Planet. These are, however, only talked about with you after a few solid weeks if you become a regular there. Drop-ins need not worry at all about conforming to uniform standards, though in keeping up with tradition, only white gis are allowed at Gracie University. Also, make sure you wear a rashguard wherever you go. No one wants to feel your chest hair on their face.
The Class Structure
If you attend a Gracie class, you can expect them to delve right into technique. There is almost never an instance where you will be put through a cardio workout as part of the warm-up; I recall running laps around the mats only twice in the few hundred classes I’ve done there. Ryron will usually start his class with a stretching routine influenced by yogis and movement specialists, no doubt my favorite warm-up of any. Rener or another instructor will often incorporate an old-school standing self-defense move to open up the class — a quick reminder of the foundation for why we train, which is to ultimately preserve our lives and defend ourselves in an unforeseen self-defense situation.
10th Planet classes will start with lined-up somersaults, shrimp escapes, and your best attempt at a handstand walk followed by cartwheels, then delving straight into the positional flows. Warm-ups are not so hierarchal that you are mandated to conform to the crowd. There are usually a few on the sidelines doing their own stretching warm-ups and jumping in once the jiu-jitsu flows are underway.
With the Gracie brothers, you can expect an hour of technique catering to all levels and half an hour of rolling. At 10th Planet, where classes run two hours, you’ll be looking at a half hour of warm-up drills, a half hour of deep technique catered to the highest level in the room, a half-hour of live drilling (which will always, and I mean ALWAYS include a leg-lock startup amongst it), followed by a group picture and a half-hour of sparring for those wishing to hang around. Both bring value for the overall jiu-jitsu practitioner, hoping to solidify and maintain the foundational component of their path towards mastery of the art as a whole while keeping up with the latest and greatest of submission grappling today.
The Competition Mindset
These two schools are on the opposite ends of the lifestyle/competition spectrum. Gracie University is designed for the active hobbyist that wants to focus on lifestyle management as their primary concern, while 10th Planet HQ is a barracks for training ninja assassins. If you hope to compete and have fun preparing to do so with an interesting crowd-pleasing style and plenty of laughs with a charismatic Eddie, 10th Planet is the place you want to go. The downside is that they don’t offer gi classes, and as a gi enthusiast, I have perpetually been in need to get my pajama fix on.
Many schools can do this, few schools if any can do it as safely as Gracie University, and virtually none of them can do it without injecting a little politics into it. Gracie University is very clear about their ‘No Politics’ stance; they welcome cross-training from any school in the area. The challenge imaginatively is making sure it’s okay with the other instructors you wish to train with. I can tell you from personal experience that 10th Planet HQ does not particularly mind. This is in part due to the fact that Gracie University is not a competition gym, thus they do not yield a competition team, acting as sort of a “Switzerland” of jiu-jitsu schools for their neutrality. Don’t take the business model as a sign of weakness, though — Rener is actively coaching fighters Brian Ortega, Lyoto Machida, and Jean-Paul Bosnoyan during the no-gi classes and behind closed doors in one of the private lesson rooms. At the highest level, they can hang with the best of them — that just isn’t their mission for the greater population.
Like the Gracies, 10th Planet always welcomes drop-ins, if you hope to train there for an extended period of time and are looking to move up in their system, it is expected that you would compete for 10th Planet if you hope to receive meaningful feedback and trust from those around you. Now, you are not required to compete at all if you go to 10th Planet. Eddie has stated publicly though that if you hope to get graded through the 10th Planet system, it will occur faster if you do compete, plain and simple. At Gracie, make sure to show up, be patient, learn the self-defense, be safe, and help those around you. Either way, stay consistent and your time will come.
This is one area that I notice is pretty similar between the two schools. At either location, if you hang around long enough and aren’t overly aggressive against everyone you train with, you are bound to make friends. If you like late-nights talking about pop culture and government conspiracies long after class has ended, you will have a genuinely good time and a lot of laughs hanging around 10th Planet. Other than that, the two are strikingly similar in that there are nice decent people that frequent both locations. The culture of a school very much begins from the top down, and the Gracie brothers and Eddie are genuinely nice people. It shows in how their students represent their schools. More recently, the two connected on the business front as Eddie put in an order with Rener for custom 10th Planet Quikflip hoodies, and Rener in turn came to support Eddie’s Combat Jiu-Jitsu event a few months later.
Both schools regularly have groups of people gathering to watch the big UFC fights, meeting up for lunches and dinners, or attending jiu-jitsu events in the greater Los Angeles area. Both schools have their BJJ fans, both schools have students of the art willing to share with you what they know. Many times, the conversations you have outside of class can have a more meaningful impact on your personal development than the techniques. You will find that both schools are ripe with these opportunities for mind-opening conversations. On the sidelines, you are invariably going to find life coaches, personal trainers, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, chefs, firefighters, and virtually every walk of life under the sun hanging out and looking to chat up anyone who wants to listen. Keep an open ear and an open mind, and you have much to gain off the mats in terms of genuine, meaningful relationships wherever you choose to land.
If any readers out there do a drop-in at Gracie University and are willing to drill the warm-ups with me, you’re welcome to carpool with me to downtown LA.