The Pedro Sauer Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association is one of the biggest in North America. Being part of the first wave of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ambassadors to make landfall in the US, Pedro Sauer has established a dense network of academies nationwide, and as a result any change to his programs will without a doubt affect the landscape of jiu jitsu. That said his recent partnership with Gracie Academy has many implications!
I had an opportunity to sit down with Master Sauer to ask him about his decision to work with Gracie Academy, and to explore his thoughts on some of the distinguishing factors of Gracie Academy about which some people have strong feelings.
When I first got wind of the two organizations working together, I thought it was more of a merger, as in the Pedro Sauer Association was actually being absorbed by Gracie Academy. Sauer set the record straight on that “It is not a change of affiliation but an option for our existing affiliates to merge ideas, philosophies, techniques and curriculum. Affiliates from our group that take this option, wll become full Gracie Academy CTCs (certified training centers) as well as remain representatives of the Pedro Sauer Association.
One of the key aspects of Gracie Academy is its online component, I asked Master Sauer to elaborate on how that would factor into his programs “The opportunity to use Gracie Academy’s resources will be a great addition throughout our curriculum, with the Combatives, Women Empowered, and Bullyproof. Our affiliates will have continued support from us, the PSBJJA and also Ryron and Rener. We are going to use the GU system plus everything that we offer, we are in a mission to reunite and add strength.”
Another key aspect of the Gracie University model is the certification of all instructors through the Gracie system. The Pedro Sauer Association already has a lot of well established instructors and black belts, who will now also need to be competent with the specific system in place at Gracie Academy. After going through the program himself, he will be implementing it at his headquarter academy in Herndon, Virginia. “I have been investigating and learning for this past year and I come with the conclusion that the program is the best I have seen, with great methodology and systems to teach, to prevent dropout from injuries and in the first year a better understanding of the self defense aspect.”
Pedro Sauer received his black belt in 1985, 30 years ago; he had the opportunity to learn from Helio Gracie and his sons, and as a result has a rare insight to what “old school” jiu jitsu is really all about. I was curious to see how the curriculum taught by Gracie Academy compares to that to which he was originally exposed. “It is similar to what Grandmaster Helio taught, but put together in more simple way, well organized, better flow, easy to remember.”
A very frequent criticism of the Gracie Academy program is the practice of offering “Technical Blue Belts,” which is a blue belt awarded through the mail based on videos sent to Gracie Academy for grading. Although the Technical Blue Belt may be earned via the GU Video Evaluation Process, all official belt testing, including blue belt, must take place at a Certified Training Center. Many people feel that the existence of the technical blue belt potentially waters down the art. Pedro Sauer disagrees… “Yes I got familiar with availability of the technical blue belt this past year and I need to say it is not an easy test, actually it is hard, very detailed and put together. We respect those who’ve achieved a technical blue belt as they may be able to protect themselves better that a normal blue belt who hasn’t done a self-defense curriculum. We will respect the belt for sure at the point the student will be ready to start his grappling career with more knowledge of how to protect their joints and with that preventing injuries for a long future.” As for people who have achieved rank in the art without having learned the self defense aspects “We will respect all belts and I don’t feel comfortable demoting people. We will make sure that they learn the curriculum for their next advancement.”
Sauer’s substantial experience has led him to believe fully in the Gracie Academy methodology “After 40 years I realized that I lost 90% of the students in the first year, due to hard Gracie Challenges, hard training and injuries. With the Combatives methodology we will diminish this and the student will be safer to enjoy classes without getting pounded in the first year.”
Like many, I personally believe that I was formed by the brutality to which I was exposed early on. I feel as though the difficult rolls with blue and purple belts when I first started training helped toughen me up. That toughening process may be a reason that BJJ/GJJ isn’t more popular, as many people don’t appreciate it. The Gracie Academy system is tailored to avoid that early on and Pedro Sauer is a supporter of this method and his thought process makes sense:
“If 90% will quit in the first year and will leave our doors with just so little time and knowledge, imagine if we could keep all those guys and keep them learning in a safe environment in the beginning, we would have a army of technical guys in a couple years, what good to say if you only train for months and quit? The retention will guarantee quality people, and will build better people on the long run. We are not watering down the art; we are giving an opportunity for people to discover the art long term. Jiu-Jitsu is like a Formula 1 car, how can a normal human learn how to drive a F1? Start with small cars, slower, than a little bigger tires, then bigger engine, than full power, how come in Jiu-Jitsu we try to get a white belt to drive a F1 in their first class? They will crash for sure…”
In closing, Master Sauer had this to share with us
“The future will tell… I was with Grandmaster Helio since 1975, it was pure technical skills, than we came to USA and it was a war everyday, UFC came up and Jiu-Jitsu proved what GM Helio was telling us, today with technology we can be in the living room or the academy, I believe that those who want to provide a better service to the community will need to follow a curriculum, otherwise people will continue to dropout and we all will miss the greatest reward of our art, to transform the weakest individuals into respected members of our community and they will bring a greater level of intelligence to our academies, with that GM Helio would be happy and his hard work was not wasted, his grandkids Rener and Ryron are some of the best instructors that I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot, I have a totally open mind for Jiu-Jitsu and those kids are on the top of my list and they are monsters on the mat and super nice guys. We will see a lot of good and incredible people supporting and joining the GU and Gracie Academy, I guarantee, the program will speak for his self, mark my words!”
Jiu Jitsu Times thanks Master Pedro Sauer for sharing his thoughts on the changes that he is bringing to his association.