T Nation

Ralph Gracie assaults Flavio Almeida


Deservedly so.

You give them your money you take their classes and you give it 110 % effort and you are rewarded with an improved skill set and an improved capacity to handle yourself in violent situations. I don’t see where the deception is.

Sounds to me like you have an issue with certain schools in your area and how they approach things personally.

I very briefly was part of a gym whose BJJ curriculum often included classes whose entire focus was on self defense. I felt it was completely useless bullshit.

The thing is if you put a person who trains primarily in a curriculum with that sort of focus versus a guy who competes in sports BJJ. I would imagine that the sports BJJ guy will usually win. I believe this because the effectiveness of the self defenses oriented curriculum is predicated upon the notion that the guy attacking you is untrained.

If a guy who trains in a gym that is focused on competition decides to randomly attack some dude I doubt he will attack that person in the same manner that is simulated during drilling scenarios in those self defense oriented courses.

But also I personally don’t subscribe to dogmas or ideologies. I don’t give a shit about belts. When I train gi I never even wear a belt. I am more of a catch as catch can kinda guy and if it works it works. And self defense shit just doesn’t seem to work. I think it is great for people who aren’t acclimated to physical confrontation and want to try an engrain in themselves some fighting instincts but beyond that I don’t see the merit in it.


This is true. I can only speak to my own experiences, but I don’t think they are isolated to Maine, USA.

What specific techniques would you put into the “useless bullshit” category, and why? Plenty of people sell the notion of self defense, but the curriculum can vary wildly. There’s a lot of crap being taught for sure. I don’t think I’m getting any fed to me with where I’m training now.

I think this is a very important notion worth expanding upon further. Grappling against grapplers requires a much deeper skillset than grappling against untrained people. Anyone who has grappled for a decent length of time can tell you this. If your goal is MMA competition from the get-go, I think different immediate training priorities might prepare you better compared to the white belt curriculum I’m learning. The MMA fighters at my instructor’s school still go through the white belt curriculum, but I doubt any of them used the rear bodylock defense in the cage unless they were extraordinarily dumb enough to turn their back to their opponent. None that I know of were. But the head instructor, who is by any and all accounts a very, very bad dude, insists that it must be learned as part of jiu jitsu as he teaches it. I’m inclined to agree with the man.

On the topic of a rear bodylock, if I’m a guy who doesn’t want to get beat up again, which I am, I like knowing that I can lean backwards, press down on their hands to break their grip and rotate back to a pummel position, or hook their leg with my leg if they try to pick me up from behind. That’s stuff that can happen, and I think it’s worthwhile to have an effective technical response if it does. It would only happen to the dumbest of grapplers or MMA fighters, but nothing’s stopping someone from doing that to you in a variety of uncontrolled circumstances.

Back to truth-in-advertising, my instructor and his school don’t mislead students. The entire white belt curriculum is geared towards high percentage techniques that work in most fight situations. Most fight situations don’t involve pro MMA fighters, but aggressive and sometimes very large and strong assholes. Most idiots I’ve dealt with as a bouncer don’t have an answer to an arm-drag to rear-naked choke. It’s an incredibly basic move that just wasn’t taught where I first studied. You don’t need to get fancy when they posture up to you with a ton of space between their arms and their torso. It works, but I’ve only pulled it off against one novice grappler in live training.

A street choke works too, where you sneak up behind someone who isn’t expecting it, wrap them up and put pressure on their lower back at the same time, giving you the option to stay standing or bring them down. For another basic move, if you can get to the side clinch you’ll probably be fine wrangling some asshole, unless you’re tangling with a trained fighter and it’s your day to die. Otherwise you can protect yourself from clumsy punches and put him on his ass in a variety of ways. These aren’t things I’ve had any success with against blue belts or higher at any school, but I’m still glad to have them in my rolodex of techniques. I’ve used them on the job.

I don’t either. I’ve been training off of the books for a while now, although my instructor was going to make me blue belt for a day so I could compete in a blue belt and above tournament before I had a severe foot sprain (unrelated to training).


If you have seen as many fights on YouTube and other random sites you will know that the rear body lock stuff is a good idea. Seen quite a few people get rag dolled or slam by getting grabbed from behind so yeah you coach is onto something


For sure. It’s probably a position that happens in competition too, but I was thinking about the classic sucker move of someone wrapping you up from behind when you aren’t expecting it. I haven’t actually watched a great deal of MMA. I’ve seen it happen to many guys during the little fracases that sometimes erupt when I’m bouncing.

It’s usually a “hold me back bro” kinda move without violent intent, but I remember one dude getting rag-dolled pretty bad from a rear bodylock.

The escape is not something I’ve ever put into action during live training or rolling. Someone taking my back and getting me in a bodylock on the feet hasn’t come up. Perhaps I should let it sometime, see if I can make the escape!


It’s a strange world when taking a cheap shot at someone and then kicking him when he is down is somehow seen as the manly thing to do. Oh, but it’s Ralph Gracie so it’s justified. The same guy who talks about honor and loyalty uses a move straight out of the ghetto playbook. And speaking of honor and loyalty, why did Ralph cast away one of his long time and most loyal students in Kurt Osiander? Oh yeah, it was a business decision.


In Helio’s BJJ, or rather Gracie JJ, book he shows that same elbow.


“Manly” isn’t how I’ve heard anyone describe it. The question is whether there exist any combination of words and deeds leading up to that where Ralph is justified in his actions.

Legally, of course not, but that’s not what my local BJJ leadership is referring to. I don’t want to put words in his mouth. Aside from being completely unshocked, he seems to leave room for that possibility, at least according to his own code of acceptable conduct.

Without knowing ANY facts about what took place, a hypothetical situation where I could understand where Ralph is coming from would be if a gentleman’s agreement was in place that was broken by the other party, leaving Ralph no legal recourse.

The right insults can always set someone off too.

I suppose it could be simple assault over fair and ethical business moves or it could be like the fable of the Snake and The Farmer. Or something else.


I’m sure his students who were forced out would call Ralph a snake.


The “sport” version of any “combat” form that is taught will appeal to a wider market, and will lead to more participants, and ultimately more profit.


A lot of Ralph defenders and apologists bring up old school BJJ and self defense and this idea that Gracie Barra is moving into Ralph’s territory and bringing their watered down sport bjj with them. That this is Ralph keeping it real and protecting what is his.

The thing is, Ralph brought in a Gracie Barra black belt to run his school. He fired some instructors who he felt weren’t representative of the values that Gracie Barra upholds. He changed the rules, or made rules, that sterilized the school in the name of making it more family friendly. This was Ralph’s right to do so I’m not saying it’s wrong but, to think that Ralph’s assault on Flavio was old school standing up to new sport oriented school is wrong. Ralph made a business decision that affected long time instructors and students who helped him build his school. They couldn’t be part of the future so they were let go, loyalty and friendship be damned.

Gracie Barra is supposedly moving into Ralph’s turf, a purely business move if true, and suddenly it’s old school, keeping it real, Brazil shithole rules that matter.


I’m not a martial arts historian, but if my history is correct, in the beginning we had Judo. Judo was an attempt by Jigoro Kano to preserve martial arts techniques (broadly referred to as Ju Jutsu) that were under threat of extinction due to cultural, social and government changes taking place in Japan at the time.

They fought a lot. They also came up with the idea of eliminating the “too deadly to train” techniques from the curriculum, instead focusing on stuff you can practice hard under stress with a reasonable level of safety. Kano’s student Maeda headed to Brazil, hooked up with the Gracies and taught them Judo. They did a great re-branding job, decided things need to keep going on the ground until a submission happens, fought a lot of no-rules competitions that lasted for hours, tuned the art to no rules competition and that more or less gets us to today.

Meanwhile, Judo shifted hard towards sport. Became an Olympic event. Adopted a bunch of new rules. Didn’t fight so much anymore. The sport was watchable. It moved further and further away from practical fighting skills, although any good Judoka would be heads-and-shoulders above an untrained person.

So maybe it’s just another sort of natural split that’s going to happen and hopefully some truth-in-advertising to go along with it. Sport keeps pushing further and further, going in new directions all the time. That’s great. The safety of the ruleset allows for all kinds of incredible movement to take place that doesn’t make any sense if you’re getting punched in the face or head-butted.

That’s not going to continue to evolve without people making it a training priority at all levels. It stands to reason that a blue belt who’s entirely focused on competition grappling training will perform better than a blue belt who’s learning a fair bit of stuff that won’t ever be applied in competition. I’m not sure how that all plays out at higher levels, but I’m guessing top competitors are training for competition more or less full time.

Meanwhile, I think the roots must be preserved, spread and sold to regular people who would rather prioritize not getting beat up anymore along with professional applications like law enforcement and security workers like me. The sort of techniques I’m learning under my instructor probably won’t ever need to evolve a whole lot unless people start sprouting a third arm. It is a mostly hammered out set of instructions for what to do if things get violent and you don’t have a weapon. Maybe the higher belt curriculum will change to adjust to sport considerations more, but even that I doubt from the way my instructor describes his training priorities to me. Who knows about black belt and above, that’s way past my pay grade and I have no idea how those guys go about training. Pretty sure they do what they want.

If it were up to me we could let sport schools keep the BJJ umbrella, the Gracie name and all of the branding. We could just call the new martial art “Fighting”. Get rid of belts too, because it would be stupid to say you’re a black belt in fighting.

Somehow I don’t think that would fly with a lot of folks!


Where I live there are bjj schools, like where I train, that emphasize self defense over competition. There are schools that are competition oriented. People choose one over the other knowing they have choices. Some just don’t like training the self defense aspects and probably assume that what they do train will cover self defense anyway… While being more fun.

Schools that offer a more well rounded curriculum are out there and always will be. Is someone going to train at a comp school until they are 45, 50, or 60?


Love this discussion. I’m a green belt in Kempo - white, yellow, orange, blue, blue stripe, green, green stripe, brown, brown stripe, black candiddate, black.

Kempo is also known as Kenpo, Shaolin Kempo, etcetera, and branches from the Kajukenbo tree, blah blah blah. We wear black gis above the rank of green because the black gis don’t show the blood from sparring, yadda yadda, yadda.

I now know it was a sport school, keep showing up and get your belts. I got my green two years ago and quit going. We made a show of sparring, and we did, but it was very controlled - more of a kata school.

If I squared up with a guy on the street, I would definitely benefit from my Kempo training. But, I think I would have been better going to BJJ.

My friend Mike teaches at Serra BJJ, and I think that is a sport school, but I think my three years of training would have been better spent there than at the Kempo dojo. Just saying


I wouldn’t expect anything too watered down there. Serra’s Renzo Gracie’s first American black belt and right at the front of the pack for early adopters of jiu jitsu in the USA. He also is a former UFC champ. I’ve got no idea what the vibe there is like but I’m pretty sure his people have the self-defense part covered.

I’m sure you can find some great sport competitors there too. The greater NYC area has legends around every corner, and he’s one of them.


Yes, well, he has two locations and a lifestyle to maintain and frankly, the sport school is probably the most appealing model to the public.

However, I suspect you can get serious there if you want.

I met Serra at a clinic one day. He was fucking jacked, at least 190 - fought at 147 I think. It was just a few years ago, long past his fighting days.

This keeps coming up for me. I think I need to go when I get done with the yoga teacher training.


Are you a fighter because you’ve been taught to deal with top pressure or other “unpleasant” aspects of grappling, though to call them unpleasant seems silly to me- they’re allowed in the rules and if you can’t deal with it then you shouldn’t practice, or because you’ve been exposed to situations that raise your adrenaline multiple times and you know how to act under immense pressure?

I have no doubt that the older, old-school guys are capable of fighting, but that is because of their background and what they’ve experienced in life. I’m just not sure that training really intensely in what is ultimately a controlled environment where you are a paying customer makes you into a fighter.

I’d imagine that you can fight/dealt with potentially violent situations largely because you’ve dealt with countless situations as a bouncer and other events from your life, not because you train BJJ with an old-school fighter.

And it’s hard to make the claim that BJJ will make you into a fighter because that seems to be a mistaken understanding of how jiu-jitsu developed over the ages in Japan and was meant to be. Judo is merely the largest surviving group, but the “sportification” of jiu-jitsu started during the Tokugawa Shogunate when the government wanted to move away from the violence and warfare that characterized Japanese society prior to the 17-18th centuries.

If you want to teach a complete fighting system, then at least you should involve bladed weapons. Jiu-jitsu did until it became inconvenient and counter-productive to what the authorities wanted it to be.


On the topic of honor and respect- All I know is that societies and groups that seem to place honor and respect on a pedestal tend to ignore it whenever it becomes inconvenient to them.


“People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repeat.”~Bob Dylan



You ask some good questions about what it means to be a fighter. Obviously, there are many levels to fighting and I’m NOT a high-level fighter by any means. I would say that very few who practice martial arts are. It takes a lot of work across multiple disciplines, especially if you want to train non-ranged weapons too. It’s something you need to dedicate your life to. At age 43-44, my instructor’s instructor checks off all of those boxes (and he’s also a black belt in Judo, which is why we have to learn a lot of japanese names for our throws and some other techniques!). Fighting (and professional dog handling) is all he’s ever really done. I don’t know anyone else like that.

Most of what I speak of in this thread boils down to training specificity and how your training has the potential to carry over in a violent situation. Let’s start at the bottom.

First off, everyone has a puncher’s chance. There are no guarantees in a fight. If you get caught off-guard for whatever reason, you can go down and get your ass whooped no matter how much you’ve trained.

Second, you’ll only become a fighter if that’s what you’re trying to do. There’s nothing wrong with starting every roll from the knees or your butt and leaving guard-pulling as your only way to reliably get someone to the ground, which loses a lot of reliability if they aren’t wearing a gi and trying to punch you in the face. I know more than a few people who train this way, have no takedown game, prefer to flow roll all the time and meet every single goal they’re trying to get out of jiu jitsu (or seem to, at least). There’s nothing wrong with that.

I think a good baseline measure for the effectiveness of your training at the blue belt level would be the ability to reliably handle a somewhat larger and stronger aggressor with some common training, like some boxing and high-school level wrestling. I know some blue, purple and even a brown belt who would likely fail this test miserably. That’s fine, so long as they’re meeting their training goals. Fighting a trained fighter is when you start to get to the next level, and that obviously takes more training and more fighting.

Regarding pressure and levels of violence in training norms, I think that is valuable. Very valuable. I bounced a little before I trained jiu jitsu. I did fine insomuch as I never got hurt too bad, but I’d get worked up. I’d use too much brute force at times, an unmeasured response if you will. I’d escalate when things didn’t need to escalate, just because of the adrenaline. I was also pretty damn scared at times. Outside of bouncing, I took a very severe unprovoked beating about 15 years ago and had absolutely no response as it was happening. That really sucked.

Lately, with two years of fairly consistent and high-quality mat time at what I’d call the hobbyist level, my heart rate barely goes up when things get chippy (and for whatever reason, they have been since right before Christmas). The last asshole who grabbed me got put on the ground (with my clumsy but still-effective Sasae, since you’re a judo guy) and seen out the door without incident and without either of us getting hurt. I stayed calm and delivered a measured response. If things had gone further, I think I would have stayed calm then too, or at least a lot calmer than he was, and made better choices as the encounter unfolded.

You don’t get that if you’re not being put under the stress of a realistic struggle on a regular basis, which includes lots of pressure and discomfort along with training in a fatigued state or with otherwise limited oxygen supplies. Getting whapped in the head is also a good inoculation to violence. We don’t train bare-knuckle boxing, that would be dumb and reckless, but palm strikes and incidental hard contact to the head and body are something that will better prepare you to respond effectively when the time comes. If someone’s trying to punch you, chances are you’re going to take some rough contact even if they are relatively inept. Can you brush that off and continue the fight? What’s a fight-ender to you? For the best and toughest, it is being physically unable to continue via knockout, strangulation or a mortal wound. Even a guy with broken bones can continue to fight if he’s so determined.

The more you train and the more elements of violence you introduce and become familiar with, that needle will keep moving over to the right when it comes to what constitutes a fight-ender for you.

At this point I’d weigh them at 40/60 importance weighted toward training, with my training becoming more and more effective in that regard as I build a more complete skillset. My instructor’s never been in a fight and I’m 100 percent sure, 100 percent sure that he would have won every fight and violent encounter I’ve ever been in. Easily. He shows up when I’m bouncing a lot lately, and I secretly think he’s hoping that shit gets out of hand at some point.

I don’t believe it is because I’ve seen the products of a system where handling violence is prioritized about as well as it can be from white belt to blue belt. I’ve also seen the products of systems where it isn’t. I’d be totally comfortable with any blue belt from my instructor’s school having my back at the door, even the female ones. (Watch the first part of the video I linked, both those gals are late white/early blue belts). These blue belts aren’t super-heroes, but if they can avoid getting knocked out (which isn’t that hard against aggressive assholes), they are going to have a skillset that they’re ready to put into use to good effect. All of them. They are ready to put up, and prepared in a way that your average or even above-average aggressor won’t have an answer for.

This is true, and it’s another deep rabbit hole you can go down. The weapons training we do is fairly limited, but better than nothing. Our default is to attack the right hand. We try to think about stuffing weapons draws when we see a hand go to the waist. We work on this, although not nearly as much as general grappling. It’s still on the radar and get’s some attention.

What I like about the system I’m training in now is that it assumes that people are there because they want to handle violence with their bare hands. It also assumes most will quit between 6 weeks and one year in. The curriculum is organized and taught in a way to prepare the students as well as possible in that time, prioritizing high-percentage techniques and tactical pathways geared towards combat over sport. This general notion carries up until roughly purple belt, when you start getting deeper into the chess-match of grappling.

Great comments, and thanks for chiming in.


Great quote. I suppose it’s possible Ralph Gracie was deeply moved by another quote from the brave professional marketer and political activist, Colin Kapernick.