Fundamentally, Gracie Jiu Jitsu and BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) are the same martial art. Some members of the Gracie family such as the Gracie Academy and Rickson Gracie like to emphasise more self-defence orientated elements, particularly in stand-up such as strikes and takedowns whilst many modern exponents focused on BJJ competitions such as Gracie Barra led by Carlos Gracie Jnr have taken the major delivery system of Gracie Jiu Jitsu (ground fighting) and focused more upon winning sport jiu jitsu competitions. Others have added other arts like Judo or wrestling for BJJ competitions (see Guerrilla Jiu Jitsu by the Camarillo Brothers) whilst other branches have incorporated Jiu Jitsu into MMA with modifications for no-gi like 10th Plant.
SBG whose lineage can be traced via its founder Matt Thornton to Rickson Gracie and Chris Haueter uses BJJ in all 4 elements; Gi, No Gi, Self Defence, and MMA. In practice, the most important factors for someone to consider when looking to start Gracie Jiu Jitsu or BJJ is not the name itself, but that the club concerned is led by coaches with a reputable standard in the art. How can we do this?
- BJJ Lineage
The lineage of the instructor should be clear, transparent and lead directly to Helio Gracie, Carlos Gracie, Luis Franca, or Oswaldo Fadda. This may seem pedantic but a weekly occurrence on Facebook BJJ groups is the outing of unqualified traditional jujitsu instructors making false claims of holding BJJ Black Belts that they simply don’t have and dressing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gis and Rash Guards rather than what you have found them wearing a decade ago or so. Their students are being misled, wasting years of training and money only to discover that what they have learned is valueless. They often discover this when they happen to train at a real BJJ club and they are repeatedly submitted by white belts despite holding supposedly high grades and even black belts under their fraudulent ‘BJJ instructor’. Whilst some move on and start again, many are lost to legitimate BJJ instruction having never really started their journey.
2. Check with BJJ Forums
Whilst forums attract trolls, you will get a general flavour of whom isn’t truly awful whilst everyone votes up their own club 🙂
3. Online Reviews
Online Reviews on Google and Facebook are pretty hard to hide complaints on these days. Getting lots of good reviews is more difficult than ever although not impossible. However hiding one star reviews is almost impossible on Google or Facebook.
4. Professional MMA or BJJ player Endorsements
Its rare that a professional competitor recommendation, particularly from competitors that sit outside of the club’s organisation, will be made about a club or coach without serious grounds. Professional fighters do what they do out of love for the sport as the vast majority make little money. If several professional athletes from a variety of teams extol the virtues of a coach or club, you should probably listen.
In terms of self-defence, training at an authentic BJJ club regardless of their specific branch will give practitioners better self-defence on the ground than any other martial art offers, even if the club is entirely focused on BJJ competitions. The notion that someone like Rafa Mendes, a world champion in BJJ, or any of his senior students would be unable to defend themselves effectively in a typical street confrontation is utter nonsense as well as misleading. However, Rickson Gracie has raised serious concerns over the effectiveness of sport focused instructors when it comes to coaching their students effective self defence and the application of sport orientated BJJ once strikes are added i.e. in Mixed Martial Arts.