After being a Gracie Barra student both at home and abroad, I thought I’d put this quick review together to help you decide if Gracie Barra will be good for your next BJJ school.
Gracie Barra is one of the best BJJ schools to learn Jiu-Jitsu because, with over 700 schools worldwide, they are world-renowned for producing high-level athletes and black belts. Teaching Gi, No-Gi, self-defense, and sport Jiu-Jitsu in a safe and structured way, supervised by certified instructors.
In this article I will give my honest review as a student and cover 6 reasons to join Gracie Barra, including:
- The quality & structure of training
- Types of training: self-defense & sport Jiu-Jitsu
- The training environment & the Gracie Barra team
Gracie Barra Student Review
A quick Google search of BJJ gyms near you is sure to pull up a Gracie Barra school.
This is because since the school’s humble beginnings in 1986, Gracie Barra has grown from one school in Brazil – to over 700 schools worldwide (and still growing).
That sort of growth does not come easily – and is accredited largely to Gracie Barra’s world-class training program and instructors.
All of Gracie Barra’s training is managed from its headquarters in Irvine California – meaning no matter which Gracie Barra school you join – you will receive the same high quality Gracie Barra training in a safe and structured way.
I have personally been a member of Gracie Barra schools both at home, and while living abroad – and they both have been excellent Jiu-Jitsu schools – with both of them following the same core training curriculum and offering the same structure of training.
My personal opinion of Gracie Barra is that they are a great choice of gym to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – especially because they are a pure Jiu-Jitsu gym with decades of experience and thousands of like-minded students – meaning you know you’re in good hands.
Of course, with so many gyms all over the world, some Gracie Barra schools may differ slightly in their atmosphere or in how they do things.
But Gracie Barra do a great job of managing everything centrally from their HQ in California to ensure the Gracie Barra brand is represented consistently across all their schools – and that all their certified instructors meet the required standard.
I have trained at other Jiu-Jitsu gyms and MMA gyms where the training was all over the place and seemed to just be made up on the spot – then the training itself was just a fight from beginning to end – with little emphasis on learning.
I find Gracie Barra though to be a much better option, due mainly to the 6 main reasons listed below.
So, let’s get into the 6 reasons to choose a Gracie Barra school, so you too can start your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey.
1. Structured Training
When you start learning Jiu-Jitsu with a Gracie Barra school, you will be introduced to BJJ through a structured training curriculum.
At Gracie Barra (GB) their training is structured into different programs which indicate the level of difficulty being taught, for example:
- GB1 – Fundamentals
- GB2 – Advanced
- GB3 – Expert
For more on what BJJ will teach you – check out our other article: What Does BJJ Teach You? Techniques & Life Lessons
GB1 – Fundamentals In the GB1 classes you will be taught all the basic fundamentals of BJJ grappling and self-defense, including standing techniques, takedowns, ground transitions, and submissions.
GB1 is the building blocks of Jiu-Jitsu and is where all new students start their journey.
GB2 – Advanced The GB2 advanced classes take everything that you have learned in the GB1 fundamentals program and begins to expand upon it, teaching you how to flow with your Jiu-Jitsu and put everything together.
GB2 also introduces additional submissions and incorporates more high-level Jiu-Jitsu teachings which will develop your reflexes, speed and reactions.
GB3 – Expert The GB3 program is designed to take students from their Blue Belt to their Black Belt in the most challenging class that Gracie Barra offer, exposing them to cutting edge Jiu-Jitsu techniques and variations.
- Gracie Barra’s lessons are structured in this way to ensure a new student is first taught the basics of Jiu-Jitsu before progressing forward – meaning by mastering the fundamentals first, training is safer and you will become better at Jiu-Jitsu in the long term.
- At Gracie Barra you will not progress into the intermediate or advanced classes until you are invited into them by your instructor once you have learned the basics.
To find out how you can improve your Jiu-Jitsu and progress faster – check out our other article: BJJ: 12 Ways To Improve & Progress Faster
Gracie Barra Class Structure
Gracie Barra classes are structured as follows:
- Specific Training
At the beginning of the class, there is a full-body warmup involving a variety of bodyweight exercises including, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and some Jiu-Jitsu specific movements – to ensure each student is ready for training and to prevent injury.
After the warmup, the instructor will give a live demonstration of the technique that you will be learning in that class.
The technique being demonstrated will depend on whether you’re in the fundamental, advanced or expert class.
Once everyone is happy with the demonstration and has a chance to ask any questions, the class will be split into pairs to begin practicing the technique.
You will practice the technique one-for-one with your training partner, for example, you perform the move or technique on your partner two or three times, and then switch over and they do the same to you (in Jiu-Jitsu, this is known as drilling).
One of the best things about Gracie Barra in my opinion, is the specific training they do.
This is where at the end of the class, you line up and take it in turns to practice the specific aspects of what you have been practicing in that lesson – but at 100%.
Instead of just being let loose to do whatever you want, specific training enables students to really refine what they’ve just learned and to sharpen their skill in a specific part of their Jiu-Jitsu.
After a few months of training in the GB1 classes, you should be invited into the GB2 classes where you will be able to partake in the free-rolling.
This is the most fun part of BJJ and where you can put everything you have ever learned in all your classes into action against your training partners at 100% effort – like full-contact sparring in Boxing or Muay Thai.
2. Gi & No-Gi Training
When you join a Gracie Barra school you will have the opportunity to partake in both Gi training, and No-Gi training.
A Gi is the traditional martial arts uniform that is worn in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
No-Gi training, as the name suggests, is a form of training where you and your training partner are not wearing a Gi, but instead wearing BJJ shorts and a training t-shirt (known as a rash guard).
The Benefits of Gi & No-Gi Training
There are benefits to be had in training both in the Gi and without the Gi, as explained below.
Gi Training When you train in the Gi you will learn a whole host of techniques including, takedowns, transitions and submissions, which all use grips on the Gi as your main point of contact.
For example, at Gracie Barra you will learn how to grab a hold of your opponent’s sleeve and collar, and how to use them to gain leverage in order to throw your opponent to the ground and to submit them with a joint lock or choke.
Discover what leverage is and how it’s used in BJJ in our article: BJJ What is Leverage?
These type of Gi techniques can also be used in a real-life self-defense situation against someone wearing a t-shirt or jacket.
No-Gi Training The techniques you learn in No-Gi have all been adapted to be used without needing to secure grips on the uniform. For example, by grabbing a hold of limbs and using the biomechanics of the body against itself.
By training No-Gi, you will become a much more well-rounded Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, and your skill level will increase for when you return to Gi training too.
3. Self-Defense Training
At the beginning of each Gracie Barra class, you will learn some form of self-defense.
There is a lot of talk about whether BJJ is a good martial art for self-defense or not, if you want to learn more – check out our other article: BJJ for Self-Defense: Good or Bad?
The way in which Gracie Barra teaches self-defense is by taking a potential real-life self-defense situation you may find yourself in, and breaking down how you can apply Jiu-Jitsu to defend against your attacker.
- Escaping headlocks
- Avoiding strikes
- Rear choke escapes
Because BJJ is a ground-based grappling martial art, you will learn how to apply Jiu-Jitsu to these real-world scenarios in order to get your attacker to the ground, secure a dominate position, and finally, how to either submit them or escape to safety.
4. Sport Jiu-Jitsu Training
Sport Jiu-Jitsu is focused on BJJ competition, and Gracie Barra is world renowned for producing some high-level Jiu-Jitsu athletes, competing all over the world in some of the highest BJJ championships.
Even the UFC’s Jon ‘Bones’ Jones joined Gracie Barra to sharpen his Jiu-Jitsu skills ahead of his submission grappling match against Dan Henderson in 2017 – in which Jon Jones finished with a dominate arm triangle.
At Gracie Barra you will learn how Jiu-Jitsu competitions work – from the points system to how you will be scored – and they will prepare you through their rigorous competition classes to ensure you compete at your best.
If competition is something you are interested in, then Gracie Barra is a great choice of Jiu-Jitsu school because they will teach you all you need to know, and you can be sure that you’re in great hands with a Jiu-Jitsu team with worldwide competition expertise.
5. Training Environment & Facilities
Unlike in some MMA or Boxing gyms that I’ve been to, Gracie Barra has a welcoming family feel when you walk through the door – with no egos (or shoes) allowed on the mats.
You get the sense when you walk in that you’re entering a place of martial arts – professional and disciplined – but still fun and welcoming for all.
I’ve heard the facilities on offer at Gracie Barra schools can sometimes differ, depending on where you join – but all of them offer at least the basics, including changing areas and toilets – all of which are kept clean and tidy.
The training area itself (on and off the mats) are maintained to a very high level of cleanliness, and are disinfected multiple times a day to avoid the spread of Bactria born skin infections between training partners.
6. The Gracie Barra Team
If you chose to join Gracie Barra, you will be accepted into the team and made to feel welcome from day one.
Some people I have spoken to in the past have said they feel intimidated to walk into a martial arts gym, with expectations of being forced to prove themselves in a fight or being pushed around and getting hurt.
And although this may be true in some fight gyms – Gracie Barra is not like that at all.
Gracie Barra is a family-feel Jiu-Jitsu school for everyone.
The people you will meet at Gracie Barra are all there with a common goal to learn Jiu-Jitsu, which can only be done with the help of like-minded helpful training partners.
I have trained at other Jiu-Jitsu gyms where you are thrown into live rolling from the start, and your training partners just see you as ‘fresh meat’ for them to smash with submissions lol.
Gracie Barra has a much friendlier atmosphere and a culture for learning Jiu-Jitsu, in which you can work together to improve each other’s skills.
This team atmosphere is clear to see at your average Jiu-Jitsu competition when you look around and see so many Gracie Barra t-shirts – meaning if you join Gracie Barra and go into competition, your team will show up with an army of Gracie Barra supporters to cheer you on in your match too.
So, go check out your local Gracie Barra school, start your free trial and begin your Jiu-Jitsu journey today.
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