End of year graduation — how harmful is it?

Hi Guys, here we are at the beginning of December with the competition year coming to a close. We only have the World No-Gi left which will take place on the 14/15th December. But this time of the year is most famous for the academy graduations, and it’s this subject that I wanted to talk about. I’ve expressed my opinion previously about how I think the graduations should be organised, and why the graduations are the way they are, but today I wanted to talk exclusively about this topic, because I think it’s linked to other problems that Jiu Jitsu encounters. It’s my hope that teachers could start showing that this great party event at the end of the year doesn’t need to revolve around the belt graduation. This would greatly benefit the way Jiu Jitsu schools organise themselves throughout the whole of Brazil.

How is it usually done?

In most academies there is a big party at the end of the year. Independent of the evolution of that student, the teacher puts on a huge event, graduates lots of people and charges them; the money generated from that event is taken as a supplementary salary for the teacher. I believe these events are dishonest and unfair to the student.

The student wasn’t properly evaluated, or perhaps that student didn’t deserve to be there, he was simply a student paying his membership fees and earned his belt just by that fact — it’s a way that doesn’t really have any weight and doesn’t reflect the importance of that moment. Of course, there are teachers who are much more stringent but I still think the system they use is wrong, because it’s difficult to ascertain who is deserving or not. It becomes a very difficult task, which I’ll talk about a little later. And of course there are some teachers who do these evaluations correctly and most importantly take a lot of care in that, but my main point is this: our student needs to know where he is within the process, and needs to be graduated on his own merit, on his own individual effort and not together with lots of people because this undervalues the effort he’s made in order to graduate.

The ideal is that these students know where they are, and what they need to do in order to reach the moment where they will be examined in order to see if they are capable of moving to the next belt. When I talk about being examined, it’s because the importance of being graduated has to exist, and we need to understand how it fits into the system which makes the academy successful.

The graduation has to be directly linked to the methodology. I know if I have a teaching method and I’m teaching that student all those techniques, I can evaluate that student in the right way, and in a way that is consistent. If I don’t have a teaching methodology and I just arrive at my academy teaching whatever technique I like, this will result in the accumulation of a lot of techniques but without anyone understanding the connections. When I come to evaluate my student I want to assess his knowledge of the fundamentals,  but how can I do this if I haven’t taught him the fundamentals in my classes?

Many times it’s because I’ve forgotten — because if I don’t have a syllabus to follow, the tendency is to simply teach my students the position which I train the most, or positions that I like the most — positions that I know I’ve mastered. This creates huge gaps in my student’s knowledge because I’m just teaching what I like to do rather than teaching in a way that embraces the whole spectrum of technique independently of whether I like to do that technique or not. If a technique is on my syllabus, I know I have to teach it — I need to have a class program — if I don’t, my graduation will never be fair, because the alternative is, it would have to based on performance. Doing an evaluation based on performance isn’t fair for the student. Imagine if I had to graduate my students based on the performance of my athletes, some of my best blue, purple, brown belts etc. I can’t evaluate my student using my best athletes as a benchmark.

Perhaps you have the ideology that by implementing really high standards this will give quality to your academy, but it isn’t this that brings quality to your academy. This will make your students leave your academy, this will shrink your number of students because you’re imposing such high standards your student can’t evolve. When you create a teaching methodology where everyone has the possibility to graduate in their own time, and they know exactly what they need to do to get to that moment of graduation, your process will be much fairer. This creates an environment where many more people can evolve with Jiu Jitsu within your academy, which consequently brings you a much larger student base, consequently increasing the number of students who could advance becoming athletes at the highest level.

But if you raise that bar too much, it’s difficult. I like to give the example in my academy — imagine if I only graduated students who had the same technical level, and perfection of movement as Michael Langhi. Nobody would ever graduate. People would get demotivated and they would leave, so your graduation can’t function like this, you have to respect the paths of each individual. For this reason, the belt exams are essential in order for you to evaluate your student.

You can rest assured that your process of evaluation is a fair one and if a student doesn’t pass the exam he simply needs to study a little more in order to graduate. Graduating everyone at the same time, simply for a big party, seems to me like shooting yourself in the foot, and something really harmful if you really want to create a Jiu Jitsu school. You end up imagining that you’re retaining that student because you gave him the belt, but actually you’re forcing the majority of your students to leave because your process isn’t fair. Sometimes, a student will receive a belt together with another student who trained less than half the time of the other. And on the other side, sometimes that guy earning the belt knows he dedicated himself very little and that belt starts to lose its value. Your graduations will lose their value and I think one of the most important things for a Jiu Jitsu school and for a teacher is the legacy you leave — who are the people you graduate — who are the people that you really shaped, because this shows you who you are as a Jiu Jitsu teacher. I think we have to take real care of the graduation process much more than we do today. If you had a graduation based on the individual you would be graduating people year round. That party feeling full of happy people that you have for one day of the year (or two if you do two graduations) you would have every week in your academy, people attaining their goals, earning their belts from their own evolution.

To do this, you simply have to have a teaching methodology to follow so you can evaluate your student within a method, and a belt exam compatible with that method. Your student will be so happy to graduate within a system where he knows he deserves that belt and you’ll stop having students that you sometimes graduate without them necessarily deserving that, or those students who you didn’t graduate and are extremely upset with the teacher, and they start to judge the capability of that teacher. This is another point— the only person capable of graduating a student under any circumstance is the teacher, it’s not up to the student, or what he thinks.

If you have a teaching method this problem doesn’t happen because you (as the teacher) and your student will think the same thing, he’ll know he’s in that phase of being tested where the final word is the teacher’s. You could test a student and not graduate them, there’s no problem in that — this could be part of the dynamic in your school, like it is in mine, not everyone who does the exam will graduate but when you have a good class and a good team of teachers who follow the method, the chance of your student graduating is larger because the exam is compatible with what you’re teaching. This brings innumerable benefits to your school. I’m telling you this, because after I changed, my academy grew, I had more students, my students were happier and they’re better at Jiu Jitsu — because now they’re evaluated within a method. It’s a change that would be really healthy. If Jiu Jitsu academies could do this, they would bring a lot of students into their academy making the process much fairer for everyone.

I hope this has served as an incentive for your academies, but I also understand not everyone will agree and they will continue in the same way, which is also fine.

But please leave your comments here about what you think of the traditional graduation system.

The space below is always free for your comments whether you agree or not!


O mal da graduação de final de ano no jiu jitsu.

O papo hoje é sobre o mal da graduação de final de ano no jiu jitsu.

Fala pessoal, Fabio Gurgel aqui de novo.
Dezembro começando, o ano  de

competições praticamente encerrado a
gente tem apenas agora o mundial NOGI

que acontece nos dias 14 e 15, mas o que
a gente vê mais em Dezembro

são as famosas graduações de final de
ano ou seja o mal da graduação de final de ano no jiu jitsu.

e é sobre isso, sobre esse assunto

tão importante que eu queria debater com
vocês nesse texto, eu já me posicionei aqui em

alguns outros posts passados a respeito
de como eu acredito que deva ser

graduação, e o porquê a graduação no jiu jitsu vem sendo feita dessa maneira

mas eu queria fazer esse texto
exclusivamente para falar nesse assunto.

porque eu acho que esse assunto esta ligado a
outros problemas que o jiu jitsu enfrenta

e talvez se os professores começassem a
se conscientizar de que essa festa tão
legal de final de ano não precisa ser em
torno da graduação

seria um grande benefício para a
organização das escolas de jiu jitsu no
Brasil inteiro, o que acontece na grande
maioria das academias ainda é essa grande

festa de final de ano, o professor vai
lá, e aí obviamente tem que separar

professores e professores, tem professor
que independente da evolução do aluno

independente de qualquer coisa ele quer
fazer um volume gigante ali  de

graduações, cobra a graduação de todo mundo
independente de qualquer coisa faz uma

grande festa que é conhecido como 13º
salário do professor o que no meu

entender é uma desonestidade com o aluno,
o aluno não foi avaliado propriamente, o aluno não teve
derrepente um

mérito, apenas o cara ta ali é pagante da
mensalidade e ganha faixa de uma forma
que traz pouco peso, pouca importância
para uma conquista tão legal, é claro

que tem professores que são muito mais
criteriosos e que embora façam o sistema

que eu acho equivocado tem uma
preocupação real de graduar apenas aquelas

pessoas que que merecem
embora essa tarefa seja muito difícil e

eu vou falar disso um pouco mais à frente
do texto mas tem professores que são

realmente corretos na avaliação e são

cuidadosos principalmente nessa

mas meu ponto principal é o seguinte: o
nosso aluno ele deveria saber onde ele

está dentro do processo e deveria ser
graduado pelo mérito próprio pelo

esforço próprio e individual dele e não
junto com um monte de gente porque isso

tira o valor do esforço daquele aluno
em se graduar a então o ideal é que os

alunos saibam onde estão e o que eles têm
que fazer para atingir  aquele

momento de serem examinados para ver se
eles têm capacidade  de passar

para a próxima faixa
e quando eu falo ser examinado é porque

tem que existir e ai a importância da
graduação e onde ela está ligada dentro

de todo o sistema que faz uma academia ter
sucesso  é a graduação tem que estar

ligada diretamente no método de ensino,
porque se eu tenho um método de ensino e se  eu sei

que eu ensino para o meu aluno todas aquelas

eu consigo avaliá-lo de uma forma
correta e coerente.

agora se eu não tenho um método de
ensino e eu chego lá na minha academia e

eu ensino a posição que eu quero do dia que eu
tô a fim de ensinar isso vai virando um

bolo de técnicas sem conexão uma com as

e aí depois no final eu quero avaliar o
aluno em todos os fundamentos do jiu

jitsu mas como como eu posso avaliar ele em
todos os fundamentos se eu não ensino

todos os fundamentos nas aulas que eu
dou muitas vezes porque eu esqueço

porque se eu não tiver
um guia para a seguir a tendência é que

eu faça sempre e mostre sempre pro meu
aluno as posições que eu pratico mais

que eu gosto mais fazer o que eu sei que
sei que são eficientes e que eu domino todo o cenário e

isso vai tornando um monte de alunos
simplesmente  com a quantidade

limitada de informação porque é só o que eu
gosto de fazer ao invés de eu ter um

jiu jitsu ensinado de uma forma muito mais

independente se eu gosto de fazer aquela
técnica ou não meu aluno precisa saber e se ela estiver no meu

programa eu vou ensinar,
eu preciso de um programa de aulas, se

não tiver um programa de aula a minha
graduação nunca vai ser justa porque ela

vai ter que ser baseada em performance e
fazer  uma avaliação em

performance não é justo com o aluno
porque imagina se eu tiver que graduar

os meus alunos
baseado na performance dos meus atletas

(é isso que acontece na maioria dos casos por isso o mal da graduação de final de ano no jiu jitsu.)

que são melhores faixas azuis, roxas, marrons
independente de que faixa eles estejam, eu

posso querer julgar o meu aluno no
melhor atleta que eu tenho, na

intenção na doce ilusão de que você vai
colocar uma barra muito alta de qualidade

na sua academia mas não é isso que faz a
qualidade da sua academia

isso faz com que os alunos saiam da sua

isso faz com que seu numero de alunos se
encolha porque você tá botando a barra

muito alta e ele não consegue evoluir,
então quando você constrói método

de ensino de todo o mundo têm a
possibilidade de no seu tempo e na sua

evolução se graduarem, ele sabe
exatamente o que eles precisam fazer

para chegar àquele ponto de graduação
o teu processo é muito mais justo e você

vai fazer com que muito mais gente
chegue e evolua dentro do jiu jitsu

dentro da sua academia o que
conseqüentemente te trás  uma base

muito maior de alunos que podem
eventualmente avançar e ser um grande

atleta do mais alto nível, mas se você
jogar essa barra em cima de cara é como

eu costumo costumo dar o exemplo na
minha academia que eu só graduasse às pessoas

que tivessem o o nível e a perfeição do
movimento do Michael Langhi

ninguém ia ser graduado, ia ficar todo
mundo parado lá e as pessoas iam se

desmotivar e ir embora né não é assim que
deve funcionar você deve respeitar  o

processo individual de cada um e por
isso o exame de faixa tão importante

para que você possa avaliá-lo e como
você avalia ele

você está dizendo para ele  caso ele não seja
aprovado que o seu processo é um processo

justo e que ele tem que estudar mais
aquela matéria e se ele quiser se graduar.

graduar todo mundo ao mesmo tempo só
pela festa

me parece um tiro no pé,
me parece um movimento muito ruim se

você quer construir de fato uma escola
de jiu jitsu você acaba imaginando que você

tá segurando o aluno porque ta ganhando aquela
faixa na verdade está expulsando a

maioria deles porque o seu processo é um
processo que não é justo às vezes o cara vai
ganhar a faixa, junto com cara que não se dedicou

metade do que ele se dedicou às vezes
o cara que vai ganhar a faixa sabe que

não se dedicou nem metade do que o
outro se dedicou então a tua faixa vai perdendo

a tua graduação vai perdendo valor e eu acho

que uma das coisas mais importantes que
uma escola e para um professor é o seu

legado, quem são os as pessoas que se
graduaram na tua mão quem quem são as

pessoas que você o fato formou
isso é o que vai dizer quem

é você
como professor de jiu jitsu eu acho que

o processo de graduação deveria ser muito
mais cuidado do que ele é hoje por isso chamo de

o mal da graduação de final de ano no jiu jitsu.

se você tiver uma uma graduação
por uma  avaliação individual você vai ter

gente se graduando na sua academia o ano
inteiro é esse e se essa sensação de

festa  das pessoas felizes que você
durante um dia do ano ou dois as vezes

pessoas fazem duas graduações se vai ter
toda semana na sua academia pessoa e se

graduando em atingindo os seus objetivos e
conquistando a a as faixas pela evolução

própria individual
para isso você precisa ter simplesmente

um método de ensino a seguir para que
você possa avaliar aquele aluno dentro de um

método e um exame de faixa compatível
com aquele método seu aluno vai ficar

muito feliz de ser graduado dentro de um
sistema que ele sabe que ele merece

e você vai parar de ter alunos que
as vezes se graduam sem achar que merecem ou

o que não se gradue ficou extremamente
chateados com o professor que não deu a

faixa pra ele porque eles começam a se
julgar capazes

esse é um outro ponto quem a única
pessoa capaz de graduar em qualquer

circunstância é o professor o aluno não tem
que achar que agora se você tem um

de ensino acabou essa discussão porque vocês
você e o aluno vão achar juntos que

está na fase de de ser testado pelo
menos né e aí cabe claro que a palavra

final o professor se ele vai graduar aquele
aluno ou não você pode testar o aluno e não

gradua-lo não tem nenhum problema e isso
pode fazer parte da dinâmica da sua escola

como faz da minha não é todo mundo que
vai se sabe que é graduado né

porém quando você tem uma aula boa uma
equipe de professores que segue o método

a chance daquele seu aluno ser graduado
é grande o exame porque o exame é

compatível com que você ensina isso traz
para sua escola um benefício que você

não tem idéia e eu estou falando isso
porque eu já tive exatamente no lugar de

quem está fazendo esses exames aí inclusive
dentro da Alliance ainda  existem

escolas que ainda estão nessa transição
isso porque é uma cultura do jiu jitsu mas

o fato de ser uma cultura do jiu jitsu não
quer dizer que seja a maneira correta de

fazer né eu estou te contando que depois
que ocupei a minha academia cresceu eu

tenho mais alunos meus alunos são mais
felizes são mais conscientes e são

melhores de jiu jitsu porque agora eles são
avaliados dentro de um metro

então é uma mudança que seria muito
saudável se

as academias de jiu jitsu pudesse fazer
traria muito aluno pra dentro da academia

e faria o processo ser muito mais justo
para todo mundo então eu espero que é

esse vídeo sirva de incentivo para as
academias mas entendo que muitas pessoas

não vão concordar vão continuar fazendo da
maneira que estão fazendo e tudo bem

também né
mas se você puder deixar seu comentário

aqui de como você acha de como você
pensa o sistema de graduação ou o mal da graduação de final de ano no jiu jitsu.

esse espaço aqui

é sempre livre para os seus comentários
concordando ou não com a minha posição

tá bom
um forte abraço pra vocês

e não deixe de subscrever o BLOG para ficarmos conectados.

Fabio Gurgel

Masterclass 3: Digital Marketing

Welcome to the third and last of this Masterclass series. Today we’re going to talk about something really important: Digital Marketing. It’s the third pillar of your business which is essential to organising your academy. Let me just recap on what we’ve already gone over. Our first class was about the Technical Structure, detailing how to separate the levels, and we talked a lot about how the introductory class is linked to the “Life Time Value” of your student. Class 2 was about the Financial Structure, where we explained our objective of turning Jiu Jitsu into a business, and not just a job.

Now we’re going to talk about a new challenge. When we have the methodology, and the financial management in place we have a new challenge — Digital Marketing — which essentially asks the question:

How am I going to bring new students into my academy?

I’m going to tell you a story about how I used to do it. In the old days, when we started to do marketing in Jiu Jitsu we used pamphlets and did demonstrations in colleges, or whatever we could to try and promote Jiu Jitsu, but there wasn’t really a strategy behind those actions. I was at my academy at a time when we had organised the methodology, and the financial structure. Everything was in order, but my student number wasn’t growing. I didn’t have people coming into my academy, so my student number stayed the same.

I did a marketing campaign to hand out pamphlets in my academy in Vila Olympia, a really popular neighbourhood with lots of offices. I organised this pamphleting campaign and I contracted a team to help me. We distributed 15,000 really well-designed pamphlets, explaining exactly what I wanted, giving every detail. What happened? With 1 week of this campaign? 15,000 pamphlets.

How many students?


Zero students. Marketing in that way just didn’t work anymore. What was the take home message? That the consumer’s behaviour had changed. The way people were buying was different, and we were still trying to push content in the old-fashioned way. It was a turning point, where I realised this method of marketing wasn’t going to work anymore. We weren’t getting any results so I started to look for solutions on the internet, and on FaceBook and I found a guy named Junior Crocco. He spoke about marketing in gym academies, and “how to fill your academy year-round,” which was his slogan.

I thought, what is this guy talking about “academies full year-round?”

So, I went to see. Our story together has been really great, we’ve become good friends and have been working together ever since. Last week I was lucky enough to be a speaker at a huge event he hosted for Digital Marketing called FB Live. He takes part in my projects as well and there is a whole class dedicated to him in my online course “Live off Jiu Jitsu,” where he talks about marketing strategies. He’ll also be here during our summit at the end of the year. He’s a great partner, and someone who has dedicated himself entirely to digital marketing of academies.

So coming back to the story, I saw this announcement and I decided to check it out, he was inviting people to take part in a digital marketing event. I went to this event, which was the same one that I spoke at this year. This was 3 years ago — not so long ago. I was experiencing then what probably a lot of you are experiencing now.

Anyway, I arrived at this event, and he started to talk about things which really made a lot of sense to me. I saw there were other businesses within the event and one of these was the management software company that I use today. I returned from the event and phoned the director straight away.

He invited me for a coffee, to tell me exactly what digital marketing was and how I could use it to better structure my business. I started to access the digital marketing tools, and to study the strategies. I’m going to try and show you that path, so you can put together a strategy that makes sense for you. I did various tests, and understood that,

Rule no.1 in Digital Marketing was sharing content. I need to share relevant content with my audience, to attract potential clients, and to become a reference in that area. I didn’t really know what to do, I hadn’t produced much content before, and he said I could just use whatever I wanted but I had no idea what kind of content I could share with the intention of capturing leads. Does everyone know what a “lead” is? It’s someone that’s interested in your topic and gives you his contact information.

So, what did I do?

I had written a book many years ago, which wasn’t circulating in the Jiu Jitsu market anymore but I had it in digital copy. I thought, why don’t I share this with the Jiu Jitsu community. I did this, and in the first week, I had more than 4000 leads. More than 4000 people had downloaded my ebook and had given me their contact information. I asked for: name, email, whether they practiced Jiu Jitsu or not, if so what belt etc. I had a form for them to fill out which was fairly extensive (not actually advised if you want to convert a lead) — the rule of thumb is the shorter the form, the greater the conversion, but because I was giving a product that I believed to have value, I asked for a lot of information, and I received all that information. I had almost 10,000 downloads of this product. This first step that I did showed that there was a lot of potential. Then I did a prize giveaway of an autographed kimono, and again, lots of leads. I started collected these leads, and with this base

I started to create and share my content — things that I thought were interesting for someone that practiced Jiu Jitsu. I wasn’t talking about teachers, I was talking about students. I wanted to convince them Jiu Jitsu was for them, so I spoke about various things. The result of this strategy was that in 8 months, my student number had reached maximum capacity. Do you remember in the first Masterclass where we talked about a calculation for maximum capacity, where 5m2 is the area of tatami that’s comfortable for the student, multiplied by the number of classes you have. Within this calculation I arrived at my maximum capacity of students.

But what now?

From there came the moment to increase the price of my monthly fees. My academy had a waiting list, so it was the perfect time to re-price. There was a natural rotation, some people cancelled their plans, and others entered; the average spend per student started increasing. The difference that I had in monthly fee’s was 30%Every month I exchanged 20 students paying 30% less, for 20 new students paying the new amount, so even with an academy at capacity I could increase the amount coming into my academy. This was my story with digital marketing and for those who might have the notion that conventional marketing still works, or for whoever just relies on word-of-mouth in order to bring students into the academy, I want to show you where to start. Whoever still uses word-of-mouth probably gets to that point very quickly where you get, and lose students, so your academy doesn’t grow. The problem is it’s difficult to reach lots of people in this way. You’ll hear, “word of mouth is my way of advertising….it’s good.” That may very well be, but there’s no room to grow, and if you can’t grow you can’t get results.

Digital marketing needs to start with your Website.

What is a website?

It’s what represents you on the internet, it’s your face on the internet. You could have a beautiful academy, but if someone clicks on your website, and it’s difficult to navigate, or isn’t responsive (doesn’t work well on a mobile phone) you’ll lose them right there. Today, 70% people access sites from their mobile phones, so if your site is completely disfigured on your mobile phone, your potential client won’t be able to find anything. Looking after your website has to be the first step

To be continued….




Masterclass 2: The Financial Structure

Here we are for our second masterclass. Firstly, I just wanted to thank the audience we had for our first class — thousands of people watched, showing that people in Jiu Jitsu are really starting to be interested in delivering a better service for their students, something that we didn’t really have in our era. We did what we did without a lot of information about the technical side of business management, so I’m really happy to be able to share with our Jiu Jitsu community what I’ve learned up until now.

Today is a special day as well (23rd oct) I’ve been a black belt for 30-years; it’s a path that has brought me a lot of happiness. Normal birthdays where you just get older aren’t that much fun! but when you celebrate your black belt birthday it’s a huge satisfaction. This is the last year I’ll be a black belt, because next year I’ll hopefully be getting my coral belt — it’s a been an incredible journey — this life within Jiu Jitsu has been a lot of fun.

I’ve been a competitor, a teacher, a coach of really high-level athletes (I think I’ve done almost everything within Jiu Jitsu) but what motivates me at the moment is to be able to share a little of my experience with people that want to “Live off Jiu Jitsu.” The slogan of this product isn’t a mistake, it’s because I really believe people can live off, and live “well” from Jiu Jitsu. Lots of people survive from Jiu Jitsu, but seeing people really thriving and earning good salaries is what really motivates me to share with you what I have learned.

In our first Masterclass we talked about the technical structure — about the products within Jiu Jitsu and how to divide the group levels etc., which is really important for you to know if you want to deliver a better product to your students. Today, we’re going to talk about the financial part, also an important part because if you don’t have any financial return it’s going to be difficult for you to continue for any length of time. You can do Jiu Jitsu out of “love” only for a determined length of time and this happens a lot in Jiu Jitsu. People fall in love with it, they want to become teachers, but then comes a point when there are bills to pay and they end up having to do something else — they end up leaving Jiu Jitsu. I always had it in my head that this wouldn’t happen to me, that I would dedicate myself so I could do this for the rest of my life. I wanted to earn a good salary from Jiu Jitsu and to be comfortable without having to do other work. Obviously, it wasn’t an easy process, it’s not easy for anyone but it’s very possible.

I’m going to try and show you a little of this path and how you can do it in the same way.

First, let me start with a question:

Do you have a Job or a Business?

The majority of Jiu Jitsu teachers have a job. What does this mean? You’ve been a good athlete and want to start giving classes; you start giving classes, put together your academy with few resources and start gaining students who pay their membership fees. However, this money that comes into your gym starts getting mixed up with personal expenses, so you end up using this income to go out for dinner with your girlfriend, to buy açai, to buy another kimono, to travel — everything is lumped into one account. What happens with this? Your business without you isn’t worth anything, because everything depends on you. The money that’s left over (maybe a lot, or a little), is what you give yourself as a salary — this is the wrong way to do it.

If we think that in the academy, there are teachers and business managers, and sometimes it’s the same thing, so the teacher is the manager and thinks it’s ok to take everything. He doesn’t pay himself a set salary and he doesn’t separate this issue of salary from what the business generates. What happens with this? When you finish your peak as a teacher and start to decline (which happens to everyone) things start to change. I have always tried to look at the generation in front of me and ask, “what are these guy’s doing?” “who is successful and who isn’t.” If you think today of the teacher aged 60-years-old still giving lots of classes, they’re hard to find because it requires a huge amount of energy to give that volume of classes. Master Jacaré continued teaching up until age 65, he went to the very end! but a moment comes when it doesn’t work. There comes a time when it’s impossible. If you don’t have your business structured well, what happens? It will go under.

I was always worried about this and when I saw people ahead of me sinking in this way, I knew I wouldn’t follow that same path. I would have to try something different, so I started to study ways I could transform my academy. All the mistakes I talk about, I also committed them; I used to mix up my business account and personal account and make the same mistakes everyone else did, but I wanted to know how I could transform my academy into a real business and not to simply depend on that model where whatever money is left over is my salary. This is really harmful for any kind of business.

Now we’ll come to another question:

Should I have lots of different activities in my academy? or just focus on what I know how to do?

In my opinion we should just focus exclusively on the activity that we know, which is Jiu Jitsu. Why do I say this?

Because what about for example, Muay Thai? When you have a huge demand and packed classes? Obviously, if your primary classes are Muay Thai, then keep it as Muay Thai, but what happens when you start to diversify a lot? Firstly, you’ll have serious problems in your timetable. Like we talked about before, how will you maintain the division of classes, or maintain your volume of beginner classes if you have other activities within your academy?

There’s another serious point, one which I know about because I used to have Muay Thai in my academy. One day that teacher just left, and obviously I don’t know how to give Muay Thai classes. I was at the mercy of that teacher, my students also. I tried to get a substitute, but it wasn’t the same so the class diminished. I decided it wasn’t worth making that mistake again because actually you let your students down because you can’t deliver what they signed up for and the consequences are obvious — your students will leave your academy.

If you just focus on one activity (Jiu Jitsu) it means you can offer many more products, consequently reaching more people, and more profiles of people. You can start to have a strong Centre of Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai, Karate, Judo, or whatever but when you mix these things up the tendency is you don’t do anything well. You know that expression: “a duck can swim, run and fly, but he can’t swim well, run well or fly well!” we don’t want to be like a duck — we want to be the person who best does the activity we’re selling.

When you have this temptation to add another activity especially when you’re struggling to pay the bills or at certain times your tatami is empty and you want to optimise the space, the solution is not to put in another activity, it’s to add in a Jiu Jitsu class for another profile of person. The argument will be, “I’ll have to work the whole day!” No, you’ll have to hire people to work. As we talked about, it’s not your job to give all the classes in the academy, but you’ll start being the manager of your business where you’ll give a certain number of classes. This is important because you’re the name of your academy, but you’ll hire people to help you. Instead of adding other activities into the timetable which leave you at the mercy of others, you’ll coordinate your team of teachers, which obviously isn’t easy but it’s what needs to be done so you can give for example 500 classes per month. In this way, you’ll have a Centre of Jiu Jitsu. When people talk about Jiu Jitsu in your city, people will want to go to you because they know they’ll find the training times they need and the group they need — you’ll be the reference in your area. When you dilute this because you have other activities in your timetable you start to compete with other academies that also offer everything. Let’s think of it like this — do you think you have the structure to compete with a “Body Tech” gym? — it’s difficult right? Their facilities are huge, they offer everything. But how come they can’t compete with our work? Because they don’t specialise in anything, they’re the “ducks” — they do everything more or less. How do I compete with them? By offering the best Jiu Jitsu and specialising in something.

When you try and blend what you do, you end up competing on equal footing with these bigger gyms, and obviously their size or structure is likely to be better than yours, so consequently you’ll end up with problems. When you see academies today, there isn’t a lot of security for their owners — a guy makes an investment in weight-lifting machines etc, then a Smart Fit opens next door, and the guy’s finished. But in Jiu Jitsu we’re not impacted by this and neither will we be because the Smart Fit gym can’t deliver what we can. Imagine two weight-lifting academies — a high end and a low-cost gym, would you pay R$500 or R$79? I imagine you’re going to pay R$79, because the equipment is the same, but when you specialise in what you know well, you protect yourself.

Another very delicate issue which I’d like to point out is how to price your academy.

How do I price my academy?

Obviously, this will vary depending on region, on the city, on the size of your facility, but in the majority of cases, what do people do? they base their price simply on the surrounding market. So, I’m here in Sao Paulo, in Vila Olympia, the guy over there charges R$300, so I’ll charge R$280 to be a little more attractive but you don’t know why you’ve calculated that price — you’re not taking into account your costs. There are two different scenarios: one where you’re starting from scratch and the other where you already have an established academy. With the latter, (where you already have an academy) and you have an established price, it’s a bit more complicated. You’re going to have to work with other sources of income where the average spend of your student can pay the bills, but when you’re starting with an academy from scratch, it’s your chance to really set that price at what it should be.

When we think about pricing, what do we need to take into consideration? The first thing is, my student is comfortable training in a space of 5m2 per student. In a room of 100m2 I can comfortably fit 20 students per group, and when I assemble my timetable in an intelligent way, I can reach the maximum capacity in my school. Once I’ve done this, I have my maximum earning, and 30% of this income is profit. I’ll explain the details in a little bit but just so you understand this, imagine you want to work with Jiu Jitsu in a way that generates 30% profit. The question is this: This profit that you now have, is that what you’d like to earn? Imagine that you’re going to work really, really hard, will you still be satisfied with that amount? If so, that’s great and you’ve found your price. If not, you’re going to have to make some adjustments.

To be continued..




Masterclass 1


Hi Guys, good evening and welcome to my first live broadcast of “Life off Jiu Jitsu” about gym management for Jiu Jitsu. I’m really happy to see you all here, thank-you all for coming.

I wanted to start this class off with a pertinent question: How should we treat our student?

Disciple or Client 

Should we treat our student like a disciple or like a client? If we look at the 1990’s when the majority of teachers were active, they were brought up in a really competitive environment where competition mattered, and where being a follower of your master mattered. Obviously, if you had this experience as a student, it’s natural to replicate this pattern as a teacher, so what happens in most academies? We see the second option — the student is a disciple. If the student doesn’t do what the teacher would like, or if he leaves to try and find a better service, he’ll be called a “traitor,” and this is part of what Jiu Jitsu still sees today. Nowadays, maybe the most serious thing a Jiu Jitsu teacher can do is try and control their students without giving good service. If we have a slightly different vision and treat our student like a client, how does this work in practice? I have to give a better service and if I don’t, my student will simply look for a different gym next to me, and he has every right to do this.

If I treat my student like a disciple, I have to think of him like my possession — that he’ll do everything I say. This attitude really came about from the era of competition in the 1990s and it was when the academies started to shrink. It was actually a really difficult time for Jiu Jitsu despite its growth. Let’s look at what happened in the decade of the 90s? There was Vale Tudo in 1991 – Jiu Jitsu against Luta Livre which was the beginning of the explosion of Jiu Jitsu in Brazil. It was televised on the Brazilian TV channel Globo, and the academies in Rio de Janeiro started to fill up (Rio back then was still the epicentre of Jiu Jitsu). After 1993, there was the launch of UFC and after that everyone wanted to do Jiu Jitsu and this fever spread throughout the world. The Brazilian Federation (CBJJ) was also founded in the 90s, and soon after that, the International Federation (IBJJF). In 1996, the first World Championship competitions happened. Everything that we’re talking about here are the main competitive events. Jiu Jitsu returned completely to this focus of competition. The evolution of the competitive side of the sport was obviously very nice, it was something evident and beneficial but up to a certain point.

During this time, the other side of Jiu Jitsu had been forgotten. Just to give you a statistic so you can think about this — the first Gracie academy in the 1950s belonging to Master Carlos and Helio Gracie had 600 private students. Why? Because the culture then wasn’t about competition, the culture was about dispersing a service to the community for people who wanted to learn self-defence, feel safer or to be in a healthy environment — they would go to the Gracie academy and learn a self-defence program. We’ll talk about this a little more when we talk about the importance of the methodology, but what do you think happened? With time, these private students that trained within a private class program started to get better and better which forced the teachers to train better and more effectively with them. Imagine if you had 600 students, five tatami areas and the whole Gracie family working there giving classes. A teacher back then could easily give 8-10 classes a day, classes that lasted 30 minutes at that time. Imagine a teacher giving 10 daily classes, he would have been exhausted training 10 students in the same day. To relieve the burden on the teachers, the family started to invite these students to do the evening training which was just the family training. The family gave private classes and trained together in the evening for their own personal and technical evolution.

The first group classes

The tougher students joined that group and from there came the first collective group training within Jiu Jitsu, only there wasn’t any methodology; it was just people coming together to train almost like an “open mat.” The format was basically: a warm-up, someone would show maybe 2 techniques, they would roll and that was the training. Is this familiar to what you’re used to? The warm-up, 2 techniques, rolling — that was the structure of group training when Jiu Jitsu started to spread. The guy who learned in that way was the person who gives classes now; he was the student that was talented, but also wanted to teach, so he left the academy to give classes in another academy taking with him that model of teaching.

When various people started doing this, it created a competitive environment meaning that all the academies started focusing on competition and it happened more and more until it peaked in the decade of the 90s. The reason why it’s necessary to have this conversation is so you can understand where the problem came from and why we need to correct it.

What happened in the 90s, meant Jiu Jitsu could only be delivered to a really small quantity of people which was who? The athletes.

Jiu Jitsu was all about high-performance at that time, the only thing that mattered for academies was whether someone was a competitor or not. Everyone trained in the same environment, together. Today I’m a little more conscious of this and I talk about it easily because I lived through that same era, everybody’s academy was like this, mine included — there weren’t any exceptions. I doubt even that if Master Helio Gracie could incarnate again in this lifetime he would be able give a good class for someone with the objective of competition; a purple belt and a complete beginner in the same class — it’s virtually impossible because they have completely different objectives. So, the question is: How do we start delivering Jiu Jitsu for each profile of person? and it’s this that will make your academy successful. I simply can’t put everyone together. I can’t give the same class for everyone. My student needs to have a class specific to him, so with this understanding our student needs to be a client.

When did this become really obvious? As I said before, in the decade of the 90s. Jiu Jitsu was popularised by UFC — it spread around the world. People wanted to know about the sport. People started to contract people from Brazil to give seminars. Seminars were a way for Jiu Jitsu to develop for countries outside of Brazil and I was really happy to be considered a “highlight” in that moment. I was often invited abroad, and I went not only giving seminars but thinking about how I could build a network of academies, and how I could be invited again. Instead of doing a 2-hour seminar, I offered to stay for a week and explain how my academy works. I really just replicated what I did in Brazil and what was that? A training that was tough, because that is what I was used to; competition was the focus then and that is what I showed and sold to people outside of Brazil. Until one day, during a seminar in Germany I met a Wing Chun teacher.

Methodology is born

I didn’t know what Wing Chun was. This teacher was a guy around 50-years-old, still a white belt in Jiu Jitsu but totally besotted by Jiu Jitsu, he loved it. However, he thought the training was too tough, he couldn’t do it. Defending its difficulty, I said, ” Jiu Jitsu is for everyone.” He said, “are you crazy, there’s no way it’s for everyone — it’s for top athletes, I’m just here suffering because I really like it.”

He asked me how Alliance worked, and he asked me a question: Do you know how many Wing Chun students my master has in Germany? I didn’t have an idea. I said, “1000.” He told me, 50,000 students — 50,000 Wing Chun students!

I thought to myself, I should have chosen Wing Chun instead of Jiu Jitsu, I chose wrong!

Anyway, out of curiosity I went to watch a Wing Chun class. I needed to see what it was all about. But actually, I didn’t really see much regarding the efficacy compared to Jiu Jitsu, or even the physical part which didn’t seem like the best way to keep in shape, but what it did have was a system —  a system which showed the student exactly where he was inside the process. He knew how many classes he had to do to take a graduation exam etc, he knew about his process of evolution, something that Jiu Jitsu was so far away from. How did we graduate our students in Jiu Jitsu? There was the end of year graduation, or it was based on performance in competition. In our academy, graduations were based much more on performance than on the graduation at the end of the year, we almost never did end of year graduations. You had to have a really good performance, beating everyone in your category. If not, you wouldn’t get the following belt. But what was the message we were passing on? That you had to be the absolute best in your academy in order to get the next belt. Now imagine a normal student who has a different area of work and trains just as a hobby, how can you measure him against a professional? But this is what we based our graduations on — it was insanity. You never knew when you would get the next belt. When you eventually did, it was a real achievement, you conquered something really difficult. But how many people managed that? only a very few, so Jiu Jitsu shrunk and shrunk. This is what happened to Jiu Jitsu in the decade of the 90s.

I came back from that trip to Europe thinking that we were doing it all wrong. It wasn’t possible that Wing Chun could have 50,000 students and the whole of Alliance had maybe 1500 students back then. It didn’t make sense, so we had to be making a mistake in something, and it was a bad mistake. I knew what it was: we didn’t have any methodology. When I started learning Jiu Jitsu, I learned the Gracie Academy program. My academy was a small academy in a room with maybe 6 students, with the teacher showing us all the details one by one. It really enchanted me, so I stayed there. I continued the process and I fell in love with the sport, but it was that which got my attention. I said to myself, we need to start to write a method thinking about a group rather than just thinking about private classes, because there was already a program for individual classes. Individual classes don’t work for collective classes…

to be continued.




Are we ready for equality in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Today I’d like to discuss a topic with you that is a little controversial. Actually, it was going to be a discussion about women’s prize money in Jiu Jitsu competitions and the issue of inequality. I was researching this topic in other sports as well, but today we were surprised by a verbal attack on our dear affiliate, Mario Reis. It was actually one of his students who instigated this discussion which came about through another student who was not allowed to train in Mario’s competition class.

I wanted to point out a few things. Firstly, Alliance is a Female 10x world champion team giving total support to women in competition; we have big champions like Gabi Garcia, Andressa Correa, Monique Elias and many other champions that fly our flag and represent our team. They have always been treated with the utmost respect and also treated as equals.

It’s important we understand that Alliance’s teaching methodology which has been behind the construction of our schools and has attributed to our success, is based on the division of levels because this allows every student to find a place. For example, the student that doesn’t have the ability to be a competitor, still has a class where he can train and where he can develop. I think the biggest criticism is for the academies that do the opposite, which doesn’t preserve and take care of the students. Those academies that put all the students together in the same class pose risk to their students — not just physically, but in terms of that student’s experience and learning.

When we talk about the competition groups, they must always be separate, because the level of competition today is extremely high and the training so intense. In my academy, the competition class is at 10am. In this training, regardless of being a man or a woman, if a student is not fit for that level of training they are not allowed to do it. But that is a requirement regardless of gender. When it’s a women, we can easily fall into that trap of victimisation – it’s not because she’s a woman, it’s simply because she’s not fit to do that particular class. The division of levels is such an important prerequisite for taking care of our students. Like I said, not just physically, but for what Jiu Jitsu can bring to that student.

There doesn’t exist in Mario Reis (someone I know really well) any kind of sexist stance. There exists a teacher who is careful and doesn’t mix one thing with another. When we speak about prejudice, how would we talk about an academy just for women? or a women-only class? is this prejudice as well? No — it’s an option, just one more product; a place where women feel more comfortable to train is great, it’s more people training Jiu Jitsu.

So, this post is to support Mario and the decision he made and to criticize the student who instead of resolving the issue directly with him, spread this on the internet in a malicious way. When you’re a client, if you’re not satisfied with the service in your academy you have every right to find another; there’s no need to publicly denigrate the image of someone who does so much for our sport.

This then leads me onto my next topic which I originally wanted to talk about: equality (or lack of) between women and men in sport. There’s been great evolution in women’s Jiu Jitsu and they’ve been fighting for that continuously for many years, putting on better and better performances. Personally, I’m a huge fan of women’s fights. I’ve seen lots of them, and if I had to choose some of the best world champion fights, I would definitely put Michelle Nicolini, Tammi Musumeci and various others amongst them. I saw Bia Mesquita fight, I saw Tammi, Bia Basilio, Gabi, Andressa, Nathiely etc. so many stars in our sport who are dominating their space in the sport little by little.

I think, yes — the federation could alternate the finals between women and men. I think this would help women’s Jiu Jitsu and it would help people to stay watching because sometimes people leave when the women’s fight starts and they don’t watch, perhaps not knowing the technical level that women have today. When you intercalate the fights, you have more opportunity to showcase what women can do. I think this is a measure the federation could do very easily.

But when we talk about prize money, I have slightly different thinking. I don’t think it should be equal. I don’t think it should be equal for the following: women don’t generate the same money. You can measure money in different ways. There is the audience, but this can be hard to measure especially because the prize money doesn’t come from the audience. The only income the federation has is from registrations, so I think it should be proportional to the registrations. An example: if you have 1000 male registrations and 500 female registrations, the female reward needs to be proportionate — half of the prize money. I think this way is fair and women will continue to evolve and grow. For example, I was researching Basketball, money-wise the difference is 250x more for men in the USA. The women have a league right? The WNBA is a really strong league but the politics are simply different for the prize money because there are different audiences, different money and different sponsors, and I think this has to be understood. In the same way as when we go to the other side and look at the world of fashion. Female models earn more than men, why? what kind of prejudice is that? simply because they sell more and attract more people. Brands invest much more in women’s fashion and the world is like this.

If we want to take women’s Jiu Jitsu to the same level as men’s, there is still time – it’s a long path to go down but I think that’s what should be done. There’s no judgement that men are better than women, it’s simply that there are more men practicing, more men competing and simply more money involved in men’s Jiu Jitsu — consequently the prize money can’t be equal.

One more time, I want to say I’m a huge supporter of women’s Jiu Jitsu. I have great students and athletes in my academy at all class levels, from competition level to beginner level —all women are extremely welcome. Jiu Jitsu is a great tool for women and I’m really happy that it’s growing all the time.

I think in the end, this discussion is beneficial for everyone. I think everyone should have the opportunity to give their point of view, I just wanted to make this post because of what happened with Mario which was an act of cowardice. I think using private audios for other people to hear isn’t right and it causes unnecessary confusion. I think we need to have constant discussion so we can have a sport that includes people better, regardless of gender, social class,  colour of skin.

I think Jiu Jitsu is here to break down all these kinds of prejudice. That’s the position I take.

I hope you liked the discussion and please comment below!