The First Pass
On March 3, 2009, John Nguyen became the first Gracie University student to pass the Gracie Combatives test using the video evaluation process. John, who owns a traditional Karate dojo in Williamsburg, Virginia along with his brother Mike, estimated his total amount of accumulated training time to be just over 220 hours at the time he took the test, not including the time he spent viewing and absorbing the techniques from Gracie University.
Once he became extremely confident his execution of all the techniques in the context of the five drills, John digitally recorded his performance and uploaded the videos in the Testing Center at GracieUniversity.com. Once uploaded, all five videos were viewed and evaluated by Rener Gracie. Due to the incredibly accurate and efficient execution of all the techniques, as well as his instinctive response to all the indicators presented by his testing partner, or “bad guy,” John received very few deductions and passed the test in flying colors.
We have chosen to make John’s videos available for your viewing so that you can see what a nearly perfect test performance looks like, and to give you a good idea of what will be expected of you when the time comes to take the test. You can watch the five Gracie Combatives test videos by clicking on the links below.
On March 5, 2009, Chris Bailey, from Payson, Arizona, passed the Gracie Combatives test after receiving only 2 point deductions. Aside from the incredibly accurate execution of all techniques, what stood out the most during the test were his reflexes. Watch his test videos and pay particularly close attention to the quickness with which he responds to EVERY indicator presented by his opponent. The efficiency of his movements is evidence that his techniques are not based on conscious memorization, but unconscious instincts.
Although the first step in developing your reflexes is to memorize the techniques, in order to qualify for blue belt, we need to see that your execution of the techniques is based on instincts, not memory. The only way to reach this level of “unconscious effectiveness” is lots and lots of practice, and, as you can see in Chris’s test videos, when it is present, it is undeniable.
The First FAIL
On March 31, 2009, Chris B. from Kentucky (not to be confused with Chris Bailey from Arizona) became the first person to fail the Gracie Combatives test via the video evaluation process. By the end of drill 1, the evaluator, Ryron Gracie, had already issued 20 point deductions, and by the end of the test, Chris had received almost double that amount – putting him well over the limit for allowable deductions. To help you better understand the evaluation process, we have, with Chris’ permission, decided to make the first of his five videos available for public viewing.
While watching the videos, Ryron noticed that, although Chris’ knowledge of the techniques is clear evidence that he has dedicated hundreds of hours to memorizing the movements, the awkwardness of his movements and the high number of critical errors made are clear indicators that he took the test too soon and that he did not spend enough time developing his reflexes with a training partner.
In the video, you will notice that Chris’ drill 1 video has been edited to include the point deductions made by Ryron. Each time a critical mistake is made, it is indicated on the screen in red text. The most important lessons to be derived from watching the video are:
- Focus on the details – Although we allow for some variation in the execution of techniques from person to person, you must understand that anytime a mistake is made, or a detail is overlooked, that would jeopardize the efficacy of the technique in a real fight, a point will be deducted. In practice, focus on developing your reflexes with 100% commitment to the details so that when they are put to the test, on video or in the streets, they won’t let you down.
- Watching builds understanding, doing builds reflexes – Even though you can memorize all the steps for all the techniques by watching the video lessons, the ONLY way to develop the reflexes necessary for a belt promotion is through countless hours of dedicated practice with a partner. Until you can execute all the techniques instinctively, do not take the test.
- Find a good testing partner – Because Chris’ partner was totally unfamiliar with the techniques, the test could not be completed in an efficient manner. Although we did not deduct points for incorrect “bad guy” behavior, the simple fact that Chris had to spend so much time coaching his partner ruined the flow of the test. To avoid this from happening to you, conduct your test with a partner who knows the techniques and can flow from one indicator to the next while creating challenging and realistic opportunities for you to demonstrate your techniques.
Finally, we would like to thank Chris for allowing us to use his test video for educational purposes. Although he did not qualify for promotion the first time, we know he is training hard to prepare for his second attempt, and we are confident that his name will be added to the list of certified belt holders in no time.
Note: On June 27, 2009 Chris Bowlin retook the Gracie Combatives test and scored an 89. A month later he traveled to Torrance, California to train for a week at headquarters. Now he keeps it real with a Gracie Garage in Mount Sterling, Kentucky.
The Perfect Bad Guy
On May 11, 2009, James Andrew from the UK passed the Gracie Combatives test via the video evaluation process with a score of 94. Aside from the fact that James only made a total of 6 critical errors, what was most unique about the test was the "bad guy's" performance. James's testing partner was Sacha Martin-Luther King, who is also a Gracie University Certified Instructor, and what made his bad guy performance so unique was his intensity level and the diversity of the opportunities he created.
In order to make sure you understand the tremendous impact a good "bad guy" can have on the quality of a belt test, we have included James's Freestyle Fight Simulation Drill video below for your viewing. As you watch the video, pay particularly close attention to how Sacha attacks him at a speed and energy level that forces James to respond instinctively. Also, notice how, as the bad guy, Sacha goes from position to position so objectively, and in doing so he creates an incredible amount of unique opportunities for James to show his skills.
There are three things that you must learn from this video in order to ensure the highest Fight Simulation score: First, your testing partner must know the techniques as well if not better than you. Second, your testing partner must attack you realistically enough for us to verify your reflexes in the execution of all the techniques. Third, your bad guy must diversify their attacks so we can see that you have perfected all techniques and not just a few.
The First 100!
We’ve had a handful of 97’s and 98’s and two very impressive 99’s (both of which were students at Certified GJJ Training Centers) but no one has ever received a perfect 100 on the Gracie Combatives test, until Jamie. We knew it would happen one day, but never in a million years did we expect the first perfect pass to come from a Gracie Combatives DVD student who has NEVER trained at an actual school of martial arts! On December 8, 2009, Jamie Harding, the Garage Leader from the West London Gracie Garage, submitted his test after approximately 200 training hours. The first evaluator was shocked that he couldn’t find a mistake so he passed it up the ladder to another evaluator, and once both had confirmed that there were no errors, I (Rener) was notified. I watched the test once and found no significant mistakes. Determined to deduct at least one point, I watched the test again, and although I noticed some slight differentiations in the execution of some techniques, which is inevitable since everyone is shaped differently, there were no critical mistakes that would have altered the street applicability of his techniques. His test was perfect.
I have chosen to make Jamie’s complete test available for viewing so that all white belts know what they should be aiming for, and to inspire anyone who doesn’t think Gracie Jiu-Jitsu can be learned from home. As you watch, pay particularly close attention to how little “thinking” goes on. Notice how, in almost every case, the time between indicator and response is but a fraction of a second. Also, keep an eye on his training partner or “bad guy,” Fabio Toyama, who does an incredible job presenting the indicators in a realistic manner. We’re very proud to have Jamie and Fabio as part of the extended Gracie Family!
In recognition of Jamie’s unparalleled level of dedication to art, we have decided to give him free access to Chapter 1 of the Master Cycle, and if you score a 100 on your Gracie Combatives test, we’ll do the same for you!
On May 13, 2012 Sara Wondra passed the Pink Belt Qualification Test with an exceptional score of 96 after a reported 75+ hours of at-home training with her dedicated training partner, Ben. What is most impressive about her test is the level of conviction she displayed in the execution of each and every technique. Even though she executed some of the techniques differently than how they were presented in the instructional material, she did so with such conviction that, in most cases, we did not issue point deductions. Even though all techniques should be learned and practiced in very slow motion initially, the eventual goal is to develop the reflexes to be able to apply the techniques with full conviction and without conscious thought. The bottom line is, even if your technical accuracy is 100%, if you don't believe in the techniques you are using, then they're probably not going to save you in the time of need.