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home > testing center > testing tips
Testing Tips and Samples   

The First Pass
On March 3, 2009, John Nguyen became the first Gracie University student to pass the Blue Belt Qualification 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 Blue Belt Qualification Drills, John digitally recorded his performance and uploaded the videos in the Testing Center at  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.  The five BBQD videos can be watched by clicking on the links below. 

Incredible Reflexes
On March 5, 2009, Chris Bailey, from Payson, Arizona, passed the Blue Belt Qualification 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 Blue Belt Qualification Test via the video evaluation process.  By the end of BBQD 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 Blue Belt Qualification Drill 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’ BBQD 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 express our sincere appreciation to 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 blue belt 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 Blue Belt Qualification Test via the video evaluation process with a score of 94.  Aside from the fact that James only made a total of 4 critical errors, what was most unique about the test was the the "bad guy's" performance.  James's testing partner was Sacha Martin-Luther King, who is also a Gracie Academy 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 BBQD 5 score: Firstly, your testing partner must know the techniques as well if not better than you. Secondly, your testing partner must attack you realistically enough for us to verify your reflexes in the execution of all the techniques.  Thirdly, 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 Blue Belt Test!
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 Blue Belt Qualification Test, until now.  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 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, and if you live in West London, you’d be crazy not to train with these guys.

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, we’ll do the same for you!

Critical Conviction
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, they're probably not going to save you in the time of need.


Since releasing the Gracie Combatives course on DVD, several hundred students have taken the blue belt test using the Video Evaluation Process. Nearly half of all candidates fail the test. We have identified the four most common mistakes to help future candidates prepare for the test.

  1. Lack of Attention to Details
    The number one testing mistake is lack of attention to the technical details presented in each lesson. For example, most students appear to believe that achieving a "tap out" with the Triangle Choke indicates proficiency. In fact, each step from setup through finish is equally important, since an omission or mistake at any one of the critical points could "make or break" the technique in a real fight. Bottom line: you are 100% accountable for any and all details presented, however briefly, in each of the 36 video lessons. The only way to internalize every detail to this extent is through several hundred dedicated training hours and countless viewings of each video lesson.

  2. Weak Reflexes
    In order to earn your blue belt, you must be street ready. This means that you must execute your techniques without hesitation. Memorizing a technique takes one hour. Internalizing the techniques to the point of developing subconscious reflexes takes hundreds of hours. We determine the strength of your reflexes by measuring the amount of time it takes for your body to respond to each indicator presented by the bad guy (particularly during BBQD 5). Furthermore, if we see you go through the motions without the conviction borne of many hours of repetition, the street applicability of your techniques will be questioned, and your eligibility for promotion will negatively impacted.

  3. Bad "Bad Guys"
    We designed the Gracie Combatives techniques to counter the most common street fight behaviors. So, it is essential that your "bad guy" attack you in the most realistic fashion so we can effectively assess your street readiness. This means recreating the exact attack that we’ve described in the lesson at a speed that tests your true reflexes. A bad "bad guy" may lead to many unnecessary point deductions by failing to create the proper indicators for the evaluated technique, so choose wisely and ensure your "bad guy" knows his role.

  4. Standing Up Improperly
    Students have lost more points for failing to stand up in base (see lesson 20, slice 2) than for any other single mistake. We use the diligence with which you stand up in base to assess your overall level of readiness and self-defense mindset. Every time you stand up, in the blue belt test and in life, you must do so in base - no exceptions.

  5. Talking During Drill 5
    Talking during the Freestyle Fight Simulation (BBQD 5) should be kept to an absolute minimum in order for us to gauge your true reflexes. If we notice that either partner is coaching the other during Drill 5, points will be deducted and you may risk failing the test. Your partner should be trained enough to know how to present indicators and problems without being told what to do, and your movements should be instinctive enough to seize each opportunity without being told how. Before uploading your blue belt test to Gracie University, make sure you verify there is no coaching going on in Drill 5.

In order to ensure that you do not get penalized for the aforementioned mistakes, it is highly recommended that you watch and analyze your own BBQD videos prior to submitting them for evaluation and promotion consideration.


Once you are confident that you can perform all five BBQDs at a level of effectiveness equal to or greater than John Nguyen’s, you are invited to take the Blue Belt Qualification Test.  Before you shoot or submit your own BBQD videos, please review the important tips below:

  • Introduce Yourself: To help us verify that the videos you submit are associated with correct Gracie University student profile, please introduce yourself (first and last name) at the beginning of the BBQD 1 video.
  • Talk Through the Moves: We understand that it may be difficult to memorize all the techniques in the exact order in BBQDs 1-4. So, you may have someone read the techniques to you while you are filming the evaluation. During Drill 5, talking should be kept to an absolute minimum so that we can effectively guage your true reflexes. 

  • Continuous Shot: In order to test your true understanding of the techniques, you must conduct BBQDs  1-4 in five minutes or less and BBQD 5 in no less than four but no longer than five minutes.  As a result, you may not stop the camera at any time once a drill has started.  We will not evaluate your performance if you fail to shoot each BBQD in one take. (Note: All five BBQDs do not need to be shot on the same day)

  • Film the Details: We cannot give you credit unless we SEE the technique.  Focus on effectively angling your body towards the camera so that we can clearly see the essential details of each move.

  • Have a good “Bad Guy”: During the Blue Belt Qualification Test it is of the utmost importance that your partner, or “bad guy,” presents you with the opportunities to execute the techniques but that he does not do the techniques for you.  If your partner is too cooperative during your execution of a technique, it will be difficult for us to tell whether it was you or him who made the move work.  Although your partner’s intention should not be to resist your techniques, the only way for us to know if you are ready for promotion is you are fully responsible for the execution of each technique.  

  • Tripod the Camera: In order to facilitate the evaluation process, please refrain from moving the camera excessively during the test. If possible, use a tripod.  If a tripod is not available, just be sure to have the camera operator sit in chair while holding the camera as still as possible.  Regardless of how the camera is situated, the most important thing is that you always angle your body towards the camera so that the video evaluator can clearly see the critical details of each technique.  

The most important tip regarding the recording your BBQD videos is that you use a digital camera, and NOT a camcorder. If you use a camcorder, you will have to go through a very cumbersome process to compress your footage for internet use, whereas, if you use a digital camera your videos will be captured straight to digital format which means they can be uploaded from your camera directly to the internet with the simple plug of a wire (which comes with the camera). Today, there are a multitude of digital cameras that have video recording capability available at every electronics store, which can be purchased for a little over $100. Kodak and Cannon brand digital cameras are known to be the most user friendly.

Make sure your drill videos are within the size limits, have less than 50 characters in their filenames and are in .wmv, .avi, .mpeg or .mov format.

If your video files are too large in size and you don't know how to compress them, or you are having trouble uploading your test videos in the Testing Center, please view the following tutorial:

Compression/Upload Tutorial
(Note that while the Tutorial video mentions a 100MB video limit that has been increased)

The steps are different if you are using Windows LIVE Movie Maker. For LIVE you need to do the following to compress your file:

  1. Make sure you have the latest version
  2. Open up Windows Live Movie Maker
  3. Add your video
  4. Go to "Save Movie"
  5. In the Save Movie settings choose "Create Custom Settings"
  6. Adjust the bit rate settings and note at bottom where it says "estimated file size"
    • Multiply the estimated file size by the number of minutes of video
    • Continue adjusting bit rate until total is under maximum file save
  7. Save setting and use this to compress your video



How to Score a 100 On Your Blue Belt Test

Danny Cody is the most recent Gracie Garage home-study student to score a 100 on the Gracie Combatives blue belt test. His test was reviewed by three separate evaluators and, aside from some minor notes here and there, his core understanding/execution of the techniques was as sharp as anything we've seen from the thousands of blue belt tests, online students and CTC students, that have been submitted thus far. We were so impressed with his at-home progress that we decided to interview him so that other Gracie University students might learn a thing or two about how to make it happen.

Congratulations on your perfect test score! How many total hours did you train, and what routine did you follow to get your technique so sharp?
I trained approximately 225 hours. The routine I followed was the Gracie Combatives DVD format. I trained on average about two to three days per week. I strictly followed the Gracie Combatives recomended cyclic training schedule that is available on Gracie University. I went through each entire lesson at least six times.

What would you say to other home-study Gracie University students to help them achieve your level of success?
First, I would remind them to approach each lesson understanding that Rener and Ryron are not in your garage with you. Even though all the answers are in the instruction, they are not there to correct any mistakes that you make. Therefore, your focus has to be at the highest level. One thing we did that I truly believe took our training to the highest level is that we would film ourselves doing the techniques. Then we watched and analyzed our movements and compared our performances to Rener and Ryron's execution. If we identified mistakes or differences in execution, then we went back and made the necessary corrections. Above all, there is no shortcut, spend as much time as you can on the mat, and don't stop viewing the video lessons. Every time you view a lesson, you'll pick up new details, even when you think you got it all down. Take your time and don't get caught up in chasing the belt, chase the knowledge. Oh yeah, and be sure to stand up in base 24/7!

Who were your training partners and how did you guys stay motivated?
My training partners are my brother and my 8 year old son for Gracie Bullyproof. Motivation for me simply came in the form of seeking perfection in this system. During each viewing of whatever lesson I was on, my mindset was to try to find any detail that may have been missed previously. With this mindset, I was able to keep my focus and motivation extremely high at all times.

What was the most challenging technique for you to learn, and how did you finally overcome?
The most challenging technique for me was definately the Standing Headlock Defense (Lesson 26)! The way I overcame the challenge was in managing my attitude towards it. I recognized it as a weakness of mine, I accepted it as a challenge to me. My goal was to recognize it as a weakness and then work on it so much that it would literally become a strength. I was really never willing to accept that I couldn't eventually own the technqiue. So, all in all, lots of extra reps on the standing headlock defense, and also lots of extra viewings and even solo drills helped me a lot.

What is your favorite aspect of Gracie University? Why does it work so well for you?
The conviencence of learning at home on my own pace is amazing! I have two children, so time is always an issue for me, and it's very difficult to get to an academy two or three nights a week. I have spent many nights, after the children are asleep, studying GJJ. I also love the forum section on Gracie University. I have asked many questions and gotten great feedback from the certified instructors who oversee the forums!

What are your plans from here? BBS1, ICP, etc?
I have already began BBS1 and it's amazing! I have been doing Gracie Bullyproof with my son for two years, and plan on continuing for the rest of his life. We are currently working on his yellow/orange belt. I am also planning on pursuing the Instructor Certification Program as well.

Anything else you want to tell us about your journey thus far?
The journey has been great. I have so much more confidence in myself since I started GJJ. I also send my son to school very confident that he is equipped with what he needs to stand up to bullying. As if that weren't enough, I have also adopted the Gracie Diet. I have lost 60 lbs during the course of about 14 months, and feel great. Thank you Gracie family!

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