Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gracie Bullyproof teaches more than childrens' jiu jitsu....

I've had the Gracie Bullyproof series for a year now and it has truly changed the way I teach children. Although my husband and I don't have children of our own (yet!) I am privileged to assist in teaching a childrens' kajukenbo class with my prior instructor from back in the pre-jiu jitsu days. We have kids ranging in age from 4 to 14, and I used to feel like I was herding cats.

But once I started incorporating the Gracie Bullyproof teaching methodology (even when teaching something not jiu jitsu-related!) it changed my world completely, and their experience seemed to improve dramatically as well. Double plus good.

This series of 11 DVDs has been reviewed before already:

On BJJWeekly...
By Dev on Fueled by Fear.. Part 1... and Part 2...
I could have sworn Slideyfoot wrote a review as well, but I was thinking of his stellar Gracie Combatives review...

There are even some reviews out there by non-jiu jitsu parents and people-- some of who have not apparently watched even the instruction-to-parents part, but I'll include for perspective:
From Oprah...
and from Big Wowo..

I think my review might be unique because of the length of time I've been putting their methods into practice prior to writing my review. Also, I am a lawyer, a criminal prosecutor specifically, so as I watched I was thinking about the issues of bullying, self-defense, and legal liability for physical assaults. Short version-- Bullyproof is seriously good stuff for motivating your child in any fashion, in jiu jitsu, in chores, in other learned skills and behaviors. And the jiu jitsu ain't bad either ;) Fortunately, they teach legally-sound approaches to the issue of self-defense, too.

But what if you don't have kids? or don't teach kids? Whether you have kids or not, Rener and Ryron Gracie share some strategies that enhance your ability to deal with people across the board. It's all about the motivation, baby.

I am focusing my review on the first four DVDs, which cover Parent Preparation, two discs containing the ten Gracie Games, and the Rules of Engagement. The remaining discs are the Junior Combatives lessons, 33 in total, which prepare your child for the adult training of the Combatives lessons. Of course the production quality in all respects gets an A. Good lighting, sound, scripting, angles, and coverage. The content is also top-notch.

The whole premise of Bullyproof is to have a bunch of games a parent (who may not know any jiu jitsu at all) can play with their child, games which incidentally teach the skills (mental, verbal, and physical) that may help them counteract bullying. It also infects them with a love of jiu jitsu quite sneakily, by horsing around with mom or dad. As Rener puts it, kids learn differently from adults. Kids are motivated by having fun and aren't as into the details. I can't get over what a profound insight this is-- maybe totally obvious to the parents in the audience, but for me, whoa... I mean, I've always been "the cool aunt" and "the cool cousin" but this takes me to a whole new level.

Disc One: Parent Preparation

Rener and Ryron begin with a short history of Helio Gracie's development of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and a brief mention of their father, Rorion Gracie's, role in creating the UFC, which I think is great if you have a non-jiu jitsu parent watching.

Emphasis is placed on children standing up for themselves verbally first... the more they learn, the less likely they are to get into fights. By following this program, the Gracie brothers promise that your child will not be victimized by bullies and will have greater self-discipline and confidence. You can begin playing the Gracie Games with your child when they're old enough to stand, or if they're older, that's fine too. If you start them young, they may be ready to move on to the Junior Combatives program (discs five through eleven) when they're around five to seven years old.

The Parent Preparation disc is the most profound of the set, and even if you don't teach jiu jitsu-- even if you don't have kids-- this can be invaluable information for anyone who needs to share information, persuade others, or wants to improve someone's performance.  (I think these techniques apply in the workplace.. to resolve conflicts.. in marriage or friendships.. in most relationships between people!)

Parent Preparation contains a number of different sections.  My only picky complaint is that you have to return to this main menu to navigate between the topics, instead of being able to press "fast forward" or whatever to skip sections.

Rener and Ryron are assisted by a handful of young boys and girls as assistants, two of whom are two of Rener and Ryron's brothers.  They range in age from 4 to 12 and are great for demonstrating how the instruction and action is modified for different kiddoes.

The Rules of Engagement are very important and receive due attention early on, with plenty of explanation later on in the Junior Combatives section as well.

They emphasize that these "rules" are their suggestions only, but that if a parent disagrees, for the sake of the child, the parents must substitute their own rules because children need standards and confidence in their parents' support.  Rener says the rules were openly discussed in his household since a young age, and as a result, he always knew what actions were allowed.  He cautions that without this clear guidance, no amount of "bullyproofing" and "self defense" training will help because a child will be too uncertain to take action when they should.

The Golden Rule: This part of parent prep was amazing to me.  "Expect nothing, praise everything" has revolutionized my relationships with the kids in my kids' class.  As Rener puts it, "the only thing that matters is that they're on the mat and having fun."  Don't let your kids associate training with not being good enough!  As a child, all their indications of making progress will come from YOU, so make sure you praise everything.  Yes, it might be more efficient to also tell them what they're doing wrong, but the aim is not efficiency; it is to foster their love of spending time with you by having fun; incidentally, by trusting in the system, with time and "perfect adjustment" (below) they will get better and better!  And after all, the most efficient instruction in the world is useless if the student doesn't want to listen!  Kids don't want to learn-- they want to play.  So disidentify with the role of parent and become another 7 year old (or whatever age they are..)  Be a playmate for that 5-10 minutes a day!

Transfer Teaching:  This.  This again.  Put them in the right position so they can feel the correct movement, but don't tell them what to do.  You do it for them, until gradually the responsibility for the correct movement transfers from you to them.  The child will let you know when they're ready to assume that responsibility.  Put their hand where it should go, then praise effusively.  This is also known as the "Perfect Adjustment."  You adjust them and then tell them PERFECT!  This avoids any miscommunication caused by using words and getting impatient when the child doesn't immediately follow what you mean.  You fix their mistake without the student even knowing it existed-- all they hear is "PERFECT!"  So they're happy, and the next time they are in that position, they try to get that "PERFECT!" again.  Remember, not all mistakes need correction.  Your child wants to be good at something-- don't expect perfection.  "Nothing matters more than fun, comfort and closeness."

In a later discussion about the educational pedagogy involved and its application to academic instruction for adults, from Kelly, Dev's wife...

"It is basically an extreme form of Positive Reinforcement combined with hand-over-hand modeling. In special needs classes (and with babies and small children), it is a highly effective means for teaching things like self-feeding, crawling, self-dressing, waving 'hi', etc. The idea is to foster confidence in an action that they thought they could not do on their own, while weaning them into doing it completely on their own (without telling them that they are...) in a no-fail environment. Step one is hand-over-hand (typically with a verbal cue) and praise, then hand-hover-over-hand (verbal cue) and praise, then just a verbal cue and praise.

For un-'impeded' adults, the philosophy would absolutely still be effective. It would, hopefully, evolve more quickly, and the positive praise would not need to be as often. In a non-physical environment, like a Lit class, the same principles can be applied (I taught remedial math and reading to high school freshman using this tactic), but it is a bit more 'fuzzy' in it's uses at that point. For example: your student gives his/her analysis. You could say something to the effect of 'Good! Yes, what it seems that you are saying is______ (this would be the correction without saying they are wrong, and this is where you would acknowledge their 'good action' and toss in some 'right information' on top of it). If the student was a struggler, you might then throw an additional 'Nice analysis' (or something similar) afterward, while looking that person in the eye, so they know you meant it."

God, I learn something new every time I read about jiu jitsu :) 

Two other things I liked especially-- a good discussion of safety considerations for adults playing with children who are usually much smaller and weaker, and a focus on jiu jitsu as a privilege that must be earned rather than an obligation.  5-10 minutes a day as a treat after they've helped you with some chore, and "Always leave the table a little hungry"-- in other words, stop while they're still having fun and wanting more.

Rener briefly mentions that in the Junior Combatives lessons, you and your child may want gis and mats, which are available on, but early on and for the Gracie Games in particular, just some carpeted space and shorts/tshirts would be enough. 

On to the Gracie Games:

Disc Two:  Gracie Games 1-5

The introduction has some adorable footage of Rorion Gracie "rolling" with a teeny toddler while Rener discusses the origin of the Gracie Games.

Each game has a memorable name and story, and presents different levels so you can engage your child with increasing challenges and different techniques.  Later, the level 3 challenge fosters transitions between techniques.  It is expected that your child will cycle through all of the levels of all the games several times, by the way.  So definitely NO RUSH to hurry through these things-- practice makes perfect!

Spiderkid, for example, teaches mount maintenance. Spider hands, the level one technique, teaches basing and crossfacing.

After your child is comfortable with level one and level two, you move to level 3.

The next game, Shark Bite, teaches a simple upa-roll mount escape, and a method for controlling their posture comes in level two.

Bulldozer teaches the technical mount, riding a rolling opponent, and taking the back.  (It's really quite amazing.)

Then my personal favorite and that of many of "my" kids-- Crazy Horse!  Back maintenance, to you jiu jitsu people...

And Tackle the Giant, an essential for self-defense (duck the punch and double-leg shot.) I won't keep posting all the menus and all the videos I captured... you get the picture.

Disc Three is Gracie Games 6-10.  These games cover the jiu jitsu techniques embodied in side control, transitioning to mount, maintaining base while standing, breaking a single or double hand grip on your wrist, escaping mount when being choked (the "rape" choke), closed guard defense against punches, and standing passes of open guard (a primitive toreando) as well as some open guard sweeps.

Disc Four is the Rules of Engagement.  As a lawyer, I was very interested in their focus on avoiding physical confrontation.   Some parents in our classes have initially expressed concerns about their childrens' safety, starting fights in the schoolyard, or "beating up on" their siblings at home.  Rener and Ryron emphasize that the first rule is avoid the fight at all costs. Should it go beyond avoidance, the "Three T's" policy takes over.  This means:

1.  Talk:  Tell the bully to stop.  (Some kids are just kidding and don't know they're being hurtful.)  If that doesn't work (and we're talking over a period of days, not "right that minute")...
2.  Tell: Tell adults.  Preferably more than one.  Tell your teachers, tell your parents, tell the principal that so-and-so is calling you stupid every day.  Tell them you have already talked to the person and they won't stop.  ONLY if that doesn't work over more days...
3.  Tackle.  This means FIRST you mentally tackle them.  I won't spill all the beans here, but I will say that the "verbal jiu jitsu" they preach-- with one simple easy-to-remember question-- is effective.  One of my students, age 7, successfully employed this technique this past spring and his 8 yr old tormentor backed down.  I know, one data point does not a line make.. but it's data nonetheless.

As a lawyer, I focus on the potential legal liability incurred whenever a physical confrontation exists.  Keep in mind I'm not giving you legal advice here and I'm not your lawyer just by writing on the blog!  If you have doubts or questions, it's always best to ask a lawyer practicing in your state or jurisdiction because laws differ from place to place.  BUT-- as a prosecutor, if I were looking at a case file, and let's say Johnny, age 10, did everything as prescribed in Gracie Bullyproof, and Bobby the Bully was the complainant in an assault case... I would not be prosecuting Johnny.  Also, I asked a friend who is a police officer, and he concurred.  It's logic, folks, something in short supply sometimes.  But even in the no-tolerance atmosphere prevalent in schools these days (and rightly so)-- Rener and Ryron devoted an entire section of their "Rules" talk to the "critical conversation" which takes place in the principal's office.  Their advice there is so sound and so wise, I struggle to imagine any child who follows it getting in serious trouble, if any trouble at all.

Overall thoughts-- I love that their first demonstration is relatively short.  Keeps the child's interest (don't forget, they're watching with you!) and yet the brothers return to share a greater level of detail after you've tried it a few times for fun.  I do wish that you could jump within a technique from level one to two to three, instead of having to return to the menu screen.  The level three techniques usually teach combinations and transitions, emphasizing pattern identification and technique selection.  What I kept being super impressed with was how GOOD Rener and Ryron are at the TEACHING side of things.  (I really learned a few details.  I should have watched this first before getting into jits at all!)  Which means it's a GREAT introduction to jits for grownups too! especially if you have a lady who's not keen on the idea of it.. but maybe she enjoys the roughhousing with her child?

During a seminar at my academy recently, Rener said something I thought was rather profound.  He said that the first generation of jiu jitsu fighters, like his dad and the other Gracie brothers (first generation offspring of Helio), were focused on showing the world the efficacy of jiu jitsu versus the other fighting arts.  Now, the second generation like Rener and Ryron are focused on giving structure and organization to the art and improving the transmission of the information.  It is definitely the case that not all those who can DO can TEACH as well.  I think we may all come into contact with an amazing jiu jitsu fighter who can't explain what they do or how, or who can't motivate someone else.  Rener does most of the talking in this series, but he and Ryron are both extremely capable ambassadors for the art.  They are analysts.  Rener explained in this seminar that he learns more about his art from having to teach it to a wide variety of physical and mental beings-- from having to adapt and adopt techniques to work with big, small, old, young, and everything in between.  He is supremely skilled at the communication of information and at instilling a passionate appreciation for jiu jitsu.

At every stage, the brothers lead by example, demonstrating all the skills they focus on in Parent Preparation.  Lots of praise, lots of "perfect adjustments" and lots of transfer teaching.  It's an impressive series that grows with you and your child, whether you start at barely-walking age or barely-not-walking-out-the-door-with-the-car-keys age.  I've tried these techniques on the mats with a four year old with ADHD, and a fourteen year old distracted by new braces and a Wii at home.  It's so much fun, kids beg their parents -- "I wanna go to karate more!"

(Unfortunately, Rener and Ryron offer no techniques for getting parents to stop calling any and all martial arts "karate", and I have little to offer on that account myself.)

I have even tried some of these behavior modification techniques on colleagues in the work environment... *cough cough*  It's true, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  I can't quite manage the hand-over-hand adjustment when I'm trying to change their mindset... but I try, and lots of positive reinforcement definitely makes people like to listen to me more. :)

Try it.  It's a great holiday gift, too.  You can get it here.


Scottstev said...

Thank you for this review. I coach soccer, and most leagues do a great job in highlighting how differently children learn and participate in sports. As an adult, hearing "that's not right. That's the worst side-control I've ever seen," wouldn't affect me in the least. I'd listen carefully and try to apply the adjustments my coach suggests. But children are MUCH more sensitive to criticism and even the energy and body language of their instructors. You have to be almost over-the-top excited. The plus side, is that attitude is very infectious, and helps keep their attention and makes it fun for everyone.

Shark Girl said...

Great, thorough review. Makes me want to run out and buy it, or at least add it to the wish list.


Combat Sports Review said...

Great review. I love the detail that you went into. And being that I will be a "grandmother" in March, I'm now going to buy this program. I mean every grandmother should be able to teach Jits to their grandkids. Right?

Anonymous said...

Praise everything? This surely has to be questioned, lest the child becomes a praise junkie. A child (or anyone for that matter) should want to succeed because of the way it makes him/her feel, not to please or obtain approval from someone else. There is a difference between positive reinforcement and encouragement, and praise.

Georgette said...

I don't know what difference you're seeing between positive reinforcement + encouragement and praise, but in the DVD, they make it clear that the praise IS positive reinforcement and encouragement.

Can I ask what about success feels good, if not the external confirmation that you succeeded? In this context, say, the mount retention drill (spiderkids)-- if you didn't give them praise (aka encouragement and positive reinforcement) why would they give a flip about staying in mount? why not just go read a book or play with their sibling or whatever?

I get the point you're attempting to make, I think, and if you mindlessly praise everything they do all the time, yeah, you're right. But if you do it for 10 min a day while you're playing a game, and you praise all their attempts instead of telling them what they're doing wrong (and at the beginning, lots of what they do will not be "correct") then they'll have fun with it and with you. Remember the intended age range of these kids starts around 4. It's a program you want your kids to want to do, because if they stick with it, they will learn some valuable skills.

Quit being so dour :)

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess as long as the DVD says positive reinforcement and praise are the same thing, we're OK; but, I'm being dour again :)

I do agree the focus should be on what "to do" instead of what "not to do"; however, the goal of keeping the child engaged notwithstanding, I also believe that praise (regardless of age) should be earned, and not for simply doing what you are supposed to do, which happens all too often.

A father of two young sons who enjoy "rolling" with dad - honest :)

Georgette said...

OK, anonymous, you're being less dour, which is great :) I'm delighted your kids like rolling with you, that means you're doing (whatever you're doing) right! *I* liked the emphasis on praising everything because it corrects a tendency *I* have which I know can be toxic-- I'm too critical. Of myself primarily, but I'm also pretty demanding of the people around me and I know if I am this tough on my future kids, they may get sick of me always making them feel like they're never right enough.

So, you said "I also believe that praise (regardless of age) should be earned, and not for simply doing what you are supposed to do, which happens all too often."

I wonder how one earns praise in this context, if it's not simply by "doing what one is supposed to do." By going above and beyond? So please describe to me how a 6 or 7 yr old, new to "rolling" or jiu jitsu or self defense etc, is going to go above and beyond with these Gracie Games such that they earn praise?

I also (again) wonder what distinction you draw between praise and positive reinforcement/encouragement? If you could describe with examples that would be great :)

You see, I think we're talking in circles, about the same things, and not really disagreeing.

A lady who would like to have a kid of her own to roll with ;)

Anonymous said...

Good conversation!

From your post: "Kids don't want to learn-- they want to play. So disidentify with the role of parent and become another 7 year old (or whatever age they are..) Be a playmate for that 5-10 minutes a day", I think this is one of the most important messages. As parents, we need to (as the Gracie brothers would say) "keep it real".

A younger child will always learn more from play than from teaching. Children are inherently driven to succeed; therefore, if we as parents can be that "real" playmate, things like praise, and evaluating become secondary. Very often, parents just need to get out of the way :)

For example, when one of my sons accomplishes something, they'll say: "I did it", to which I respond, simply, with "Yes, you did". Simply by agreeing with him, the feeling of success is owned by him.

This is especially effective if the activity is difficult. We ski most weekends, and if he says: "This run is difficult", again I will agree that it is. Saying otherwise (which I hear often) only undermines his own assessment.

This is an encouragement double-whammy as not only did he acomplish what he set out to, he accomplished something (in his mind) difficult. I don't have to say - but, of course, I will sometimes :) - "That was great!"; he's already said that to himself. That feeling is something that truly motivates to go above and beyond.

As for rolling with my kids, one of the things they love about it is that it shows them there never just one path to achieving your goal. After learning a basic technique, they're always looking for creative ways to apply it.

Unknown said...

A bit of a late comment, I know but I want to convey my appreciation for a really fantastic and informative review. I have a 1.5 year old but more to the point, I am just about to start a kids BJJ program in South Asia which has absolutely zero exposure to jiu jitsu so I was searching for curricula.

This review was very helpful in making my decision to implement Bullyproof as the core curriculum.

We'll see how it goes! Thanks