10 Sep 2017

Review: Roger Gracie TV


Summary
Ten times World Champion Roger Gracie finally releases instructional content in the form of Roger Gracie TV, a subscription only site that offers techniques and sparring videos. Most content is taught by Roger himself, but there are also a large number of videos taught by elite instructors. This review describes the content of the site and offers a few personal opinions on how it compares to other jiu jitsu learning platforms.

Information
Available online at: www.rogergracietv.com
Cost: £14.99 (GBP) a month / £144 (GBP) a year.

Disclosures: I have no business, financial or personal affiliation with Roger Gracie TV. My own instructor was promoted to black belt by Roger and I have met and trained with Roger a few dozen times.




Introduction
With his ten World Championship titles plus his recent win over Marcus Almeida at the Gracie Pro Tournament in Rio, Roger Gracie has cemented his legacy as the greatest BJJ competitor of all time. But what is the secret to his success? What are the hidden nuggets of wisdom and invisible jiu jitsu skills that make him so awesome and the rest of us so ordinary?

In the past, that question would have remained somewhat unanswered because unless you are a resident day to day student at his academy, or have attended one of his seminars, Roger's jiu jitsu was largely confined to the few videos of him in competition. He hasn't to my knowledge produced any instructional DVD, book or any other extensive tutorial system. Until now that is.

Roger Gracie TV (RGTV) follows the pattern of similar subscription based websites such as Marcelo Gracie in Action, Art of Jiu Jitsu, Estima in Action etc. I guess with Roger now retiring, he feels he is able to release all his own personal tips and techniques that has guided his years of successes so far.

Content & Navigation
From the homepage, there are a number of options with which users can select techniques: via the drop down list of major positions, the search function, the latest videos bar or the side menu.

All the major BJJ positions are accounted for and there are also special sections to watch Roger sparring and a Maurcio Gomes section. Most techniques are in the gi, there are some that are shown nogi. Most techs are IBJJF legal, but there are a few for other rule sets, eg in one clip, Roger shows the heel hook.

Main drop down menu

Latest clips navigation bar

Side navigation menu

There is a fair amount of overlap with categories. For example, when you visit the Back Control section it shows both attack and defence clips. Those same defence clips are also shown when you visit the Escapes section of the website. The same is true when going through the Side Control section where you will see lots of knee on belly techniques, which are also the same ones in the, yes you guessed it, Knee on Belly section. Logical I guess but it does lead to a lot of repetition. I suspect this is because the sections have been grouped automatically keyword, rather than subsections arranged by a human admin. Not a big deal though.

As of this write-up (August 2017) there are approximately 280 videos on the site. 44 of them sparring clips. I'm certain many more will be added. Users of other subscription sites may feel this isn't much when compared to Marcelo Garcia Online or the Grapplers Guide with their many thousands of videos. But this is Roger's own stuff and as far as I know, you won't find him teaching online anywhere else, not on a DVD or website and there's literally only a small handful of clips Youtube.

There is no filler material on this website, there are no 'maybe works maybe won't work' techniques, everything is carefully curated and selected by Roger to showcase stuff that he has used and tested at elite level competition against the world's best grapplers ever. This is as legit as it comes. You won't see flashy stuff - not from Roger himself anyway. I'm told the site will offer more guest instructor content too, so maybe there will be flashy stuff there. Though tbh if you're a fan of Roger, you're probably not really here for flashy stuff anyway.

Sparring
For me one of the (several) unique selling points for this site is the chance to see Roger sparring. It is raw, unedited, unfiltered - you see all his techniques in action. Roger rolls with various grade students and also many high level elite players too including Braulio Estima, Lagarto and Mauricio Gomes, Rafael Lovato Jr (see video):



Watching Mauricio and Roger spar is such a joy, there is a lot of banter and fun between the two as they try to wind each other up.


It's incredibly educational just watching pure sparring in action between two elite players. Even watching Roger spar with much smaller and/or lower ranked students where you feel he could easily smash them if he went 100%, you see many things of value, including the way he exerts control even when he is allowing space for his students to try their hardest against him. If you are used to narrated video clips however, there isn't any here. It is up to you to watch and try to learn. More about this later.


Guest Instructors 
Speaking of Mauricio, he provides a very useful series of technique videos including his infamous knee on chest position. I love how Mauricio grins whenever he places his knee on his partner's chest, knowing full well the pain it exerts!


He also covers a number of self defence techniques, a subject he is very passionate about (as you can hear when he appeared on the Daniel Strauss Raspberry Ape podcast episode).

Charles Negromonte also appears with a series of cool techniques, including his take on the berimbolo plus a number of excellent open guard attacks.

The addition of guest instructors adds a lot of value to the site as they each offer their own flavour to the mix.

Roger's Teaching Style
Roger teaches very clearly and concisely. But don't expect a ten minute lecture on the finer points of technique ala Ryan Hall. With each technique clip he opens with a very short introduction and moves swiftly on to demonstrate the technique. Roger talks while he is doing the move, often pausing to show an important detail. Most techniques are repeated one more time and most clips last between 2 and 3 minutes. Roger nearly always adds in information on what likely reactions you will get when executing a technique and he discusses ways to counter any problems. You can see an example of his teaching style on the first video clip if you scroll to the top.

One section I really enjoyed is the Concepts section. I'm a big fan of instructors who conceptualize certain aspects of BJJ and Roger offers many wise tips on various things such as maintaining mount, controlling from closed guard, controlling back position and several others. The closed guard one is an absolute gem. That video lasts for 8 minutes - quite verbose compared to Roger's other clips, but wait until you check out his mount control video, that one is a whopping 14 minutes! It's a masterclass from the best exponent of the art of the mount...and the guard...and the back...and the, you get the idea.



Production Quality
All the clips are filmed within Roger's academy in London. The quality of footage is excellent with the camera operator using some sort of gimbal or handheld device so he follows Roger around as he moves from one point to another. The downside to this is that the hand-held camera viewpoint is never completely static - it's always floating around. This gives me a very slight motion sickness effect. I'm sure 99.99% of viewers won't have this problem, me personally I know I'm very sensitive to this effect (hence why I can never play first person shooters on a games console).

The camera operator is very close to the action so audio is captured perfectly well. The layout of the website is very simple and easy to follow. I used it on smartphone, tablet and desktop - the user experience is formatted perfectly for each device.

One gripe: when you visit the list of techniques, it takes two clicks to get to the video you want and to make it play. With each click there is a short delay, a problem common to cloud based video sites. What's the fuss you say? Well, normally, with high speed broadband at home, it isn't too bad but when I'm out and using 4G, each page is far slower to load. When I want Roger teaching triangle from the mount for example, clicking on the main thumbnail should bring up the video and it should just play, but no, I have to go through one more step. This is a little frustrating on a slow connection.

I like that the videos are archived using Vimeo. The Vimeo platform is much cleaner and nicer looking for some reason compared to other cloud storage systems on other on demand sites. There are the standard options to view in HD, expand to fit the screen and alter the in-video volume.

You cannot download the videos, not even a low res version for personal viewing offline. I fully understand why this is the case but I think it is an inconvenience that doesn't prevent pirating, yet penalises the honest paying subscriber. I guess it isn't standard everywhere: Grapplers Guide offers downloadable content, as do all the videos purchases on Digitsu, but most sites do not.


Narration
One thing I would dearly love to see, is for some sort of narration or voice-over on the sparring videos. Or even if not that, some written words by Roger or someone knowledgeable which highlights something notable of interest in the clips. This would be such a bonus for those newer to BJJ and whom may not spot the more subtle movements during a roll. One of the best people to do this on Youtube is Firas Zahabi with his on-screen arrows and freeze action commentary. Another excellent analyst is of course BJJ Scout and even those who subscribe to FloGrappling will be used to analysis by Shawn Williams and other luminaries. This kind of added value content is sort of what many people have come to expect now.

Another really amazing addition would be to include clips of Roger's fights from tournaments. He could highlight certain concepts and techniques and then link them over to his technique videos. This type of comp vs instructional cross-over is one of the things that works well over on the JiuJitsu.Net website. Again, that would be such an amazing help for novice and intermediate level users. Mind you, one of his latest videos is a breakdown of his Gracie Pro fight against Buchecha. You'd need access to the original footage (on FloGrappling) however.



Conclusion
The premium BJJ digital content sector is absolutely huge with hundreds of big star names past and present. But there was always one name missing from the who's who of BJJ instructionals and that person was Roger Gracie. Finally he has his own channel and the question one must ask is: is it worth it?

I'll cut straight to the chase: YES.

I mean sure, there are other sites with a vastly bigger volume of content. There are also sites with vastly more variety of instructors. There are even sites that are cheaper. But there is no other site which features such detailed access to Roger Gracie's game. In my opinion Roger Gracie's 'simple' style of jiu jitsu is the purest form of jiu-jitsu (at least in sporting form) one could possibly strive for. To learn how to execute a technique the way Roger does it, you know it is about as effective a way to do that technique as it can possibly be.

When you can see him in action in the many sparring videos, switch over to Youtube and watch his tournament clips, you'll see that there is rarely any difference in his approach. He has distilled jiu jitsu technique into such a form that absolutely nothing is wasted.

So YES is my answer and I say this because yes, I'm a fanboy and I want very much to attain just a tiny iota of the level of skill that Roger possesses. But even if you're not specifically a fanatic of Roger's game, you cannot deny that his jiu jitsu skills are exceptional. And observing the videos on Roger Gracie TV, then trying them out on your class mates and against opponents in competition must surely rank a good close second to being able to train under Roger himself.

Will it contain enough content to satisfy a long-term membership? I certainly hope so. I'm looking forward to more clips of Roger in sparring action and teaching, more guest instructors, more long form concept videos. There's definitely a lot more to come so I'll be staying tuned to see the new monthly content on RGTV.


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About the Author

Meerkatsu

Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.

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