Saturday, May 16, 2009

Holy Hell, Batman. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu on Cable!

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Targets the Masses with a Nation Wide TV Commercial

I have just finished watching one of the few television commercials that has ever left me feeling stunned, shocked, and initially completely confused. Basically, I am confused. Let me explain:
It's late, and I'm up shooting out emails and the television is on for some background noise. Dane Cook is doing his stand up routine on Comedy Central, but I’m not really paying attention. On comes a commercial the likes of which I have never seen. It is fast paced with a hoarse voiced commentator rattling off selling points. I look at the TV and I see old footage from the "Gracie In Action" videos on my TV while graphics of magazine covers about the Gracie family virtually stack up on screen. The announcer gruffly says, "The Gracie family has spent over 80 years developing the most effective system of self defense the World has ever known!" To see the commercial for yourself, go to .)
During the commercial, Rorion appears and says a thing or two about how he created the UFC to test Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ) against the World. Later in the commercial, Rener Gracie (who is kind of like the Shamwow guy of the Gracie family; ie, the “Gracie Juice Bag” video ) and his brother Ryron are also on my TV talking about GJJ. They list all of the military and U.S. Government agencies that use “Gracie Combatives.”
The announcer says that, "The “Gracie Combatives” Course is based on the 36 most effective techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu." It is then stated that the viewer/purchaser of said DVDs will be able to quickly learn and master what's on the DVDs from within their own home. What it boils down to is they are trying to sell “Gracie Combatives” to the general public as a means of personal and family protection. At this point in the commercial, I almost turned the channel. I found it hard to continue watching, but I did nonetheless.
Throughout the commercial are choreographed scenes of simulated street fights utilizing GJJ in a parking structure, in a sandy deserted lot, on a grassy lawn (no footage of a pony tailed Rickson fighting on the beach, though). Of course, there is the "infomercial" staple of having bona-fide testimonials from once “out of shape” and “weak” people who have since become empowered and healthy due to “Gracie Combatives”. Did they get this way from the DVDs? I don’t think so. My cynical side tells me that these are most likely testimonials from people training at the Gracie Academy, not in their homes using the DVDs exclusively. I could be wrong, though.

The commercial directs you to their website . They will let you preview all 13 of their DVDs for one month for only $9.95 (followed by 3 monthly payments of $39.95 (not stated in the commercial)), or you can buy all 13 DVDs up front for only $119.85.
Returning to my confusion and uneasy feelings about this commercial; part of the allure to BJJ, for me, is that it is not a sport that many people are familiar with or participating in. It’s not an over hyped sport or martial art. It is a very real style with very real effectiveness. There are not watered down BJJ academies in every strip mall full of kids running around in black belts. My point being that it’s not your typical martial art. And seeing the Gracie’s television commercial elicited a gut reaction out of me envisioning just those same fears, and perhaps more. But my fears were a bit premature and irrational.
I am former military, but my tour was over before the Army switched to using “Gracie Combatives.” However, while I was in the Army and stationed in Hawaii I was enrolled at Relson Gracie's academy. Now that I am running my own academy in Iowa (under Saulo Ribeiro) I get current and former military coming through my doors that have been taught “Gracie Combatives” while in Basic Training/Boot Camp or at their units. These students have a head start over the typical new student, but it is evident that they typically don’t get the same amount of time to train as does an academy student. Personally, I think I can only remember one technique taught to me when I was in the military. The “Gracie Combatives” are obviously an abbreviated form of GJJ/BJJ. From the military’s point of view, they have to have a hand to hand combat program that can be taught to the lowest common denominator in the shortest amount of time. Perhaps that is why these “Gracie Comabatives” DVDs are the perfect video set to mass market to the general public.
We knew that this was bound to happen sooner or later, and the more I thought about it the more I realized that this GJJ commercial was probably good for all of BJJ in both small towns and big cities. This commercial shows that GJJ/ BJJ have potential to reach far and wide. This commercial would not have been made without some marketing research that showed there is a demand for such a product. If so, then somebody near you (that has probably seen the commercial) may purchase it and realize they need to join a BJJ academy or club to actually train what's on the DVDs. That's good for you, the academy owner or academy student. You get more bodies in your school to roll with, and the owner gets more tuition to pay those bills.

As the CBJJ and the IBJJF move closer to the goal of making BJJ an Olympic sport, and as America gets more BJJ black belts starting their own academies, the competition for students will amp up in the coming years. Commercials such as this could determine all of our fates in this sport. Like it, love it or hate it, in the end this Gracie commercial is a good thing for BJJ in the long run.


Angelo said...

My favorite part of the infomercial is the slo-mo Matrix style action scenes that show when/how the techniques will prove effective. My second favorite part is the "testimonial" from the guy that says he can handle any business situation because he knows he can handle himself.

We live in a capitalist country and this was bound to happen. Many of us have experienced the things promised in the commercial, but of course we feel it is cheapened a bit when you shine it up, but in a box and advertise it for X amount dollars in 3 easy payments. But WAIT! There's more....

Jason said...

At least now, they'll never be able to get Billy Mays to sell their stuff on T.V. God, I hated that man yelling at me through my boob tube.

If they got the Shamwow guy to do it, that'd be awesome!

"Your life is boring. Stop living a boring life and learn how to fight."

"Armbar, kneebar, radar, gay bar. You followin' me camera guy?"