A common question I get asked by new and prospective students is, "What's the difference between what you're doing at ICBJJ and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?"
The simplest answer is - "Not much." But, then again... "kinda a lot." As you can see in the diagram of my BJJ lineage below, I am a direct descendant of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. My first instructor was Relson Gracie in Hawaii in 1994. For the longest time the Gracies were the only game in town... and by "town", I mean "the United States". Almost all of us old school Americans originally got into BJJ because we watched Royce Gracie dominate in UFC 1 & 2.
Those of us who watched one or both of those on PPV or on VHS and wanted to learn what Royce knew, were interested in either self-defense or competitive cage fighting/NHB/Vale Tudo (it wasn't called MMA back then). In fact, as far as sport Jiu-Jitsu goes, there wasn't even a World Championships until 1996 and even then almost all the competitors were Brazilian.
When you look at the above lineage you can see that not only did I learn directly under several of the Gracie Brothers as a student, but I also was a student of their students. What's not shown in the lineage are the Gracies and numerous others whom I only had a seminar or weekend with on the mats.
What's also missing from the diagram are all the non-BJJ instructors and coaches I've worked with and studied under. All of the people I've trained with in person as well as studied virtually have had a tremendous impact on not only what we teach at ICBJJ, but also how we teach it.
Most of the Gracies and other students descended from Helio would consider themselves to be self-defense focused, even though a few of them are/were more active in the MMA and Sport Jiu-Jitsu areas. My primary initial instructors were Relson and Royce Gracie. Relson was very street fight oriented and Royce was obviously focused on NHB/MMA fighting early on. However, as a son of Helio, Royce's foundation was in self-defense oriented Jiu-Jitsu.
Royler Gracie, although he has competed in high level MMA, is definitely known as one of the best and most prolific sport Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Grappling competitors in the world. The famous Ribeiro brothers who would later become my instructors, were students under Royler and Rolker at the world renowned Gracie Humaita academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As a 4 Stripe Blue Belt I had to stop training Jiu-Jitsu for a few years. When I decided to return to the mats I started training with Saulo and Xande Ribeiro. The Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu style is very competition focused, however how their Jiu-Jitsu was executed contained elements that are incredibly powerful in self-defense scenarios as well. Through my training with the Ribeiro Brothers I was eventually able to determine the concepts that when combined with standard Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and my other knowledge, would make for a powerful and effective self-defense system.
In many regards ICBJJ is a further evolution of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in what our influences are as well as what we incorporate into our Jiu-Jitsu and self-defense programs. We recognize that being proficient in self-defense skills that are effective and legally sound are the highest level of competency for our students to achieve. Winning medals in competition is not our objective. That being said, we do maintain an active and prolific competition team who help us stay at the cutting edge of high level competition techniques and strategies. The concepts at our foundation are applicable to both types of Jiu-Jitsu training.
Ultimately, at ICBJJ, it is our high level coaching, incredible expertise and focus on teaching critical concepts so as to help the practitioner think quickly on the fly that has been the key to the success of our students both in real world self-defense applications and on the competition mats.
I've been involved with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since it's arrival in the United States in the early 1990's. Currently, no other Jiu-Jitsu Instructor in Iowa has that much experience, let alone directly under the Gracies and instructors like the Ribeiro Brothers. I've been teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over 20 years and ICBJJ has been an Iowa City staple for over a decade. When it comes to finding the best academy for learning real world effective self-defense, I believe that ICBJJ is the optimal choice.
Jason Clarke. Owner & Head Instructor of Iowa City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.