During my three weeks out of the gym with an injury, I managed to corral all of my BJJ and submission grappling DVDs. I’ve had some of these for years, and a few are even unwatched. Some were even sent to me for review. And one was lent to me and I’ve had it far too long. (Sorry, Dylan!) I made a commitment to watch and review all of the DVDs I have. (If you’re not a BJJ fan, you don’t need to unsubscribe. I promise to evenly space out 4-8 DVD reviews over time.)
The first two DVDs I want to review are part of a kit called A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: How To Progress Fast In BJJ. I bought this kit a couple of years ago. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but it now retails for around $200. That is probably way more than I would currently spend on training material, but the kit comes with a booklet, an audio CD, a reference poster, an e-book (which I believe I also got but can’t find) as well as the two DVDs reviewed (and an additional DVD which was not included when I bought the kit.)
An online version of the booklet included, also called A Roadmap For Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, is available for free. And there are tons of free resources including an e-course on Beginning BJJ and tons of articles, videos and invaluable information on Grapplearts. The guy behind the whole shebang is Stephan Kesting, a black belt under Marcus Soares and a Combat Submission Wrestling instructor under Erik Paulson. He is great. He’s extremely knowledgeable, down-to-earth, easy to understand and completely non-pretentious.
The kit is marketed for those with 1 year or less of continuous BJJ training. And to me that seems fairly accurate. I have personally trained in gi BJJ for about 12 months total in two great gyms (though not continuously–8 months in one and ~4 in the other) with a smattering of no-gi submission grappling thrown in there. Although much of the material was a thorough and extensive review, there were certainly parts that were completely new to me. I haven’t been a consistent student (still a one-stripe white belt) and BJJ certainly hasn’t come intuitively to me, so your mileage may vary, but it seems like this would be great information even for a blue belt trying to understand the big picture.
The Two DVDs
A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a big long DVD which helps you understand the big picture of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. It is broken down into positions (guard, closed guard, open guard, half guard, turtle, side mount, knee mount, full mount, rear mount). The entire DVD is roughly two hours long. It is professionally filmed and edited–it doesn’t look like some schmuck made it in their basement. The instruction is very clean and easy-to-understand, with all techniques being demonstrated from multiple angles. Each chapter starts with a quick overview and covers where you want to be, some transitions, what to focus on and what to avoid.
Although the DVD is marketed to relative beginners, the information is quite extensive. I’m a relative BJJ noob with less than a year of continuous training over the course of 3 years, so I can’t say for certain, but I’m guessing that blue belts would also find some nuances or details that could help them improve their game (or their teaching.)
I also really like the way the information is arranged. This DVD, along with the booklet, is particularly useful for those trying to get an idea of how the techniques (or ‘moves’) they’ve been taught translate into the overall BJJ game, something which can be difficult if you’ve been inconsistent in training, can’t remember the details or are just trying to get a better grasp of the principals behind the sport. Although it’s hard to digest everything at once (I remember trying to when I first bought the thing), it is a great resource and can even be used as a reference to refer to if you are stuck in a specific position or even just trying to improve it. I found myself nodding as I watched again and Kesting pointed out very basic things I’d missed. And I found myself taking extensive notes on positions I’m trying to improve and some (like turtle top) I hadn’t thought of as a position or explored the way I could have.
Step-by-Step Submissions was the other DVD included in the package. It is about 50 minutes long, and quickly runs through the most common submissions from every position. Although it’s a no-gi DVD, all of the submissions demonstrated work with the gi as well. The submissions shown are pretty high percentage ones including armbars, triangle chokes, kimuras, guillotines, oma platas, ankle locks, knee bars, rear naked chokes, triangle chokes and variations thereof. The cool thing about this DVD is that it is a great review. It is well-filmed, with multiple angles for each submission. It is divided by position (closed guard, open guard, half guard, side mount, knee mount, full mount, rear mount, turtle.) Although much the information is fairly basic, it’s hard to really remember all of the details even if you have no holes in your game. As I watched the DVD, I noticed variations of moves I used regularly from positions I never try them in, and some of the information included I’d never even thought of (such as a rolling kneebar from the bottom of turtle position).
The Other Included Items
For me, the audio CD was not really valuable since diagrams were obviously not included. The reference poster was very cool, and has wrong and right diagrams of various submissions. I actually had two of the posters (one came with another Kesting DVD I have yet to review) but made the mistake of trying to give it to the wrong BJJ instructor (nobody you know or that I train with!) as a gift. He was not pleased. The booklet is great for beginners, and as mentioned above, it is also free. The other items included were either not available when I bought this or have been misplaced.
I really like this kit. The instruction is solid, the presentation is clean and it is well thought out and designed. Stephan Kesting is…someone I’d love to train with if I ever had the chance. Having said that, I personally do not feel that three hours of instruction on DVD are worth $200. I would probably pay around $45 for each of the 2 DVDs plus shipping, and find the ancillary material a bit unnecessary. I do think it’d be a good kit to have on hand as an instructor to lend to new students, or as part of a gym library. If you’ve got money to throw around, it’d also make a fabulous present.
Kesting has a variety of other DVDs (I’ll review his Grappling Drills one at some point), so there are plenty of ways to dip in without making such a big investment. (Kesting has an online class which looks amazing–but the $247 price point makes it cost prohibitive for many of us).
If you own the DVD or have any thoughts or comments, feel free to share.