Rickson Gracie’s Alpha Teaching Style: Why Does He Embarrass Students?

Rickson Gracie’s Alpha Teaching Style: Why Does He Embarrass Students?

“What I dont like about Rickson is his teaching style. He embarrasses people by putting them on the
spot and many times even gets frustrated. He even changes his level of difficulty and adds little
details to make the other person seem incompetent. The guy is amazing, best ever. But his teaching
style is seriously flawed and I’m surprised hes not called out more because of it.”

This is a comment I read yesterday under a Rickson video I uploaded on my youtube channel. The
author is surprised that Rickson is not called out more because of his teaching style. Today the first
thing I read on FB is a comment by Dan Lukehart who calls Rickson into question about his
teaching method:

“I am open minded about different teaching styles. However, there is exists one one style of teaching
I disdain. It is usually adopted by legendary status practitioners of older lineages. I consider it not
a teaching method as much as a way to maintain alpha status within the group. It goes like this:
Famous instructor is giving a seminar and picks somebody out of the crowd and goes “Show me
what your idea is from this position.”

The person who has volunteered or called out is usually quite respectful…usually just there to learn
a perspective from a legend. They give half hearted attempts and whatever technique they are
trying to perform. Legend easily stops the awkward respectful attempts of the person he called out
and looks at him like he is an idiot. Usually he asks several people up and most of them are just
terrified to be judged harshly by the legend…who isn’t as kind with his subtle judgments of their
inferior technique. Often, I read comments after these sessions of “Legend X taught a room full of
black belts and not even one of them knew how to hip escape! Amazing!”

One legend who teaches in this style is Rickson. It is on full display when Jake filmed a lesson with
him…it was the first time Rickson was filmed in a modern context if memory serves. Jake was
grilled online for it because he taught a trap and roll escape from the mount and (IMO)
intentionally made Jake look bad….wrapping up his alpha nature, disdain for anything sport and
probably insecurities due to aging into the mix. All Jake wanted to do was appreciate and showcase
his bjj. Jake told me he was willing to take a few hits to his pride to get it on film.
I also attended a seminar and was used in this manner on a hip throw when he was teaching me
connection. I didnt care though. I was just there to learn. Well my nameless black belt friend
attended a different seminar. He is an adult, strong, fit and skilled. He is not so alpha, but rather
just curious if what everybody was saying was true. In front of the class he placed my friend in the
bottom closed guard with a clinch and told him to take his back….intending to show him everything
he was doing wrong so the white belts could gawk about how the black belt knew nothing.
Well…whatever his motivations were…..he took his back…right there in front of everybody. Rickson
got up…firmly adjusted his gi and barked “again.” My friend felt bad and pretended like he couldnt
get it and let him out.
All the stories of Rickson going through rooms of people in his prime are true. He IS a legend and
proved the martial art to the world. Really a once a generation guy and nobody could touch him.
He has great techniques to contribute to the greater community. That doesnt change what I said
about the alpha teaching style and the others who teach that way though.”

Written by Max De Michelis, BJJ Black Belt and instructor at Rio Grappling Club Massa in Italy. Check out my youtube channel and my blog.