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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Big Topic

As you may have read in my post the other day, there has been some intense debate in the comments section over a process that happens at our school called "the welcome". Dev and Georgette recently both posted blogs about their views on the welcome, but I am worried that the wrong impression is being made of Fabio's school.

I spoke with Fabio and am going to explain what my understanding of his philosophy is on rolling and on the welcome. I hope this clears everything up and gives you a better idea of what happens at our school.

Also, let me say that if you go to my school and are reading this blog, feel free to correct me if I am wrong at any point. I am going to try to explain this the best way that I can.

There has been a lot of talk about what the welcome is. Let me explain it to you as best as I can, from my experience. When a new person comes in, having no knowledge of what Jiu-jitsu is about, they are taught three basic submissions (an armbar, an americana and a rear naked choke) and then they are put with higher belts to grapple.

The higher belt's job is to give them a "welcome". Most of the time at Fabios, higher belts who roll with people who are lower than them will roll and catch submissions and hold them, allowing the lower belt time to work out an escape. The difference in the welcome is, the higher belt doesn't give them the time to escape. They just finish the submission. They do this throughout the first grapple with the person.

The goal is to submit, not to hurt someone. When I talked to Fabio about it, he said there is a reason why only people who have their blue belts or higher do the welcomes. Firstly, the people who he asks to do this know how to roll with someone and get submissions WITHOUT HURTING someone.

Here is what a welcome is supposed to look like. A person comes in and grapples a higher belt. They are going as hard as they can against the higher belt. The higher belt is supposed to stay relaxed and calm, and to submit the person without having to spazz out and go insane.

In the welcome, the goal to make them tap. Not to hurt them. It is supposed to be a demonstration of skill, not a beating. It’s to show the skill level, not to hurt people. The only injury someone should walk away with after a welcome is maybe a hit to their pride. You can't come in and learn Jiu-jitsu if you have pride. As Fabio said, "When pride goes in front of you, you get hurt." That’s why the higher belts come roll with brand new whitebelts who have no control. The higher belts can submit them in a safe way and teach them to calm down, without leaving bruises.

Getting rid of pride is not the only reason why the welcome is done. The other reason why is to inspire people to see the skill level they can achieve if they come back and keep learning. What usually happens during welcomes is people are impressed with how many times and how many different ways they were submitted. They don't come off the mat injured (though, as in any school, there are some ACCIDENTAL injuries that happen). They come off the mat impressed by the fact that, no matter what they tried, the person they were rolling with was able to not only fend them off, but the get into a dominant position and make them tap.

All of this stuff about trying to pop elbows and ankles is not how it goes. The people at our school are not trying to rip people's limbs off. It is not about the pride of the higher belts. It is not about trying to beat someone up. It is showing them what Jiu-jitsu is.

When I was first talking about the welcome with some people after all of this conversation started up, I told them, "I don't think I ever got welcomed." But now that I look back on my first day, I know I did. Let me tell you how it went.

I am an average sized girl with no martial arts background before Jiu-jitsu. When I came into Fabio's, I was put with several higher belts to grapple. As terrified as I was, not knowing anyone and not having much experience, I thought I was going to get a beat down. I did get owned, but I remember laughing because of how ridiculously I was flopping around and about how ineffective all of my attempts to do anything were. I never felt like I was in danger. When I was submitted, it was never a rough, crank submission. I left thinking, "Man, those guys were good." and also, "Man, I have to work on my base." Everyone I rolled with told me encouraging things after the grapple and gave me pointers on where I could improve.

I had a blast. And I came back craving more.

That's the whole goal of a welcome. Not to hurt someone. It's to show them what Jiu-jitsu looks like. Jiu-jitsu is described as the gentle art. Welcomes are not supposed to be knock down drag out fights. Welcomes are supposed to be higher belts showing a new person what they can aspire to.

As one of Fabio's blue belts, sometimes I am required to give a welcome when a new girl comes in. I will admit that sometimes I struggle with wanting to do them, but that is mostly because I worry that won't be able to represent what a blue belt should look like well enough. That is my problem, though. I also sometimes feel bad about submitting people, especially when it is someone who doesn't know anything, but that's my personality in general. I still say "I'm sorry" to people who have been grappling there as long as I have whenever I try to do a submission. People at my school make fun of me for that all the time. When I told Fabio I felt bad about submitting people, he told me, "You're not trying to hurt them. You're showing them where they are making themselves vulnerable."

They stick out their arm, I catch it. They expose their neck, I take it. I don't crank any submissions. And if they resist a submission when I have it, I DO NOT crank it until it pops. I let it go and go for the choke.

I can tell you that NEVER in ANY welcome I have done have I EVER tried to deliberately hurt someone. I go for submissions. FABIO DOES NOT ADVOCATE INJURING PEOPLE TO GET A TAP DURING A WELCOME. I want to make that clear. The purpose of the welcome is the exact opposite of that. The higher belt should be relaxed and easy, showing them that the technique works no matter what they try. That is why Fabio always has higher belts--not white belts--doing the welcome.

The first day someone comes to train at my school, they should not leave feeling like they just got jumped. They should walk away thinking about how they can't wait to come back. That is what I have seen happen over and over again.

My school is not a big group of bullies going around owning newbies to puff up their egos. My school is like a big family. You come in, people are friendly. They help you. In my blog, I talk all the time about how the higher belts give me advice and help me with things. And I try to do the same thing for the people who I roll with who are of lower rank than me. We are a team, not a bunch of hot heads competing to see who can get the most taps.

There. I said my piece.

I know that even after my explanation, some of you may not agree with the idea of the welcome. I know people have different opinions about how to teach BJJ. I am still new to all of this, so I don't claim to be an expert by any means. If your opinion is different from mine, feel free to share it. But I would invite you to come to our school and see what it looks like before you make any final judgments about it. If you do come, you will find a warm, friendly place, not a den of ape-men trying to snap peoples limbs off.

24 comments:

Georgette said...

Allie, I don't think I ever got the ape-man impression about your school, period. Not from you and not from Thomas. :) Like I'd said to you before, I trust your judgment and I don't think you'd train somewhere unsafe.

I did maybe get some impressions of Thomas... and I was concerned about the "command" from the higher-ups to the blues-and-up to carry out these "welcomes." Frankly, I still have some issues with that.

But, it's not my school, and I'm a lowly blue belt! Who am I to say what's better or worse?

:) :)

A.D. McClish said...

@ Georgette Love you girl!! I didn't feel like you were trying to attack me or my school. I was just concerned that maybe people were getting the wrong impression. I talked it all out with Fabio and have tried to explain it the best I can. Hopefully that clears things up!! And I feel the same as you. I am only a beginner in the world of BJJ and I can only explain what I know and have experienced from my perspective.

Stephanie said...

Well put, Allie. I think what you've posted is the general feeling of the school, and you have represented well, as you always do.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm going to repeat myself one more time. This subject just seems to keep popping up. =)

I won't re-explain the welcome, because I think Allie did an excellent job of doing it herself, but I will back her up in what she has said.

The welcome isn't something that is done out of pride, or mean spiritedness, or anything like that. I've seen many, many welcomes done, and they have always been done respectfully, calmly and methodically. Arms are not ripped off, bones are not broken and it ALWAYS ends in a hand shake and some sort of complimentary remark from the person having done the welcome.

I will also say, (again) that I have nothing but respect for Fabio, and the way he runs his school. He is an excellent instructor, mentor and human being. I take great pride in being part of his team, and feel the Fabio Novaes BJJ team is part of my extended family. I love them like brothers and sisters, and further, I trust my team with all of my joints and limbs. =)



And like Allie, I don't think anyone was being rude or disrespectful in regard to our school, but that perhaps people were getting the wrong impression.

Dev said...

Allie,

That was absolutely fantastic. Skill aside, I think you represented the maturity necessary to BE a higher belt through your explanation. My hat is off to Fabio, and to you, and to your school. With that as an explanation, and a focus on the demonstration side to beginners, there is no doubt in my mind that it's a superb place to train.

Excellent post. I think, for sure, I misconstrued some of the idea, and comments, from a couple days ago. And that's MY bad. Thank you for clarifying everything!

Rob said...

The "welcome" is a CRUCIAL part of jiu-jitsu. You can't effectively learn jiu-jitsu until you learn the power in it. And that requires a non-injury leaving beat down.

I'm a big fan! Been doing it for years.

BJJ Rob

Georgette said...

@Rob:

Uhhhhhhhhh....

Man, I know this was intended to show what a great school Fabio has and how reasonable it is and what a safe place it is to train. And Allie ably did just that, as she always does.

Then you had to come in and rattle the cages again!

The "welcome" is NOT a crucial part of jiu-jitsu. I am effectively learning jiu jitsu having never had one. I've never seen a "welcome" handed out in Relson Gracie Austin. We don't have anything to preemptively prove. If someone has an ego problem, we handle it professionally -- I didn't need someone to bestow on me a "non-injury leaving beat down" to learn the potential power of our art.

Quit while you're ahead :)

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

Just thought I would mention that Rob isn't one of Fabio's students.

Stephanie said...

I checked out his blog a bit, and it looks like he goes to The Armory, a BJJ school a few hours south of here. I don't know much about The Armory, other then the fact that Marcelo Cohen is an instructor there, and he is a brown belt under Saporito, Fabio's instructor.

Anonymous said...

Georgette, while I respect all schools methods of teaching I can also say that as a brown belt whose been training for ten years and teaching with Fabio for 4-5 years I can say that in my experience the "welcome" is necessary.

Allie did a good job of explaining the procedure so I won't repeat it but I'll explain how the welcome came to be. Fabios philosophy is now and has always been to beat your opponent with as little effort as possible. However, 7-8 years ago Fabio held a seminar and we had a few wrestlers come in. Fabio grappled them and submitted one of them 1-2 times and the other 3-4 times. All the submissions were effortless and Fabio controlled them the entire time but he was just playing with them. After the seminar the two wrestlers were in the locker room comparing how many times they got submitted. They were bragging about how a Brazilian black belt had only tapped them once or twice and debating on even continuing. When Fabio heard this he offered to grapple both of them again. Needless to say he grappled more serious. That's not to say he grappled harder but Fabio is known for catching you in dozens of submissions and letting them go before you tap. In the welcome you just follow through with the tap. Suffice it to say that both wrestlers left with a much different perspective on BJJ then they had in the locker room. They both also enrolled and trained with us for years. In our school the welcome is nothing more then what other schools consider normal grappling. In our school it's not the norm to submit lower belts every time you catch something but rather to let them work their escapes. This serves two purposes, it allows me to secure a submission tight without speed or athleticism which shows control, and allows you to work your escapes.

At Fabios school we are completely laid back, there is no mean spiritedness and no egos.

You need to consider that when new people come in they have no concept of the art that goes into BJJ. They feel like if they didnt tap then they won. As a blue belt you have learned to appreciate the control and ability to sweep and have come to grips with the fact that the submission is just a by-product of that control. It is not necessarily the goal. When I was teaching I always may a point of stressing to my students that I don't need to submit you 30x's, in a real fight I only have to get you once. In all actuality, as long as I am in control I don't have to get you at all. This is the philosophy that Fabio has passed on to me and others over the years.

I have not read the other post but it was explained to me what was said. Suffice it to say that to the best of my knowledge Thomas has never done a welcome as he is a white belt. But I can also tell you that to the best of my knowledge no one has been hurt in a welcome.

Ben

Anonymous said...

Georgette, while I respect all schools methods of teaching I can also say that as a brown belt whose been training for ten years and teaching with Fabio for 4-5 years I can say that in my experience the "welcome" is necessary.

Allie did a good job of explaining the procedure so I won't repeat it but I'll explain how the welcome came to be. Fabios philosophy is now and has always been to beat your opponent with as little effort as possible. However, 7-8 years ago Fabio held a seminar and we had a few wrestlers come in. Fabio grappled them and submitted one of them 1-2 times and the other 3-4 times. All the submissions were effortless and Fabio controlled them the entire time but he was just playing with them. After the seminar the two wrestlers were in the locker room comparing how many times they got submitted. They were bragging about how a Brazilian black belt had only tapped them once or twice and debating on even continuing. When Fabio heard this he offered to grapple both of them again. Needless to say he grappled more serious. That's not to say he grappled harder but Fabio is known for catching you in dozens of submissions and letting them go before you tap. In the welcome you just follow through with the tap. Suffice it to say that both wrestlers left with a much different perspective on BJJ then they had in the locker room. They both also enrolled and trained with us for years. In our school the welcome is nothing more then what other schools consider normal grappling. In our school it's not the norm to submit lower belts every time you catch something but rather to let them work their escapes. This serves two purposes, it allows me to secure a submission tight without speed or athleticism which shows control, and allows you to work your escapes.

At Fabios school we are completely laid back, there is no mean spiritedness and no egos.

You need to consider that when new people come in they have no concept of the art that goes into BJJ. They feel like if they didnt tap then they won. As a blue belt you have learned to appreciate the control and ability to sweep and have come to grips with the fact that the submission is just a by-product of that control. It is not necessarily the goal. When I was teaching I always may a point of stressing to my students that I don't need to submit you 30x's, in a real fight I only have to get you once. In all actuality, as long as I am in control I don't have to get you at all. This is the philosophy that Fabio has passed on to me and others over the years.

I have not read the other post but it was explained to me what was said. Suffice it to say that to the best of my knowledge Thomas has never done a welcome as he is a white belt. But I can also tell you that to the best of my knowledge no one has been hurt in a welcome.

Ben

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the dbl post and typos I was doing it on my phone and it was giving me an error.

Let me also conclude with this. I am not saying this to be mean or disrespectfu. Allie knows me and knows I am just blunt. But, just as a parent says "when you have kids of you're own, you'll understand" the same applies here. When you start taking on students, and teaching you will see the need to impress on them the effectiveness of BJJ. It does me know good to put a 200lb athletic blue belt with a 145lb new person and watch him get schooled. It does however, have a great impact on impressing the effectiveness of BJJ if I put a 145lb blue belt with a 240 bodybuilder and watch him EFFORTLESSLY submit and control the larger opponent. I know this from experience because I was that 240lb bodybuilder who gave up the gym for BJJ when I saw the effectiveness. Its a humbling experience but its also a demonstration of what BJJ is capable of accomplishing when done properly.

Dev said...

Ben,

All respect in the world. I thought Allie did a fantastic job of explaining it, but your perspective adds a ton of context. I appreciate it, for what it's worth.

Thomas said...

I reposted some clarifications to what I meant earlier in the post that kicked this all off, and was going to repost it here, but bt Allie and Ben, I think it was completely covered.

I do think there are a few side things I will briefly comment on that don't have to do with the welcome, so I'll say them here briefly...

@Georgette I owe you an apology, I am thinking. I did not mean to suggest that I am advocating the wanton destruction of anyone stubborn simply to teach them a lesson. My comment was poorly phrased and, tbh, made reference to some dialogues Allie and I (and others) have had in class, but never show up here on the blog. Let me clarify what I meant, and hopefully my opinions will not be as offensive. When I say go hard, I mean you actually tap the person. In the majority of rolls with a skill difference, subs that are caught are not applied for the tap. They are caught, and then you let the person work out and keep rolling. Go hard means you actually tap them. As to popping the elbow, my point was not actually to I jury them to teach them a lesson. My point was that ultimately, it is their responsibility for their own safety. I am not going to try to hurt them, and if I catch something and think they are going to get injured I will let it go. But if they get hurt bc they were too prideful to tap, I am not going to feel guilty about that. That is on them, not me. My point was more so to say not to feel guilty for someone else's ego.

As to the reference to the first roll being like a fight, here is where that comes from. More than on one occasion, I have (and I am sure many of you have as well) rolled with someone who acts all chill, but the moment you touch hands being a rabid pit bull. This was also the context for the post in question... my point was that the first time I roll with someone, I am going in expecting this. Then, I can go hard and tone it down, rather than getting blitzed and scrambling to catch up. Also, there are certain body types and builds that are a challenge for me. I am 145lbs soaking wet. A 200+ lb former wrestler is going to push my game. I want to know, if I were to actually need to defend myself against a person like this, how quickly could I "end the fight," meaning how quickly can I manage to tap the person. The combination of both these factors prompts me to approach new rolls with an initial "go after it" mentality. Once I know they are not going to try to rip my head off, I can tone it down.

I hope that clarifies a bit and, again, I apologize to Georgette if I offended you or gave the wrong impression. Im not a fighter, or a testosterone junky. Truth be told, my biggest draw to BJJ is the fact that it can allow me to defend myself if I need to without having to hurt my assailant unnecessarily.

BJJ Judo said...

The "Welcome" as you decribe it is pretty common at many BJJ schools. We dont do it like that at our school, but I dont think there is anything wrong with it. At our school the new students get the standard first class which involves some self defense, the mount and the armbar from the mount. During mat time they are paired with a higher rank, but just to keep things safe.

In Judo we do it a little differently. At our Judo club the first class is learning how to fall. They watch the standup matches and the mat work sets. I tend to think this works best.

G-Stamp said...

I'm not sure if I received a formal "welcome." I just recall getting my butt kicked (i.e., smashed, squashed, and submitted) non-stop and loved every minute of it. Wait...after three months I'm still getting my butt kicked and love every minute of it. Hmm...maybe I'm cut out for this sport after all. ;-)

Dev said...

I think our buddy G-Stamp had the best response of all. :) Awesome. And not to worry - after a year and a half I'm still getting my ass kicked, and I'm loving it. :)

Frank said...

Running a BJJ school is running a business. If your "weclome" was such a terrible thing, you wouldn't have any students. So it can't be that bad. I don't think it's necessary, but that's just my opinion. I'm sure it gets the point accross to anyone who doubts BJJ's effectiveness.

Do you really apologise when you go for a submission? That's hilarious.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Beautiful words Allie. Well expressed.

I still don't believe beginners NEED to free-roll on their first sessions. I believe that some will benefit from it but not all and it's not necessary (pls note I'm not calling it neither good nor bad).

The dynamism of BJJ makes it so hard to grasp at first contact. BJJ is all-powerful. Submissions or not. Our beginner sessions don't have free rolls. We drill positional and transitional techniques and then maybe a sub. We go thru the important postures and pressures and the possibilities that can come out of them, then we drill them against resistance. Yesterday's session was side control escapes. There was a new guy who had zero athletic background and by the end of that session, he could get out from under the side control of bigger, stronger opponents. How do I know that for sure? Because he demonstrated it against several fully resisting partners of various weights and shapes.

If that doesn't make him come back, no welcome nor anything else will!

Anonymous said...

@ Georgette,

The welcome does happen at Relson Gracie, just not on every student. It's easy to determine who needs it and who doesn't. Make no mistake about it. When a new student enters the academy and brings fire and brimstone with him, he is "politely" put in check by someone from the higher ranks. No, we don't call it a "welcome", but it happens all the same.

Georgette said...

I think, given the additional context I've read, that it sounds a lot more reasonable now. Thanks everyone especially Allie, Ben and Thomas :)

I'm a smaller female, so usually I don't get noobs going full bore on purpose (or who want to prove BJJ is no big deal)-- thus I never have to deal out any no-harm beatdowns as demonstrations of the effectiveness of BJJ. Nor am I apparently aware of them happening, except for maybe the type of instance I referenced in my blog post.

(I do get guys who think they're being chill and accidentally turn into rabid pit bulls. As a result, I am often, as Thomas put it, blitzed and playing catch up. My approach has never been to turn up the heat from the start, since I feel that just puts gas on the fire. But that's me, as I know that even with a two-year technique advantage, it's extremely unlikely I'll be able to submit a 180-lb man. Protecting myself and getting to a dominant position is not a problem though.)

I only quibble with one assertion-- "You need to consider that when new people come in they have no concept of the art that goes into BJJ. They feel like if they didn't tap then they won." I only object to this as a broad generalization. I never felt that way, but I can see that in individual instances when someone IS espousing such an opinion, like the locker-room wrestlers, then they need to be taught respect.

:) :)

Georgette said...

Further reflection: When it's a noob without ego, it's a different matter. I think a lot has to do with the attitude of the individual, and even the culture of the school and what kind of student it attracts. Not saying you guys attract monsters or anything-- but seems like we hardly ever get those kind of people who are testing the validity of jits; instead we get super enthusiastic, high energy guys-- they're dangerous because of their eagerness, but they have already "bought in" to the system. So they need more of a slow, mellow approach to avoid fanning the flames, so to speak :)

leslie said...

I think most schools have a "welcome" of some type, though I don't think most are articulated as thoroughly as this one or have the history. I think it should like Allie described -- a "here, let me show you the range of jiu-jisu" type roll and a gentle but thorough education on when and how to tap. Not a "bully beatdown" in the least. Most guys are probably "welcomed" without even realizing it.

And I think most "welcomes" are scaled according to the individual who's visiting. For me, it was simply gently tipping me over several times while I tried to pass guard like he'd showed me. I was greatly amused at my complete inability to do anything. But then, I came in knowing that I knew nothing and was ready to learn. Too many guys don't; they come in to test themselves or prove themselves, and so they get a different experience than I did -- lots of pressure and lots of tapping.

BJJ Cailín said...

I think Georgette was looking at this from a very feminine point of view. Women tend to want to be nice to each other and help other women ease into new situations. Most men on the otherhand will not even want to train at a gym if they didn't feel like they got their butts kicked on the first day. And who can blame them? Why would you even bother to pay to learn jiu-jitsu if you didn't feel completely helpless the first time you tried it?

I think Leslie described it pretty well. The "welcome" exists at almost every school, but you will feel varying degrees of it based on your individual athletic and personality traits which come out in your rolls. Some people need to receive something similar to a bully beatdown. Others need what Leslie described in her experience, and most need something somewhere in the middle of those two.

Trust me, you wouldn't want to train at a gym where a welcome didn't exist because that would mean no one is making the dangerous explosive guys calm down by teaching them how to train hard in a safe and controlled way.

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