When Gracie snake oil salesmanship meets actual Capitalists

Discussion in 'Cageside - MMA Discussion' started by Kneeblock, May 12, 2019.

  1. Filthy

    Filthy Too dumb to win, too tough to Ignore

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  2. Never_Rolled

    Never_Rolled Dad motherfucker of the planet

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    So did anyone actually watch Shark Tank? I know they got picked but in for details. I’m not a fan of the Gracie kaka but they are really nice well made hoodies. That’s all I give a shit about.
     
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  3. Kneeblock

    Kneeblock Jumbo shrimp

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    The response you've just given me I've read a minimum of five times on various forums over the last several years. That says something. I'm not suggesting you're reading from a script, but that there has been a built in narrative that the Combatives program has used to insulate itself from criticism since it started. I ask that you suspend your disbelief regardless of the benefits you may have gotten from their program and whatever successes you've gone on to enjoy. I ask you to entertain the idea that Gracie Torrance, like any company, have exercised careful stewardship of its brand and its product. As the principal owners of the Gracie jiu jitsu brand, everything they've done is within their rights, but what happened about 20 years ago was a radical reinvention and reassertion of what BJJ meant and was for.

    The change goes back further to when Rorion first began marketing jiu jitsu in the US and advancing an alternative history of the art that centered his father and brothers. But in 1998, when Wallid faced Royce, it changed Rorion's calculus. He began to focus more on his school's ability to prepare people for total combat. The Sakuraba fight with Royce (and prior to him Royler) changed things even more. As Gracie Barra started to expand around the world under Carlinhos and Carlson, Carlinhos and Helio's lineage had all been beaten by Sakuraba, Rorion had to shift to a new business model. By that time he already had a few videos on the market, made in the same mold as TMA self defense videos that you would get from places like Panther Productions. He smartly followed the TMA self defense mold instead of the technique mold like many other MMA and BJJ players were doing.

    This was now the way the Gracie Academy marketed itself. That's why it was partly a shock when these two kids started showing up to tournaments in their gi and actually doing well. That was Ryron and Rener in the early 2000s. Once they came of age, the academy had a way to make people think they were back on the map in all areas. But they were so confident that they had their first tournament closed door and ended up losing to Travis Lutter. Suddenly all promises to make the footage available stopped and the event was never released to market. They competed a little more, but mostly reverted to this "keep it playful" survival oriented narrative for good right around that time.

    I'm sure you know a lot of this already, but what's significant is that over that time from 98-2008 let's say, the Gracies had accomplished a process of redefining their brand. Where Gracie Barra sold competition success and other gyms sold MMA training, they focused on self defense. Now on the face of it, there's nothing wrong with that. Many TMAs rest on this model and self defense has always been a significant part of the Gracie program's history. But in order to sell self defense, you have to systematize it. The more formulaic it is, theoretically the more reproducible it is. This is the logic behind putting it online. It's a systematic collection of moves and they generally are logically sequenced in a way that's easy to follow. I used to use them myself to teach self defense. They work well enough for very particular goals.

    The thing is that jiu jitsu's theory of knowledge had historically never had a system of evaluation that was solely predicated on formulaic mastery. There was a particular theoretical basis of evaluation, heavily acknowledged throughout academies in Brazil and elsewhere that had been the dominant paradigm for years. This was based on BJJ being a contact sport where you were evaluated for an ability to actually practice it with a degree of fluency while also being able to perform certain techniques.

    Now the thing is, the Gracies were free to depart from that paradigm. Gracie Barra and Torrance both started doing more traditional assessments at about the same time. At Barra, it was mostly Flavio Almeida who standardized their curriculum while at Torrance it was Rener and Ryron although Rorion had set the groundwork well before. Throughout this period, they were often condemned by their uncles and cousins, but weathered it. Eventually they even mostly came together with their uncles at least.

    So this whole line that you're telling me about self defense and the diet and fundamentals has been rehearsed by many people over the years. In Lloyd Irvin's case, back before he was doing the billionaire crap, he was doing the Grappler's Blueprint which was another MLM scheme. And the first thing his students would say is "well, how much do you know about it?" Because whenever someone is overvaluing a product, they always rely on experiential knowledge as the only qualified way of understanding, which of course turns all of the customers into de facto salespeople. It's an old trick in marketing and one of the most reliable.

    So the language and tone used even to talk about these products is seeped in persuasion. Rener, like Lloyd is always selling when speaking to the public, even when doing technique breakdowns. It's his kind of "teaching tone" that he adopts to make you feel like he's empathetic to your desire to learn and to the complexity of what he's explaining. Honestly he's great at it and I'm sure learning from him, whether in person or on video feels fantastic, but it is also at a premium and there's always more product to buy, as they're virtually doing lifestyle marketing these days as much as self defense.

    Also the price point of their instruction means most people they're teaching have a pretty low probability of ever even encountering violence unless they go looking for it, which was a consistent problem in Southern California back in the 90s, especially with some of Rickson's students. It's also been a problem in New York in the past with some of Renzo's people before they went back to being an elite competition gym. When you're basically teaching rich kids to be tough, you're selling them more of a self help product. Again, this is fine, as they can do what they want with it. The online program is more for a middle class consumer and is in the same genre as DDP yoga or Pilates. It can yield some results for some, but the mean will tend to get little as they're just exercising disposable income. They also marketed it to TMA gym owners which caused a significant outcry as BJJ rightly felt people would misrepresent themselves. There are combatives people all over the world who have falsely claimed to teach Mixed Martial Arts now or something equally dubious, but I understand that the political economy of the sector requires certain skills to retain relevance. Torrance understood that too, better than most. But as I said, they've walked back this approach and made their curriculum more comprehensive.

    For more on the history of BJJ evaluation and Rorion's rhetorical turn, it's worth reading Roberto Pedreira's Choque books, Reila Gracie's Carlos Gracie: Inventor of a Dynasty, John Danaher and Renzo's Mastering Jiu Jitsu, a lot of excellent coverage on the matter by BJJE and pretty much the past two decades of most of the major forums.
     
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  4. Dick Niaz

    Dick Niaz days like today scattered amongst the rest

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    Can you break this up into chapters so we can pace ourselves? Thanks! ;)
     
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  5. SCADA

    SCADA Well-Known Member

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    The patents will be the value...but even then the multiple is crazy with only $500k in sales. The deal he got was a fair deal...he should be happy he landed Laurie.....she will sell the shit out of it on QVC.
     
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  6. Thuglife13

    Thuglife13 TMMAC Grand Poobah

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    Best part about Shark Tank...

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Filthy

    Filthy Too dumb to win, too tough to Ignore

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    Thanks for taking the time to put together such a well-considered post. I've been travelling for work, and I wanted to give this a worthy response. First, let me say that the fact that you've read the same response could be due to an inherent narrative, or it could be based on commonality of experience. And if use a big enough net, you can catch Rener and Lloyd at the same time, but you're also going to catch all of martial arts instruction and marketing.

    With regard to the history, I'm well aware of how Helio and Carlos washed George and Oswaldo from the BJJ history books. And that's not even counting what they did to Franca and Fadda. Helio and Carlos were never the best fighters in the family, but they (like their father) were the best promoters. But you can go back to 1919 to find them promoting their style as the superior self-defense system. Originally, they marketed it's superiority by challenging other practitioners to 1:1 challenge matches, or school vs school matches. The very root and stem of their BJJ teaching and competing is from the self-defense reference frame. Even Carlos's initial involvement in judo/jj was from watching Maeda do all-comer challenge matches at his father's circus. The Helio-Rorion-Ryron/Rener line has always sold the self-defense. So has Relson. There was never a trophy case or wall of medals on Carson or Artesia, that was never their pitch. Rickson and Royler took the branches of MMA and sportive tournaments, that was never Rorion - he was cut from the same promoter cloth as Helio.

    But all self-defense training is a poor investment in safety. If you're legitimately worried about SD, you should take your $100/month and move to a nicer neighborhood. Or buy a gun. Inasmuch as you train self-defense, you should really only train the 20% of possible situations that make up 80% of actual encounters. But that doesn't keep people coming back, so you see 60 year old women being taught rifle-disarms. But it's the business. What's also the business in the modern age is the 'lifestyle/influencer' model, which is basically a MLM of Social Relevance. I see Ryron and Rener moving in that direction - especially with Ryron selling "Jiu Jitsu Lifestyle Summits" and Rener branching out in to a clothing line. I do think that the Combatives/WE programs do a much better job of getting the maximum number of people to the minimum competency required to survive most violent confrontations. So while all of self-defense training is a farce, GU is the least farcical about it.

    I agree that all of self-defense/TMA is selling a self-help product which does very little to help the actual problem - but it does everything to fix how the customer feels about the problem. And that's what they're really paying for. It's not that they're more safe, because there's not a lot you can do to make yourself safer...it's that they feel more safe.

    But just because Rener and Lloyd (and everyone in the industry) is selling treatment and not a cure, doesn't mean that their methods are equally unethical. The difference between Rener and Lloyd is the difference between influence and manipulation. Rener is offering a product/service, and he's up front about what he's selling and why you need it. Lloyd is doing the MLM/tiered value/false scarcity BS, and always has - whether it's the Blueprint to students or the Billionaire to gym owners. Rener tells people "In exchange for your money, I will teach you to reflexively execute a finite set of techniques which will improve your ability to defend yourself, and will improve your overall levels of self-confidence and fitness." Lloyd is doing a bait-and-switch value proposition, with a contractual consequence. Rorion's Gracie Diet doesn't work the way they say it works, but it's not detrimental to health. Does it matter if the positive health benefits consumers initially experience are from being diet-conscious and not from the pH of their blood? I find it distasteful, as the science is out on diet/blood pH, but people are getting what they pay for and without detriment. I think the 'without detriment' is important and distinguishes things like the Gracie Diet and SD programs from things like pyschics and spiritual advisers. But there's some parallels. :)

    for further reading, I recommend you read the waiver
    and sign it.

    :leftright:
    :cheers:

    I think we agree on most of it, and Rener's pitch doesn't appeal to me. But that doesn't make it unethical.
    Lloyd is highly unethical, in business and in life.
     
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  8. Kneeblock

    Kneeblock Jumbo shrimp

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    Great post. Agree on pretty much all of it. I guess I wasn't so much trying to say they were ethically the same as much as rhetorically similar. But you bring up some excellent points of distinction and obviously know what you're talking about.

    If I'm ever in town, first round of watermelon juice is on me.
     
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  9. Filthy

    Filthy Too dumb to win, too tough to Ignore

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    Same to you, what's your town?
    my town is PHX.
    But I'm in PDX, LA, and SF on the regular for work.
     
  10. Shang Tsong2

    Shang Tsong2 Prince Phillip is a GoD
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  11. Wild

    Wild TMMAC's Most Handsome Admin
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    This dude could sell ice to eskimos.
     
  12. Wild

    Wild TMMAC's Most Handsome Admin
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  13. SCADA

    SCADA Well-Known Member

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    Every fukin episode, bro.
     
  14. SCADA

    SCADA Well-Known Member

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    She looks like a lousy lay.....and that would be a step down from Eva.
     
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  15. Filthy

    Filthy Too dumb to win, too tough to Ignore

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    Eve's a legit purple, probably brown at a lot of schools, and she has two kids with Rener...she'd wreck shop on Lori and take every penny Rener was ever going to make.

    He'd be pitching Qik-Flip oranges on a 405 off-ramp while Lori learned to feed herself again.
    :cool:
     
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  16. SCADA

    SCADA Well-Known Member

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    So you agree. Got it.
     
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  17. ejlarson

    ejlarson I like chicken

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    That is one of the most absurd comments ever, and about 0.0% true. "I see people dropping their hoodies into puddles everywhere I go these days."

    I have never in 48 years seen someone drop a hoodie in a puddle. Since you made that claim, please take videos with your phone and post them. It'll be easy since it happens to you all the time.

    Right...
     
  18. Thuglife13

    Thuglife13 TMMAC Grand Poobah

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  19. Masato Toys

    Masato Toys Well-Known Member

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    I think Rener should fuck you up just for saying that.

    Why else do you think the fuck he invented it if it wasn't a legit social problem in society? Maybe you've never been to Brazil bro, excuse me for stepping on your first world red carpet land with your non-droppable hoodies and puddle-free streets. Rener is already wealthy via his family Jiu Jitsu name and all the YouTubes he makes, he doesn't need the cash, he's doing this out of the goodness of his heart. You must think he's really stupid to be selling something that no one needs.

    Or what are YOU inventing to make the world a better place?

    I'd like to hear.,
     
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  20. Filthy

    Filthy Too dumb to win, too tough to Ignore

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    mix the Kool-Aid with watermelon juice. It's called free-basing.

    just stop snorting the Kool-Aid in powder form.

    :D
     
  21. Yossarian

    Yossarian Posting Machine

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    Agreed. And also, when is the final season.
     
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  22. blank

    blank Posting Machine

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    legitimately made me chuckle; cheers to you! :cheers:
     
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