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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

07 March 2015

Website Review - EstimaInAction (Braulio Estima)

Short Review: In an interesting move, the MGinAction platform has been applied to another high level black belt, this time Braulio Estima. It therefore has the same features as MGinAction, giving you full access to the jiu jitsu of an elite competitor. As with MGinAction, that means you have a range of learning options, such as 'drilling', 'discussion' and 'in action'. The same variety of playback options are present too, including 'mirror image', several speeds and full-screen.

A minor downside is that due to the Gracie Barra uniform rules (listen to Aesopian's balanced podcast on the topic for more information on that), instructor and uke are often wearing the same colour and even the exact same gear, making it harder to distinguish limbs. Also, as with MGinAction, the database is built from class footage, so there are rarely multiple angles. In keeping with its parent site, membership will currently set you back $25, here.

Full Review: This the first time I've seen an instructional model from one BJJ website being applied wholesale to another, which speaks to the success of the MGinAction platform. It would also appear to be administrated and organised by the same team (or at least, part of the same team), given that the person who asked me to do this review did so from an address. I'm not sure how much collaboration there is between the two sites or what the business arrangement was, but there is no difference in the technology, as far as I can tell.

The main two points of contrast are firstly that EstimaInAction is much newer than Marcelo Garcia's site, meaning it is smaller. Having said that, it is growing fast. At the time of writing, EstimaInAction has roughly 2000 videos in its database: just as with MGinAction, a significant proportion of those are 'in action' clips, rather than full instructional videos. To be specific, as of the 1st March 2015, there were 1960 videos in total, of which 433 were instructional videos (split between 32 'fundamental' and 401 'advanced'), along with 1334 'in action', 182 'sparring', 9 'drills' and 2 'discussion' (for more on what those labels mean, see my MGinAction review). Comparing that to what it looked like on the 2nd February gives you an idea of how the site tends to grow. Back then, there were 30 fundamentals and 348 advanced instructional videos, along with 1194 in action and 162 sparring. The drills and discussion videos haven't changed, 9 and 2 respectively.

The second major difference is that rather than Marcelo Garcia, Braulio Estima guides the viewer through his jiu jitsu game. Right now, it will indeed be Braulio rather than somebody from his teaching staff. All of the videos I watched over the last five weeks have featured Braulio, in contrast to my review of MGinAction. That could indicate that Braulio will continue to lead all the videos, but I would assume it is more likely that as the site expands, other instructors will begin to pop up. That's just an assumption on my part though: it would be interesting to know if MGinAction also began with 100% Marcelo, to build interest in the site.

A third possible difference - though as I haven't looked at MGinAction since 2012, this may no longer be the case - is that EstimaInAction reflects the fact that Braulio's game includes a lot more gi specific material and 'modern' (for want of a better word) guardwork compared to Marcelo Garcia. The complexity of open guard is well represented, ranging from koala guard to galaxy guard. I have little idea what either of those refers to, though I could guess, but regardless it shows you just how much breadth the site can offer. The granularity of the categorisation, as with MGinAction, is considerable.

I should note that I have trained at Braulio's school myself (though quite a few years ago now), so can attest to the excellent instruction available from both the champ himself as well as people not called Braulio Estima. Dónal, the co-founder of my own school, Artemis BJJ, is another Gracie Barra Birmingham product and it's where I first met him. He has had plenty of influence on my game. A lot of the people I remember from 2010 appear in the 2015 video content (generally a belt or two up), though the school itself has changed location since I used to commute over from Leamington Spa.

Incidentally, this is also the first time I've seen an online instructional site from the UK. Hopefully there will be more, given that we're blessed with a number of very high level black belts in this country (along with Braulio, Roger Gracie and his father Mauricio Gomes are arguably the most obvious examples).

February at Artemis BJJ was all about half guard, so that was my focus while testing EstimaInAction. Braulio's approach had an instant impact, as his basic half guard (referred to on the site as 'closed half guard') uses something Braulio calls an arm shield. Rather than the 'paw' method I've used in the past (and it turned out Braulio uses it too, in later videos), you put your hand on your forehead. That creates a tight frame, perfect for diving in low to go for the toe grab sweep and entries into deep half guard.

I was pleased with the results, keeping me safe from cross-facing in the specific sparring sections of class. Even techniques I wouldn't normally adopt had an effect. For example, despite initially thinking it was too complex and awkward for me, I found myself using Braulio's method for the waiter sweep several times during the GrappleThon, demonstrating that the video was sufficiently well taught and clearly explained that it seeped into my game without me realising.

Helpfully when an EstimaInAction video is part of a series, links to the other parts are included in the description at the bottom. Those follow-ups are not always what you might expect, though. The first video I watched was on basic half guard principles, blocking the cross face. It was part one of two, so I expected the second part to be something similarly fundamental. However, part two was in fact a transition into a kneebar, something I'd class as advanced (especially as Braulio mentions this is a dangerous technique that requires control, due to torque on the leg).

That is quite common, but in fairness these videos are under the 'advanced' label. Another example started off with an ankle grab sweep, which switches into that aforementioned waiter sweep from deep half, finishing with a kneebar during part two. Although it didn't always fit with my game, I still like that there was frequently a connected series of videos rather than just one. It's essential to have options if your first attempt doesn't work as you'd hoped. This sequential arrangement is my favourite aspect of the site, I think.

Techniques are often combined, but generally not to the extent that I remember from MGinAction. That is probably due to the way the techniques are split out into parts. When I was testing MGinAction in late 2012, it was all in the one video, leading to mammoth titles like 'Single Leg Takedown, Sit Out vs Sprawl, Whip-Under Sweep from Half Guard, Ankle Pick Sweep from Half Guard'. Several years down the line, it could well be that MGinAction has chopped those up into manageable chunks.

Having said that, there are still some monster video titles on EstimaInAction, even when the videos are split into multiple parts. For example, 'X Pass, Step Around and Backstep Pass & Shin Shield Pass vs Butterfly Guard, Side Control to Back Control — Passing Butterfly Guard Seminar, Part 3/14'. Terminology is another problem, with titles like 'Folding Pass Bait from De La Riva Guard, DLR to Anaconda Guard and Sucuri Sweep, Shin-in Sweep.' I have no idea what a 'Sucuri Sweep' is and I'm not too sure on 'folding pass' either. Of course, that's also a general BJJ problem and therefore impacts all the instructional sites I've tested, including my favourite, BJJ Library.

The same helpful video controls from MGinAction have been carried over to EstimaInAction, with zoom, mirror and several slow motion settings. Less helpfully, both Braulio and his partner often wear the same colour gi or the same rash guard and shorts. This makes it harder to distinguish limb from limb, especially with complex techniques that involve a lot of arm and leg entanglement. As Braulio teaches under the Gracie Barra banner and (AFAIK) implements the full GB rules (although the sparring videos feature at least one non-GB gi), putting severe restrictions on what equipment you can wear. That means that Braulio and his partner sometimes wear not just similar colours, but indistinguishable gear.

I can understand why that has to be the case, given that Braulio is a leading light of Gracie Barra. EstimaInAction also prominently has an "Endorsed by Gracie Barra" logo down the bottom right, so I'm sure GB HQ would be unimpressed if Gracie Barra gear was not on display. There is at least one example of what may be Gracie Barra's strangest rule, which states that even when training nogi you have to wear your belt. However, I only saw that in a single video out of the many I watched, so perhaps that rule has since been sensibly set aside for the purposes of practicality.

The search facility on the right of the screen gives you the option of looking for videos that are gi, nogi or either. It also has an 'opponent' section, where you can choose both belt level and weight: this presumably only applies to the sparring videos. The total number of videos is not yet at the level of MGinAction, so often your search won't return any results. For example, looking at my own purple belt featherweight category, nothing came up. However, black belt featherweight returned 31 in action videos and 3 sparring. The description handily told me the name of the gentleman in the sparring video I watched, Ronnie Mann.

Black belt heavyweight again resulted in 3 (all with the same unnamed opponent, this time), including a 'specific training' example where Braulio worked on side control. Mostly the title just says 'gi training' or 'no gi training'. Unfortunately there is not currently a categorisation for positional sparring, but perhaps that will be added in future. I for one would find it useful to be able to look at, for example, all the specific sparring videos from the back. Adding narration would be especially cool, but that's a tall order considering the number of videos involved.

If the opponent is well-known, they are generally mentioned in the title. Like everyone else, the person I immediately looked for upon discovering this section was Roger Gracie, who I know does train regularly with Braulio. Typing his name into the search box brings up two sparring videos with the legend (at his academy rather than GB Brum), but sadly there is no sound. That's a shame, as they do stop and discuss technique at certain points. I assume they speak to each other in their native Portuguese, but I'd still be interested to hear it, as naturally would anybody who - unlike me - is fluent in the language.

When looking at any video, you will also get 'research suggestions' to the right (there is a 'my research suggestions' link at the top too), which as far as I can tell develops based on the videos you watch. For example, when I did a search for 'tripod sweep' and clicking on an 'in action' tripod sweep from spider guard video, the database also pointed me towards 'foot on the biceps from spider guard', 'sleeve and collar grip from spider guard' and 'Setup_Angled leg lift from spider guard'.

I can click on the 'in action' or instructional selections, or 'view all'. Next to 'in action', I can also 'load to queue'. That means a new window pops up (I can move it around the screen if I want, go to full screen or close it), where all of the short 'in action' videos run one after the other. There's a similar section for 'related material' underneath the research suggestions box. There's a 'MyPage' section as well, where you can organise your favourite EstimaInAction videos into customisable folders for later viewing.

It felt like the difference between 'fundamental' and 'advanced' was clearer on EstimaInAction than MGinAction, at least judging by the videos I watched. Unfortunately (if understandably) there is no option to download the videos, so you have to have an active internet connection: to date, the only instructional site I've seen that offers an inbuilt download option is the Grapplers Guide, much to Jason Scully's credit.

If you like MGinAction, then I'm sure you'll also be happy with EstimaInAction. It's a good move for the MGinAction team, as Braulio's style is quite different to Garcia's, with a lot more gi-specific material for a start (unlike Marcelo, Braulio clearly does not subscribe to the view that his entire game has to be applicable in both gi and nogi). That means the proven MGinAction model can now cater to a broader range of BJJ interests.

So, the plus points of MGinAction pretty much all apply to EstimaInAction, which given the impressive technology are significant. Even though it is comparatively new, the database is still fairly big and expanding rapidly. The 'in action' facility is a great way to get deeper into a technique you're interested in learning, though it is not as useful as MGinAction yet, because frequently a technique you can see in action does not have a corresponding instructional video.

As with any instructional site, you need to decide if you have the time, money and inclination to sign up to a monthly subscription. The main pre-requisites for the site to be of any use are a consistent internet connection and a computer with sufficient specs to run the videos (they worked fine on my laptop from 2008, indicating the site doesn't need a particularly swish computer to work), which most people have. More importantly, you need a willingness to do some serious research into technique, which rather less people possess. For those who do, EstimaInAction will richly reward your attention. You can sign up here, setting you back $25 a month.

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