The first installment of this series will focus on the closed guard. Closed guard is covered in DVD 1 and is available as two separate apps at iTunes: Closed Guard Defense & Closed Guard Attacks (the content in the Apps and DVDs is identical). Closed Guard Defense covers techniques ranging from the often-forgotten details with acquiring posture to defense maneuvers for several submissions. This app/portion of the DVD is ~40 minutes long. Closed Guard Attacks covers techniques beginning with the most basic of simply breaking posture and evolving into more advanced offensive techniques, such as the over hook armbar rodado. This app/portion of the DVD is over an hour long and is contains 25 lessons. Without giving too much away the overhook series was more than worth the price and was immediately useful to me.
Why do we like it?
For one, unlike many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mobile apps, this one is based off of the training philosophy of a highly decorated black belt. For those who do not know, Caio Terra is credited with having one of the fastest rises to black belt, and as a multi-time world champion, he backs it up. As a rooster-weight Caio is known to have impeccable techique and an attention to detail while teaching.
Second, and this is a huge one--the production quality of Caio's app is second-to-none. Mobile Black Belt LLC, who produced the video, pulled out all of the best practices of video production. For those of you who have viewed jiu-jitsu instructionals previously, I am sure you would describe the typical production somewhere along the lines of an instructor demonstrating the technique in the middle of a matted area (oftentimes nearly going out of frame), with subpar video and audio quality. And while most make the effort to demonstrate techniques from multiple angles, the camera often remains stationary and zoomed out to a fixed focal length, while they merely rotate their bodies to show various angles. The primary implication of all of this is that you often miss crucial details--which, in jiu-jitsu, can be the determining factor between successfully pulling off a technique or not.
Modern JJ is produced in a professional studio that eliminates all visual distractions and naturally draws your attention to Caio and his partner. The video is clearly shot in HD (which is absolutely gorgeous on Apple's Retina displays). The video effectively zooms, pans, rotates, and uses slow motion to demonstrate intricacies of techniques. The use external microphones provide a level of realism not apparent in other jiu-jitsu instructionals. You hear everything from the friction of the two gis rubbing against one another to the tap at the successful completion of a technique. The extremely high level of realism that naturally engages the viewer. The quality of the iTunes app and the DVD is identical and the only difference is the portability that you’re able to get from using an iPad/iPod/iPhone.
Third, Caio effectively builds on each prior technique in a logical sequence. For example, in the Closed Guard Attacks app, Caio demonstrates a double ankle sweep and minutes later, demonstrates how to transition from a double ankle sweep to an armbar. The implication of this is that you can practice one technique before logically progressing onto Caio's next variation or combination. The presentation also lends itself well to chaining techniques together.
Finally, this is available as a mobile app and you always have access to your jiu-jitsu techniques. I cannot begin to tell you how many instructional books I have ruined from sweat and simply transporting them in my gym bag. Since nearly everyone has a mobile phone, this app allows you to effectively view techniques before, during, or after class--keeping everything fresh in your mind.
How would we make it better?
The app, in its current form, is an instructional video in an app form. MobileBB has the opportunity to leverage the iOS platform a bit more. One way of doing so is to take a lesson from jiu-jitsu applications, like iBJJ. iBJJ, for example, leverages the iOS platform by allowing a viewer to progress through each individual step of techniques with text transcriptions. This feature allows you to more easily get the gist of a technique, as opposed to being forced to watch several minutes of Caio's technique--which is good when learning, but may not be the best when you need a quick refresher. Also, iBJJ allows the viewer to reverse angles (good for seeing the technique from the non-dominant side) and adapt the speed of playback.
iOS apps are occasionally updated to provide new functionality. While it is yet to be seen if this is or is not the case, the app developers should consider further expansion of techniques over time. This is yet another way the app could truly show value over its DVD counterparts--an ever-expanding library of Caio's techniques. I’d also like to see an Android compatible version in the future. With the advent of the Kindle Fire and other Android based tablets there is a market for apps in platforms other than iOS.
The iTunes apps are $14.99 (Defense) and $24.99 (Attacks) and the Closed Guard DVD is $44.95. This price puts in firmly in the typical range for most instructional DVDs and at over 1½ hours of content it’s longer than many similarly priced instructionals. The production value, level of detail and techniques covered are all excellent and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone in the white to blue belt range. Reviews on the other DVDs in the set will be posted periodically so keep an eye out for them. Finally, I want to thank one of my training partners, LaMarcus Bolton, for helping me with this review.