Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Congratulations to Professor Rafael Ellwanger  

2013  Black Belt Open Class WORLD CHAMPION 

Ranked #1 Black belt in the WORLD


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique –

most notably by  applying joint-locks and chokes to defeat the other person. BJJ training is the most effective self defense martial arts in the world. Perfect martial arts for kids, teens and women.

Gracie United is headed by Professor Rafael Ellwanger in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Our students compete in sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) . However the majority of them train bjj or mma for self defense and fitness purpose. 

My name is Rafael Ellwanger and I’d like to thank you for visiting my website. I’m glad you came, because I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible to experience the benefits of our programs.

Rafael Ellwanger
Black Belt World Champion


Every BJJ academy is different and every instructor offers their own way of teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is strongly recommended that the student follow exactly as his instructor tells him to. Complete trust and attention are crucial in the development of the student’s skills and proper mindset. Your first class can be quite intimidating. You are entering a foreign space where everyone knows each other. Not only that, most people have the idea that they’re going to get ‘smashed’ for being the ‘new guy.’ Hopefully, that is not the case in your school. Respect for your fellow students and instructors should always be on the top of everyone’s list of priorities when training at your or visiting a different school. With that said, here are a few tips for beginners and even advanced Jiu-Jitsu students to keep in mind when training. Whether its your first day training or whether you’re a master Jiu-Jitsu fighter, it is important to keep these tips in mind every time you hit the mat.

  1. “Let’s have a good, clean fight!” - This one is simple but often overlooked in most gyms….have good hygiene! Don’t forget to arrive odor-free and well-groomed. This means trim your finger and toe nails, if you have long hair, put it up, and always wear deodorant. It seems very elementary to have to say this but some just don’t quite get it. Remember, you’re rolling around the mat with another person, up close and personal. You’re attempting to submit them using Jiu-Jitsu…not your body odor.
  2. Be ready! - This tip too should be self explanatory. Don’t forget to stretch and warm up before the class begins. Some instructors will have a long, enduring warm up session before class, however, not everyone does, so you shouldn’t rely on it. Rely on yourself to properly stretch and warm up even before the class begins. Not everyone’s muscles react the same to a specific set of movements. Get to know your body and how it reacts to certain actions….then start taking care of it!
  3. “Just don’t….” - A few minor don’ts to keep in mind:
  • Don’t fool yourself – Jiu-Jitsu is not an easy sport, otherwise everyone would be doing it and taking two months to earn a black belt. Know what you’re facing and prepare yourself for it. Have confidence in yourself and you will successfully excel.
  • Don’t flip out – Just like beginning a new job or sport, things can seem very overwhelming upfront. Relax…the hardest part comes first. Remind yourself that you are able to accomplish anything you set your mind to. It gets easier, trust us!
  • Don’t hurt anyone – “With great power comes great responsibility.” Knowing Jiu-Jitsu is indeed a great power because of what is capable of doing with that knowledge. However, one should not misuse it. Both in and out of the gym, Jiu-Jitsu should be meant to be used as a way of self-defense. In class, remember that you are not fighting, you are practicing. Don’t do to someone what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.
  • Don’t judge anyone on the mat by their size, gender, age, or appearance - Chances are, if you just started training, everyone is more skilled than you. Oftentimes the ‘best guy’ in the room is a girl, and the ‘biggest dog’ is the smallest guy.
  • Don’t be afraid to tap – Tapping out does not mean, “I suck at Jiu-Jitsu. Everyone is staring at me!” Tapping out simply means, “You got me this time. Let’s go again.” As in all aspects of life, there is no shame in falling down, only in not willing to get back up.

Above all else, DO leave your ego at the door (this one’s real important.)  DO be courteous. DO be friendly. DO ask questions and seek advice. That’s what the instructor is there for. They want to help you and are constantly helping you succeed, not fail. So relax! Yes, you will be nervous. That’s normal. Everyone gets nervous on their first day. Keep a positive mindset and attitude and you will see that soon enough, others will notice your skill level and begin to ask you for help.

So now that you’ve built up the courage and signed up for your first class, what can you expect? Well…as stated before, since every school is different you can expect something different from everyone. At Gracie United, almost all the classes are expected to include:

  • Functional Drills - The most important part of Jiu-Jitsu is knowing the basics. Simple movements are the foundation of Jiu-Jitsu. Each move builds on top of techniques such as “shrimp/hip escapes”, “bridges” and “triangles.” When repeated, these movements will be entered into your muscle memory giving you the ability to put all the moves together when sparring. We start class with a series of these drills traveling up and down the mat. Some are individual and some require a partner. This part could take up to an hour. We place a lot of importance on functional drilling.
  • Technique - The instructor will have everyone gather in a circle around the center of the mat. The instructor will use a partner to demonstrate a technique, breaking down each move with detailed directions. This technique will vary from a sweep, to an escape to a submission. Be sure to pay attention and make sure you understand the move. This is the time for you to ask questions so don’t be shy! After the technique is shown, break apart with your original partner and use the allotted time to practice it with your partner. The instructor will scan the room while you practice to make sure you are doing the move correctly.
  • Self Defense - These moves are designed for specific real life situations. These can build your confidence, ability to protect yourself, feel comfortable anywhere you go. The instructor will teach these types of full techniques for you to practice with your partner.