Jiu-Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro Review

17 01 2011

Jiu-Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro with Kevin Howel Review

Publisher: Victory Belt Publishing

Retail: $39.95  (Barnes & Noble.com – $26.33)

Format: Paperback – 368 Pages

I want to start out by saying that for the longest time I never really thought much of instructional jiu-jitsu books. I honestly didn’t see how a book could really help you learn all that much when it came to jiu-jitsu. However, I have long changed that mindset and for the last year and a half I have loved learning from different forms of media, especially printed material. Now, to the topic at hand: Jiu-Jitsu University was actually my second instructional book to own, with the first being The X-Guard by Marcelo Garcia.  I first heard about this book through the grapevine online and soon went out in search of it. I found it at a local Barnes & Noble book store and started flipping through it and immediately knew that it was a book I had to add to my library.

The Organization

Starting off the book, Saulo first has an introduction section which details his jiu-jitsu story, how the book is organized, and what he feels are the important aspects that one should know before venturing on into the vast ocean of techniques that his book has to offer. I must say that out of every book I own, Jiu-Jitsu University is BY FAR the best organized. Saulo did a very good job of breaking the book up into 5 distinct sections. These sections correspond to, in Saulo’s eyes, the belt levels and what one should know and master at each belt level. He begins each section with an introduction discussing the section and why he feels that topic is important at that specific stage of your jiu-jitsu training. In most cases, he even shows examples of why that section is important along with world class practitioners who exemplify that specific area of jiu-jitsu.

The Sections

White Belt – Survival

In the white belt section titled Survival, Saulo goes through many basic survival positions. The section is meant to show one just starting out in jiu-jitsu how to properly defend themselves from multiple positions that they will most certainly find themselves in. The topics include survival from the side mount, mount, and back mount. Probably the highlight of the section, and the book for that matter, is that Saulo not only shows and discusses the proper details to performing each technique, but he also shows common misconceptions and what not to do in each position. This provides a tremendous aid in learning the proper method for using each of his techniques. Overall I found this section to be of great use to anyone starting off in their jiu-jitsu training.

Blue Belt – Escapes

In the blue belt section titled Escapes, Saulo reveals his methods to escaping nearly every bad position that one could possibly find themselves in. He utilizes numerous details that are very important that other media comes up short on. Again, however, my favorite part of this section is not his details, which are great, but that he shows you what are some good things not to do when trying the escapes. Most of the escapes are ones that I use myself, however he does show multiple escapes from each position. I guarantee this to be most beneficial to beginners because it provides you with multiple solutions to different situations which allows the individual to decide which one is best for them. Overall, I found the Escapes section a very intuitive and necessary portion to add to anyone’s jiu-jitsu arsenal.

Purple Belt – The Guard

The purple belt section titled The Guard is a complete section on the guard. Saulo goes through many different kinds of guards throughout the entire section. He starts off with the most fundamental, the closed guard, and then progresses to others such as the half guard, butterfly guard, spider guard, and De La Riva guard. Saulo shows the most techniques from the closed guard and then only a few of each of the other guards. Obviously, he builds everything up from the fundamentals of jiu-jitsu and then shows a few basic techniques from each of the slightly more advanced positions. However, one position that he does not show any work from, which is a real suprise, is the the x-guard. He does show how to pass the x-guard in the next section, but he does not explain any work from the x-guard. This is one of if not the only problem with this book. The x-guard is a crucial guard form to know and even though it is not really for beginners, it is still important for people to know its out there and a few of its basic applications. Overall this is a great section to the book. The way Saulo builds it up from the closed guard all the way to more advanced guard systems is really quite innovative. I only wish he would show more advanced techniques from the advanced guard systems, but then the book would be too heavy to pick up.

Brown Belt – Guard Passing

The brown belt section is titled Guard Passing and is close to the exact opposite of the previous section. Saulo introduces the art of guard passing and discusses the implications of perfecting such a portion of one’s game. Again, he begins with the fundamentals of of guard passing by passing the closed guard. Saulo shows several fundamental passes to the closed guard and then again moves on to passing the more advanced guard systems. He again shows at least one way to pass the half guard, butterfly guard, spider guard, and the De La Riva guard. Unlike the guard portion though, he does show how to pass the x-guard. I believe I have already made my thoughts on that clear. All in all I would say that this is probably one of the best parts of the book. He does not show too many advanced passes, but in retrospect, 99% of the time in my experience, the fundamental passes are what work the best.

Black Belt – Submissions

Finally, the last section is denoted the black belt section and is titled Submissions. Saulo starts off again with a great introduction on why he has chosen the submission as his black belt section. He builds up his entire book with one funamental principle: postition before submission. He discusses that only after you have an understanding of the other aspects of jiu-jitsu should you begin to focus on the submission. Much like the previous sections, Saulo starts off with submissions from the basic positions: closed guard, side mount, mount, and the back mount. He shows your fundamental submissions i.e. the x-choke or cross collar choke, arm bar, triangle, etc. There is nothing fancy in this section:  just all great, solid fundamentals. Overall this section is great for what it is, but it does not show anything that you would not expect someone to know after training for four to six months. However, it is great to have handy in case you forget any of those minor details that make or break a technique. Also, much like with the guard passing, 99% of the time it is the fundamentals that work the best.

The Techniques

In each different section described above, Saulo does a great job of explaining each technique. His teaching style is perfectly suited for instructional media such as books or videos. I really like the fact that he points out a great deal of little details that from my experience make or break a technique. He usually will place importance on those little details such as hip placement or grips. The techniques overall, much like mentioned in the previous section, are not on the advanced side of the spectrum. Saulo does show some advanced systems, but only the very basic attacks from each of those positions. The book is essentially all good, solid fundamentals. To be 100% honest, after reading through the book cover to cover, I actually had knowledge of and seen every single technique taught. The greatest thing about the book though, is that if you ever forget any little detail about any of your fundamentals, you simply have to pick it up and flip to the right page.

The other great part about the techniques in this book I have already previously mentioned and that is the sections following most of the techniques where Saulo displays common misconceptions and what not to do. Though I do not personally agree with all of them, I do understand why he mentions each one. This is an invaluable resource to anyone just starting out. Forming bad habits early is the worst thing that you can do in jiu-jitsu because then they become hard to break. With these helpful hints, avoiding the common bad habits becomes far more likely. Overall the techniques in the book are great fundamentals, but they are just that: fundamentals. You will not find any high flying, stylish moves here. Once again, however, it has been proven time and time again that fundamentals are what can and do make world champions.

The Visuals

One of the best parts of the book that make it so easy to learn from are the visuals. Victory Belt Publishing always does it right in this category. They generally show every single little step per technique which is accompanied by either two or three pictures from different angles. The angled shots make it very easy to follow each step down to the slightest foot placement. Each image is of great quality as well. One of the better aspects of the images is that when a certain grip or foot position is hard to notice, they make a little picture on the boarder zooming in on the specific place of interest. This is usually a grip placement or a foot placement or hook. Out of every book I own or have looked through, Victory Belt Publishing always makes great quality visuals which make learning from printed media that much easier.


After going through this book cover to cover many times, I must say it is the best book on the market for jiu-jitsu instructionals. Saulo’s teaching style compliments the book very well and  that coupled with the great visuals produced by Victory Belt creates a very high quality learning tool. The only bad things about this book, if there are any at all, is that he does not go in to very advanced techniques. He uses advanced positions, but only skims the surface of them by showing the very basic techniques. Also, he does not show any thing from the x-guard other than ways to pass it. Other than that, this book hits a home run. If I had to give it a rating, it would be 4.9 out of 5 stars: nearly perfect. I commonly refer to it as my encyclopedia of fundamentals. Fundamentals are such an important part of anyone’s jiu-jitsu game that whether you are just starting out in jiu-jitsu, or have been training for a lifetime, Jiu-Jitsu University is a must own.





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