I attended “Magical” Ray Elbe’s seminar while I was in Malaysia visiting SL. The seminar was held at Sparta Muay Thai in Kuala Lumpur. The seminar was held on Thursday 26 January 2012 at 8pm and it lasted 2 hours. I did not actively participate in the seminar, because I was still recovering from my herniated disc, but I recorded the seminar, talked with Ray extensively, and learned a few new things.

The Instructor
Ray Elbe is a BJJ black belt and pro-MMA fighter. As of 3/12 his record stands at 23 wins and 11 losses, including 16 wins by submission. He’s the head MMA coach over at Tiger Muay Thai and MMA Phuket. You may remember Ray from the great blue belt activity I posted about. You can visit his Facebook site here and his blog here.

From Ray's Facebook page

The attendees
Approximately 30 students attended – 27 men and 3 women. There were mostly white belts, with a handful of blue belts, 2-3 purple belts, and several with absolutely no BJJ experience whatsoever.

That's SL in the pink ankle supports!

The seminar
I was impressed with how the seminar was run. It is clear that Ray is a professional and that this is a source of income for him. He arrived early, started on time, and stayed late. It was a well structured and smoothly run seminar. There were warm ups, drills, techniques, a game, and free rolling time.

Ray Elbe hanging out before the seminar.

The atmosphere
It was incredibly FUN! SL wrote in her seminar review: “I don’t think I’ve ever laugh this hard in a BJJ seminar before.” There was a bit of intensity about it – Ray definitely does not appreciate sluggishness nor laziness – but in a good way. At one point he said something like “Be ready to go in five seconds or we’re all doing sprawls!” They were much faster after that. He did his best to motivate the students – “If you don’t work on it, you can’t get better.” He also said that “Life’s not fair, but it’s not fair for everyone, which makes it fair” – a bit Yogi Berra, but true nonetheless.

Ray’s seminar was informal but by no means amateur. He would joke around, swear, laugh, and just flat out had a good time at his own seminar. It was clear that he enjoys what he does. Ray feels like your friend’s older brother who is joking around a lot but you’re glad to have on your side in case something goes down. He also feels like that kid who either exasperated his teachers or they loved him dearly. He would come over and joke with me on occasion and made me feel part of the group.

Why on earth do you call yourself a bully, Ray?

The techniques
Ray showed a variety of techniques, starting with the armbar. Everything built on the last technique, or was some sort of variant – there was clear, logical organization and a deliberate progression with ample time for drilling. Overall it was a tight seminar and clear that Ray was experienced and competent in the seminar format.

The methodology
Dealing with a variety of levels can be a challenge. When Ray was going through the warmups he would explain each move, and did not use the technical names. He showed how to shrimp, explaining step by step, then would go around and help people do the drills.

Ample drilling time!

This is a video of the first technique. Things I noted: the teacher voice – deliberate, loud, commanding, clear. Repetition – explanation, repetition, with short verbal phrases to aid memory. Visual focusing techniques – he had everyone sit on the same side so he had better control over what people could see and helped him better demonstrate. I also appreciated Ray’s consistency. He even had everyone clap together afterward created a nice routine, and he was maintained that throughout the seminar.

Before the seminar, I interviewed Ray, and during that time he mentioned he had gotten his degree in education – he went to school to be an elementary school teacher, but the pay wasn’t nearly close to what he was earning in MMA. In these seminars I think that Ray draws on his education background and it makes the seminars strong. He has a playfulness that would lead me to believe that kids would ADORE him, he managed his time effectively, and he demonstrates clear teaching methodology. I also appreciate a teacher who monitors his students carefully, intervening when he sees struggling students, and is actively involved in his students’ learning.

Ray demonstrating to a student the finer point of the technique they were drilling.

I also appreciated Ray’s sincerity and transparency. He shared his techniques, but also shared reasoning behind it. He shared his teacher tips, including WHY he had them all sit in one section rather than panoramic. After the seminar he asked for a show of hands as to who was serious about BJJ – nearly everyone raised their hands – he then asked who had a notebook – no one (except me). He gave a bit of a verbal smackdown to everyone and said that if they were serious they need to be active in their learning and take notes. He mentioned that if the instructor repeats something it’s probably something you should write down.

Ray won't award a blue belt if you can't clap on time. 🙂

Ray Elbe-isms
One of my favorite things about Ray are his memorable phrases. Here is a guide to some of the more colorful or interesting phrases I heard:
“Elbow fat” to describe the fleshy bits behind your elbow.
“Thumb to the sky, make him cry.”
“Bunny ears” – when you have someone in an armbar but your legs are straight up.
“Brother-sister-cousin” – armbar, triangle, omoplata.
“Rocket launcher” – describing the leg used to push yourself up.
“Climb the branch, not the twigs” – grab your leg, not your toes.
There were far too many to count. I really enjoyed the real-life language he used – it made everything more memorable.

Ray showing BJJ "Bunny Ears"

The fun
After the techniques, Ray had everyone playing a game. Sort of like a free for all dodgeball – where people can gang up on one another and if you tap you’re out. He recommended people team up and get the good people out. So they followed his advice:

The aha!
So it’s been nearly two months since I was at the seminar, and the one big AHA moment for me was what he said about open guard. If you have closed guard you can go for one submission. Essentially you must open your guard to attack. When you open your legs, they know you’re doing something, so they have to be on defense, but if your legs are closed they’re simply going to be attempting to break free. This was a big concept for me. I’m not suggesting I’m a great open guard player, but it made a lot of sense to me.

I would happily pay $50 for a Ray Elbe seminar, potentially even more. It was memorable, fun, well put together, and solid teaching methodology. Beginners and more advanced can get something out of this, gi or nogi people can learn things, and sports or mma jiu jitsu people could benefit from it. Ultimately – if you like RAY you will like the seminar. If he rubs you the wrong way, you won’t. As Ray put it: “You like me or you don’t.” Well, Ray, I like you! And I like your seminar, too! Thanks for letting me record it!

Ray has an upcoming seminar in Laredo, Texas. If you’re able to make it, please tell him HI and let him know you heard about it from my blog!