Harris v. Jen (instuctionals)

If you've seen instructionals from both Roy Harris and Michael Jen, would you please compare the instructionals and give an opinion on which is better. Thanks:)

Better in what way?  (I have the complete library of them both, by the way.)

If you are talking production quality, well that's easy - Roy Harris has the best production quality of anyone in the entire martial arts video market.  (Went to school for video production specifically for that reason!)

If you are talking "better" as far as techniques, that is too subjective.  What might be better for one person, may or may not be better for another person.  What is your rank or level & experience in grappling?  Unless you are very experienced and highly ranked, Roy's BJJ101 series is unbeatable for laying a general foundation.  Then add in his and Jen's other tapes to address more fundamentals that hold value to everyone of all levels.

Overall, I believe that Mr. Harris' videos provide the best overall foundation for beginners, but Michael Jen's complement them very well.  Mike's videos are subject-specific, meaning he covers one subject, in depth, per video.  To lay a solid foundation, you would have to buy a large number of videos.  The Harris videos touch on a variety of subjects on a single video, but don't go into as many variations and counters in some cases. 

Personally don't see it as an "either/or" situation of who's is best or who's to get.  Roy Harris has arguably the best instructional format out there.  Mike Jen believes in addressing topics in a way that no one else has covered before (otherwise, if someone else has already done it the same way, what's the incentive to buy another tape?)

There really is not a whole lot of overlap between the two sets.  Both men have outstanding video instruction.  Get all the videos from both of them, and you'll have a library that will take you many many years to fully explore and exhaust.


TOTAL BEGINNER(No training):

Roy Harris's stuff is great (BJJ 101 and 201). If you don't know anything or next to nothing about the game, these are great to watch and to have. After a solid month or two of training, move on to Jen's tapes.

BEGINNER(some training):

If you have been progressing steadily and grasping general grappling philosophy I'd shoot for Jen's tapes and maybe borrow Roy's tapes. At this point I believe Roy's tapes would be considered too basic.

ADVANCED(more than 6 months of solid training):

Jen's tapes.

It is MY OPINION that Jen has very good instructionals on specific stuff that any level player would find useful, atleast just to have as a reference. Lets be serious now, we wont remember EVERY move, its good to have a library to refer to every once in a while. Roy's stuff is great for beginners, he explains the jiujitsu game is great detail for beginners to better understand and grasp. However he does not teach anything that you can't get from a GOOD and thorough BJJ instructor with a month's worth of training.

just my .02

GrdStorm, are you talking about Roy's BJJ 101 series? Roy has a few intermediate-advanced videos out. Check out his armlock series.

I like them both. Jen's guard passing and his whole guard series are top notch. you know the material is good because even though the production values are "home video" quality, you forget about all that because the instruction is so good.

"However he does not teach anything that you can't get from a GOOD and thorough BJJ instructor with a month's worth of training"


I have to disagree with you.  First off, I don't think that someone with "6 months of solid training" can be considered "advanced".

I personally have been grappling for 10 years, and have taught many other people as well.  There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that a person could LEARN everything that is on all of Roy Harris' videos in a single month, I don't care WHO the instructor is!!  (NOT EVEN ROY HARRIS HIMSELF!!) 

If someone trained very diligently, they could easily spend a month of training on EACH AND EVERY video, whether it be Harris, Jen, or anyone else who puts out a decent video, for that matter.  I respect your "opinion," but it doesn't make much sense to me.  I know quite a few blue belts with 2, 3, or even 4 years of experience that are still learning new things from Roy's tapes, even after watching them a dozen times!!

Bottom line:  It's one thing to "watch and have" a training video.  It's a whole other thing to get on the mats, train what you've seen, and become PROFICIENT in pulling each move off a high percentage of the time.

My definitions for BJJ:

Total Beginner: Has less than 1 year of training

Beginner: Has less than 3 years of training

Advanced: Has more than 6 years of training

And these aren't even good definitions: Not everyone does the same quality of training in a given year, and not everyone learns at the same rate.

MY opinions.......




They are both good and it definitely is not an either/or. There is not much overlap.

When I first watched BJJ 101 I had been training for about a year, and I thought to myself "Yeah I know all that."

Then I watched it again when I had been training for two years and I got a lot out of it. A lot of smaller details that he shows but that didn't register in my brain at the time. The more you know, the more realize how much you don't know.

6 months == advanced... good one.

I knew I'd get flamed for the *advanced* comment :)

I meant advanced in that a person with 6 months of solid training could better understand theory and body mechanics.

Roy's tapes are great no doubt. I have his BJJ 101 and 201 but if I had to choose between them I'd pick Jen's.

If I were a total beginner I'd pick Roy's.

I also think it's a "both" case.

Roy's 101 and 201 are GREAT for training theory. 101 plus ROY's other instructionals together lays a tremendous foundation for one's game. (I have all of them).

I have not seen all of Mike Jen's productions. I own or have viewed Pin Escapes, Back Escapes, Half Guard, and Guard Passing. I think these instructionals are great for someone who's where I am now: mid-level-ish blue. I have really enjoyed them for helping to fill in gaps in areas that I don't train enough, or am looking for other ways to train, or ways to make the stuff I already do more efficient.

I think Roy's 201 is where I'm headed: It's how I need to be training next, and what I need to start thinking about.

I find them tremendously complementary.



I agree with you what you said in your first post.

I kinda of disagree with you in your second post.

I think it is hard to judge what constitutes how long exactly it takes to be an advance practitioner namely because every one has a learning curve and what takes one individual a long time to learn may take someone else half the time.

Another thing, which in my opinion, makes it hard to judge how long it take to be considered "advance", is the notion of what techniques a person "needs" to know.

Although it may be true that it will take a person a long time to learn ALL the techniques on Roy Harris' tapes, I'm not to sure that a person needs to know and do every single one of them NOR even know and do them exactly the way Roy Harris teaches them to be advance.

The great Judoka Kasuhiko Kashiwazaki in his book Fighting Judo Techniques made an exceelnt point in regards to learning Judo. He advised those who were reading and learning from his book not to try to emulate the techniques he shows exactly. He said he does things in a certain way because it fits him (his body type, his temperment, his ability) and it would greatly disappoint him if a student would try to do the things he taught exactly like he does them. He said it is okay for the student to take what he teaches and personalize them. He says a student may not need to do the technique exactly the way he does it in order for it to work for them. A student may actually just use the prinicple of the technique or even parts of it instead of the whole technique itself. And this is okay.

I think what prevents some people from becoming advance is they become to caught up in doing the technique(s) the exact way the teacher shows them. And have this idea or mindset that they actually "need" to do them exactly the way the teacher shows them or they won't advance. The point of instruction isn't to make you a carbon copy of the instructor BUT rather so the student is has the ability to defend or fight on their own. And in order for the student to really do that he needs to do the techniques in a way that actually suits and fits them. How the student does it may be different from the instructor AND what the student "needs" to do may actually be different from the instructor as well.

I personally don't put a time frame on how long it takes for a person to become "advance". It doesn't at all surpise me than some people are "advance" in a few years (3, 4 or even 5). Learning curve, practice habits and individual understanding makes all the difference. If a person spends most of their time being a copyist then it may take them a long time to learn and advance in their artform (think of a basketball player spending their time trying to play just like Michael Jordan) if they simply work on their "game" from the get go then learning and advance will be much more progressive, natural and timely.

Thanks for the responses guys. I have over 6 months of experience, I'm tall/ lanky, I'd like to become more "technical," and I don't want to spend a lot of money (so it is an either/or situation).

Jen tapes first, Roy's later.

Roy's first, then Jen's.

Ha ha ha, I suppose it's getting obvious that it's an entirely personal judgement. I guess everyone will have to try one of each, if you can, and make the call yourself.


bearing in mind that I don't train right now, and haven't trained bjj ever, and don't any of their tapes...;o)

WOuldn't it also depend on your budget? I was under the impression that Jen's tapes are cheaper. If you have a limited budget, but want a general intro, bjj 101 does sound like a very good set (although I think that the 3rd tape is leglocks, isn't it?...if there is no discount in buying all three at once, the first two (which don't cover submissions, right?) might be money better spent (others who have the series, please chime in!).

On the flip side, you say that you have been training for 6 months. Do you find that there is an area that you enjoy? (ie. guard passing, attacking from the guard, takedowns, leglocks (in which case Roy's tape might be great), etc.) If there isn't an area that you enjoy specifically, is there an area where you feel (or your instructor actually says so) that your instructor isn't the best at teaching? For many bjj guys it sounds liek that might be takedowns (although that is a bit stereotypical to be honest), some bjj guys are supposedly weaker at leglocks, some instructors might have a weaker bottom game, etc. In that case, choose a video that supplements that aspect of your game.

It does seem that a lot of people on here own both series but don't want to insult either instructor by choosing. With that in mind, you will have to ask specific questions so that people can give specific answers (as opposed to which is better "in general" (as both are commerically successful indicating that both are good)).


Ie. I have 50-75 dollars to spend and looking to improve my closed guard game. Or I have trouble escaping from the North South position. Or I have 100 bucks and want a general intro to BJJ so that I know what to keep in mind when training.

Just my 2 cents (I am going to start bjj soon, and yeah, I will probably buy Ultimate Guard and the first 2 tapes of BJJ 101 (and Russian Judo by Igor Yakimov)) in the next 2 months.


You are not really in disagreement with my 2nd post at all.  At the end, I specifically stated that the definitions I gave were NOT good, because of much of what you talk about.

I was not suggesting that anyone be a "copyist" - I myself have always trained and taught with using the old fishing analogy:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man how to fish, and your feed him for a lifetime.

I apply this same thing with concepts - teach a student the underlying concepts behind WHY the techniques work, and they will "create" new techniques spontaneously during training and competition.

The thing I really like about Roy Harris teaching methodology, is he teaches the WHY of a lot of techniques; He gives the underlying formulas and principles that make everything work.  He gives you a handful of techniques that utilize those formulas and principles, so that you can quickly see, feel, and understand their application.  From then on, you can/will begin to use those same concepts in combination, without having to learn 10,000 techniques before you become proficient.

But techniques, and even concepts, are insufficient by themselves.  Just because a person knows 1,000 or even 10,000 techniques does not mean they are "advanced."  Understanding the concepts and principles is only theoretical knowledge, at best.  Advanced level is really based on 3 things more than anything else:  The attributes of Awareness, Sensitivity, and Timing. 

Knowing a lot of techniques, or understanding the core concepts of grappling, can give you the awareness.  Sensitivity is something you develop by doing thousands of repetitions in various drills, while focusing on the subtle nuances of the "core" techniques within your game.  Timing is only developed by hundreds of hours on the mats against fully resisting opponents.  Even for those who learn very quickly, there is no getting around "paying your dues" if you want to be an "advanced" grappler - it takes a great deal of dedication, and a large amount of time.

On a related note, I really do not see very many "advanced" people out there.  Most MMA fighters are NOT advanced grapplers - they are intermediate grapplers who rely on speed, strength, and striking ability (ground and pound) to make their grappling more effective.  In "pure" sport grappling, I don't even consider a BJJ purple belt to be "advanced," even though most BJJ tourneys do (THEY have to - there aren't that many brown and black belts out there who compete).  Purple to me is an low-intermediate level rank. (Blue is an advanced-beginner, Brown is a high-intermediate rank.)  BJJ's advanced people are all BLACK BELTS. 
Nor do I consider, as do most no-gi tourneys, someone with 2 years of wrestling/submission wrestling experience to be "advanced."  Oh, they might be effective - but usually, again here, it is based more on superior athleticism, not technical skill.  Most BJJ blue belts have far more technical expertise than the majority of wrestlers I've seen.  I have a lot of respect for the athletic abilities of wrestlers, don't get me wrong - but an awful lot of them avoid grappling in gi tournaments for one simple reason: Their speed & strength get neutralized, and they don't have sufficient technique to "hang" with those who do.  That statement isn't meant to judge which approach is better, but it's an observation; For a wrestler to be "advanced," he needs to be able to hold his own with a BJJ Black Belt WITH the gi on, in my opinion.  That's gonna take a considerable amount of time, I don't care who it is.

Finally, I hear what you are saying about just working on your "game" to improve; My only concern with that, however, is that too many people end up just working on their strengths and athleticism when they do that, rather than really trying to get a grasp and understanding of the various concepts and options available in ALL of the myriad positions in both gi and no-gi submission grappling.  A house is only as strong as its foundation - and a solid foundation takes a bit of time to develop, in anything in life.

Food for thought,

Back to the original question:

Bestamore ost,

If you REALLY have to take an "either/or" approach due to financial constraints, then I would recommend this:

Watch for the next sale on Roy Harris website (and in the Roy Harris Q&A located in the EXPERT Q&A section of this forum).

1. Order BJJ 101 Volumes 1 & 2
2. Spend some time REALLY making sure you are proficient with everything on those 2 videos, including the "understanding" of how and why each concept, principle, formula, and technique works.
3. Ask questions about anything you are having difficulty with (jonpall is a forum member who is a great example of this - keep an eye on any of the threads he has started)
4. When you feel you have truly exhausted those two videos, purchase BJJ 201 from Roy Harris.  This will not teach you a lot of "new techniques," but it WILL show you a.) Some good counters to incoporate into your game against high-percentage techniques/submissions, and b.) Help you create a "road map" to further develop your game
5. Create that "road map."  Analyze your strengths, and weaknesses.  Focus on training your weaknesses, including purchasing additional videos or private-lesson instruction to help.  If, for example, you really suck at guard passing, then Mike Jen's video is first rate.  If you can't ever seem to finish an armlock (straight or bent), then get the appropriate video on the subject from Roy Harris.
6. Re-evaluate yourself every 6 months, FOREVER.

As far as not wanting to "hurt" anyones feelings here, I have no such goal.  I am ranked in BJJ and certified as an instructor under Roy, and I know that he values blunt honest above all else.  I own all of Mike's tapes, and have trained with him at one live seminar - but I hold no "loyalty" to him beyond that, as he is not my primary instructor.  Having said all that, I will say this:

Roy's tapes, in my opinion - and NOT based on any "commercial" factor - are the best to build a foundation from.  They are LESS expensive than Mikes, considering you only need to initially buy 2 videos, and that they go onsale several times a year at huge discounts.  The only problem with Roy's BJJ 101 vids, are that they will only take you to the low-intermediate level (Purple belt)

Mike's tapes are OUTSTANDING for further developing specific areas of your game that you are having trouble with.  Because each tape only covers one area, it simply is NOT cost effective to try to build a foundation from this library.  Further, Michael doesn't always explain the "why" of things, although he definitely goes into great depths on the details.  If you are at high white to low-blue belt level, getting some of Mike's tapes will be invaluable to helping you develop your game - JUST MAKE SURE you have the FOUNDATION already in place!!

Roy is VERY capable of putting out tapes like Mike has - but that is not his "vision" of how he wants to teach.  Mike Jen is VERY capable of putting out tapes just like Roy's - but, as Michael himself has said in a few posts before, it makes absolutely NO SENSE to put out a tape that covers the exact same topics, in the exact same way, as a tape that's already on the market.

Lastly, keep this in mind:  Michael Jen was once (and not THAT long ago) Roy Harris' senior ranked student.  Michael learned "how" to teach BJJ from Roy, so if you train with them both, or watch their video instructionals, they use essentiall the same "style" of teaching - which is outstanding.  They also BOTH have the same instructor now - Joe Moreira.  They are, in my opinion, the 2 top video instructors out there.  You really can't go too far wrong with either one of them, or with their videos.  :-)


I have tapes from both but feel Mike Jen's are better in terms of detail, memory retention through Mike's flow of technique chaining and overall ability to convey material to the student in an efficient easy to learn manner. If you were looking for one set that covers the BJJ game as a whole I would have to say get the Harris BJJ 101 but I personally prefer Mike Jen material for it's logical presentation.

I own some of Jen's stuff, and have seen some of Harris' stuff. IMHO, Harris' stuff gives more of an overall view for a certain level (a little bit of everything) and helps you build a solid foundation, while Jen's stuff gives you more indepth basics on focuses subjects.

So, on one DVD/Tape from Harris, you can get a good idea on all the major components you need as a beginner (101) or intermediate (201). On a Jen DVD/Tape, you can get a great idea on the specific components (guard or pin escapes or...) you need for seasoned beginner to borderline advanced.

If I had to put them into order, I would agree with Harris BJJ101, Jen's series, (maybe 201, haven't seen it yet, but word sounds good :).


Good post.

I see what your saying and agree with it accept about bjj advance people are black belts.

I just don't agree with that. The main reason why I don't because of the subjectivity that surrounds belts.
Truth be told many so-called Bjj blue and purples are on the same level as alot of so-called black belts, and I'm not just talking technically but also in every other aspect. But for a variety of reasons such individuals are KEPT at a certain belt level for years on end when they should be moved up.

Another thing that makes me not agree with the idea that Bjj's advance people are black belt is the fact that technical ability as well as the attributes which makes a good fighter as well as an advance practitioner(awareness, sensitivity, timing) vary from individual to individual. The truth of the matter is there are many Bjj competitors, fighters, practitioners on all belt levels who actually lack one if not all of those things. Ideally and in a perfect world one would think that belt levels perfectly represent the qualities we give it and that the individuals who wear them possess those exact qualities. This isn't the case. There are many people on all belt levels who should possess certain qualities and abilities who don't. That aren't as good as the belt they wear makes you think. Being a "good", "capable", and "advance" practitioner isn't meant for some people. Where it may be good to say that a bjj black belt "should" be an advance practitioner I'll go out on a limb and say alot aren't.

Futhermore it is often the case that those three things which comprise "advance level in bjj" are far more developed in a practitioner who has less over all years in Bjj (incidently Bjj is a sport/artform/activity) then others but for whatever reason are kept at a lower belt (blue or purple. Note: I personal think the main reason why this is so is some people don't what to accept the idea that Bjj is a physical activity something you do with the body. And because of this fact, it doesn't take some people as much nor as long to do Bjj therefore it doesn't take them as much or as long to advance in it because Bjj is the physical activity/artform in which they are good at. Bjj is for some people is what baskeball, skateboarding, soccer etc is for others. It is a physical activity they have a natural knack for. This really offends some people. They don't want to accept the idea that it may take some people half the time to reach the same level they are. Some people feel that the criteria of advancement should be the same for everybody. The problem is everybody isn't the same.

Finally I also don't think you can separate athleticism from the whole process. While it is true that there are many competitors that depend on athleticism to get by I have yet to see a very good Bjj competitor who wins consistantly who isn't athletic. I have yet to see a very good Bjj competitor win based on pure technique. Athleticism is ALWAYS a factor. A good competitor will endeavor to have a balance between both technique and athleticism. That is the goal. BUT a good bjj competitor won't win consistantly with just technique. Athleticism is going to be a factor.

Sorry for the long of topic post. I just wanted to take the opportunity to share these thoughts with you.