For around a year, I’ve been using “Submeta“, the BJJ training tool that Lachlan Giles has been developing and continually adding content to.
As both a BJJ/MMA hobbyist and an “internet business guy“, I’ve come to really appreciate Submeta not just for the quality of what’s on there, but for the obvious amount of effort that has gone into building a good web application that’s a pleasure to use.
Before taking the plunge and dropping $25 a month on it, I could only find vague reviews about how Submeta is “great”. So I thought I’d put down a longer Submeta review, including addressing questions like:
- What is Submeta, and what makes it special?
- Submeta vs training videos from BJJ Fanatics and Grappler’s Guide
- Pricing thoughts
- Submeta’s Shortcomings
You might also like my review of The Grappler’s Guide.
Summary of this Submeta Review
Overall, I really like Submeta. It’s my favourite way of studying Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), after having used courses from BJJ Fanatics and Grappler’s Guide, on both of which Lachlan Giles has published content, so it’s more than just about the content.
Aside from liking Giles’ teaching style, I really like Submeta for:
- It’s structure. The entire site is structured so well. Courses are structured well, and the ~1-2 hour-long lessons are also structured very well, making it a treat to navigate.
- The ease of navigation. The structure is good, and moving around it is very easy. I never get lost. When you study something in some part of it, it reflects everywhere on the site.
- The richness of the content. It goes deep into very technical things, with dozens of hours each on leg locks, the berimbolo, and specific positions.
I’ll go more into all those aspects later in this review.
Firstly, about me, just for context.
As of writing this, I’m about 600 hours into training in jiu-jitsu. I’m a blue belt, 43 years old, and I feel like I’m thick in the steep part of the learning curve of improving positions and developing a game.
I do around 50% gi and 50% no gi, a function of moving constantly between gyms (I travel 100%, switching countries every few months), and also some gyms doing half and half of each.
I don’t compete, but changing gyms is competition enough for me — a new gym means getting demolished as fresh meat for the first month.
I’ve also dabbled in striking — just whatever a gym offers, and when I like a coach.
Because I move a lot, I look for resources to work on my own educational curriculum. I try to focus on my weaknesses and study and drill those, rather than just learn whatever a gym happens to be teaching.
Anyway, all that’s for context. I’ll update it if I need to.
Overview of Submeta — What is it?
Submeta is a relatively new web-based educational tool. It’s a suite of videos spanning the whole gamut of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, from beginner to advanced, including gi and no-gi, and covering many positions including takedowns, guard positions, submissions, and more.
Lachlan Giles is the creator of Submeta. He needs little introduction in the BJJ community, but in a nutshell, he’s an established competitor, coach, and gym owner, based in Melbourne, Australia. He has an advanced education and quite a methodical approach to instruction. A lot of people (including me) really regard Giles highly not just for his knowledge, but for his skill in imparting it. One of his notable students is Craig Jones.
Plus, he seems like a great guy — low ego, enthusiastic and friendly. You can tell it in his style. I look forward to meeting him when I’m next in Melbourne! OK, enough praise (look, everyone enjoys it, and I believe in saying nice things).
Most competitors looking to make money on the side just make instructional videos and sell them on Bernardo Faria’s “BJJ Fanatics”. Giles did the same. But since a few years ago, he launched this platform, too.
For now, the vast majority of the content on Submeta is by Giles himself. And that suits me fine, as I really enjoy having him as an instructor.
But Giles has also set up Submeta so that others can contribute content too. I’m sure there’s some revenue-sharing arrangement, just like there is on the other platforms.
What Makes Submeta Special?
Here’s what I really enjoy about Submeta. I’ll break it apart into sections, which is apt, because the first thing I like about Submeta is the structure.
Submeta has awesome structure.
Cataloguing the universe of jiu-jitsu knowledge is very hard. There’s just so much.
When you start out in jiu-jitsu, you just have escapes and positions. Then you start adding a submission or two, sweeps, and maybe takedowns.
Then as time goes on, you start thinking about the Berimbolo / inversions, going deeper into guard retention, connecting positions, then attacking the legs, adding more wrestling, and so on… and anyway, it gets really hard to keep your notebook or hard drive of videos organised.
Submeta has a really good crack at it. Here’s how the structure works
- Every course (which covers one specific topic, like “far side arm drag” or “shoulder crunch”) has a 1-2 hour video (or rather, group of videos) that’s broken up into a couple of dozen chunks.
- The chunks are grouped into things like an introduction, foundation concepts, attacks, defences, and troubleshooting. These are anywhere from 1 minute to around 10 minutes long each.
- The “courses” are grouped into “sets”, like everything to do with bolo / crab ride, for example.
A nice part is that there’s no duplication on the site. So one course might be in different sets. But the system knows that if you’ve studied that course somewhere else, it’ll mark it as completed in the second place you’ve seen it.
The system also remembers your place in every single course. So it’s really easy to pick up where I left off if I get bored / distracted and move on to something else.
This is kind of an unfair advantage, as the latest videos always have the highest quality. Grappler’s guide, for example, has some old videos… technology really has improved. (And he updates them, but keeps the old ones for posterity.)
But really, the quality of the videos is very high. Not only that, but they’re “just the facts”, no repetitiveness. Giles’ voice is very easy to understand, and he speaks clearly, like an educated person, and with humility, admitting there are multiple ways to do things and that the art is always evolving. Humility always wins me over!
Ease of Navigation
Finally, related to structure — it’s relatively easy to find my way around Submeta.
There’s a couple of caveats here. Firstly, I don’t think the structure is finalised. The idea of “Courses” and “Sets” is finalised, and they work well.
But there are other parts of it that seem a bit work-in-progress, like the personal playlist (which I haven’t used at all), or the “game plan”.
And the “Videos” section is just a part you search, but has all this rich content like breakdowns of matches — I’m not sure how best to browse it to get an idea of what’s in there.
But that aside, the starting structure is good enough that I’m confident that it’ll evolve to all be organised.
Related to ease of browsing is how the web application works really well. There are lots of little niceties that make browsing it a joy compared to alternatives, like autoplay of the next video in a sequence, showing a “completion” bubble next to each video, and the general clean interface.
Submeta vs Alternatives
I’ve used two other large resources of videos before that are alternatives to Submeta. I’ll analyse their relative advantages below.
My personal fantasy: Get the entire library of the best content from Grappler’s Guide and BJJ Fanatics and re-format it for Submeta. If I could take on a project, this is what I’d do.
Submeta vs Grappler’s Guide
(See my long review of Grappler’s Guide here.)
Jason Scully started Grappler’s Guide at the dawn of the internet, in 2007. It has become a well-loved resource for the BJJ community.
Grappler’s Guide is the best for searching for specific techniques. If you want to learn how to work on an attack from a guard, you’ll probably (almost definitely) find a number of videos on the topic, and quickly go down a rabbit hole.
Grappler’s Guide is also much more comprehensive. There are sections on obscure things that Submeta may not even have in its roadmap.
Both Grappler’s Guide and Submeta are similar in that they invite content from others, but are largely by the one author — in GG’s case, Jason Scully.
Both Lachlan Giles and Jason Scully actually both have quite similar teaching styles. They don’t go into obscure detail, are clear in explanation, and aren’t repetitive. Also, both cover gi and no-gi.
These days, Grappler’s Guide is starting to look a little old. Content is still going up, but navigation is a bit old-school. I think the fact that it’s in its twilight years is reflected in the pricing — discounted permanently from $300 to $97. I personally think the $97 lifetime payment is well worth it — you’ll never get through it all.
Finally, I should note that both founders have a friendly relationship, which is nice to see, as I think they’re both obviously. Lachlan has content up on GG, though I don’t know if Jason Scully has any plans or vested interest in Submeta. They even support each other publicly, though.
Submeta vs BJJ Fanatics
Another mainstay of the BJJ learning community is Bernardo Faria’s BJJ Fanatics. Bernardo was a multiple-time world champion and well-respected member of the BJJ community.
It’s easy to like Bernardo, with his captivating charm, clear glee for the sport of jiu-jitsu, his eagerness to praise others, and his enthusiasm for constantly learning himself. His videos on YouTube have him laughing like a first-year white belt at the effectiveness of the techniques his guests teach him.
What’s awesome about BJJ Fanatics is the diversity of teachers on there. You get to learn from the top grapplers of the world — John Danaher, Craig Jones, Lachlan Giles, and dozens of others.
But that’s also the hard part. It’s flummoxing. To develop a comprehensive study kit you’d need to buy hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of videos. For the early BJJ practitioner, it just doesn’t make sense. I remember looking at it years ago and having no idea where to start. Side control escapes? Arm locks? Strangulation techniques? Gi takedowns? It all sounds good. That’s how I ended up in Grappler’s Guide — it’s a one-stop shop.
And once you have the videos, they’re not easy to navigate. Every teacher has a different style, and organises their content differently. There are no easily clickable menu items like in Submeta.
There are a few things that are lacking in Submeta that I think are worth mentioning. These are, to a degree, all works-in-progress.
Firstly, the vast majority of the content is from Lachlan Giles himself. For now, you’d choose Submeta if you want to be taught by Giles. That’s fine, but it could be that you want to learn from another instructor. The framework is there for other instructors to teach on the platform, but the content isn’t there yet.
As I mentioned above, I’d love it if all the content from GG and BJJ Fanatics were up on Submeta for easy browsing.
Secondly, even the content from Lachlan Giles is sometimes a work in progress. I know he’s working hard on making content, but sometimes it makes me feel like I’m using a beta version of the app.
There are pros and cons to showing “coming soon”, I suppose, but when it’s something I think should be there, then it’s a con.
Finally, as much as I like the web interface, it does need some work. A few quibbles I have with it (I’ll have to update this when they’re ironed out) are:
- The video player pops out of full-screen when it goes to the next video (every few minutes)
- For some reason, on my cellphone I have to log in every day.
- The “comments” section takes me away from the video. It’d be nice if it were in-line.
- Sometimes the video stops due to a connection issue on my end, and then I have to reload the screen to be able to get through the bit that broke — it doesn’t figure it out itself (as YouTube does).
That said, I know app development is a pain in the ***, and developers are expensive, so I know stuff like that is a work in progress.
There are a few ways to think about Submeta’s pricing, which is $25 a month or $250 a year (a $50 discount).
Personally, I think it’s worth it, because it’s getting Lachlan Giles’ and Absolute MMA’s curriculum and instruction for $25 a month. I can implement that instruction anywhere I want — even with my friends and brothers on mats at home.
Comparing the pricing to other apps / sources, you could say a year’s membership is more expensive than any one instructional. That’s true. But there’s also a lot more content in Submeta, and it’s so much easier to navigate and absorb, that I think the amount I learn vastly eclipses how much I absorb from videos I’ve downloaded.
Secondly, you can say “That’s a significant fraction of my training costs”. I’ve trained at gyms around the world where I’ve paid anywhere from $30 a month to $150 a month. There are arguments either way. If you’re from a place where $30 a month is all you can afford, I can see how this might be too expensive.
Finally, you can’t help but note that $250 a year is more than even Grappler’s Guide costs for a lifetime membership (it’s often discounted to $150 for lifetime).
See the section on Submeta vs Grappler’s Guide above. If you’re constrained by cost, then grapplers’ Guide is excellent. You just have to be a bit more patient with finding the right instructors and videos. For beginners (white belt), I think either is fine.
I really enjoy Submeta, and while I took a break from it for a little while as I felt overwhelmed with resources, I realised I was so spoiled by Submeta’s structure that I had to come back. I just wasn’t watching the other stuff.
I’ve learned a lot from Submeta, and plan on getting it to fill in all the gaps in my blue belt game.
Finally, I’m planning to specifically start training at Absolute MMA in 2024 when I’m there for a few months, so this is worthwhile pre-work before I get there. I can’t wait to get started there.