Warning: This post has absolutely no coherent argument and I’m ranting for the sake of it!
As a rule, if you ask me my thoughts on training, mat culture or the various grappling derivatives in general, ninety-nine percent of the time I’m going to respond with something like this:
But then there’s that pesky one percent when I’m forced to wonder… am I starting to dislike Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Surely not? ‘Jiu-Jitsu‘…I have those words forever inscribed on my back. I’ve written at length about what an overwhelming force for good in a persons life the sport can be. Yet right now I’m wondering what an earth’s going on.
If you follow my twitter, earlier this week you’ll have seen this:
Why did I tweet this? Well it’s simple. I saw this video from last weekends IBJJF European Championships:
Assuming you can get past the utter farce that is the first four minutes of this video, then yes, you get a cool attempt at taking the back and a decent explosive pass to side control to round off the encounter. But let’s be honest: if you didn’t really love jiu-jitsu, you’d have stopped that YouTube link 30 seconds in. Maybe less.
Judging from several other reactions around the web including this little gem from the ADCC official account, I’m not the only one who thinks this.
I’m not suggesting for a second that either of these gentleman aren’t exceptional BJJ players competing on some of the highest stages in the sport. Clearly both are devoted, tough competitors whose life obsession is the pursuit of ‘Jiu-Jitsu’. But perhaps more appropriately in this instance: ‘very specific rule set grappling‘. Catchy name for a sport ain’t it? Both competitors are playing to the rules. I appreciate that. But then maybe the rules need to change.
I’ll be honest that when I first started training I had this romantic yet naive notion that BJJ is all you need in a fight. Of course it isn’t, but without a doubt it’s a damn good edge to have. However I find myself concerned that continuing down this progression from tested martial art to sport is going to drag the art further away from an applicable combat discipline. We’re already seeing a whole host of techniques that lack any usefulness once removed from the very refined gi environment.
It’s not without precedent I feel. I think it’s fair to say both Taekwondo and Judo have suffered from this.
Old-school Judo black belts are just scary people, there’s no two ways about it. I’m lucky enough to train with an ex-Olympian and it’s just plain horrible! Brutal grip strength, core strength, explosiveness, the list goes on. But they grew up and developed with extensive newaza, less grip restrictions and more critically I feel: direct leg attacks. Fast forward to today and many of the latest wave of club level Judokas look highly bemused if you shoot a decent power double. Who knows, maybe the rule changes did make it more exciting to watch for uninformed spectators. I’m not sure they’re helping outside of that.
Olympic Taekwondo bores the hell out of me. I don’t think I even need to point out the flaw in the move of that martial art to sport…but I will. Bounce, bounce, bounce, hands down, spin kick, miss and end with back facing opponent. For the love of God I want one of them to just decide ‘you know what, I’m going to punch this person in the face‘.
Obviously this is something I’m not a fan of and I pray it doesn’t happen in BJJ though sadly, it’s clearly already started.
I’ve always liked that in the context of MMA, BJJ can be seen as a key component. It’s right up there with wrestling and Thai boxing as essential skill sets. It’s not some obscure traditional martial art which the masses chuckle at. Whittled down to just one or two useful techniques over time. It’s dynamic, aggressive and devastating. Under the duress of MMA, it’s the real aspects of Brazilian jiu-jitsu that shine through and it should be pretty obvious: it’s not sitting on your ass falling sideways holding a pant leg. Takedown, pass, submit. I hope BJJ as a whole doesn’t lose that mentality.
Yet for some reason, so many people practicing sport jiu-jitsu don’t seem to feel the same or simply don’t appreciate the difference. I’ve seen some downright asinine posts on various forums from people decrying BJJ belts being awarded to those who perhaps don’t compete regularly in gi but do extensively in MMA. Well guess what guys: they’ve tested BJJ in a truer and harsher dynamic than most of us ever will.
Josh Barnett is a dominating grappler and MMA competitor. He knows what’s up:
It’s just my opinion, but the closer we get to the video above the more we lose. Over the past couple of years there’s been insinuations flying around that submissions in fights are disappearing. That BJJ in MMA is outdated and redundant. It’s not at all. I’ve commentated some outstanding groundwork over the past couple of years. But keep on with shit like that first video and it may well be.
How do we rectify this situation? I’ve no idea of course, I’m just ranting. But there are plenty of reasonable suggestions flying around. Penalty points for guard pulls? Allow heel hooks in the brown and black belt divisions? Every argument has it’s pros and cons but one thing is certain, most people don’t want to see anything that constitutes the first four minutes of that video.
So I say again: am I starting to dislike Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Of course I’m not! I’d just rather keep mine as applicable to as wider array of situations as possible. Either that or I’ll need to change my tattoo to say: ‘grappling saved my life‘.