Bjj, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu , jits, we’ve heard it by many different names. Hate it or love it , BJJ has exploded in the last few years. The number of IBJJF events have more than quadrupled in the last decade and the IBJJF world championships has emerged as the most prestigious tournament to medal in whilst wearing the gi. But with the growing popularity and commercialization of BJJ comes a little bit of backlash. What was once a fundamental self-defense system , designed to defend yourself in a real life situation against a bigger stronger opponent , has been marred by advantage-won matches and referee’s decisions separating gold from silver. The hip-bumps and arm bars have been replaced by berimbolos and 50/50s. And while the number of tournaments has gone sharply up-the number of submissions has comparatively gone down. So what has happened to BJJ? Has it gotten watered down? Or has it gotten SO good that it’s simply not feasible to have a high finish rate anymore. After all the best offense is a good defense right? Or something like that…
In 1993, when 170lb Royce Gracie was choking and joint locking people twice his size into submission multiple times a night , there was no question which martial art reigned supreme. Following the first UFC event, Gracie Jiu Jitsu schools had new members lined up around the block, to the point that they had to cap membership. But fast forward 22 years later, there’s a BJJ school in every major city, and every couch potato with an affliction shirt and subscription to UFC fight pass has at least basic knowledge of BJJ. The days of the submission purist dominating the MMA scene are long gone. Some of the only submission purists still hanging around the top ten are Demian Maia ,Roger Gracie , Jacare Souza , Jake Shields , Rousimar Palhares and Fabricio Werdum. And all but Werdum have fallen at the hands of elite wrestlers. (Demian Maia < Weidman, Munoz) (Roger Gracie < Muhammad Lawal) (Souza < Rockhold) (Jake Shields< GSP) ( Rousimar Palhares < Belcher, Henderson) The only BJJ purist at the top of the food chain , even above wrestlers, is Werdum, Who has actually been on a TKO streak thanks to his world-class Muay Thai coach Rafael Cordeiro. Werdum solved the riddle of world-class wrestlers by gulliotining former D1 wrestler and heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez , after putting on a striking clinic that gave Cain no choice but to take a sloppy shot.
So this raises the question , is BJJ really the best martial art? And my answer is a resounding yes. The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu goes far beyond submitting wrestlers in a cage, or finishing every opponent at the freaking IBJJF worlds. If you want to be good at MMA, get a MMA coach, it’s your BJJ coaches job to teach you BJJ, Not mma. If your coach doesn’t specialize in no-gi or if you don’t at least ASK, don’t expect to dethrone any UFC champs anytime soon. And the IBJJF worlds is like putting all of the avengers in a last man standing Match. The tougher everyone gets , the harder it’s gonna be for them to finish each other. This is the price you pay for growth. This does not mean Jiu Jitsu is no longer the best martial art.
You see, BJJ is a universal language. Where else but a BJJ gym do you see brick masons and plumbers sharing their passion with the likes of tattoo artists and doctors and teachers? Jiu Jitsu does not separate social circles, or skin color, or political preference or any other means of division. There are 5 categories- white, blue , purple , brown , and black, that is it. So no matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, black, white, gay, straight , sinner , or saint- everyone works toward the same goal. Bjj has a synergy that cannot be found in any other martial art, And no lies can be told on the mat. In Many martial arts and in life in general, people can lie. People can hide behind a facade, pretending to be something they’re not. With the technology age in full swing and anyone with opposable thumbs having an Internet connection, people can be whoever the heck they want- without ever having to prove it. This is the beauty of BJJ , that stuff doesn’t fly. We don’t do kata, we don’t do one step sparring , we don’t break boards, we roll. White belt or black belt, old or young, you slap, bump, and try to subdue one another. It’s the purist physical form of truth. You’ll never have a friendship like the one you have with a guy who could’ve rendered you unconscious or broken your arm, but instead lessened his grip and let go, and never held it over your head. It’s strength and vulnerability at the same time, its camaraderie, it’s real.
And did i mention, it works. Jiu Jitsu is not like math, where the point is to teach you some esoteric level of thinking, and you may or may not use it in life. You do not learn it for the sake of learning it. Jiu Jitsu is more like Woodshop. You might damage your fingers, but you learn by doing in a real life situation, and everything you learn has a purpose. It won’t linger in the back of your mind whether or not it works, because everyday when you step on the mats, you will learn if your Jiu Jitsu works or not. Jiu Jitsu provides you the unique opportunity to find out on a daily basis if you are getting your money’s worth or not. No breaking boards, no sequences to memorize, you either get choked out or you do not.
And my final thought on why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the best martial art: Jiu Jitsu is the one of the very last things in the world that does not provide instant gratification. It’s 2015 and we live in a world of 3 month online college degrees, one-week workout plans, over the counter weight loss pills and trophies just for participating. Accomplishments are barely accomplishments anymore. Everything has an express lane and the consumerist world is more than happy to cater to your lack of patience and discipline. (consumerist is totally a word right?)
No matter how many times you come to class , or how many private lessons you pay for , or how well you know the professor, you’re going to earn your stripes just like everyone else. You’re going to get tapped 1,000 times just like everyone else. And it’s going to feel like forever between stripes and belts. Jiu Jitsu belts are one of the last things on earth that nobody is entitled to, and that in itself will prove to be one of the most rewarding things about it, should you choose to begin or continue on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu path. Regardless of if you get your black belt at 24 or 84, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, and you’ll learn alot about yourself along the way. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is so much more than a martial art, it’s a way of life. So put on your kimono, and get out on the mats.