Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) is a martial art and combat sport system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was formed from Kodokan judo ground fighting (newaza) fundamentals that were taught by a number of individuals including Takeo Yano, Mitsuyo Maeda and Soshihiro Satake. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu eventually came to be its own combat sport through the experiments, practices, and adaptation of judo through Carlos and Helio Gracie (who passed their knowledge on to their extended family) as well as other instructors who were students of Maeda, such as Luiz Franca.
BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend themselves or another against a bigger, stronger, heavier assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments and in self-defense situations. Sparring (commonly referred to as "rolling" within the BJJ community) and livedrilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system.
Since its inception in 1882, its parent art of judo was separated from older systems of Japanese jujutsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian Jiu-Jujitsu. It is not solely a martial art; it is also a sport, a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people, and ultimately a way of life.
The takenouchi-ryu martial art system founded in 1532 is considered the beginning of Japan’s Jujitsu forms. Judo was derived from Jujitsu, the art for either attacking others or defending oneself with nothing but one’s own body.
Judo, meaning "gentle way" is a modern martial art, an Olympic sport, created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. A judo practitioner is called a judoka.
History of BJJ:
Accounts of the histories of most martial arts are often marred by a lack of any genuine historical evidence to vindicate the claims being made. Too often the "evidence" is merely anecdotal or legendary accounts that would be unacceptable in any other sphere. In addition, petty nationalistic concerns often creep into the tale. Each style is linked to a particular national or cultural tradition that the author is keen to eulogize. Such nationalism has no place in an attempt to establish an effective style of combat.
Our historical account of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is aided by the fact that most of the events are fairly recent and quite well documented. The actual history of the events and personalities is a long and fascinating tale. However, the focus of this book is on the theory and technique of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, not the precise history of its foundation. Instead of offering a detailed survey of the historical facts, we shall look at the themes and elements that emerge from the history of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and contribute to its effectiveness as a fighting style. Thus we offer a historical analysis rather than history per se. Our analysis seeks to discern what factors in the history of Brazilian jiu-jitsu made it so successful in MMA competition.
Most people involved in the martial arts are familiar with the basic story of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. How a Japanese jiu-jitsu expert, Maeda, came to Brazil as part of a diplomatic mission to found and establish a Japanese colony. He befriended Gastao Gracie, a man of Scottish descent who had influence in local political circles. Maeda offered to teach Gracie's sons jiu-jitsu. The Gracie boys became very proficient in jiu-jitsu, opening their own schools and developing their own additions and modifications to the techniques they had been taught. As a test of their technique, the Gracies fought many matches against other styles with great success.
n this manner they came to learn which techniques worked and which did not. They based their developing martial art on their combat experiences over generations. As succeeding generations of Gracies grew into the "family trade," the wealth of experience continued to grow until a move to the United States by many senior members of the Gracie family and jiu-jitsu's astounding success in North American MMA events brought overnight recognition and stardom. So much for the broad outline. We need to get into specifics if our analysis is to have worth.
The Japanese Legacy
The origins of Brazilian jiu-jitsu stem from Japan around the beginning of the twentieth century. Jiu-jitsu had existed for centuries in Japan. Its earliest origins are not entirely clear. India is often regarded as the original source of jiu-jitsu although there is insufficient evidence to verify this claim. Ancient Japanese texts make reference to various grappling styles, and there are many scrolls depicting ancient jiu-jitsu technique that is quite recognizable to a modern jiu-jitsu student. jiu-jitsu translates as "gentle art" or "soft art." The term would appear to be something of a misnomer, for jiu-jitsu was a fighting art with direct links to the bloody battlefields of feudal Japan. It encompassed punches, kicks, painful pressure point attacks, throws, strangleholds, and joint locks. The term "gentle art" was meant to convey the guiding idea that lies beneath all jiu-jitsu, both classical Japanese and modern Brazilian—the idea of using one's strength in the most efficient way. Rather than resisting force with force, the idea is to yield to force and then use an opponent's strength against him, using efficient technique in an intelligent fashion to overcome raw strength and aggression—this is the philosophical core of jiu-jitsu. It is by following this principle that a smaller man can hope to defeat a stronger, bigger man. This is the sense in which an art teaching eye gouging, strangulation, groin strikes, and so forth can be termed a "gentle art." Many different ryu or schools of jiu-jitsu had emerged in )apan, each with its own particular emphasis. Some concentrated on throws, others on ground grappling, others on striking. As long as Japan maintained a feudal society based on warrior virtues, jiu-jitsu was elevated in importance. However, the massive sociological changes that swept through Japan when feudalism was dropped in favor of modernization along Western lines totally undercut the need for jiu-jitsu. With the demise of the samurai and of the martial tradition they stood for, demand for jiu-jitsu dropped away, contributing to the demise of classical jiu-jitsu in Japan. By the mid-to late nineteenth century, jiu-jitsu was in serious decline. Many of the old masters had to eke out a living as physical therapists, using their knowledge of human anatomy to help them. Others fought in show matches for money. Many came to be regarded as a public nuisance, as a violent and unwelcome hangover from a past era.
opponent through the efficient use of the body. Another major problem that Kano saw in classical jiu-jitsu was the teaching method. Classical jiu-jitsu was taught almost entirely by kata— pre-arranged, choreographed sequences where two training partners followed a pattern of movements without resisting each other. "Live" training (sparring) was done in only a few schools and only at the highest levels. This was made necessary by the fact that classical jiu-jitsu contained many dangerous moves, eye gouges, groin strikes, hair pulling, and so forth. Obviously these cannot be practiced at full power without seriously injuring your partner. Accordingly kata was the means of instruction. This meant that students never got the feel of applying their moves on a resisting opponent. Obviously you cannot expect your opponent in a real fight to cooperate with you as you try to apply techniques on him, so the training in classical jiu-jitsu appeared artificial. The weakness of training only in kata can be seen easily enough. Kata is to real fighting as riding a stationary exercise bicycle is to riding a real bicycle. They may appear similar, but proficiency in riding the stationary exercise bicycle is no guarantee of skill in riding the real bicycle. In response to these problems, Kano sought to rejuvenate classical jiu-jitsu with a complete overhaul.
The Genius of Kano
The Influence of Jigoro Kano
Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) took up the study of jiu-jitsu as a means to improve a frail physique and in response to persistent bullying in school. After immersing himself in study he became very proficient in several classical styles of jiu-jitsu, especially Kito ryu and Tenjin Shin'yo ryu, eventually taking over teaching responsibilities at his dojo. While studying jiu-jitsu, Kano saw several problems that had to be overcome. Some of these were sociological. Jiu-jitsu was losing popularity at the time Kano began study. There was some danger that it would die out completely if care was not taken to preserve the techniques. In addition, Kano had reservations about the kind of people training in jiu-jitsu (many of them were seen as little more than thugs who gave jiu-jitsu a bad name) and the motivations they had for training. The public's view of jiu-jitsu and its practitioners as violent and archaic was worrisome. Kano also saw problems in the very nature of classical jiu-jitsu. It was really just a collection of isolated techniques. There was, Kano perceived, no overall strategy or guiding principle behind it. Rather than offering the student a comprehensive guide or strategy as to how he should act throughout the dynamics of a fight, classical jiu-jitsu was simply an accumulation of "tricks" designed to overcome an
The originality and genius of Kano in the history of the martial arts and of grappling in particular lay in his insight concerning the need for a radical revision in the way students trained the techniques they were shown. Kano was not a great innovator in technique; most of what he knew in terms of technique was taken from old jiu-jitsu schools. His great innovation lay in the way he taught and trained his students in those techniques. The most crucial element that Kano instituted in his Kodakan School was randori, or live sparring. The idea was for two students to train "live" with each other, each trying as hard as he could to apply technique on the other. By this means students could become familiar with the feeling of applying technique on a live, resisting human being. This, as you can imagine, is far more difficult than applying technique on a cooperating training partner in some choreographed kata. Such live training develops far greater physical and mental agility and speed in the student and prepares them well for the tiring and unpredictable movement of real combat. In order for randori to be possible, Kano saw that the dangerous elements of jiu-jitsu would have to be removed. One cannot engage in daily sparring sessions with full power strikes, hair pulling, and eye gouging! To prevent unacceptable attrition through injury, Kano removed strikes and "foul" tactics from randori. Joint locks were limited to the elbow (this was deemed safer than locks to the legs, spine, neck, wrists, and shoulders). In this way students could grapple at full power with little risk of injury, thus gaining crucial expertise in applying techniques on an opponent who was fighting back at them.
The Paradox of Randori
The practice of removing the dangerous elements of a martial art so students can train harder might strike the reader as strange. After all, wouldn't a martial art be more deadly and effective if students were taught and practiced the really dangerous, painful moves such as those used in classical jiu-jitsu? Does it not weaken a martial art to remove such techniques? Herein lies the true innovative genius of Kano. Counterintuitive as it might seem, Kano saw that a martial art can be made more effective by the removal of "dangerous" elements so that students can train at full power on resisting opponents with the techniques that remain. What Kano realized is that the effectiveness of a martial art is not determined solely by its repertoire of techniques, but also by the training method by which it instills those techniques into the students. The importance of this insight cannot be overemphasized. It represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of the martial arts. Only when an effective means of imprinting the techniques into the minds and movements of the students is utilized is a genuinely effective fighting style created. This is only possible when students apply their techniques at full power on a fully resisting opponent. There is something paradoxical about the idea of a martial art being made more combat effective by the removal of dangerous techniques. Kano saw that a fighter who constantly trained at full power on a resisting opponent in live combat with "safe" techniques would be more combat effective than a fighter who always trained with "deadly" techniques on a cooperating partner with no power. We should note immediately that "safe" technique does not mean "ineffective." The "safe" techniques that Kano retained were "safe" only in the sense that they can be used safely in live training so long as students agree to stop when they have been successfully applied. In a street fight they could be used to snap a man's elbow or strangle him until unconscious. Training in this fashion represented a massive advance in the history of grappling.
Kano opened his own school, the Kodokan, in the early 1880s and utilized his teaching method. He called his martial art judo to differentiate it from classical jiu-jitsu. His choice of name was interesting. )u in "judo" is the same character as jiu in "jiu-jitsu." (Jiu-jitsu is actually an old and mistaken way
to represent the Japanese characters. "Jujutsu," or perhaps "ju jitsu," is the correct version. However, "jiu-jitsu" is the traditional spelling in "Brazilian jiu-jitsu" so we have retained it.) Ju means "gentle" or "soft." Do means "way" and has connotations of a broad lifestyle or quasi-religious vision. Rather than being merely a series of techniques, judo was supposed to be a complete way of life, with moral, spiritual, and social overtones as well as combat effectiveness. The Kodokan attracted many highly talented students and quickly rose to prominence in Japan. Around 1886 the Tokyo police force was looking for an effective martial art to train its members. Various schools of classical jiu-jitsu, including some of the most well known and highly esteemed, vied for the honor of being chosen to train the police force. An open martial arts tournament was to be held to determine the respective merit of the entrants. Victory would be only by perfect throw, landing an opponent flat on his back, or by submission. The tournament was not like a modern-day MMA event since there was no striking. It was more like a grappling tournament. The Kodokan students faced off against the most powerful classical jiu-jitsu ryu in Japan. When it was over, the Kodokan had won decisively winning nearly all the matches. This was a remarkable result, given that the Kodokan had been in existence for about four years and whose sensei was only in his mid-twenties. The lopsided result was the death knell for classical jiu-jitsu, and Judo became the prominent fighting form. Kano's innovative training methods had been vindicated.
One of Kano's best students was Mitsuyo Maeda (1878-1941). He had originally trained in classical jiu-jitsu but switched to the Kodokan at age eighteen, where he was well known for his outstanding skill. Kano was very interested in spreading judo throughout the world, possibly as part of his desire to make it an Olympic sport. He sent several representatives to the United States to demonstrate the sport. Two were sent to the East Coast. One was an older man, Tomita, one of Kano's first pupils and a veteran of the 1886 Tokyo police tournament. He was a fine technician and teacher, but no longer a great fighter. Along with him was sent Maeda, as the one who would do the sparring, if necessary. Initiall things did not go well in America. In a demonstration at the West Point Military Academy (not the White House, as is often thought) an impromptu challenge was issued to both men by a powerful-looking football player. Maeda immediately accepted. The charging football player took Maeda down. In the West grappling matches are normally decided by a "pin." Holding your opponent on his back for a short time signifies victory. In jiu-jitsu and judo, however, so long as you hold your opponent between your legs you are not regarded as being pinned even though you are on your back (since in this position you can still control and defeat your opponent). Some people regarded the football player as the victor since he took Maeda down and "pinned" him. Maeda, however, kept fighting and quickly secured an arm lock, forcing the football player to submit. The confusion over the outcome made people want another match. Tomita was a higher rank in judo than Maeda and the Americans mistakenly assumed this meant he was a better fighter (he was in fact a much better teacher than a fighter, as well as being well past his prime). Accordingly they wanted the football player to wrestle Tomita. Honor demanded that Tomita accept the challenge. To Maeda's dismay, Tomita was easily taken down and this time he really was pinned. Tomita could only squirm under the big man's pin—it was a humiliating defeat for judo. After this embarrassment, Tomita and Maeda split, Maeda staying on the East Coast, Tomita going to the West Coast. Anxious to uphold the dignity and reputation of judo, Maeda tried to set up a professional fight in which he would take on an American boxer or wrestler. Living and teaching in Princeton, New Jersey, and also in New York, Maeda trained for a fight in the Catskills, in Upstate New York. He was to fight a talented local wrestling champion.
Maeda won, restoring honor to judo and jiu-jitsu.
The relative obscurity of judo and jiu-jitsu made teaching in New York a difficult way for Maeda to make a living. Nonetheless, his skill and success in challenge matches added to his reputation and his confidence in the effectiveness of his fighting style. So confident did Maeda become that he challenged to a no-rules fight the world heavyweight boxing champion of that era, Jack Johnson, a man who many regard as the greatest heavyweight of all time. In doing this Maeda started a tradition that Helio Cracie and his sons would carry on. Helio challenged the top heavyweight boxer of his time, Joe Lewis. In the modern era, several Grades have challenged current boxing icon, Mike Tyson. Johnson did not respond, setting a tradition among top heavyweights not to respond to such challenges!
Maeda was a world traveler. After his time in North America he toured Central and South America and also Europe. By taking many professional challenge fights, Maeda clearly went against the strict moral codes of Kodokan judo. Probably because of this, Maeda described his fighting method as "jiu-jitsu" rather than "judo." There are other likely reasons why he switched the nomenclature of his art. Maeda had in fact studied classical jiu-jitsu before he studied judo under Jigoro Kano, who was regarded as an outstanding student of Tenshin ShinTo jiu-jitsu. When he began fighting challenge matches, he almost certainly began using techniques that were not allowed in judo training but which were part of his old jiu-jitsu curriculum. In addition, Maeda was an intelligent and thoughtful innovator. He added techniques and took out those he considered ineffective. He molded his fight-
ing style to deal with the two most common types of opponents encountered, Western boxers and wrestlers. In terms of technique, he was moving away from pure judo. One thing is clear, when Maeda taught people during these long overseas voyages, he insisted on calling his art "jiu-jitsu." Maeda spent his time instructing police units and private citizens in jiu-jitsu its and advertising his skill in a huge number of challenge matches. His tremendous record made him a legend in Central and South America. He fought also in England and Spain. It was in Spain that he took on the name "Count Koma," by which he is often known.
In the early 1920s, Maeda returned to Brazil and became heavily involved in the Japanese government's attempts to start a colony in northern Brazil. This was the era of imperial Japan. Japan was interested in starting colonization projects overseas just as the leading Western nations had done. One of the countries chosen for colonization was Brazil. Maeda was chosen to help with this colonial project. His own good experiences in Brazil and his bad experiences in North America (where there was much anti-Japanese sentiment) convinced him that Brazil, not North America, was the best place for Japanese colonization. He immersed himself in the project with great zeal. The colonial project was a very difficult one (in fact it ultimately failed). One local man who used his political connections to help Maeda was Gastao Cracie, whose family had emigrated to Brazil from Scotland. The friendship that grew between the two men led to an offer from Maeda— he would teach his jiu-jitsu to Castao's sons.
Maeda and the Grades
Carlos Cracie (1902-94), the oldest of the Cracie brothers, became one of Maeda's students. A fascinating question to ask is what did Maeda teach Carlos? Information is scarce about Maeda's teaching method and the technical changes he made to jiu-jitsu and judo as a result of his combat experience. We have seen that Maeda insisted on describing his art as jiu-jitsu rather than judo and his probable reasons for doing so. Maeda does note that he had to modify his technique for MMA competition. He discerned, for example, the principal weaknesses and strengths of his main opponents, Western boxing and wrestling, and fought in a way that negated their strengths and exploited their weaknesses. His principal fighting method involved throwing a low kick or elbow to set up a clinch from where he would throw his opponent to the mat. Once there, he focused on ground-grappling submission holds to finish the fight. This general strategy seems very similar to that used by modern Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters.
The main lessons that Maeda appeared to transmit to Carlos were these:
1. Grappling skill could, with minor modifications, be made into a highly effective combat style, which could negate the strengths of other styles and exploit their weaknesses. Maeda was living proof of this. The usefulness of his many challenge matches and MMA experience was beyond doubt. Maeda had learned much from them about which techniques and strategies were truly effective in real combat. By rejecting Kano's moral prohibition on professional MMA fights Maeda had greatly advanced the effectiveness of grappling as a fighting style.
2. The need for live training (randori) as the means to successfully inculcate technique into students in a way that they could utilize in real combat. This came from Maeda's training with Kano. We shall soon see that the Gracies greatly extended and improved upon this lesson.
3. Actual technique of jiu-jitsu.
4. The basic strategy of taking a striker to the ground, thus removing his greatest strength (his punches and kicks) and exposing him to your greatest strength (grappling submission holds).
Carlos was in fact a student of Maeda's no more than four years and possibly as little as two years. He opened his own school in 1925, but there is conflicting evidence as to how long he had studied jiu-jitsu before opening his school. In such a short space of time he could only have learned a limited amount of technique. Bear in mind also that Maeda was himself very heavily involved in the colonization project at the time he is thought to have trained Carlos and appears to have traveled frequently. It would thus appear that the teacher/student contact between Maeda and Carlos was not extensive as is commonly supposed. Consequently, most of the technical knowledge of jiu-jitsu had to be developed and discovered by the Grades themselves over the years.
Maeda continued his travels around Brazil and the other countries, leaving the Gracie brothers to work out the myriad precise details of their martial art over time. Maeda had given the Gracie's the basic technical start they needed, along with an overall strategic vision of how a grappler could control and dominate a fight that had been well tested in the cauldron of real combat. In addition he imparted a very good training methodology and a philosophy of using real combat as the ultimate test of stylistic effectiveness—this was the legacy Maeda gave to the Gracies in the relatively short time he taught Carlos.
The Development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
The Gracie brothers had several advantages that enabled them to make quick advances in the development of their art. One of these was numbers. There were four sons who
were all heavily involved with jiu-jitsu. This meant there was never a lack of training partners with whom to practice and refine technique. The four brothers had a huge number of children, most of whom became avid students and teachers of jiu-jitsu. They in turn had many sons who likewise went into the family trade. Add to this the many close students of the family and you can see that the Gracies were like a research team whose field of study was unarmed combat. Another advantage was time. The Gracies taught jiu-jitsu for a living and so could devote all their time to study and research. Helio Gracie, for example, is known to have spent a staggering amount of time in refining and adjusting technique over many years, always seeking the most efficient use of strength and resources. Another was lack of physical size. The Gracies were all very small men. Ordinarily one would not think this an advantage for a fighter, but this lack of physical stature forced the Gracie boys to refine technique to an extraordinary degree, making them place great emphasis on technical perfection as the key to victory. Another great advantage possessed by the Gracies was their autonomy. It is very common in traditional martial arts to have a strong sense of tradition. Modifications to a style are often seen in a negative light, as a watering-down of the original insights of the ancient masters. Since the Gracies operated largely on their own, they did not have to answer to anyone but themselves. Never having to pay homage to tradition meant that they had absolute freedom in adding and rejecting technique. Effectiveness, not tradition and veneration of the past, was the only criterion of inclusion. These advantages aside, the development and success of Brazilian jiu-jitsu has deeper elements that we now need to investigate.
The Genius of the Gracie Clan— Overcoming Kano's Limitations
The classical jiu-jitsu and judo that Maeda taught to the Gracies had several revolutionary elements. Not only was Maeda showing the techniques of jiu-jitsu and judo, but also the new training method of randori, or free sparring. The innovative genius of the Gracies lay in their extending and modifying the technique, training methodology, and strategy of Japanese jiu-jitsu and judo and creating a new and revolutionary martial art in the process. Part of this story involves the rejection of certain limits that Kano had imposed upon martial arts training. We have seen already that Kano was interested in much more than physical fighting technique. As a public educator he was interested in the moral and social development of citizens and thought that judo training could be part of that development. Judo was to be made safe so that all citizens could participate.
In trying to make a martial art part of an acceptable moral and social education that the whole citizenry could engage in Kano created a wonderful social project but had to impose such strict limitations upon the dangerous elements of fighting that his judo suffered as a combat style. Kano took out too much of the dangerous elements of fighting and grappling training. To prevent injuries in training, only submission holds to the elbow joint were permitted, along with strangleholds. Pressure against the face was made illegal. Striking was only practiced in ceremonial kata, never as part of live training. Students only trained in a gi. As a spectator sport with Olympic aspirations, a greater emphasis was put on aesthetically pleasing throws than on effective ground grappling. The result was an ever growing bias away from ground grappling. Competitors had only a very short period on the ground before the referee would intervene and stand them back up. As part of the moral code, fighting with other styles in challenge matches was forbidden. Under such tight restrictions it was difficult to continue making improvements as a pure combat style.
The social, moral and aesthetic demands were a hindrance to progress in developing the combative efficiency of grappling. The Cracie clan saw the negative effect of these limitations and rejected them outright. Their concern was not with social education but combat efficiency. Following Maeda's lead they engaged in challenge matches and MMA events as a means of further developing the efficiency of their style. Interestingly, when the Gracies first came to North America and continued their tradition of challenges and MMA combat, many martial artists criticized them on the basis of the very same moral, social, and aesthetic grounds that the Gracies had rejected years ago as a hindrance to the development of a combat-effective style.
Another improvement that the Gracies set about making lay in the actual techniques they developed. We have seen that this was partly due to the fact that their small stature required more efficient use of leverage to get techniques to succeed. This is only part of the story, however. The fact that Brazilian jiu-jitsu had a very different rule system and strategy from its parent arts meant that many new situations and predicaments emerged in the course of training and combat. These all had to be resolved by the invention of new technique or the modification of old ones. This process of invention and modification took years of painstaking research and continues today. To give a simple example, in judo if one player is caught in an arm lock from underneath by the opposing player and he succeeds in standing up, the referee stops the action and both players resume from a standing position. Consequently there is no great need for a technique to defend an arm lock from underneath, since by merely standing up you will be saved by the referee. In a real fight, however, the arm lock from underneath can be successfully applied even when the opposing player stands up (this often happens in modern MMA events). In recognition of this fact,
in Brazilian jiu-jitsu the match continues when one player stands up while caught in an arm lock from underneath. As a result there is a direct need for a set of techniques to escape such an arm lock. These had to be invented by the Gracies over time. In this way, changes in the rules required additions to the inventory of technique.
A third very significant change that the Gracies incorporated was a dramatic freeing up of the restrictions imposed by Kano on randori. We have seen that Kano had instituted "live" randori training in the Kodokan and that was largely responsible for the dramatic success of his style against classical jiu-jitsu styles that only trained with kata. Kano had, however, as a result of his concern over safety in practice, severely limited the kinds of grappling moves students were allowed to train with. All leg locks, neck cranks, spine locks, shoulder locks, wrist locks, muscle crushing, and cross-facing were illegal. These, however, are very effective combat techniques. By removing them students lose a good deal of combat effectiveness. Also if they encounter someone who does use them, their lack of familiarity with the techniques will make them very vulnerable. By adding these techniques to randori training the Gracies made their art much more combat effective. Live sparring had much more combative feel to it with the removal of these restrictions on technique.
The single greatest innovation that the Gracies incorporated, and one that is perhaps more than any other responsible for the success of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in MMA events, was the development of a simple, yet devastating^ effective, general combat strategy, and the adoption of a sport point system that reflected that strategy. Following the experience of Maeda, the Gracies had realized the effectiveness of taking an opponent to the ground in a real fight, thus removing the danger of strikes to a large degree. At the same time the opponent is in an environment with which he is unfamiliar and with which the Brazilian jiu-jitsu student is very familiar. Accordingly the skill of taking an opponent down to the ground is a very useful one. This fact is reflected in the sport point system instituted by the Gracies. A clean takedown scores two points. Once a fight goes to the ground, experience has shown there is a clear hierarchy of positions that the two combatants can enter into. Some positions offer great advantages in terms of the ease with which you can strike or submit your opponent. Others are potentially disastrous, offering your opponent too many advantages. Still others are roughly neutral, neither side having a clear advantage. For example, if you are underneath your opponent you can still exert considerable control over him so long as you keep him between your legs. From here it is even possible to submit your opponent or sweep him over into an advantageous position. In addition it is difficult for him to strike you effectively, as you can use your arms and legs as barriers to his strikes. If, however, your opponent were to get past your legs to a position on your side, he would have gotten past your best line of defense into a position where he can strike you, submit you, or progress on to still better positions. This success on his part is rewarded in the point system, gaining two points. If he were to place his knee on your stomach and sit up he would gain a truly dominant position from where he can strike you at will and enter easily into a host of submission holds. Under the point system this is recognized by the awarding of three points.
There are many ways to score points in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Each represents a positional change that would prove advantageous in a real fight. By training and competing under this system of points, the strategy that has proven so effective in real combat is ingrained into the training and grappling habits of students, making their everyday randori training very good preparation for a real fight. The most decisive way to win is by submission. No matter how far behind in points you might be, if you make your opponent surrender, you win. Again, this is a reflection of real combat. Submission is gained by stranglehold or joint lock. This strategy of constantly striving to work your way up the hierarchy of positions until you get into a position from which you can dominate, pressure, and finish your opponent is the innovative core of the Brazilian system. It is the most directly combat-realistic point system of any grappling style. Once this training methodology is adopted and ingrained it is only a short step to prepare a student for MMA competition. All the basic strategic and technical habits have already been established.
The Historical Record
The record shows that the innovations and improvements to jiu-jitsu incorporated by the Gracies have created a combat style with unequaled success in MMA competition. Since the early days of Carlos and Helio, through the second generation, Carlson and Rolls, through the current generation, Rickson, Rorion, Royler, Royce, Ralph, and Renzo (among others), the Gracies and their students have experienced tremendous success in open MMA events and challenge matches that has brought them worldwide recognition. Our historical analysis has revealed some of the major reasons why this success came about.
The Belts and Grading System of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:
Most martial arts have a system of belts or similar ranks by which a student may assess his level of development. Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tracing its roots back to Maeda's influence, shares the Japanese system of colored belts. The belt system begins with white belt and progresses through blue, purple, brown, black, and various degrees of black, up to red belt for those whose influence and fame takes them to the pinnacle of the art. Compared with other styles, there are a relatively low number of belt grades in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Most styles have different grades within a belt color, so that one can be a third-stage orange belt, for example. This plentilude of belt levels ensures that students have a sense of constantly moving forward, since they are often being given a new level. By way of contrast, the student of Brazilian jiu-jitsu must often endure long years holding the same rank. Few make it even to purp/e belt, with black belt being truly elite status.
What distinguishes the Brazilian system from others is its extreme informality. There is no precise, agreed-upon set of rules that determine who is a blue belt, who a purple belt, and so forth. Part of the reason for this is the complete lack of forms, or kata (pre-arranged, choreographed sets of movements containing the idealized movements of the style in question, typically a collection of kicks, punches, blocks, and the like performed solo), in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu system. Most martial arts put a lot of emphasis upon learning these katas. When one has learned a set of katas, this is often taken to be indicative of progress, indicating that the student is ready for promotion. Lacking a curriculum of kata, the Brazilian style must look to other indicators of progress. One might try to differentiate grades in terms of numbers of moves that a student knows. Such a method is clearly inadequate. It is often pointed out that a purple belt knows almost as many moves as a black belt—he simply does not perform them as well, or combine them as well, or at the correct time. Also, some fighters do very well with a small collection of moves that they can apply well in any situation—should they be ranked lower than a another fighter who knows a lot of moves but applies none of them well? A more objective method is to test fighting skill. If one fighter always defeats another when they grapple, this might be taken as firm evidence that he deserves the higher rank. Yet it is not always so simple. What if he is far heavier and stronger and this is the only reason that he prevails in sparring sessions? What if he is technically inferior? You can see that there are no easy answers to the question of what criteria we can offer for a given belt ranking. Rather, the extreme informality of the Brazilian style is a direct reflection of the fact that it is impossible to provide clear-cut rules as to how people ought to be graded. The most we can do is provide very general criteria. The individual decision must be left to an experienced instructor who will take a range of criteria into account. For example, the size and strength of the student, depth of technical knowledge, ability to apply it in sparring sessions and competition, how he compares with students of other ranks both inside and outside his school, his ability to teach, and so on. In general Brazilian jiu-jitsu takes a very conservative stance toward promotion. This is a direct reflection of the fact that it is primarily a fighting style. It makes no sense to promote someone to a high rank if they cannot fight well—after all, should a highly ranked fighter be defeated it is a bad reflection on the school. So then, the two principal features of the Brazilian ranking system are its informality and its conservatism. Having said this, we can now go on to say a little about the grading process as it is applied to the actual belts.
In this book a guideline for belt requirements is offered. This is offered only as a rough guide, a set of minimum requirements for a given belt level. The fact is, there is no substitute for training under an experienced coach in an accredited school. One might well memorize all the techniques offered here for blue belt level, even practice them with a friend, then go to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school and be trounced by the white belts! To really know a given move one needs to learn not just the basic movements, but be able to perform them on an opponent who is resisting as hard as he can. This comes not from a book, but from time spent on the mat in hard training. A true sense of your level of development is had by training and competing with other practitioners and drawing comparisons with your own game. Still, a rough guide can be offered to those who lack the benefit of a good local school or who seek a general guide to the grading process.
White Belt to Blue Belt
Of all the belt grades this is the least controversial. The step up to blue belt is the beginning of a long road. The white belt often obsesses over technique, hoping to learn as much as possible so as to do better against his classmates. This is a healthy attitude; the fact remains, however, that the transition to blue bell is not merely a matter of acquiring a set of techniques. One must always remember that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is more than a large set of moves. Rather, it is a set of moves woven into an overall strategy. The most basic general strategy of Brazilian jiu-jitsu can be stated very simply. One takes the opponent to the ground where he can be easily controlled, seeking to find a dominant position. From that dominating position, one looks to apply a finishing technique that will bring the fight to an end in the most efficient manner. All the myriad moves of Brazilian jiu-jitsu fall within that simple strategy. The blue belt is one who has taken that strategy to heart, who tries to follow it as he trains, who lets that general strategy guide the application of the techniques he has learned. It is important to realize that that basic strategy remains the same through all the belt levels; the difference between belt levels is merely a reflection of the increasing sophistication and technical expertise with which the basic strategy is carried out. You can see, then, that the essence of a blue belt lies in the adoption of this strategic element along with the beginnings of the technical expertise to carry it out upon people of a reasonably high level, that is, other people who have been judged as blue belts.
In this book we will offer a series of moves that are commonly judged appropriate to blue belt level. A series of moves that is sufficiently complete to allow the hard-training beginner to successfully attempt to employ this overall strategy in training and in self-defense situations. Given our earlier statement of the general strategic vision that lies behind Brazilian jiu-jitsu, one can see that the blue belt will require at a minimum a means of taking his opponent down, of escaping from bad positions, of attaining and maintaining good positions, and of efficiently finishing an opponent once a good position has been attained. This is precisely what this book will attempt to offer, bearing in mind that the techniques will have to be practiced against someone of blue belt level.
Minimum Technical Requirements
Self-Defense Techniques 5
Guard Passes 1
Combination Attacks 1
Blue Belt to Purple Belt
It is often claimed that purple belt is the first really big hurdle over which the practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu must climb. There is a good deal of truth to this. It is one of the most time-consuming belts. Typically it takes about the same time to gain a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as it does a black belt in most other styles (around four to five years of hard training). By the time the student has attained a purple belt, he has a working knowledge of most of the moves of the system and has determined which of these are his favorites— the moves that he relies upon for his own personal game plan. As a blue belt student progresses, learning ever more techniques, he comes to a level where he can easily counter the moves of less seasoned blue belts. His technical knowledge is at a higher level than theirs. This allows him to anticipate and counter their moves easily. Since he is battling with higher-level opponents he must employ a greater number of moves than a standard blue belt. Moreover, they must be employed in a more precise fashion.
Along with these changes come changes in style. The purple belt uses moves in combination much more readily than a blue belt. Rather than struggling to employ a given move on a fiercely resisting opponent, the purple switches to another, complementary technique that completes the job with far less effort. His deeper knowledge of technique is what allows him to do this. In this book we will attempt to show how a series of new techniques can be added to the arsenal of a blue belt, which, through hard training, can take him to the next level. A selection of moves, widely taken to be representative of purple belt level, will be shown. When these are added and combined with those of the blue belt level, drilled constantly and made part of grappling training, they can take the student up to purple belt.
Minimum Technical Requirements
Guard Passes 1
Combination Attacks 1
Brown belt is the beginning of the truly elite rankings. Typically it takes five to six years of hard training to attain this level. You may well ask, "If purple belt level signifies techni-
cal expertise and black belt level technical and practical expertise, what does brown belt signify?" Brown belt is reaHy an intermediary step. It provides the bridge between purple and black belts. Often it marks the student's first steps in teaching techniques to beginners. The brown belt is expected to have a deeper knowledge of technique than a purple belt, along with greater practical ability. On a more mundane level, if a student is regularly dominating other purple belts both in sparring and competition, this is strong evidence that he is ready for promotion. So the chief function of brown belt level is to provide a smooth transition to black belt. Of course the brown belt uses a greater number of techniques than the lower belts—this is a reflection of his longer training time. Some of these moves are high level; all of them are performed with the crispness appropriate to that high level. A series of moves taken as representative of brown belt level are shown here.
Minimum Technical Requirements
Guard Passes 1
Combination Attacks 2
In virtually all the martial arts, black belt denotes the highest level of achievement. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is no exception. By the time the student attains a black belt his knowledge and skill are of the highest class. In addition, his depth of knowledge makes him a fully qualified teacher. Rather than merely knowing how to perform the moves, the black belt is expected to know why a given move works. That is, he understands the biomechanical principles that underlie the move. The principles of leverage, of body control and mechanics. This deeper knowledge makes him a far better teacher than someone who merely recounts a series of moves. Moreover, such knowledge allows him to invent new moves and combinations and so develop a more personalized jiu-jitsu.