The Evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu



(Photo Credit: Bjjee)

Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dead? What’s going on out there on those mats? I’m starting to feel more and more guilty when I defend it against people who call it karate. “No no no!” I say. “It’s more like fighting.” I say.


But after this year’s worlds there is so much weird and bizarre mind blowingly sportcentric game being played it’s hard to distinguish between a close battled match or two dogs mating. You thought berimbolos were ridiculous? The galaxy guard! The worm guard! Reverse de la pancake riva! What the hell is happening?


BJJ is evolving into the most specialized subspecies possible for it’s super specific niche environment. That’s all. Maybe you’re okay with it. Maybe it drives you insane. Maybe it makes you feel both – forcing you to live an impossible world of duality.


How would you inherently attack someone without premeditation? Think about it for a second. Without any premeditation. Without any available weaponry. It’s easy to figure this out. Let’s look at Baboons for an example. Baboons hit each other. They hit each other hard and when they get the chance they bite. Why? Because it’s the fastest way to attack something when you’re shaped like a monkey.


So what did we humans do? We fought each other. That was hard. We made weapons to make it easier. People died. But we didn’t want to forget the truest form of battle: two naked advanced primates. Gladiators, whether in the structure of a metropolis like ancient Rome or the village of ancient South Americans, the purest form of competition simulated baboon fighting. It was messy but people liked it.


Eventually though, social structure evolved and it was deemed distasteful. So we try and get close. Two people pushing each other as hard as possible with similar qualifications and characteristics. Why? To see whose better? At what? To see who’s more gifted? More mentally supreme? Sport needs an audience. It’s more about the simulation than anything. Simulating the ancient fight.


How close are we? Currently Mixed Martial Arts is the closest but liability and entertainment push it to be further and further away. In a modern sense think of the brutality and blood of the original vale tudo matches. We needed a way around the carnage.


Wrestling had existed for thousands of years but a complex collection of written sharable submission tactics only came about a few hundred years ago. Mitsuyo Maeda, the judo ground fighting specialist sent to Brazil and elsewhere around the world set out to prove the effectiveness of these techniques. Or rather the effectiveness of these techniques to individuals unacquainted with them.   He challenged local heroes and neighborhood protectors to no holds barred fights. He flying-armbarred them. They had no idea what the hell happened. It was effective. He taught the Gracies a few moves. They further developed the art. How do you learn the art? You practice. How do you test its effectiveness and increase its popularity and profitability? You hold competitions. Want to restrict access? Make the clothing expensive.


Well the submission only tournaments were long. Hours sometimes. Stalling was easy. If you’ve ever had someone who’s turtling with both hands blocking their neck you know how hard it is to finish them. People wore each other down. The most fatigued gave up the submission. That’s no good. Long stalling matches aren’t exciting so they set time limits and more rules. Had to move faster to win. Passing standing came. De la riva came. The internet came. The most effective moves for a set time period rolling around in 300 dollar pajamas were revealed. 50/50, Berimbolo, lapel guards.


People who think Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or any other martial art for that manner is valuable in self defense have lost their damn minds. It only takes two episodes of Fargo to understand that all you need is surprise to do whatever you want to another person. I believe it was Doug Stanhope who said ”Put Miley Cyrus in the ring with Chuck Liddel and see what happens.”


“Yeah but in a street fight……”. “A street fight?” Seriously people street fights have two willing participants with no weaponry and last just long enough for an entertaining youtube video. Want to be good at self defense? Take up free running.

BJJ isn’t for self defense. Want to win a bar fight against a knowingly unarmed assailant? Sure go for it. Want to win a competition? Sure go for it. Most of us will never be household names for other BJJ practitioners. We won’t be good enough. We don’t have the genetic predisposition or interest in spending the necessary time to be the first one to figure out the next adaptation in this environment. We’re all lemmings.


Gi competitions are 6-10 minute matches within a hyper specific set of rules. Some techniques are more effective with less effort. These are the most valuable techniques. They are not close to “real world self-defense.” There isn’t even enough data to determine what the hell that means. They are far away from the movement of gladiators. MMA is bit closer but not by much. In a maximally sustainable manner grappling is as close as we can get to our primal roots of baboon fighting. Increased regulation increases this distance.


Because regulation does just this: it restricts. The best and most talented athletes figure out the most effective ways of evolving to best fit their environment. It’s hard as hell to pass the guard. Well let’s berimbolo then. This guy is big and strong. Well let’s tie him up in his own gi and just sit here and tip him over a few times.


What is this? Is it Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? When did Judo Ne-waza (ground fighting techniques) become BJJ? At what point was BJJ so different that it needed its own distinction?


To preserve the originality of effectiveness it would have to resort to old rules allowing more techniques (heelhooks for example). But to preserve its sustainability it must increase regulation making it more specialized and less similar to the instinctive battle of mammalian supremacy.


In the Gi, there are a few warriors left. Guys like Galvao and Rodolfo who fight as hard as they can asserting their dominance through as sea of spinning inverters and gi magicians, whose faces would most certainly be mauled by baboons.

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