Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17th 240th class

On Black Belt pressure
I have realized today that BJJ is taught in a very specific way. This is the way Grandmaster Helio Gracie apparently taught, and this is the way most, if not all, schools teach. This method apparently has success, but is it the right one? That question might be tacked another time. It's not like we have much of a choice anyway. There are reasons people get taught BJJ this way, and not any other way, probably rooted deep into Samurai tradition. Again, just because it's an old method doesn't make it the best one.
What I have realized is that you rarely get taught how to hold a position, the real nitty gritty details of a specific position. We, as BJJ practitioners, most of the times get taught isolated techniques, and the rest of the time we get taught counters. This means that we get taught the "affirmative" of a position, and not ways to STOP a certain position from happening. For example, it took me a while to learn the right moments to link the different side control transitions, but it's going to take me another five years to learn all those little details small, 140lbs technical brown belts keep to themselves, knowingly or not. Small details such as holding the opposite triceps, or grabbing the far leg from under both legs in side control. These are truths the practitioner either silently stole from someone, or discovered by himself, through laborious training. There's a reason even small brown belts have such a complete and total dominance on someone less experienced but much smaller than them. It's not really the breadth of techniques, but the finesse they developed through applying the same techniques over and over again on all types of bodies. They find the right angles, the right timing and the right "invisible" controls to totally crush people two or three times their size. And that, my friends, is good jiujitsu!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

On the watering down of BJJ

As long as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's focus will remain on submissions and live sparring, there is no way the art will water down. Yes, I need both criteria to be true for my argument. Live submission sparring simply means that both people will use their entire strength and knowledge to choke unconscious or bring enough pain to coerce the other person to 'tap'. There are no short-cuts to becoming better, and there are no fancy doors for people to hide behind. If so and so holds a high rank and gets ass-whooped by a much lower belt, it either means the person never obtained that rank, or that she stopped sparring a long time ago.

I guess that if the individual schools were kept in isolation, and stopped competing with one another, it would be easy for an instructor to dish out belts to their students, much faster than other schools, and people would still validate their rank through sparring inside the school. But it's much harder for the whole discipline to water down when schools are in constant competition with one another in a system based on points.

Of course, it means that the rules themselves promote an openness and a focus on submissions, and not prohibit technique after technique until the art is no more, but luckily the people in charge of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation are not idiots : the last thing they would want is their life work to be discredited by the watering down of the ranks.

I sincerely hope that schools will continue to compete one against the other, under a system of rules which promotes growth and openness, instead of increasingly focusing on safety based on anecdotal evidence of perceived increase of safety by the prohibition of such and such technique which twenty years ago caused someone to break their arm.