It’s funny how a simple case of assault can expose huge rifts in a community. My instructor believes that a formal split of some sort will become necessary in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He described it as similar to how outlaw bikers distinguish themselves from “polite” bikers with the 1 percent patch.
I don’t see this as inherently bad. People with sport/competition priorities and hobbyists who like that vibe will be better suited with different training styles than people who want to learn jiu jitsu as a pure fighting art, irrespective of weight classes and any sort of rule set. I’m not sure where Gracie Barra falls on that spectrum, but I am keenly aware of where Renzo Gracie’s lineage in my area does.
The problem right now is that it’s all under the same mantle of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, even though the differences between one school and another can be dramatic. The other problem I see is that sport schools often sell their services as “self defense”. That’s a half-truth, because someone who trains and grapples against resistance will always be much better off in a fight than someone who doesn’t.
Someone who studies a curriculum that’s geared toward practical fighting for the first few years will be much, much better off in a fight than the sport grappler who spent their white belt years working x-guard, an array of gi-only chokes and worrying about point strategies. Most black belts at any school would whoop the hell out of most people, but you don’t need to become a black belt to have a tremendous advantage in a fighting situation.
I suppose the differences I speak of are not unlike the various styles of karate. I know Kyokushin does full-contact sparring while others stick to kata. That’s a REALLY big difference between what you can be doing under the general umbrella of “karate”. They do a much better job of differentiating what you’re getting into, which is why they fly different flags. Shotokan, Kyokushin, Kempo, Rex-Kwan-Do, whatever.
My instructor and I have talked about this several times. He’s been kicked out of a few of the area schools for the crime of being really good at jiu jitsu, and doing the exact same things he does to me every time we train. Fortunately he was always welcome at my old school, which is how I met him. He was a fixture at open mats, came to Marcelo Alonso seminars and occasionally dropped in for a class. He’s a “belt breaker” and so am I. I’m not a mat bully, but I’m big, strong, and good at what I’m good at, which isn’t everything, but it’s enough to cause problems.
Higher belts often duck me, or try to turn every roll into an instructional lesson. Not all of them do, but I’ve even had a black belt stop our roll to get up and change the song that was playing when I had him in tight side control with good shoulder pressure, and the bell conveniently rang while he was getting the tunes right. C’mon man! Just call it a flow roll next time!
This crap just doesn’t happen when i get the chance to roll with people from my instructor’s school. All of their black and brown belts of all ages and sizes are perfectly capable of shitting in my mouth if they wanted, and it’s very much a lead-from-the-front school. To them, I’m a training gift, the big strong guy that they want to make their shit work against. I have explicit instructions to not hold back pressure or techniques against anyone with a blue or higher belt at that school. Male or female. And they all dig it, and a lot of them make me eat shit and you can sense the joy when they do. I think those moments are great too. It’s skill and grit coming out on top, as it should.
This is just basic attitude differences. Training methodology varies wildly too. Just last night I was talking to a Judo brown belt who’s just starting BJJ and he’s really frustrated that nobody at our local school wants to start rolls from the feet, which we do every time unless we’re looking at a specific situation. He’s now got an open invite to train with us and work his stand-up. What’s the point of ground fighting unless you can put someone on the ground? Guard-pulling may be perfectly viable in competition, but it’s one of the dumbest things you can do in a real fight!
I get the wisdom of being more cautious working stand-up, especially with newer students, but the hurdle of learning how to fall and keeping yourself safe on your feet isn’t particularly high. I get the wisdom of flow rolling, and I do a lot of that too. I get the wisdom of dialing back pressure, which is very useful if you want to control someone without making them absolutely miserable, like a new student or your drunk uncle at a wedding. But I can’t overlook the value of going at each other and getting to the truth of the matter.
Can you do the thing or not?
Maybe it’s just a business dispute between Ralph and Almeida, but my instructor and his instructor are framing this as something of a battle for the soul of jiu jitsu. Perhaps that’s a bit overblown, but my experiences on the mats tell me it’s not. The differences are real, and Renzo didn’t mince words about Gracie Barra’s direction.
All other thoughts are welcome!