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Brazilian Jujitsu or BJJ, as it is more colloquially known, is the art of grappling on the ground. I do however prefer the other names for BJJ, such as Involuntary Yoga or the Art of Folding Clothes with Someone Still Inside Them. Brazilian Jujitsu is a truly remarkable martial art, there is no such thing as ‘punchers chance’ in BJJ, if you have no training in BJJ and you go to ground with someone who does train it, there is a 100 percent chance you’re going to sleep with your arm and leg bones pointing out at odd angles. To grapple with a high level practitioner is like being in the deep, murky depths of the sea and not knowing how to swim, it is in short, HORRIFYING.

The origins of BJJ lie with a Japanese Judoka called Mitsuyo Maeda, who was a small, slight man, at only 5’5 inches tall. He was however an accomplished Judo practitioner who was the embodiment of technique over strength and as such, travelled the world showing crowds the strength of Judo, what was interesting about him however, wasn’t that he was the best judoka around, but more the fact that he was just down to fight ANYONE, he didn’t care about the size or skills of the opponent, he was an ANIMAL. He won over 2000 professional fights and ended up being known by the moniker COUNT COMBAT, probably one of the baddest men to ever live. Anyway, while he was travelling through Brazil and teaching people the art of dumping fools on their heads, he picked up a student called Carlos Gracie, Carlos then dragged his brother Helios to training with him and then after 3 years of training, taught judo to their other brothers. Helios, being smaller than his brothers, began to hone the techniques that he could apply to anyone regardless of size, this led to the development of BJJ as we know it. Through rigorous training and constant stress testing by way of, just going to no holds barred fights and making people go to sleep involuntarily, the Gracie’s had created something special, the martial art for the little guy, Brazilian Jujitsu.


Carlos Gracie and Mitsuyo Maeda


BJJ didn’t gain mainstream appeal until UFC 1, where Royce Gracie took the title of Ultimate Fighter, by beating a man with one boxing glove, Art Jimmerson, Gerard Gordeau, an infamously dirty fighter and the famous Ken Shamrock. UFC 1 was by all accounts, a freak show of an event, however it did broadcast BJJ’s effectiveness to the world, because it showed that a smaller opponent can effectively dispatch a larger opponent, showing the world that the mantra technique over strength really could be true. this led to BJJ being propelled into the spotlight, where it has remained for some time.

Royce Gracie Vs Art Jimmerson


SO what is BJJ, as I mentioned before, its the art of grappling on the ground, similar to wrestling, except where wrestling is mainly focused on gaining dominance. Brazilian Jujitsu is focused on submissions, meaning that the position is almost irrelevant, you can be as dangerous on the bottom as you are on the top. BJJ puts a lot of emphasis on making and denying space as well as flow. What do I mean by making and denying space? essentially in BJJ you make space to escape and to transition, whereas with denying space means to stop escape attempts and to secure submissions. It could be argued that most of BJJ revolves around this principle.


What are some of BJJ’s strengths? BJJ is one of the martial arts which is always in contention for being the Best or Most Effective and a case could certainly be made for that. Its effectiveness on the ground is unparalleled, so much so that a relatively experienced practitioner, say a blue belt, would easily handle anyone without grappling experience on the ground. BJJ is most certainly effective, one on one, if the fight goes to the ground, BJJ is going to work wonders there.

It is also one of the more available martial arts, all big cities and more than a few towns will have one or more BJJ gyms available for use due to its boom in popularity in the 90’s, so finding a teacher and a gym to learn in, shouldn’t be too difficult. Another advantage of this, is that areas with more than one BJJ gym tend to be priced more competitively so you wont break the bank with training fees.





BJJ Gyms in London


What are some of the disadvantages of BJJ? well its ultra specificity is one of them, it is GREAT on the ground, almost unparalleled. But you have to get them to the ground first, most BJJ practitioners I know, study it for sport rather than self defence and in that side of things, takedowns aren’t really taken as seriously as just working from the ground, almost like it doesn’t matter who takes who to the ground, because we’re gonna end up there anyway sort of thing. However in a serious altercation, who takes who down matters significantly, as the person who is going to the ground is often being dragged, thrown or slammed there and you know, the floor is hard! takedowns have been sort of filtered out of many BJJ gyms and because of this, has lost a big aspect of its heritage and effectiveness, of course some gyms will still teach takedowns, but there is almost no emphasis on them when in reality,  a takedown alone can be enough to end a fight.

There is also no striking in BJJ, which of course, makes sense as it is about grappling. however this also hampers effectiveness, you learn so many things from striking arts that you don’t get from grappling arts, you learn range management, footwork, timing and of course, the ability to blast someone to the shadow realm with strikes. Hardcore diehard BJJ practitioners often have a huge hole in their martial arts game because they don’t learn how to strike. Its the opposite problem that boxers have, in that they wouldn’t know how to grapple if it came to it, but where BJJ falls seemingly short in particular is that in order to get to the takedown, they have to risk taking shots, they have to get into range to take the opponent down and that means that there’s a real risk of being knocked out. A striker doesn’t just lay on the floor and allow you to take position on them. Of course if they did get them down and the striker has no clue on how to grapple, then the striker is probably going to be folded in half like a deck chair. of course all of this could just be mitigated by just cross learning multiple martial arts, or going to an MMA gym.

My last gripe with BJJ is that it can take a while to learn, you can spend 6 months at a boxing gym training 3 days a week and at the end of that 6 months you would probably have a nice little toolbox of skills going, you’d have the basics of almost every aspect of boxing, you wouldn’t be amazing but you would be ok. With BJJ however you could spend the same amount of time and you would of only just started to grasp the basics of BJJ which is of course understandable because of its complexity, but it does tend to drive people off due to the nature of just constantly being a sweaty strangled heap for six hours a week. However some food for thought, at the end of those six months, the boxer in a stand up fight with someone who has no training, still has a chance of being knocked out. The BJJ practitioner however, will STRANGLE a person who has no grappling experience in fight on the ground, there is almost zero chance that they would lose that fight.

Closing thoughts:

BJJ is a relatively new martial art, it is pure, it focuses on one aspect of fighting and does it almost without parallel, mastery of BJJ would be true mastery, not like a McDojo karate black belt that anyone could get. A BJJ blackbelt is a true master of grappling. however like all martial arts, there is no such thing as perfect martial art and as such BJJ does lack in some places. However these weaknesses can be countered by just training for a short time in some other disciplines. It is a wonderful discipline to learn and an almost invaluable tool to have at your disposal. If you don’t enjoy it however and cant fathom training it for the rest of your life, I would say, train it religiously until blue belt level, however long that may take and then leave it there to focus on a martial art you enjoy more. It is just too valuable to not learn.