Ever since Royce Gracie turned the world of martial arts upside down in the early UFCs, no fighting system could be considered complete without at least a basic smattering of groundwork and for many, BJJ rules the roost.
But this misses the expanse of a pure BJJ syllabus, which contains a large amount of stand up and self defence techniques. It’s true, a large number of BJJ schools and associations focus far more on the sport/competition Jiu Jitsu that many see, but there are also a large number that retain purer roots. Rickson’s is one of those.
But what is it? What is it that creates such loyalty and enthusiasm? Why is it like a drug ?
1. It works, and we know it works.
Watch the Gracies in action, or any other top BJJ practitioners for that matter. It’s no coincidence that they have been so dominant in MMA for so long. Far from being “a bit if this, a bit of that”, MMA has evolved into a martial arts style of its own, with its own catalogue of moves and techniques and a core part of this is grappling and groundwork techniques. And where do many of these hail from? Yup. BJJ. How many traditional stand up martial artists have been dominated by the fighter with better grappling/ground skills? There’s just such a huge weight of documented evidence and it’s all based on a pretty simple philosophy; by closing down the range, you can eliminate a striker’s main weapons. From this position, with superior grappling skills, there’s a good chance you can overcome your opponent. It works, plain and simple.
2. It doesn’t come easy.
You have to learn the hard way. You can’t learn this from a video or buying a book. You have to get on the mat and do it for real. It takes time and effort to get good. For some, this is all the reason they need to get frustrated, make feeble excuses and give up. For others, it is exactly this challenge that keeps them going. There’s a saying; “Nothing that was worth doing or having was ever easy to get” and nowhere is this truer than in BJJ. Those little moments when the light goes on and you understand a technique, feel the movement you’ve been missing, understand when to push and when to pull. All of these are the little rewards you need to keep you training and you know that these only come with time and practice and a lot of tapping and a lot of sweat.
3. You get instant feedback.
If you make a mistake, you get to know about it pretty quick. That searing pain from the armbar, or that spaced out feeling you get as a choke takes hold tells you straightaway that you did something wrong. So many other martial arts give you get out clauses, some don’t even need them as they never even test themselves against fully resisting opponents. Not in BJJ. You either get it right or you get tapped. If you like instant and honest feedback, it’s right here.
4. It’s physical
Some people like this, others keep it at arm’s reach, but I like aggressive physical contact. I loved it when I played Rugby and I love it in my martial arts. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something exhilarating about putting yourself in the way of a bit of pain. It’s all controlled of course, but there’s something very comforting about knowing that you’ve experienced pain and survived it. I’ve taken hits in Rugby that assure me that I can probably take the best of what most would-be aggressors might dish out. Likewise in BJJ. I can hack it. I’m not the best, and often come out 2nd best, but I can take it. How many other people wandering around know how they’re going to feel or react in the face of pain or threat? I guess it’s all about knowing yourself.
5. It’s full of really great people
Most of the people I’ve met in BJJ are really nice, down to earth, generous, genuine people. The only people that I’ve met that have not fitted this profile are the people who either don’t stick it out (too much ego) or turn up to “test out” the BJJers in their area (and often wander off in a huff having been tapped out repeatedly…too much ego). So there’s your formula. Because of what we do, most people are very self aware and therefore have no ego. Wandering into a BJJ gym with an ego will only end in one of two ways – you either lose it, or you don’t come back. Most BJJers are very self effacing and willing to give their time and experience. Where I train, I count every person as a good friend and I really enjoy their company. It’s a social experience as much as anything else. It’s a very varied bunch too – all walks of life leave society outside and create their own “community” in the gym.
It’s true, BJJ is a very male dominated activity, and more’s the pity. There’s no need that it should be so. I’m sure it can be an intimidating experience to wander into a BJJ gym and see a bunch of big sweaty guys, many with shaved heads. But get talking and you’ll find some of the most intelligent, approachable and respectful people you’ll meet in martial arts, and in general.
Outside of BJJ, others will deride it as being “gay” (to an outsider there is something faintly unusual about two grown men sweating and cuddling each other - can’t see it myself :D). They’ll call us “nutriders” because we genuinely believe in BJJ’s dominance over other fighting systems. They’ll tell us that system/style x,y and z is better, bla bla bla. I don’t see these people stepping on the mats of any club or gym near me to test their theories, so they’re welcome to their views and their continued life of misplaced ego.
BJJ isn’t for everyone…martial arts aren’t for everyone. But just think, why are so many people absolutely hooked? Don’t you ever feel like you might be missing out on something really good? Go train….and don’t forget to tap!