Why I don't train B.J.J ?
I can feel people’s temperatures swelling now, “what! You don't train BJJ”, well yes and no but let’s start back a little bit, way back to the 50’s. Judo was one of the first Martial Arts to become known (I will be focusing on Canada right now, Nova Scotia to be exact) and its deadly “Judo chop” , after that is was Karate with it’s dangerous “Karate chop”, in the 70’s it was Kung–Fu and it’s deadly “Kung-Fu chop”, I don't think they had a Kung-Fu chop but you get the picture.
With the explosion of Bruce Lee, Kung-Fu was a hit. But, then along came an assassin in a Black uniform - yes, Ninja’s. With their early appearances in television series such as Shogun and movies like James Bonds You Only Live Twice, Ninjas became a major draw in the Martial Arts world, including both in training halls and movies - of course the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles helped (or hurt) the image as well. In the 90’s came Steven Seagal and his kick-ass style of Aikido. Taekwondo was recognized as an Olympics sport, and all was fine in the Martial Arts world.
Then, in November 1993 came something we had never seen before - two martial artist from different styles fighting each other in no holds barred fighting, And yes, it changed the way we will look at Martial Arts forever.
Now the Gracie’s and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu where around way before the first U.F.C, in Canada we did not hear about them unless you read Black Belt magazine and saw the articles for their early video. Back when they all got along and worked together. We first knew B.J.J as “Gracie Jiu-jitsu”. That was it, the new Martial Art of Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Also keep in mind it was called N.H.B (No Holds Barred) back then, not MMA. Gracie JJ blew up in all the magazines (no internet remember), and then on V.H.S tapes.
Now back then BJJ, or should I say Gracie JJ, was more about self-defense/fighting. You never heard of a point system, x guard, worm guard, ect. It was known as the ‘Gracie Guard”, and the Martial Arts world took note - and, many instructors from other arts began to panic!
“My dragon fist death touch will disable any size attacker in under four seconds, all you have to do is pay me $59.95 plus $40.00 for a uniform and I will train you to be lethal”, said the overweight, out of shape, belt does not fit anymore instructor who only accepts students who will join his cult. Then the guy down the street with a few Renzo Gracie/Craig Kukuk V.H.S tapes (I still have mine) learns some moves, goes to the school and beats him and all his students using this “new” art, while Judo people everywhere are shaking their heads knowing they were doing this same stuff for many years before.
With this new art getting major advertising (not just with early U.F.C fights, but in every type of Martial Arts magazine) people were trying to find where they could go to learn it, or get videos. Even myself in the mid 90’s with my V.H.S tapes training the moves at home and teaching them at my club, we could not get enough of Gracie JJ. Now in Canada there was maybe one guy teaching on the west coast, then a few more came along. Where I live in N.S there were no certified BJJ instructors around. The few that claimed got their certificates by mail order via V.H.S.
In Truro around 1995 there was a guy named Chuck Sproule who went to train with the Gracie’s in L.A also in 1996 Chris Hughes went to L.A to train as well and helped developed BJJ in the Truro area. Peter Martell and Kevin Taylor started training and promoting Renzo Gracie JJ in the Halifax area in the mid/late 90’s as well. Again no sport JJ, no points, submission and Self-Defense all the way.
This was what I call the “golden era” of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Back when it was so new, those who were training in it knew they were the first ones in their area doing it. It was scared, treasured, held onto and only given out to a few people. Then by the late 90’s every Brazilian who trained wanted to come over to North America and “get rich” teaching this new art and this was a good thing. In Canada there were more certified instructors teaching in major cities, and it was developing fast. The golden era was coming to an end, and the sport era was arriving. Bringing about the decline of the Gracie way.
Now I hate saying the decline of the Gracie way. But, I am trying to get the point across that by the early/mid 2000’s instructors coming over teaching, developing new students, then those students start teaching and creating their own ‘brand” the self-defense/fighting method of the Gracie’s was being taking over by the growing “sport art” of BJJ and many of the newer crop of students forgetting about the past.
Now there are still many dedicated BJJ teachers and students that train the original way, and there are many that train strictly for competition, what’s better? Well, that’s up to the individual.
Personally I like the “older way” just because when it first came on the seen I was there and embraced it. I did not have an instructor for BJJ, but at the time I had been training for twenty years in Japanese Jujitsu so I could easily figure out the V.H.S tapes when I got them. I did compete in BJJ events and was responsible for promoting submission grappling around the province of N.S but I was too focused on learning some other arts I now teach at that time period.
The first person to teach BJJ at my club was a Renzo Gracie Blue belt, and I should have taken his class more. But, at the time I was busy learning other arts. I now have almost 40 years of experience, so getting through the BJJ belts ranks I can honestly say would not have been an issue. Also, I am one of the few (if not the only one) that said no to Royce Gracie when he was going to promote me to Blue Belt on two different occasions. Why? Well, I am a strong believer that if you cannot dedicate your time to truly learning your art you should not be getting ranks in it.
After our Blue Belt moved away we continued having BJJ and got associated with an instructor who has the same ideas for Martial Arts as I do. He is both a Judo man and a BJJ man, an excellent combination.
I love BJJ like I love all Martial Arts, and like all Martial Arts it can offer something for everyone. So getting back to the question of why I don’t train BJJ? I don’t know, I guess it’s time to start learning.
P.S. I often wondered what if Ken Shamrock won the first and second U.F.C - what would we all be doing
Shoot – fighting? Maybe.
Ray McKinnon 5th Dan