GTR Archives 2000-2021

 

Jiu-Jitsu Books 

by 

Roberto Pedreira

*

 

 

 *

*

*

 

*

*

 

 

 

 

BJJ Destroys Judo!

Roberto Pedreira

November 9, 2021

Roughly fours year ago, on November 27, 2017, GTR reported on a bizarre incident in which a judoka won a local BJJ tournament by defeating some BJJ stylists. The report was provocatively titled Judo Destroys BJJ.  

Obviously there was a catch. The BJJ representatives were recreational blue belts. The judoka (wearing a blue belt) was a two-time Olympic Judo gold medallist.

Now the tables have turned.

Within the BJJ world there are, at the extremes, two views on belts. One is that if you can beat people at the belt level, you deserve to have that belt or even higher. The other is that a belt represents knowledge, skills, perhaps also personality traits and forms of behavior, of specific kinds (depending on the academy, lineage, instructor, student base, and possibly miscellaneous other considerations). Entering and winning a tournament is nice. It can be a form of training and an educational experience, whatever the outcome (as the Japanese say, いい勉強). But winning a tournament isn't absolutely necessary and for economic reasons can't be, for belts. Likewise winning a tournament isn't or shouldn't be sufficient for belts.

Kodokan judo has traditionally done both, to a degree. To be promoted, you need to win a promotion match (a 昇段試合). This would be a single match, not necessarily a tournament.  As one of Roberto's judo teachers in Japan said (paraphrasing, see here), when you can throw a selected, appropriately matched opponent in a shodan shiai (昇段試合), you can be recognized and certified by Kodokan as shodan, 初段) assuming that all other requirements are also satisfied. 

This brings us to the topic at hand. Some BJJ organizations in Japan, the JBJJF for example,  lean heavily toward the first view. It is understandable that they do, and probably unavoidable. Japan is replete with judoka of all levels, including multiple Olympic gold medallists. Some want to train BJJ. Their motivations vary. They may want to become professional fighters. They may want a BJJ belt for advertising purposes. They may feel that they deserve a belt by virtue of their judo excellence. They may naively believe that their judo ground game is adequate for BJJ competitive purposes. BJJ and judo are just labels.  Newaza is newaza. It's all judo. Right?

Not exactly. Before yes, not now. Common origin, divergent evolution. BJJ and judo are labels, but BJJ newaza is not judo newaza. One big difference is that in judo you will win the match by holding the opponent down for 20 seconds. In BJJ you won't. You are more likely to be stood up or penalized for stalling.

Case in point (true story): A 3-dan judoka enters a BJJ school as a white belt. The BJJ instructor promotes on the basis of knowledge and skill in a pretty much old-school curriculum. Effective demonstration of the knowledge and skills in competition with a seriously resisting opponent is a necessary but not sufficient condition for promotion to blue belt. (Japan is not a place where under normal conditions competition opportunities are rare and virtually all, if not all, students accept this requirement as totally reasonable).

The problem: Under such circumstances (BJJ white belts with high judo ranks) the JBJJF bans judoka at shodan (初段)  and above from entering its tournaments as white belts. Either they do not compete or the instructor  is asked or advised to promote them for the purpose of the tournament (perhaps removing the belt immediately after, or leaving it if the student wins). This is a problem too. Why not make all judoka and wrestlers automatic BJJ blue belts (or even black belts? It's happened before). The BJJ instructor was directly asked by the 3-dan to give him or her a blue belt for the tournament after which he or she would put their well-deserved white belt back on. The BJJ instructor refused.

 

Above: Scene of the Incident. Live-streamed. No fans (COVID precautions), 

 

The JBJJF relented and let the 3-dan compete as a white belt but stated that if the 3-dan performed "well", he or she would need to compete in future at a higher belt. That is also reasonable from their point of view and other competitors' points of view. But it poses a problem for instructors. It implies that if you are tough and can win matches you don't need to learn BJJ fundamentals. Some instructors will be tempted to trade their standards for a medal-winning student (undoubtedly the case cited in  Judo Destroys BJJ. Unfortuantely for them, the two-time Olympic gold medallist is now working in a "hot bath Institute" 温浴施設, in Kumamoto.

 

So what eventuated? The 3-dan lost the BJJ white belt match 10-2 and was saved by the 5:00 time-limit from being choked from the back. As he or she had been cautioned by the BJJ instructor, no well-coached opponent will stand up and let him or her enjoy his or her tachiwaza superiority. (And even if so, a throw will only yield 2 points, not win the match). So it happened. Lacking fundamental BJJ skills, the result was predictable. 

What the judo 3-dan takes away from this experience remains to be seen. GTR will report in future on this and related matters of interest to the global BJJ community. 

**

 

JBJJF =Japan Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation

(c) 2021, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

GTR Archives 2000-2021