BJJ Destroys Judo!
November 9, 2021
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
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
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.
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
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?
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).
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),
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
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
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
(c) 2021, Roberto Pedreira. All