BJJ in Poland
Guest Contributor, Jaroslaw Chmiel
November 1, 2022
lost its leading role in
and evolution of BJJ in Europe?
BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or to Brazilians simply Jiu Jitsu) entered the
Polish scene in 1996 with Karol Matuszczak, who is regarded as the
pioneer of the sport in Poland.
Mariusz Linke, who sadly has recently passed away, was awarded the first
black belt in Poland
in 2006. Our country has long played a major part in combat sports such
as Judo, boxing, Karate, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, and so on.
From the moment BJJ’s popularity kicked off after UFC 1 and IBJJF
being established in 1993, it was just a matter of time until it reached
Polish borders. Obviously, due to its success during first editions of
UFC, BJJ and MMA were inseparable. It was not long before wrestlers and
other grappling artists learned how to punch or strikers how to wrestle
and fight on the ground.
who recognised its values and practical applications in real fighting,
started looking for sources where knowledge of the art could be found.
VHS Tapes, international seminars, martial arts magazines and soon
renowned instructors were put into effect to upgrade the level of
practitioners' skills in
Previous grappling background definitely contributed tremendously to the
spread of the new art in the country.
First tournaments started to appear on a regular basis and have been
running ever since. The love for BJJ was evident among larger and larger
groups of athletes who were dreaming to live the lifestyle of a
jiu-jitsueiro and make a living off of it. The most dedicated made their
dream come true and now spread the passion for BJJ earning reasonable
wages. There are now clubs in every corner of
offering classes throughout the day and anyone interested can easily
enroll and start their journey.
launched its first European Jiu Jitsu IBJJF Championship in 2004, and in
2006 it was evident that competitors from
were beginning to show their skills in winning their categories.
“Polish” BJJ has stamped its mark in Europe and the world producing
prominent athletes in Gi, No Gi or submission fighting - not to mention
in MMA with two champions (Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Jan Błachowicz)
in the most prestigious MMA organisation, namely UFC.
Naming those who succeeded or even those who contributed over the
years would require a solid volume of a book, therefore we will
concentrate on the level Polish BJJ is currently found at, with some
issues it faces, and where it is headed.
As mentioned before, the number of clubs is still growing and as a
result young generations are proving to be a promising prospect for the
future. As those who train BJJ know, it is not only a sport but it is
also or most of all a martial art with a heavy emphasis on self-defence.
Again, this aspect of the discussion deserves more time spent on to be
delved into, which can/will be done in a separate article, but taking
into consideration the sport aspect of the art, there are a few concerns
that are currently taking place in the field of BJJ in Poland.
Brazilians and Americans are in a battle for supremacy in the sport,
although last ADCC Worlds (2022) was the first tournament where
Americans medalled more than Brazilians, despite the fact there were
more of the latter. But the third spot has always been up for grabs and
there were times when
was a firm contender for it. However, nowadays looking at the numbers of
athletes competing at international level, it is noticeable that there
are fewer representatives of
In the past there were at least two, sometimes more at ADCC Worlds. In
the last edition there was only one, Matuesz Szczeciński who,
despite his considerably good performance and undoubtedly top level
skills, had only been invited from reserve list at the last minute
(coming second and third in European trials/qualifiers). The same
appears to be the case in IBJJF Worlds where our export “product”
Adam Wardziński has been a regular for years. And for now that’s
it! No more athletes.
What is the problem, then? Well, as always the issue is complex. First
of all, BJJ is a private enterprise and it has its pros and cons. In
public funds are available for associations functioning as public
benefit organisations and even those funds are limited. The real money
is channelled to Olympic disciplines, and that creates more
opportunities to implement systemic solutions to attract and train
youngsters. Such solutions include working around school timetables to
accommodate the desired sport within morning or pre afternoon school
schedule. So far the vast majority, if not all of BJJ clubs offer only
afternoon or evening kids classes. There have been attempts to create a
sport faculty for BJJ at secondary (high) schools. However, even though
slight improvements among the youth are visible, it is definitely not
enough if we want to catch up with the best - AOJ or Dream Art Project
being prime examples through their creation and encouragement of skilled
kids and teenagers.
way to improve one’s BJJ, arguably the best, is to find or organise
tournaments with international athletes. Luckily ADCC seems to be doing
well in Poland with two organised European qualifiers for the last ADCC
Worlds (2022) and another soon to take place competition format, namely
the 1st European ADCC Open Championship where athletes from around the
world will be able to participate (it is known from unofficial sources
that Brazilians and Americans are also considering participating).
In case of IBJJF tournaments or at least the ones with IBJJF rules it is
slightly less impressive, yet still they exist and attract a large
number of athletes both in Gi and No Gi (numbers vary between 1000 to
2000 competitors). However, the participants are mainly our countrymen
with a few exceptions from our neighbouring countries. Poznań IBJJF
Open Championship with its four editions may not be enough to draw top
competitors from abroad, at least for now, but it is a good start.
seems we have everything that is required to produce top class athletes
and yet we fall short by comparison to other European countries, let
alone the very top ones from across the globe. So what is wrong? Is it
dissect the path of a kid (a boy for example) who is three years old.
His parents decide to sign him up to BJJ classes that run twice a week.
After a year the kid likes it and they upgrade him to three times a week
classes. He starts competing and no matter the result he enjoys it. The
time goes on and soon the schools starts but because of his passion for
the sport he now trains five times a week plus weekend tournaments. This
is about the time when his parents and coaches start thinking quite
seriously about the kid’s future. The question is: is it worth it?
Being a professional athlete in any discipline is a demanding job, and
not always financially rewarding enough, that requires a 24 hour
regiment (physical exercises, diet, rest/sleep). Now what we are faced
with here is a sport discipline which is relatively new to the community
without any clear parameters for making money. The most prominent
figures of the sport run their own clubs or classes, organise seminars
and camps and sell instructionals. Very few of them have sponsors who
provide them with enough income so they can concentrate solely on
training and competing, provided they do well. Is such a future prospect
attractive enough for a kid? Now imagine it is
and there is only a handful of such athletes. So are we, Polish people
too pragmatic? Uninterested in the pursuit of greatness because of the
high risk of not succeeding? Or is it something else ?
sincerely hope it is just a short phase of a crisis in the sport. I
strongly believe we can regain our stance and stand strong permanently
beside all other nations.
Jaroslaw Chmeil. All rights reserved.