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Jiu-Jitsu Books 

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Roberto Pedreira

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BJJfs Closely Guarded Secret Weapon

The Matsuba-Gatame@(¼—tŒÅ‚ß)

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Roberto Pedreira

Special to GTR

April 12, 2022

Update May 4, 2022

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu representatives seem to have a fondness for triangles. Maybe it's mostly the Gracie family. Their preferred logo design is triangular. Inside may be various images with perhaps esoteric meanings or aggressive animals. Reyson and Ryan liked Tasmanian Devils. Carlson liked Bulldogs. The Machados liked triangles but preferred seeing them in a circular frame, the circle perhaps indicating "inclusiveness" which they endorsed. They were happy to learn from their wrestler students, tweak wrestling techniques, and incorporate them into Machado Jiu-Jitsu. It may have had something to do with not trying to promote "pure water" jiu-jitsu as created and perfected by a particular individual "master."  

Before we get to the deadliest weapon, a brief historical review is in order. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the past.@

UFC 1 November 12, 1993

Rorion Gracie's brilliant idea was to invite, or even hoodwink, "representatives" of rival "styles" into "testing" their arts against Gracie jiu-jtsu. With the benefit of hindsight, the results were a foregone conclusion to everyone but the people who showed up and are now immortal on GIA and Youtube. Rorion's theory was that if you beat people up, in a friendly Brazilian way, with disclaimers and waivers, some of them will stay for lessons. If they don't need personal convincing, maybe watching GIA will get them to buy Gracie Instructional videos. Rorion augmented the plan with a steady stream of magazine articles.  It was an excellent plan as afar as it went but it didn't go far enough. Art Davie knew what needed to be done and how to do it.  

UFC 1 Commentators were Kathy Long (lady kick-boxer), Bill Wallace (point and full-contact karate fighter), Jim Brown (football player-actor), Brian Kilmeade, future Fox news Trump fanboy, provided competent professional color commentary. Ron Machado commented lavished praise on the Gracie family. João Alberto Barreto, loyal Gracie family friend and vale tudo legend, was the main referee. Rolker, Royler, Rickson, Reylson, Rorion, and Helio provided the iconic "Gracie Train." 

The superiority of jiu-jitsu was proven by having Royce confront three opponents, each representing a different "style." 

1. Royce vs Art Jimmerson

Art was a top-10 rated boxer (exactly # 10) in one of the many boxing organizations, but he was a genuine boxer.  Unfortunately for Art, being a boxer, he hadn't trained sprawling, cross-facing, or ground. Boxers don't train for things that aren't going to happen in a boxing match. His only option was to punch Royce's face.  Royce kept his distance and waited. Royce took Art down with a Rugby tackle with an outside leg hook, then mounted. Art was clueless and did what any sensible person would do. He tapped.

2. Royce vs. Ken Wayne Shamrock

Ken was a Shooto and Pancrase fighter and pro-wrestler in Japan (he wore his Pancrase robe to the UFC and later joined the WWF). He was not ignorant of ground. But he was unfamiliar with the Gracie's style of ground. Also he didn't fight in a kimono, and Royce used a kimono to his own advantage and choked Ken with it. After going for an ill-timed foot-lock (that had worked well on Patrick Smith in UFC 1), Ken lost his position and soon succumbed to a lapel choke (update here). Some of Ken's pre-UFC 1 Pancrase fights are available on video. As people who have trained both Shooto and BJJ and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu know, all of the submission techniques are basically the same (i.e, are judo). Shooto people believe you should be able to submit the adversary from any position. Amateur Shooto was learned by memorizing long lists of techniques (up to 25 per class). GJJ and BJJ was taught and learned a few techniques at a time (roughly three per class) and drilling them hard, and rolling. The difference is the mentality and of course the rules, including whether there is or isn't cloth to hang onto. Despite being all studly and juiced up, and having ring experience, it was obvious that Ken would suffer from finding himself in uncharted territory, which he acknowledged after the fight. (By Shooto we are referring specifically to the Shooto that was taught at the Inosanto Academy by Erik Paulson and Erik's teacher, Yori Naklamura between 1994 and 1998.)

3. Royce versus Gerard Gordeau

Like Ken Shamrock, Gerard had been working in Japan as a pro wrestler. He was a Kyokushin karate guy although described as a savateur. Dutch guys are tough. Kyokushin guys are tough guys. Gordeau was all three: Dutch, a Kyokushin guy, and tough. Kyokushin guys have no aversion to hard contact, but they don't train ground. Why bother when you can just pity the fool and cripple him or knock him down? Which on a street against ordinary Joe tough guys you probably would be able to do. But UFC 1 wasn't a street and Royce Gracie wasn't an ordinary tough guy. Also Gerard had a badly swollen right hand from his first fight against sumoist Teila Tuli (but managed to use it well enough to dispose of Keven Rozier). Royce had a hard time getting Gerard to the mat but eventually did and from that point it was all over but the shouting.

After winning the tournament Royce was asked by Brian Kilmeade what he planned to do with his prize money. "Go to Disneyland," was Royce's answer. Brian returned for UFC 2 and with that experience under his belt eventually become a mainstay of the far-right pro-Trump Fox News organization. Royce began preparing for UFC 2.

Throughout the tournament the commentators casually tossed out Gracie propaganda. Rorion dialed it up to ten when before the final fight he awarded Helio a plaque. Shrewdly, he did not claim that Helio had done the magnificent accomplishments that Rorion was honoring him for, he simply presupposed them, bypassing the fans' critical instincts and common sense, assuming they had any. 

UFC 2, March 11, 1994

The support staff consisted of Brian Kilmeade, Jim Brown, Ben Perry, Herb Perez (interviewer), Rich "G-Man" Goins (announcer). Ben Perry was a stunt man with links to the Gracies, obviously a big fan. Herb Perez was a TKD competitor, the predecessor to Joe Rogan. Brian Kilmeade was a former wrestler. Jim Brown was an all-round badass Cleveland Browns football player/movie star and friend of Muhammad Ali. and a highly successful entrepreneur as one of the creators of Main Bout, Inc.  He gave credibility to what was basically a carnival side-show. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with carnival side-shows.

As in UFC 1, the Gracie clan was in Denver to support the jiu-jitsu representative: Rickson, Rolker, Relson, Royler, Rorion, and Helio. How could you lose with such moral support? Participants included 16 representatives of various modalities. Patrick Smith was back from UFC 1. Fred Etish appeared as an alternate and became famous for curling up on the ground under Johnny Rhodes' torrential punching attack. Fred was roundly mocked for his performance, but unfairly. He did exactly what Vitor Belfort did against Randy Couture; actually he did it better, he kept Rhodes off for a while with jiu-jitsu leg strikes, the same techniques used by Gracies and many jiu-jitsuists before the Gracies. Wing-chun stylist Dave Levicki lost to Rhodes earlier but later confronted Rickson in Japan. Wing-chun proved to have gaps when it came to MMA. Either that or Dave was not the best representative of the art.

1. Royce vs. Ishihara Minoki

Ishihara threw a right low kick. He neglected to set it up or to approach from an outside angle, which allowed Royce to anticipate it. Royce grabbed it and brought the karate representative to the floor with a jiu-jitsu trip. Royce then took the jiu-jitsu "side" position followed by the Gracie "mounted" position, and began methodically working Ishihara over. Ishihara's clutching and random writhing was effective in postponing the inevitable. Ishihara's only hope was to get back to his feet and knock Royce out. Knowing that, Royce didn't let him do it. When the end came, it was by an accidental jiu-jitsu branch-up elbow lock, aka in judo circles as ˜rãg‚Ý (sometimes misspelled as ˜r—‚݁j. Ishihara's left arm was stuck holding Royce's collar. Otherwise he might have survived longer. He might even have gotten to his feet and knocked Royce out. However, that didn't happen, leaving Ishihara sadder but wiser while sending a message to strikers everywhere that they needed to take Gracie jiu-jitsu lessons or at least buy the videos. If not, then to stay out of the Octagon when Royce was in it. Many strikers heeded the message. Wrestlers were slower to pay attention.  Jiu-jitsu seemed pretty similar to what they were already doing and they believed that they were better at doing it. They just need a strategy which they soon found: Ground and Pound. That came later, but not much later. It started in UFC 3. It's been with us ever since.

2. Royce v. Jason DeLucia

Either Royce tricked Jason into taking him down, or Jason did it without Royce's complicity. Royce quickly applied an arm-lock on the athletic 86.4 kg kung-fu representative. Jason didn't didn't try to make the excuse that he was naive. He couldn't because he had already fought Royce in a dojo challenge (featured on GIA). Jason told GTR in 1999 that he was so confident that he could beat Royce that he bet Rorion a large amount of money on the outcome. He also said that he respected Rorion for not letting him go through with the bet. Rorion was as confident as Jason was but unlike Jason, was better informed. Against Jason, Royce showed that jiu-jitsu is not just a gentle art. After being mounted. Jason rolled Royce over but left his right arm out. He stood up while Royce stretched it. Jason tapped but Royce hung on. Jason fell flat on his face. Finally Royce relented when the referee halted the fight. Royce and Jason then hugged in the spirit of sportsmanship 

3. Royce vs. Remco Pardoel

Remco was an accomplished European judoka and a hefty lad. Jim Brown described him as nothing but a young kid. Not a small guy. He demolished diminutive Muay Thai fighter Orlando Weit, but lacked the elements to resist jiu-jitsu. His loss to Royce convinced him to learn the Brazilian style of jiu-jitsu and three years later he faced Carlson Gracie's best student in the first World Championship. He lost by arm-lock (no surprise, his opponent was Ricardo Liborio). Against Royce, Remco lost by a jiu-jitsu technique known as the collar choke. (Carlson promised that Liborio would easily beat Rickson, that's how good Liborio was. Rickson never fought Liborio so we'll never know.)

4. Royce v. Patrick Smith

Pat studied ground after his loss to Ken Wayne Shamrock in UFC 1. But he didn't learn enough. Royce mounted and punched Pat, who was laying on his side with his right arm holding Royce's head. Thereby he was unable to use it to block the punches, which he could have done with some success or at least kept them from the most delicate parts of his face. Either way, he didn't train enough and didn't train the right things. As most people eventually learned the right things for a non-jiu-jitsu fighter fighting a jiu-jitsu fighter, are: (1) avoid going to the ground, and (2) get back up.  Specifically, strikers also needed to perfect the basic skills of (1) maneuvering the opponent out of position to attack and defend, and (2) not standing stationary in front of the opponent. These are easier said than done, of course, which was all to the advantage of jiu-jitsu in the formative days.

After his four victories for Gracie jiu-jitsu, Royce was rewarded with a check for $60,000. After taxes and expenses Royce probably had enough for a day at Disneyland, which was his plan after UFC 1.

The myth of Rickson picked up steam here. Ben Perry explained that Rickson was "the guru" and the man who Royce trained with to prepare to spank the various pretenders from all other styles. Royce testified, according to Ben Perry, that after training with Rickson, fighting four tough men in the Octagon seemed easy, or like a trip to Disneyland, as Rickson might describe it.  Thereafter it became a way of boosting jiu-jitsu. Royce was the ultimate champion, having beaten three men in UFC 1, wasn't even the best in his own family. Thus we hadn't seen the best of jiu-jitsu, only the little that an average family member knew (although Royce was described as a 4th degree black belt world jiu-jitsu champion with a 51-1 record).  

The message was that if a runty ordinary guy like Royce could fear no man and kick the butts of any muscular, belligerent tough man in the world just think what YOU could do by learning the religiously guarded secrets of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The world couldn't see Rickson in the Octagon because, as Rickson explained, the money wasn't enough. Japan offered enough money. Japan could offer more because the promoters knew their market, and were looking ahead to bigger fights with popular Japanese fighters and pro wrestlers, like Nobuhiko Takada and Masakatsu Funaki (which later happened) and Sakuraba Kazushi (never happened). 

It was left to Royce to defend the family's honor in UFC 3. However it wouldn't be as easy as previously. Challengers were getting smarter. Also, the Gracie marketing strategy had a hole in it. Their own friends and students were teaching tough guys how to beat them. The had to, otherwise future UFCs would have been mere GJJ spankfests, lacking drama. Enter Kimo.

UFC 3, September 9, 1994

The prize money had been upped to $60,000. Plenty of people were willing to take some bumps and bruises for $60,000 or a shot at it. After the IRS and everyone else took their cut, there would be enough left over for a mineral water and a lapdance at a Venice Beach strip club, and maybe a bail bond as well if you needed to punch someone out on the street.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu had only one chance to prove the superiority of jiu-jitsu. Royce won convincingly but the victory was somewhat Pyrrhic. He defeated Kimo Leopoldo but was left in no condition to face Harold Howard, the Canadian Goju master and stand-up jiu-jitsu expert. Harold lost to little Steve Jennum. Even if Kimo hadn't tapped, just surviving would have a been victory according to the Gracie family (at least to Helio, Rorion, Rener, and Ryron). But it wouldn't have had the same marketing impact.  It did however serve to send a useful message, which was that depending exclusively on ground grappling can get you hurt. That probably wasn't the family's intention though. Kimo declared himself in some sense victorious for having eliminated Royce. 

Another message, possibly to future promoters: Three of the contestants, all three winners of their fights, had to drop out due to injuries. Elimination tournaments, hmm, maybe not. But not yet. There was still UFC 4. Royce was back. 

UFC 4, December 16, 1994

Royce first dispensed with Goju master Ron van Clief. Ron was not a stranger to fighting. But Goju  does not prepare stylists for the ground. Goju-ryuu („_—¬) has some merits, depending on the particular school and teacher, but ground fighting is not one of them. Ron did not have the elements to resist jiu-jitsu. Ron later took BJJ lessons from the judoka Joe Moreira. (By then he was too old for MMA but could compete in BJJ. Score another point for jiu-jitsu. No one is ever too old to learn the gentle art.)

Next in line was Keith Hackney, a kenpo stylist. Keith was a tough guy with heart and the potential to hurt a man.  He ended up hurting himself as much as he hurt his antagonists. But he too lacked the elements to resist jiu-jitsu.

Royce was one win away from his third UFC title. All he had to do was beat Dan Severn. Dan wasn't called the "Beast" by accident. Yes, he was middle-aged. But he had been an excellent wrestler. He destroyed the two men who stood in his path toward Royce (Grasshopper Bossett and Mad Dog Macias). He was big. It was safe to predict that Royce wasn't going to take him down. It didn't matter because all he needed to do to apply his family's techniques was to go to the ground and Severn was going to make that easy.

As we all know Royce survived Dan's onslaught and finished with something no one had ever seen before (it was thought), called a WTF is a "triangle" (as Dan asked). Actually it is a head and arm, which all wrestlers are familiar with--applied with the the bottom with the legs, which wrestlers, who don't want to be on their back with their shoulders on the mat, try to avoid, let alone deliberately go to (not that Royce did either, but Dan gave him no choice). Subsequently, lots of people thought triangles were the coolest thing and wanted to learn how to "fight on their back." Lady jiu-jitsuists always featured triangles in their feminist self-defense magazine articles.

Dan was ambivalent about losing to the Brazilian. He neither denied nor affirmed that he lost, and questioned whether Royce really won the fight. Or rather that Royce beat him, because it is possible to lose without being beaten. As Dan stated on VLADTV, "Sure, I tapped, but did I tap, did I tap (sic) because someone beat me, or did I tap because I was unwilling to do what I had to do to another human being...." 

Dan is suggesting without saying it that if he hadn't been honorable, he could have avoided tapping by doing what needed to be done. Such as exactly what? German supplex him on his head? Dan did that to Mad Dog Macias twice and it didn't stop Mad Dog. Or was Dan going to slap and punch Royce? Others tried without success. Or was he going to somehow take Royce's back and give him the Beast treatment. Wishful thinking, probably.

The reason Dan Severn tapped wasn't because of a surfeit of honorableness, but rather because Royce submitted him with a judo technique, one that Dan, despite having trained judo, wasn't familiar with.

Originally it was a nameless trick (waza, ‹Z) used to bring standing opponents to the ground. It was called hasami-gyaku (‹²‚Ý‹t). When it was used to immobilize it was called sankaku-gyaku (ŽOŠp‹t ). When it was used to choke it was called sankaku-jime (ŽOŠp’÷‚ß). Kanemitsu Yaichibei (‹àŒõœ\ˆê•º‰q) called it Matsuba-gatame (¼—tŒÅ‚ß ).  Oda Tsunetane (¬“cíˆû) called it sankaku-garami (ŽOŠpãg). Both Kanemitsu and Oda were Kodokan judoka who taught at schools that participated in the Kosen team tournaments. Triangles (by any name ) are seldom seen in judo because most of the action happens standing.  In BJJ, stand-up is a cursory prelude to the actual fight on the floor, hence there are many opportunities to try for triangles. When a man is in your closed guard and doesn't know how to get out or doesn't try, you will see situations such as that which befell Dan Severn in UFC 4, cementing his place in history.

Notes

Information about Matsuba-gatame is from H“¡ —‹‰î (1972)@”é˜^“ú–{_“¹, briefly summarized in _“¹‘厫“T (1999).

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Update May 4, 2022. A reader with keen attention to detail shares the photo link below, showing that Royce choked Ken (Shamrock) with a naked choke (which wasn't clearly discernible from the original video.

https://mma.uno/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/UFC-1-Royce-Gracie-vs-Ken-Shamrock.jpg?x89844

Reader also recommends the following interview with Funaki:

https://themmacommunity.com/threads/masa-funaki-interview-part-2-of-2.49765/

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(c) 2022, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.

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GTR Archives 2000-2022

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