Roberto Drysdale Reflects on
the Evolution of BJJ
By Robert Drysdale
Special to GTR
on my research, Carlos and Helio Gracie did not advance the evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
technically. Instead, they preserved a niche style that was ground-oriented as opposed to its Judo mothership that was becoming increasingly
more stand-up oriented. That was what later became known as BJJ.
The notion that Carlos and Helio improved or invented an art is unsupported by
reliable evidence. Unless we agree that they "evolved" ground-fighting in the same
way every practitioner on the planet does every evening: by making small
contributions to techniques. But nothing special there, since all practitioners
are responsible for evolution in this sense, with varying degrees according to
one’s time and effort on the mats.
Other styles, are indeed very similar to
BJJ (Shooto, Pancrase, Sambo, Catch, etc.) and in some ways, much more "martial".
However, personally, I don't believe BJJ
became a success for the reasons we have been told. MMA took off in a totally
different direction and BJJ went on its own and, today, operates entirely free
of any influence from MMA. Self-defense plays little to no role at all (it
primarily gets people through the door), the technical creativity plays a
factor, but the primary factor that attracts so many people to BJJ is a culture
there that appeals to people. Of course, I can't speak for Shooto or Catch, but
I suspect it isn't the same. In other words, what they were missing had very
little to do with the technical.
This became clear to me after visiting
Japan recently. The contrast between the Kosen schools and BJJ schools was
screaming. Kosen black-belts showed up thirty minutes early, they ALL swept the
mats before class, their gis were immaculately clean, they bowed with deep
respect to all members of our crew, etc. The BJJ gyms we visited, everyone was
just as respectful but in a different way. The rules there also differed: they
all showed up at random times, many late, took their time to tape their fingers,
greeted each other with a fist bump, their gis and the mats were nowhere near as
clean as their Kosen counterparts, they sat in a relaxed manner, etc.
is, aspects of Brazilian culture (some good, some bad), permeated BJJ in such a
way to create an environment of a "third home" where you choose to be
because it is relaxing and a happy/friendly place. I suspect other martial-arts
lack that same "vibe". Which could explain why Shooto and Catch never
became as popular (since the techniques are all too similar). The Brazilian surf
culture of açai, fist bumps and relaxed manners on the mats is endearing
for many people who want a break from a rigid life, but that is only my guess.
Furthermore, I don't see this only in Japan, but every country I travel to
around the world where aspects of Brazilian culture become part of the local gym
culture. Which is why these days I insist on the term BJJ. Personally, I
think nationalism is a cancer and doesn’t belong in sports, which is why I
have almost always called it Jiu-Jitsu. But observing the growth of BJJ on a
global scale, I feel that the Brazilian "style" is too much part of the overall culture of
BJJ to omit the “B” in BJJ.
As for Royce and the UFC, they certainly
gave BJJ a welcome boost.
It is pointless to
inquire into the "what if's" of history. Which ironically, seems to be
at the heart of many debates.
Growing up in Brazil, I had never heard
of Jiu-Jitsu until Royce Gracie. With that out of the way, I believe it is
possible that it would have eventually found itself a place in the world even
without Rorion Gracie and Art Davie. It would certainly have taken longer. But
remember, Carlos Gracie Jr. founded CBJJ (Confederação Brasileira
de Jiu-Jitsu and the organization that gave birth to the International Brazilian
Jiu-Jitsu Federation or “IBJJF”) in 1994, and that, in my opinion, had
little or nothing to do with the UFC and Royce but with Carlinhos’
entrepreneurship and ambition. He also founded Gracie Barra and Gracie
doesn't say much about the overall evolution of BJJ, but at least illustrates
his persona as a leader. This event laid the foundation for BJJ to grow on a
global scale, with teams, tournaments, rules, etc., Granted much was already there
from the Guanabara Federation. Carlinhos just did it better and with a far-reaching
Few people in the BJJ world today care much about
the UFC or MMA in general. BJJ could well have been successful
without a booster like the UFC.
All of this is hypothetical of course.
(c) 2018, Robert Drysdale. All rights reserved.
More Commentary by Robert Drysdale:
Taught Oscar Gracie?
Gracie is Wrong
of book by João Alberto Barreto