Is BJJ becoming a traditional martial art?

Vulcan nerve pinch

Vulcan nerve pinch – We all know it’s fiction, right?

A teacher of mine had a saying he was fond of. “If you believe everything I say then you’re a fool. Either prove me right or prove me wrong”. This is great advice for life in general, but it’s very relevant to the martial arts. Pressure point knock outs, kiai masters, wrist throws, chi balls. There’s lots of fraudulent nonsense out there. It’s great that BJJ doesn’t suffer from this, right?

As BJJ practitioners, we like to believe that we’re above all that nonsense. Our art is real, MMA proves it. Would that it were so.

Many BJJ instructors have a background in traditional martial arts. Their prior experiences colour the way they run their gyms. Lineages, the belt system, gradings, bowing etc all reinforce the idea of authority through seniority rather than ability. Many instructors teach as they were taught rather than teaching what they know. They use compliant training. These practices aren’t anywhere near kiai knockouts, but they provide a fertile ground for this sort of nonsense to grow.

Not all gyms follow this path. A friend retells a Marcus Soares story of how Marcus developed a new choke. For this choke to be legitimised by his instructor, Marcus had to perform it on everyone in the room, including Carlson Gracie. This was not just applying the choke on a compliant partner, but against a room full of fully resisting ones. There’s no way that BS moves would be accepted in that environment.

One of our members was recently very excited about a move he’d learned while visiting another gym. After trying it when he got back, he was crestfallen after being shown that the move didn’t work against a resisting partner. When he was initially shown the move, they had drilled it with complete compliance so there was no way to determine whether it worked or not.

Unfortunately this isn’t an isolated incident. Browsing youtube will show lots of videos demonstrating dodgy moves. They’re not malicious, just ignorant. What’s the solution? Question everything. Don’t just accept what your instructor says on faith. Test it.

If you believe everything I say then you’re a fool. Either prove me right or prove me wrong.

Tom Brown Jr.

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