Monday, August 20, 2007

The Ultimate Fighting Secret

Last month, I sat down with a group of friends to watch the latest pay-per-view Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event.

The host of the party was a major fan, and he laid out a nice spread for us with plenty of food and cold beer. The fights started and all seemed to be going well until my host started acting as if he knew something about fighting.

Oh, he knew plenty about the UFC athletes, but not much about an actual street fight.

For him, the be-all-end-all was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). He raved about how the Gracie family had invented the sport and how their fighting style dominated anything else out there.

I tried to keep quite, but you can only listen to someone spout the wrong information for so long.

I explained to him that the Gracie's did not invent anything, and that everything they taught they learned from Judo. Sure, they were tough and were a great bunch of athletes (and some of the nicest guys you'd ever meet) but they did not do anything new.

To fully understand BJJ you must first must look at the evolution of jujutsu into the pre-WWII Judo curriculum developed by Jigoro Kano in the late 19th century.

Though supporters of BJJ say Kano considered ground fighting unimportant, they couldn't be more wrong. Kano simply stressed standing techniques because it took ten-times longer to learn then ground work.

In fact, in Japan the saying is "One year to learn ground, ten years to learn standing."

One of Kano's students Mitsuyo Maeda, a veteran Judo instructor who had already taught in a number of countries, seemed like the perfect choice to go to Brazil after World War I.

Maeda showed what Judo could do when he defeated many wrestlers and boxers with pins, armbars, and throws. He even allowed one challenger to use a knife and still quickly defeated the man. These exhibitions made Maeda one of the first mix martial artists. He became very popular in Brazil and impressed Gastao Gracie, a wealthy businessman.

In exchange for financial help, Maeda agreed to train his sons. Maeda only had a few months with the boy so he started with the basics and stressed groundwork rather then the more complex standing techniques.

Helio Gracie loved Judo and continued his training and teaching. While it is unsure why he began calling it Jiu Jitsu, every takedowns, throw, and submission were all things he learned from Maeda.

Helio's only defeat (most matches were draws) was to Japanese Judoka Masahiko Kimura who broke Helio's arm and won the match. To Helio's credit, he didn't tap out, but Kimura completely dominated the match throwing his lesser skilled opponent to the ground at will.

The family continued to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and even brought back "old-school" judo leg-locks and lower body submission. When they brought it to the United States through the UFC, its popularity grew greatly.

While the BJJ guys preyed on wrestlers, boxers, and other martial artists who had never even been choked before, the judo community continued to focus its efforts on the Olympics.

When retired judo Olympic champ Yoshida entered the "Pride Fighting Championships" (Japan's UFC), he handily bested any BJJ practitioner who stepped into the ring. - including UFC champ Royce Gracie.

I can't even imagine the damage he would have done in his prime to today's mediocre mixed martial arts fighters.

Listen, I have no problem admitting that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu works well in a ring, cage, or octagon. While an Olympic caliber judoka would destroy them in competition, BJJ still seems to be a useful skill for today's MMA fighter.

But don't you dare think that BJJ is the answer on the street.

When you hit the deck, there are way too many variables to consider. Including being stomped on, bitten, gouged, or slammed into concrete.

While judo is still technically a sport, at least its training is symbolic of real combat. Throw a man to the ground with force, gain dominant position, THEN finish him off if necessary...otherwise be on your feet and ready for your next opponent.



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