BJJ In The Olympics (Again)

Gamenes… in their latest two blog posts they’re recommending a name change for BJJ will actually help with it getting into the Olympics. They’re going so far as to say we can ignore sport ju-jitsu because the JJIF isn’t making “any serious attempts to popularize traditional jiu-jitsu as a sport”. For reference: 1 & 2

I’ve beaten this dead horse a few times. But since others still really want BJJ in the Olympics, let’s cut the shit and have a truly frank conversation.

First, I call bullshit on Gameness. The JJIF has had several applications to become an Olympic sport and has been actively trying for decades. It’s in the World Games and the JJIF is a member of both the GAISF and IWGA. Saying that there aren’t serious attempts to popularize sport ju-jitsu is just ignorant. The assumption that the JJIF is unused because their website is outdated is… well, it wasn’t until last week that the USJA updated their website, but that doesn’t mean judo isn’t practiced anymore. For that matter, sport ju-jitsu has the recognition of bodies like USJA which now pushes jujitsu tournament announcements to judoka. I promise you, it’s a grassroots movement, but there is a movement to popularize jujitsu. You’re just unlikely to hear about it unless you’re in one of the sports that has a real governing body that can court you about it.

I’m going to say this one more time, and then I’m just never going to bring it up again: Brazilian jiu-jitsu isn’t really a distinct sport from judo. It’s a separate rule set. It’s not even “basically just judo”, it’s literally judo that was taught to some Brazilians before the term “judo” was popular. If you want to compete in the Olympics, learn some throws, or at minimum some throw defenses, and go wreak havoc on the ground in judo. I promise it’s okay. The IJF will happily take you back like the prodigal sons and daughters you are. The rules for judo might even get better if there’s a large population of ground fighters actively competing. If you’re not willing to compete in the almost identical sports that already are in the Olympics, you probably aren’t going to like what being in the Olympics is going to do to your rule set if by the long shot, over the next five decades the necessary stars line up to make BJJ an Olympic sport.

How Game Is Formed

We all have our own game. The goal is to impose that game upon our opponents so that we may be the ones who control the situation. We have our own flows, our own preferred submissions, our own favored positions.

Last week in judo we were doing collar chokes from mount, but we were doing them as strangles and in such a way that we would be giving up the mount for a choke we might be able to finish. I by far favor the choke which I’m guaranteed to finish and which doesn’t cost me mount. That’s part of my game: position over submission. It’s not a part of the game being taught in this judo club.

This morning I saw the same variation we did in judo in an old grainy film and it made me appreciate how much better the variant I know and love is; and how lucky I was to have Professor Zingano come out and teach it to me at a seminar.

Your game is the result of everyone who teaches you; everyone you roll with; every video you watch. It is completely unique to you, and yet all of it comes from someone else. I’m eternally grateful to everyone with whom I’ve rolled for helping me form my game as it is today and to everyone who will help me change it into what it will be. These people are too numerous to name.

I strongly recommend going to seminars and repping the things you learn during class. Out of the couple dozen techniques you’ll be shown, if you walk away with two or three improvements to your game it’s been worth it. You’ll slightly change those things and teach them to others and in doing so make it your own and they will make it their own.

Game is living. Game grows and changes. Never stop revising your game.


I woke up this morning, got out of bed, and hobbled to the shower. It’s been a long time since that heel hook. Most days I’m functional. Some days I’m crippled. Today there is an ache and I feel like I’m not moving how I should be. I stretched out my ankle. I taped it up for the regular day. If I go to judo tonight it will be just for structured practice (drilling, uchi komi, explicitly not randori). The ankle still fatigues after bursts of exertion, especially on the ground. The pain builds up and I have to stop. One or two rounds of standing randori is the best night I can hope for. Some phenomenal days I manage two plus some ground work.

I don’t feel like the ankle is healing. I can do the PT exercises. I can balance on one leg, but the duration doesn’t increase before the pain sets in. 26-years-old and I already feel like I’ve been forced into retirement; that I’m at the point where what I’m limited to is the old man exercises.

Judo has something for this. It’s called kata. I’m aware of an analogue in BJJ. It’s an old concept. Older than judo. In jujitsu you’d do kata for years before doing randori. It’s a predetermined set of movements. Uke moves with a predetermined attack, tori responds with a predetermined defense. You need to know at least one kata (typically Nage No Kata) for a black belt in judo. There are separate kata for throws, the ground, traditional throws, self defense scenarios, you name it.

Back when I competed in judo every tournament would start with older individuals doing a kata competition. They’re judged on how well they execute the predetermined throws from predetermined positions as well as some circumstance around it. You face certain ways to bow. You fix your jacket in a certain manner, and only at certain times. Your uke falls a certain way. It all felt very silly back then, but now I see that it may be the best way to be able to keep doing judo when I can’t even do randori properly without being in pain simply from moving. The guys who do a lot of kata know the throws very well. You have to be crisp and well-rehearsed. It’s very staged, but it doesn’t lessen what it teaches you.

Dear 19-year-old me: It’s not even a full eight years later and you’re now one of those old guys you couldn’t understand.

Brown Belt Test

The test went well. I think I’m now a brown belt in judo. It was very long (I think after setting the mats up and stuff it was 3 hours to go through everything, and then class after). Everything is bruised and everything hurts. I had forgotten what it was like to be an uke for hours on end and be constantly thrown.

It was a good day.

Sunday is the brown belt test in judo. I’m trying to cram information about the US Olympic team and remember all of my Japanese. I’m doing suprisingly well going through the practice exams and looking up forgotten knowledge (like the old chui and keikoku penalty levels which are on the exam, but haven’t been used since before I started judo).

With a bit of luck, on Tuesday there will be quite a few brown belts.

For those wondering – no, my ankle is not healed, and yes, I do still struggle on the ground. There’s an upcoming wrestling seminar at Fight Prime that I’d love to be able to go to, but I’m just not sure if I can handle it.

Dear Judo, quit killing yourself

Any judoka classified in the « IJF ranking list » is not authorized to take part in an international competition of any combat sport, other than judo, unless specific authorization by the IJF.

In view of the IJF authorization request deadlines, this rule shall apply starting from the 1stof January 2015.

That was the message I got from USA Judo last night. As of January 1, 2015, any judo competitor who competes on the international level (such that they are on the IJF ranking list) needs specific authorization by the IJF to compete in any other combat sport at the international level. My understanding of this is that it would prevent judoka from competing in Sambo, wrestling, BJJ, or MMA.

GracieMag ran a brief article on this. It will be interesting to see what happens with Travis Stevens. He’s pretty much the poster boy for cross training as he’s so accomplished in both. Likewise, I’m sure Gokor is not the only grappler to have achieved status in both judo and Sambo.

Let’s discuss some possible reasons and impacts from the decision:

Continue reading

Test Prep

We’re starting to go over new throws each week in preparation for the test. The USJA test is pretty open in terms of which techniques you do. To be honest, by the time you take the test you likely know everything you’ll need to without prep. The hardest part is knowing what they want the technique to be called. Unlike Thales’ BJJ test where you just do four armbars, for the USJA test you indicate which techniques you’ll do from a checklist and they will announce them in Japanese (where appropriate) and English (always).

The good news is, there’s literally a text book on Judo. Kodokan Judo: The Essential Guide to Judo by Its Founder Jigoro Kano enumerates all the techniques and kata. And, if you don’t really like Kano’s book, two other text book style books exist: The Canon of Judo: Classic Teachings on Principles and Techniques and Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques. All three books are by men who were at one point the head of the Kodokan. The terminology, for the techniques at least, is universal. You’ll never have to worry if someone calls it “RNC” or “mata leão” because it’s just “hadaka jime” universally. Unfortunately, descriptions of the counters, combinations, and self-defense techniques are not so enumerated. They don’t have names – just descriptions in English which means you may do something that it describes, but not the technique it’s looking for. Luckily, almost every category has an “Other” option for you to do what you know even if you don’t know the term.

Testing is two weeks from Sunday. I’m confident in my throws and groundwork. It’s the English descriptions and remembering petty details like “what year was judo first introduced to the summer games?” or “who was the first American to medal at the World Championships and what place did he get?” which don’t have any bearing on my skill as a judoka, but rather my knowledge as a sportsman. Not having competed in a long time or really caring about the sport as a sport after the rules changes, I don’t really remember a lot of the stuff that’s not core to the art. I guess it’s time to start cramming.