Governing Bodies

I went to the Judo Club’s summer party last night. I had a lot of fun. Also, I am terrible at soccer. The subject of the Olympics came up – how hard it is to get in to compete, the different models for qualification among sports, etc. To qualify for judo you have to be fighting year round and be ranked. To qualify for wrestling you have to fight in world-class tournaments, but as long as your NOC has been present it doesn’t really matter what you did outside the qualification process (i.e. the rest of the year).

When discussing the IJF ranking system I gave full disclosure – I’m not the biggest fan of the IJF. We then discussed what it means to have your organization be recognized by the IOC. It’s important for the people who haven’t started competing yet to understand that there are politics.

I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth from pretty much all of the governing bodies. It’s no wonder. Even if the allegations are false, FILA has a pretty bad image of corruption from the whole Abrahamian thing (not just once, but at two separate Olympics – really?). In theory the IOC made FILA try to be more honest by allowing coaches to contest a referee’s call, but let’s face it, that does little in the countenance of corruption. The IBJJF? There’s not even a qualification for the so-called “World’s” let alone a standardization of rank or ranking of athletes. It’s my opinion that the IBJJF does not have sufficient resources to adequately provide for the BJJ community as a governing body. I’m pretty sure with everyone else complaining about too few referees and too many matches that it’s pretty obvious this is the case. The IJF? The 2010 rules change, questionable calls from International level referees, and the politics of judo. Even worse, there are three governing bodies for judo within the US – USJA, USJI (USA Judo – the actual NGB), and USJF. USJF isn’t active in my area so I don’t get to hear their end of the bickering, but the constant back-and-forth between the USJA and USA Judo is enough to make any man hate both organizations and feel that they are choosing the lesser of two great evils.

So the inevitable question is always – if this governing body is so bad, why do people still join? Why is the IBJJF still the only governing body for BJJ? Why do people stand behind the IJF when even the Kodokan doesn’t? Why do people still wrestle under FILA?

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My Greatest Find

I’ve made a terribly great find today. I was doing some research for my post on jacket wrestling which devolved into doing research for fun. When FILA noted that there was a book by Prof. Petrov called The Roots of Wrestling I started spastically searching the internet. The first thing I noticed is that the FILA website had errors, but that’s no suprise, then the next secret I found was fantastic. I couldn’t find this book anywhere, NOWHERE. Not Google, not Amazon, not eBay, not the public library system. Mind you, Google and Amazon know of the book, but they can’t help me find a copy.

Enter the FILA library. PDFs of books on subjects I’m more than just interested in. I’ve long looked for a documented history of wrestling in art – they have one. A survey of the folk styles of wrestling around the world? A couple. Books about jacket wrestling and it’s evolution in Ireland, France, and Japan? Oh you best believe it. So I now share this with you. FILA may be riddled with minor errors on their website, but they deliver when it counts.

On Wrestling

While unpacking I’ve come across my USJA JuJitsu guide, my USJA Senior point book, and the USJI 2010 rules. Oh the 2010 rules… 2010 was a tragic year for judo – it officially banned the shot. You may still be able to grab the legs in certain circumstances, but shooting is explicitly out. With the IOC considering banning Greco I sometimes wonder what the future will hold. Greco dates back to 1848, a year near-and-dear to any Wisconsinite. That’s a bit older than Judo (1882).

Wrestling seems to be congealing. Hopefully every country will always have its own style of folk wrestling. It’s living history. Even if you don’t compete under the rules of schwingen, it’s still a thing of beauty to behold. The history of wrestling is the history of man. It is in fact the history of pre-man. 4000-year-old Egyptian reliefs show double-leg takedowns and hip tosses as we know them today. We know the Babylonians wrestled. Wrestling is the only sport mentioned in the Bible. It is written in the bones of the dead, it is in the cultures that thrive with no modern contact. No matter what your source of truth for historical information is, it includes wrestling.

I’m going to waver. I’m sorry if that bothers those of you looking for semantics. On one hand, yes, I do mean wrestling to be “Freestyle wrestling” as it appears in the Olympic program, but I also mean wrestling to be the contest between two individuals for sport independent of a rule set. Judo is wrestling. BJJ is wrestling. Sambo is wrestling. Greco is wrestling. Two kids resolving their differences by throw and pin instead of by fist and tooth is wrestling.

The world gets smaller with each passing year. I suppose it was inevitable that we would one day see all the styles of folk wrestling unite under the guise of wrestling as the last super power defined it. It is a change I both lament and welcome. With unification comes the security that there is one true rule set and you stand to gain the knowledge of all of the collective styles which have combined. With unification comes the risk of losing techniques which do not thrive in the environment of the rule set. When was the last time you saw a judoka land a heel-hook? Collar and elbow gives way to Catch. Catch to freestyle. Judo to BJJ. BJJ to something new itself. Mind you, the techniques aren’t new, again, 4000 years ago the same throws and pins were known.

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Three Week Challenge

I haven’t been to BJJ in too long, and judo in even longer. The only lifting I’ve been doing lately has been boxes into the new house. About all the activity I’ve been getting has been painting rooms (not exactly manual labor). So, save my god-like forearms (modest, no?) I’m starting to feel flabby.

With no equipment, no gym, and no grappling for the next couple of weeks pre-wedding (to avoid bumps, bruises, and breaks for pictures) I’m kind of SOL on the whole being in shape upon my return to class in July. So, what’s a guy to do? When you don’t have the best options available, pick the best from the available options. The plan, bodyweight exercises.

Execution (MWF)

The Jump Circuit – 3×10 – 10 Frog Jumps, 10 High-knee Jumps, 10 Push-ups, repeat.
Burpees – As many as I can muster
Dips – 3×10
Pull-ups/Chin-ups – The goal is 3×5, but as many as I can muster 
Planking – People say it works. I’ve done it for like 2 minutes straight and just gotten bored, but if I’m flabby, maybe there’s merit? 

The jumps are a pretty good way of providing explosive power in lieu of squats. To be more hardcore I should probably go get a 30 kg bag of sand to use. Anyway, the base goal is to maintain enough basic body strength and cardio to not die the first day back at judo.

 

Greatness

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if your game doesn’t cover both standing and the ground I will never respect you as a grappler. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ll respect the hell out of your technique. I just can’t take butt-scooting and jumping guard seriously. For example, when Xande and Vieira butt heads or when I see Xande going for throw combinations followed by a flying armbar my faith in BJJ is absolutely reaffirmed. However, when see things like Jeff Glover turning his back and doing a forward roll to start a match, or him and Caio Terra fighting to be on the bottom throughout that same match I die a little inside and go watch judo. I mean, there’s that stereotype about BJJ right? Jump guard and fight off your back. When my fiancee wanted to start learning judo the first thing I taught her about the ground was to “be a lady.” That means stay off your back and don’t let strange men between your legs. Don’t get me wrong, I flat out abuse the guard against larger players, but your goal from standing should be to establish a position of absolute dominance. That usually means hitting the throw or takedown.

So what about the other side of the coin? I mean, I’ve harped on BJJ enough and I’m pretty sure it was no surprise to anyone to find out that the guy playing judo thinks you need to learn throws, but what about the guys who throw and just let people climb their back afterwards? Just as bad. If you have a phenomenal throwing game and can get ippon every time you probably think you don’t need the ground. Bullocks. I’ll respect your throws – I just won’t respect you. I understand that for judo you can win by throwing someone and having them on your back a split second later. I get that. I just don’t see why you would think that’s a good idea. What if the judge scores it a waza-ari? Now you’ve given up your back, they’re probably choking you as we speak, and that half point isn’t doing you any good because they’ll get ippon when you tap or pass out.

My point is pretty simple: when throwing you should know where on the ground you want to go. When wanting to go somewhere on the ground you should know how to get there from standing. The whole point of the throw for us is to establish a dominant position on the ground. Yes, there’s the tradition of ippon which represents a throw which had sufficient force, control, and speed that it could have been terminal had it been on their head instead of their shoulders, but quite frankly – we’re not killing people, we’re wrastlin’. In judo we’ll spend a lot of time doing a throw and that’s where it stops. Then we’ll spend some time doing some related but disjoint ground work. Junior will make me do the whole thing. Throw has to go to submission. Pins aren’t acceptable. It has to be throw > position > submission immediately and it has to flow. He might correct me all the time, but he’s got a point. That’s the way it’s meant to be.

I’ll, uh, step down from the soap box now, but as I do I want to leave you with a parting thought – make July cross-training month. If you’re just training judo go to a BJJ school and spend some dedicated time playing on the ground. Learn what life’s like when you’re not going to get stood up by stalling. If you’re just training BJJ, go to a judo or sambo school and spend some time learning how to do throws. You won’t regret knowing them. Once you put on that jacket and say choking and arm locks are allowed you’re really only playing one family of sport. It’s important to go see that distant cousin who was raised in a funny country every once in awhile though – he’s got gifts for you.

Hypothetical (The Bad Old Days)

I’m not really sure why I let people on the internet bother me, but I do. Some keyboard-evangelist who’s out to promote the glory of their style and to decry all others ends up making blatantly incorrect comments and slights at grappling and I get mad. The latest one is the indomitable Chinese martial arts (called CMA within the community). Huge disclaimer: I don’t do kung fu, chin na, etc. My personal experience with CMA is limited to people having brought it to jujitsu. I did get to play with chin na techniques and push-hands drills, but that’s it. As a whole, I’d consider myself ignorant to CMA.

It’s shit like this that makes me want to go “Bring on the bad-old days.” Bring back the days when jujitsu matches ended in death or worse. Bring on unholy competitions whose goal is to pit the most dedicated practitioners against each other in a literal fight-to-the-death. I remain stoically convinced that we should just open up a 20-year period of history where we acknowledge the right of idiots to fight to the death for pride and to establish there’s as the definitive best style. Bring on a battle royale where there can only be one survivor, and his style shall be declared the greatest. Make people actually see what does and doesn’t work and let them figure out that everything they’ve been told is a lie.

If you don’t believe that everything you’ve been taught about your art in comparison to others wasn’t a set of hypotheticals I invite you to go to a gym, walk up to the black belt, and tell them you want to fight. Tell them your crane fist bullshit is a match for good ol’ US wrestling and BJJ. See how far that gets you. The notions of “well I’d just hit him in the back of the head when he shot in for a double-leg takedown” are based on the assumption that A. you’re faster than he is and B. he’ll shoot a double. That strike to the back of the head doesn’t do dick when he’s instead done an arm-drag to the back. In the same vein we can’t assume that a grappler is going to be able to close the distance to lay hands on an opponent. That’s assumes a better knowledge of controlling space.

That’s what it comes down to kids – not the style, but the person. We’ve had over 3000 years of monkey dancing around with “my style can kick your style’s ass.” So here’s a list of fun counter arguments to the common bullshit people will feed you trying to compare styles:

  1. Sport-based styles are bad because a rule set prevents you from being prepared…
    > A sport-based style gives you a specific subset of techniques which are practiced under stress and often in a panicked state. They might not be eye-gouges and groin strikes, but they’re reliable nonetheless.
  2. My style has lethal techniques, sport rules nerf that out…
    >Stop them right there and explain what a continuum of force is. I don’t care that a swift blow to the right part of the spine will kill a man. A good neck-crank will do the same thing. More importantly, grappling gives you the option to explicitly not hurt someone, let alone kill them. “I threw him to the ground and held him so he couldn’t continue hurting me or my friends” is a much better story when the cops show up than “I punched the drunk guy to death.” It’s also a lot more likely to come up.
  3. My style is one of the oldest in the world. The best styles are those which have stood the test of time…
    > Wrestling is a primate universal. That means it’s been around longer than human existence. No one else can say their style of fighting has existed literally as long as there have been opposable thumbs. The rules might change every couple hundred years based on what’s in vogue, but the techniques haven’t changed since the last huge anatomical mutation.
  4. Striking is better against multiple opponents…
    > A gun works even better than that. Buy one, learn to use it safely, and move to a state with conceal and carry (aka – anywhere but Illinois).
  5. Grappling works better in the UFC, but it wouldn’t fair at all on the street…
    > The whole notion of the first UFC was just that – what would work best on the street. Guess what? You lost. Get over it.
  6. We have anti-grappling techniques…
    > Demand clarification. If their “anti-grappling” techniques are grappling, well, they’ve got you there. The best defense against a double is knowing how to do one well so you can stop it. Lots of experience with dedicated grapplers will let you see one coming and do the right thing. You can’t argue that someone stands a good chance shutting your grappling down when they have a black belt in judo. If their “anti-grappling” techniques are striking, calmly explain physics. All of physics. They clearly fail to understand concepts like momentum, mechanical advantage, or work. If anti-grappling techniques worked, people would do them in MMA instead of learning to sprawl.