Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Survival

Let’s be blunt – it’s not really a secret that I’m not a fan of the philosophies and mythology surrounding GJJ. Recently Ryron and Rener made a video for Jits TV. After the “machine gun” history they show some techniques. It’s good to see that they’re so excited about BJJ and sharing it, but I’d like to focus on the philosophy they discuss in the history portion. The video notes that GJJ is characterized not by any certain techniques but by the philosophy we saw Ryron showcased at Metamoris – just survive. It’s one of the many mythologies that I don’t subscribe to. It’s a philosophy that we’ve seen other Gracie’s discuss – Kron has a gem of a video with a lot of statements that make me cringe and it discusses the same philosophy (there’s a lot of good stuff in there too). Even Saulo Ribeiro discusses the philosophy of survival in Case Study 1.0 of Jiu-Jitsu University when discussing Helio Gracie.

Maybe it’s a something that I’m missing, but for me, not losing does not equate to winning. Setting an arbitrary time duration and saying that at the end of that time the underdog is the winner relies entirely on that arbitrary time limit. It is in fact a rule set and therefor a sport. There are certain techniques allowed and disallowed. There is a certain point where both competitors agree to stop. Let’s be honest, it would be a boring as hell sport if both competitors subscribed to it as well – two people both sit on their buts and declare that the other is not beating them, the ultimate stalling.

Survival in a situation in which you would otherwise perish is good, but under the circumstances, I’d rather work to thrive. I see it in judo groundwork – when someone gets to turtle it’s like they’ve called “Base!” They have no incentive to try to attack or get to a better position, simply to survive an allotted amount of time. It’s up to the person who’s attacking the turtle to force the action, to put them in a worse position or threaten them with a submission. Wouldn’t it be better for us to actively work to get back to standing, or even to submit our opponent in this situation where we’re turtled? If both people just turtled next to each other and waited to be stood up, who would “win” on the ground? Neither of them lost, right?

Training to go for the submission, is, in my opinion, the actual goal. Not training for the arbitrary points of a competition, or how to stall for the arbitrary time limit, but in ending the fight/bout/competition in a decisive manner. Yes, go for the right position to have control to apply the submission, and don’t risk your control position for a risky submission attempt, but still, we should be training that from any position, even someone having your back, the goal isn’t just to survive, but to get to a better position with the goal of submitting our opponent.


Foundations BJJ did an introduction seminar yesterday. I couldn’t stay through the whole thing, but got up to the choke Arun showed. It felt good to do an actual BJJ warm-up for the first time in a long time. Matt started with the cross-knee guard pass, showing a lot of details that make the pass, then the transition to side-control after the pass. Arun picked it up from there with a way to take mount and then a circle choke from mount. Good stuff, I wish I could have stayed through Mike’s part.

There was pretty close to (if not over) 50 people there for the seminar. It will be interesting to see how many start showing up for classes (it’d be pretty cool to see 40+ folks for classes). Since they’ve taken the stance of welcoming everyone from any background/club/team/tribe it was a very eclectic group with a nice mix of all the belt colors.


Judo has been going pretty well. Refereeing is a lot of fun, I’d recommend it to anyone. You learn a lot about the sport aspect – why rules are what they are, what refs want to see in a match, what the direction it’s going in is. With a bit of luck I’ll be nikyu by the time winter ends.

Still, I feel like I’m missing something. Matt came to class on Tuesday and we went on the ground and it was like old times. It made me miss the ground all that much more. Don’t get me wrong, I love judo, but BJJ is what made me start this blog. Groundfighting is what I truly love, and unfortunately judo is not about being a ne waza technician. The rules are coming around, and maybe in 5 years will see the resurgence of ne waza as a real focus thanks to the influx of jiujitseros into judo. For now though, I miss BJJ, or heck even jujitsu.

Birthdays always make me look back on what I did this year and what I want. I wanted black belts in judo and BJJ before I turned 30. This year I’m 27, and now have a daughter. Still, I’m on track to get a judo balck belt in the next couple years; but since I’m already a purple belt in BJJ, if I buckle down, three years sounds reasonable. I guess it’s just a matter of if I can do it before my ankle gets any worse or something else goes south on me.

There’s a new school in Madison. It’s called Foundation BJJ. It’s a member of the Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood and is being started by some really good guys. They’re running a clinic on Sunday and I’m hoping I can stop by. Not to get into the drama, but there’s only so many guys doing BJJ in Wisconsin, so this is a splinter group from another gym. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of it.