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.


2 thoughts on “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Survival

  1. One of the issues – and this is common to many martial arts and combat sports – is that all of them are essentially games. Each of these games has predetermined parameters where you stop: some of those are more realistic than others (e.g., a boxing match that finishes with a brutal knock out, compared to a TKD bout that finishes after some bouncing up and down with carefully chosen target areas), but they are still games.

    BJJ has always been the same, no matter how much Ryron and Rener like to beat their chests about being ‘real’. Admittedly, back in the day vale tudo was pretty damn real, but it was still in a ring, with certain rules and a referee. Since then, it’s gained more and more rules. In either case, ‘surviving’ just meant you were managing to not lose within the rule set, which while it takes some skill is not the same as escaping with your life from a self defence situation (the equivalent Ryron and Rener like to disingenuously draw).

    Now, BJJ would be boring if it didn’t have a certain element of realism, in that you’re testing the techniques against resistance. It’s also one of the few martial arts (I can’t think of any others off the top of my head, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any others) where you can practice at virtually 100% while still training safely. But it is nevertheless a game which operates within agreed limits.

    So yeah, ‘survival’ is a bit silly in that scenario. Sure, it’s good to become skilled at being able to cope with bad positions in the game of BJJ, and learning what Saulo calls the ‘survival postures’ for each position is an excellent goal for beginners in BJJ. However, it’s ridiculous to take pride in being able to stall for ages, a la Ryron at Metamoris. Nobody is going to be impressed by a child playing hopscotch who can stand on the first square for 20 minutes: they want to see them finish the game.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s