Jiu-Jitsu Letter


From Robert Drysdale’s new book, The Rise and Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

Entertainment, coolness, fads, sophistication and firula had come to replace the reality, efficiency and simplicity that had been the winning recipe for jiu-jitsu up to recently. The jiu-jitsusphere had grown immensely, so much in fact that it no longer needed vale-tudo to sustain itself. From its rise in popularity and democratization onward, jiu-jitsu was a universe of its on. Realistic or not.

Who replaced them in the cages of the world? Their long arch-nemesis, wrestling. How did they do this? Simple, they remained simple.

The sophistication led by the explosion of new techniques in the 90s and early 2000s brought infinite possibilities and tools to jiu-jitsu’s arsenal. So many in fact that students didn’t even bother actually mastering any of them. For these students, the act of entertaining themselves watching the novelties was enough. The thirst for “knowledge” was quenched, and now they could move on to the next trend. Forget reality, discipline and performance.

Conversely, while this may have augmented competitive jiu-jitsu in many ways, the change in perception of what jiu-jitsu is coupled with the lack of slaps to remind people of what worked and what didn’t, set in motion an evolutionary track that continuously drifted away from reality. The outcome, unsurprisingly perhaps, was a decrease in credibility and results inside the cage. This, despite the numbers of practitioners having grown tremendously, the successful representation inside cages has decreased in diametrical opposition to the art’s growth in popularity.

Wrestling however kept it simple, grounded in reality and, in some ways was even closer to Carlson’s vision (in terms of tough-love values) than what was coming out of the competitive scene in jiu-jitsu during its democratization phase. Even if in terms of the possibilities of what the wrestling ruleset allows for, wrestling happens to be relatively simple in comparison to jiu-jitsu.

By remaining simple, objective, to the point and firula-free, wresting essentially took over the same stage that jiu-jitsu (and the Gracie family in particular) had spent over half a century in Brazil building for themselves. The jungle had a new breed of kings and while its tools might have been remarkably simple, the results speak for themselves. Was there any other way?

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