Do You Hate BJJ?

photos by Max Kotchouro
 Are you a Traditional Martial Artist that is turned off by the idea of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? I used to be the same way. I am not someone that enjoys physical contact, so the idea of having to work that closely with someone else, especially on the ground, used to 'skeeve me out' (a little 80's slang).

It's completely different to go from striking, kicking, and takedowns, to rolling around on the ground with someone else.

My Mantis Boxing teacher suggested I take up BJJ at least to a Blue Belt level, so that I would know what to do on the ground if the fight ended up there. Mantis Boxing has been around for a long time, but it was missing a ground component and that was a huge liability.

I was hesitant at first, but eventually I tried out BJJ. Unfortunately, at first I had a couple of bad experiences with who, and where I tried to train. On the third try, I found a great instructor, and the right atmosphere to train and learn.

At the time of this article (revised version from when I was a BJJ Blue Belt), I have been doing BJJ for a little over 4 years.  I have 16 years experience in Chinese Martial Arts, and a smidge of Tae Kwon Do background. After adding BJJ to my other skillsets, here is my take on the ways it can benefit you as a Traditional Martial Artist.

Fills the Void 

This one is simple. A vast majority of Traditional Martial Arts styles cover stand-up fighting - striking, kicking, throws, maybe joint locks, but what is the answer for fighting a guy that wants you on the ground, e.g., a wrestler, a BJJ fighter, ex-football player, some big drunk dude? If you are like me, you want answers, and you definitely want to succeed once you end up in the shark tank.

I have to be frank here, I've seen a variety of answers to this - "I will use my eye strikes, groin strikes, and secret pressure point attacks." No you won't. You will usually be too busy trying to figure out what the hell to do, and why you are on the ground being crushed.

Another is - "I won't let them get me on the ground." Yes, you will. If their style(s) is designed to get you on the ground in order for it to function, they will have been training constantly to take people down. Do you train consistently to prevent takedowns? I live in the Northeast where snow and ice are prevalent for a large portion of the year. Ending up on the ground is a common mishap up here, without someone trying to help you land there.

Bottom line - as a traditional martial artist, we benefit by recognizing the holes in our systems, and learning to close them up.

Primary to PRIME 

Studying BJJ improves your primary art. Some of the techniques in traditional arts have been lost through the annals of time. Putting the pieces back together can be difficult to downright impossible. Finding crossover principles and techniques in other arts, can help link things together in your primary style of choice.

I can't tell you how much studying BJJ has helped me learn more about my own style of Mantis Boxing. From takedowns, to defenses, to even just kinesthetically putting pieces together to flow. It has taken my knowledge and game to a new level. Especially an art such as Mantis that is rooted in stand-up grappling. It helps you flow better, and add depth to your style that may not have been there before.

Perhaps you have all the applications of your style already. Now it is your time to add to your art and expand upon it for the future that follows. What better way to do this than to close off the liability of not having a ground game.

Donut, or Do Not?

Traditional Martial Arts teachers across America are known for being out of shape. I have seen it at countless tournaments since the beginning of my training, and for a few early years of owning and running a school, I ballooned out as well. 

How can we stand with our heads high and sell 'fitness', 'discipline', along with our self-defense, when we are out of shape ourselves? Are we nothing but an army of hypocrites?

How can BJJ change this? BJJ is an incredible workout. It takes some serious conditioning; and what's better than having fun learning while getting in, or staying in, shape. It will help you shred fat, build cardio, strength, and keep or return that weaponized body you once aspired to. Of course, the nutrition aspect has to go along with it, but the mat time you put in, will incentivize you to eat better. 

At an IBJJF tournament, there are more 6 packs than you'll find at a redneck BBQ.

Cutting the BS

The saying is - "The mats don't lie." This means - you can't say you are something you are not and get away with it for long. When you roll with another BJJ practitioner, the truth becomes clear very quickly who is the higher hand.

Being a part of the Traditional Martial Arts World through the rise of the internet, from BBS's,

to forums, to facebook, etc., I have seen more petty arguments and nonsense about - "My style is the greatest". "I'm better than you." "I know more forms than you." "My lineage is pure." "My teacher is the best. My teacher is better than your teacher, My teacher's Grandmother was better than your teacher"...and on, and on it goes.

It is downright embarrassing and pathetic to see this behavior from Martial Artists. Warriors. People who train their lives to be more.

I have met some of the nicest people in BJJ since I have been a part of it. Sure, there are jerks, and I'm sure asshats abound, but the majority of people are grounded and pretty cool.

Why? Because when you run your mouth in BJJ, someone will say, "Ok, let's roll." When Traditional Martial Artists run their mouth; they stand behind lineage, belts, seniority, number of kata known, sources of kata, performance of kata, or ability to translate Asian languages. They rarely stand up and touch hands to find out who is the higher hand.

"In my experience, the more dangerous two people are, the more respectful they are to one another."

BJJ will keep you humble and aware that we are all students of the martial arts for life, and we all have progress to make in bettering ourselves inside and out. We may be king of our sandbox, but getting tapped out by a smaller opponent or a BJJ white belt, gives you firsthand knowledge and experience, in one of the most important martial arts principles to aspire to - humility.


And finally, it's just downright fun. Many of the techniques (sweeps, submissions,

escapes, takedowns) are extremely awesome and cool to learn. I know first hand that we have to keep it fun in order to stay energized about teaching. Training BJJ gives you that excitement you had when you were a new student in your original martial art style; when everything was new and enchanting.

Personally I found it to help keep the fires burning in myself. Teaching others is rewarding and fun, but if we are not continuing to learn and grow, we can become stagnant, bored, disenchanted, and even bitter.
So there are a few reasons I recommend trying it out and adding it to your game. Training in something else keeps the spark alive, and allows you to continue to feel like you are advancing yourself, while sharing your knowledge with your dedicated students.
So, put on that White Belt, box up the ego, and take the plunge into a fascinating world of new friends, sweet techniques, and years of humble learning. You won't regret it.

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