3 Dec 2008

Ebony & Ivory

In today's blog, Meerkat gets a bit philosophical...

One of the most persistent topics of discussion among martial arts forums around the world is the style versus style debate. In particular, BJJ versus traditional JJ (TJJ).
There are lots of differences between the two MA and much debate about which is better. Die-hard TJJers poopoo the notion that BJJ offers realistic self defence when they believe that being on the ground is a bad strategy and they mock their colourful logoed uniforms. BJJers laugh at youtube clips of so-called experts imparting invisible ki power tricks and their love of samurai swords. It is two worlds that may seem poles apart. But I want to focus on the positives that both martial arts can offer each other.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a growing trend for TJJ students to also join a BJJ club and, rather than choose one or the other, actually stick to both. I like to think I was one of the early adopters of this scheme, but I’m sure there were many who practiced both forms long before I joined the bandwagon.

During the path to black belt, a TJJ student will learn hundreds and hundreds of techniques that have to be drilled over and over again until they become second nature. This method of learning is repetitive but forms good habits when it comes to muscle memory. It is also of great benefit in another way - in my own experience, I find that I pick up newly taught BJJ techniques pretty fast and a lot of this has to come down to my TJJ experience. A TJJ student will have been trained to analyse every minutiae of a technique and to ask questions if they don’t understand how something works. This anally retentive attention to detail means the TJJer is a good student of technique – regardless of style.

In TJJ you will invariably come across pretty much every joint lock scenario that the human body is capable of sustaining, so a BJJ instructor teaching something new to most of the class, may actually be showing something familiar to the TJJ student. Many a time I have seen a BJJ joint lock or transition and thought, ooh, that’s just like the so and so from purple belt or words to that effect.

But the biggest difference between BJJ and TJJ is that BJJ incorporates sparring on the ground as a major component of each lesson, allowing the students to pressure test their techniques. Very traditional TJJ schools have always said that sparring has no place as it would be too dangerous to pressure test, for example, knife attacks or full force strikes. However, these days, most TJJ schools have varying degrees of sparring as it is without doubt a good way to train under pressure. And this is where BJJ can assist the TJJ student. BJJ has been refined over a number of years to perfect the aspect of fighting from the ground. Of course strikes are not allowed, but as a platform for gaining good positional advantage and utilising very effective chokes, strangles, and joint locks, it is a great way to spar under pressure without danger of serious injury. If TJJ students and clubs can utilise this method of sparring, it would be of great benefit to their overall development as a martial artist.
But being such a specialist art, BJJ could be said to be too restrictive when it comes to overall self defence and sport fighting. It is noticeable that very good MMA stars train in both stand-up styles such as kickboxing, Muay Thai and boxing as well as BJJ in order to be a complete fighter. For the average punter, some exposure to defending punches, kicks, bites, weapons etc would be useful experience, and this is where TJJ might offer an opportunity since the syllabus covers all these aspects.

At the end of the day, as I have said many times before, the world is large enough to cater for all tastes. Many people will prefer one style over the other, but for some, like me, if you enjoy both, then you will reep the benefits of both.

...oh and let me not forget to wish my TJJ training buddies David and Kevin the best of luck with their second dan grading on Sunday...Oooosssss!

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Seymour - currently experiencing the customary mixture of dread and enthusiasm about Sunday. I'll text you after the grading to let you know how we got on - hopefully with good news.



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