17 Jan 2006

When worlds collide

Some time ago I wrote an article on my club website detailing my first experiences of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). At the time, I was shocked to discover how little my previous ability in ‘traditional’ Japanese ju-jitsu (JJ) could help deal with the relentless tangling of arms, legs and neck chokes that I was subjected to. Now, over two years later, it seems appropriate to review what I have learned from training in both BJJ and Jikishin Ju-Jitsu.

At first, the actual techniques and training methods of BJJ seem a world apart and I struggled to cope with learning two systems (plus the fact that everyone was bigger than me). But I am now beginning to appreciate both styles for their own merits. I am also seeing how knowledge and practice of both can link seamlessly into a whole. My BJJ has definitely improved my JJ, and my JJ, has given me a more knowledgable insight into how certain BJJ techniques work.

Learning a syllabus based martial art is an efficient and productive method of learning techniques. At every stage, you and the instructor can see the steady progress with gradings. But I have always felt that training via only the syllabus is a bit too one-dimensional. There must be a component of resistance work against an unpredicatable opponent. I took up kickboxing for this very reason and very much enjoyed it. But when I first stepped onto the mat to begin my BJJ journey, it really sunk home that this was the perfect complement to JJ.

As for actual techniques, the two styles are not so different. A throw is a throw, a joint lock is a lock and a strangle is a strangle (only BJJ likes to call it a ‘choke’.) As I have improved at BJJ I am getting better at my position strategy, timing, fluidity and a myriad of other aspects that can only come through repeated exposure to resistance sparring. But in the topsy turvy world of BJJ, feet are kept firmly on the ground for no matter how fantastically you disposed of your last opponent, the next one could just as easily crush you. I find this weekly challenge very exciting, if unnerving!

In Meerkat world, self-defence style JJ and sport-based BJJ are the perfect complement to one another. Not everyone agrees. Many ju-jitsu clubs (though thankfully not from our style) frown on sport martial arts as irrelevant for self defence. Not surprisingly, I don’t agree. But that argument is for another blog entry.

This year will be a tough year for Meerkat to fulfil all his martial arts desires, since baby Meerkats needs must be the priority. But I am still there, still teaching JJ and attending as much BJJ as possible. As a sign of my progress, Eddie my BJJ instructor awarded me another stripe on my blue belt. This little creature has certainly come a long way since that first date as a confused and frightened fodder for the tapout merchants.

About the Author


Author & Artist

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



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