Hi and welcome to this month’s ramblings.
The world of grappling is vast and very different in approach and application; it is said to be the first combat sport and still remains today, for the vast amount of the world, the No.1 pastime in the martial arts.
Tribes of warriors would meet on the battlefield and to find out who was the most skilled, fighting over a village or honour or as a rite of passage to manhood. As the years moved on, styles developed and progressed and certain rules of engagement evolved so as not to injure your opponent. With this, the arts and styles changed to make things more socially acceptable and in this sometimes lay the problem.
Catch wrestling was developed as a release from the pressures of life at the pit face of the mining industry. The men involved were a hardy breed due to their job so they had a natural strength developed through their harsh working conditions. The art of catch–me–if–you-can was developed around strong fighters with strong throws on hard surfaces with pins or submission moves that worked on the grip of the neck, wrist, limb or joint; most of which would result in pain and discomfort. The style was as rough and ready as they come but had a certain beauty about how the movements intertwined and followed a tried and tested path of combat to render the loser pinned and in a certain amount of pain!
In Japan the grappling path developed along similar lines as in the west but due to the many feuding warlords armies were always fighting and engaging in hand to hand combat. Jiu-jitsu was developed to go hand in hand with the weapons of war, stressing joint locks, breaks, throws and ground holds.
As these schools developed styles formed, each one trying to be better than other styles and countering each development in the other systems. When the feuding stopped these styles still wanted to see who had the best fighters and styles; this is when match fights and challenges developed, some resulting in the death of the losing side.
The Jiu-Jitsu style soon travelled around the world. As the masters of jiu-jitsu started to settle in different parts of the world they taught their art to the non-Japanese (very few were taught due to mistrust on both sides).
A Japanese master of jiu-jitsu called Mitsuyo Maeda moved to Brazil. Gastao Gracie helped him to settle in and to repay the kindness Maeda, or Count Koma (king of combat), taught Gasao’s son, Carlos, who in turn taught Helio Gracie and the rest as they say is history – The art of Gracie jiu-jitsu was born. This art mainly concentrated on the use of the Gi and ground work being highlighted in the art. Also, challenge matches to show how good this new Jui-Jitsu was were organised, promoting this style of grappling.
Gracie jiu-jitsu also known as Brazilian jiu-jitsu got an even bigger spotlight when Royce Gracie won the first Ultimate fighting championship or UFC. This put Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the map so to speak; everyone wanted to learn the grappling art that is “the ultimate art”.
As I have mentioned before (read my earlier blogs they are really good lol) arts go on a wave of popularity then the next wave comes etc…. a bit like the tabloid press they build you up and make you popular just so they can tear you down and then kick you when you hit rock bottom, like a lion pack when the head of the pride is getting old, the young ones fight him then take over.
While Royce was making people in America tap, in Japan a new breed of catch wrestlers were being schooled in the art by Billy Robinson and Karl Gotch; the most famous one being Kazushi Sakuraba, known in later years as the Gracie killer due to his MMA fights with quite a few of the Gracie’s and in his words “beating them at their own game.”
At the time of writing, 10th planet Jui-jitsu is riding the wave of popularity due to the MMA fighters using the moves in the UFC and 10th planet just won the best team in Rose Gracie’s event (Gracie Nationals), showing that Eddie Bravo’s non-gi jiu-jitsu system is making waves around the world (I told you so! Lol).
Just recently, Eddie made a trip to New York City to train and exchange ideas with the pound for pound Gi and Non-Gi world champion the amazing Marcelo Garcia. The footage was amazing but the best bit was the amount of respect between the two; if there is hope for styles to get on this is the footage you should see and learn from!
I love the grappling arts with all my heart and think all styles are good you just have to find the one you like. Catch wrestling has been through the Mill, mocking the art with fake bouts and Saturday afternoon world of sport type shows (how old am I?) but has come out with pride. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an amazing art but due to the early success of Royce in the UFC and amazing Marketing by Carlos, Helio and his son Rorion (he co-promoted the early UFC’s) seems to have forgotten where it came from and has been changed to suit the fighters. People now wanting to do MMA must find a grappling style that is best for what they want to do. Maybe you want to be a Gi Monkey or a Saturday afternoon wrestler or do both.
Until next time don’t get your Gi in a knot!
John Atkin AFC