man walking on floor

Why I walked away from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu®

Including the registered trademark icon seemed relevant somehow…

To most people outside of martial arts circles, this might be the first time you’ll ever hear about the difference between Brazilian jiu-jitsu (aka BJJ) and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu®. In fact, unless you have an interest in the arts, you probably don’t even know the difference between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and jujutsu (or ju-jitsu, or jiu-jitsu).

However, if you were like me (and be thankful if this is not the case) and you started training in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu® anytime between UFC 1 in 1993 and the early 2000s, the differences would have been clearly and repeatedly explained to you, in an almost religious sense, to the point that questioning the narrative would be considered blasphemy.

In short, if you follow “the way”, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu® is considered by those who teach it to be the only true form of self defence that originated in Brazil in the 1920s. Created as an evolution of the jiu-jitsu taught to two brothers surnamed Gracie by a Japanese immigrant, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu® is considered a superior form of the “Japanese” jiu-jitsu the brothers learned. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a more general name for the art, but also the term that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu® instructors use to refer to any school or group that has a lineage back to an instructor from Brazil, but is not directly tied back to a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu® school, ie the original two brothers. If you train in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu®, they are keen to remind you, you are following the only true and right way.

And that was me trying to keep it short.

So why am I telling you this?

On the 11th of September 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, CCTV footage was released which of a South African man wrestling a would be kidnapper to the ground. As you can imagine, it went viral and even managed to get featured on a bunch of international online publications.

That same day, the Gracie Breakdown YouTube channel, run by the two head instructors of the group I trained under (you guessed it , Gracie Jiu-Jitsu®, don’t forget the trademark) posted a video titled “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs Kidnapper“, as an example of why one should learn jiu-jitsu. I’d found it interesting that the same folks who had preached the gospel of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu® for all those years, were now happy to refer to it simply as Brazilian jiu-jitsu or jiu-jitsu, and then describe in detail all the perfect Gracie Jiu-Jitsu® moves he was doing in the video.

I guess if it means you get folks to like and subscribe to your channel, and sign up for your online lessons, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, right.

Well, that’s where it gets interesting, because about a week after that video, the man in the video was celebrated on the Facebook page of the Ju-Jitsu (note the spelling, that’s important) school where he is a 2nd Dan black belt. I happen to know that this school teaches what is considered by Gracie Jiu-Jitsu® instructors as the “less effective japanese ju-jitsu” than what they are teaching, because I have a yellow belt certificate with my name on it in my cupboard somewhere. I was learning this style of apparently ineffective ju-jitsu before I started Gracie Jiu-Jitsu®!

Apparently it’s ok to have spent the last 30 odd years promoting your own style as superior and more effective, but then use the video of a practitioner of said inferior and ineffective form of self defence, using moves that you teach as “the only effective form of self defence” to promote your own style, while looking down on his. Not only that, because you couldn’t at the time determine where this person trained, you simply label him under the more general term of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so that you can claim that “this is why we train jiu-jitsu”.

This certainly was not the first of these types of situations I experienced, but it certainly was the straw that broke the camels back.






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