Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is often referred to as the ‘graceful art’. It is designed to be practical for self defense and mixed martial arts as well as being a beautiful art to watch. It is constantly evolving and the arena in which practitioners are able to test their technique and ability is often in tournament jiu jitsu. This is where the art becomes a sport. There is now a competition with a referee and rules that determine the objectives for winning or losing. The question becomes, is this beneficial for the art?
In many ways it is. A higher level of competition forces you to push yourself further. This includes preparation in terms of strength and conditioning as well as technique and strategy. It also exposes you to a high pressure situation in which you learn to deal with adrenaline and nerves. In competition you are also exposed to a wider range of techniques from different opponents and gyms. These are all important parts, perhaps essential parts, of improving your game.
However the rules of competition are being criticised by some who claim that it encourages a style of jiu jitsu that is effective for winning tournaments and yet not for self defense or mixed martial arts. Also the way the points are scored, sometimes aggressive jiu jitsu that looks for the submission is replaced with stalling that aims to secure a minor lead. This does not seem to be to the benefit of fans spectating the sport and arguably does not help the art evolve.
For example at the 2011 Munidals, in the men’s black belt divisions, not a single final match was won by submission. Now some of these matches were aggressive and entertaining and within the time limit securing a submission is not always possible. However in only 3 of the 10 finals did a competitor score more than 4 points. Even Marcelo Garcia who is known for always looking for the finish, secured 2 points early and held on for the victory.
In this video jiu jitsu legend Rickson Gracie discusses his concerns on the direction of modern jiu jitsu.
It seems that jiu jitsu will continue to increase in popularity as well as further develop new and interesting techniques. However perhaps some rule changes in the point scoring are required in order to encourage grace and beauty to return to prominence in sport jiu jitsu.
– Jonathan Cooke from VT-1 Gym