Last week I was very excited to go ‘back to basics’ and begin at the beginning in Dartford BJJ‘s new Gracie Combatives class. Coach has always included an element of Gracie Jiu Jitsu self defence in our BJJ and MMA classes; his passion for this area has led to a formal Combatives class on Wednesday evenings. While I love rolling, sparring and working on developing my technique versus a skilled/BJJ-knowledgeable opponent, I have a lot of time for the less sporty side of BJJ: I’ve always been interested in effective self defence and began my martial arts journey in a ‘Women’s Empowerment Self Defence’ class and then progressed to Shorinji Kempo, a traditional Japanese art with a self defence focus.
The Combatives class is tailor-made for people new to martial arts and particularly for women interested in self defence and/or getting fit. Training is extremely chilled out and builds from a very fundamental base and so is appropriate for people just starting out (as well as for more veteran martial artists interested in rethinking their basics). The emphasis on core self defence techniques and body movements, rather than on ‘jiu jitsufied’ movement and counter movement, and the absence of sparring, allows women new to martial arts to develop their skills, physical ability and confidence while helping to overcome barriers around personal space before, perhaps, choosing to get stuck into a BJJ class and roll all around the floor with sweaty animals (ladies, believe me when I say, it is more fun than you might imagine).
Our first class was a mix of adults and juniors and included a heavy dose of blue and purple belts as well as juniors and complete novices. We are following the Gracie methodology of building up a series of self defence techniques that, while effective in their own right, further teach basic principles of movement to condition and prepare the body for the sort of BJJ training that readers may be more familiar with. So, we drilled three techniques which reinforced foot work and posture:
1) Counter to a choke from standing.
2) Counter to a grab to the shirt.
3) Counter to a ‘noogie’ style head lock.
Each technique relied on similar foot work, but along different planes, as well as working balance, core strength and posture. Yes, these techniques are very ‘basic’, but I personally quite enjoy picking apart the fundamentals and considering them in the light of my existing understandings. I am absolutely pumped to be working through Combatives in a methodical way and look forward to building on these techniques this week. For my partner, who was in her third class, these techniques, drilled in a very non-aggressive and compliant manner, were a great way for her to rep fundamental principles.
BJJ for the people!
10 Nov 2009 @ 12:46 pm
So, is that an official Gracie Combatives class, led by somebody who got their certification to teach it from the Gracie Academy? Or just more self-defence focused than normal, rather than the specific syllabus by Rener, Ryron and Rorion?
If it's the former, that would be very interesting, as it would be an example of the Gracie Academy marketing working exactly as intended. I.e., getting a 'sport' BJJ school to add in a 'self defence' class, as if the sport side of things was somehow deficient.
I babble about that at length in my Gracie Combatives review, hence why I'm intrigued.
10 Nov 2009 @ 1:02 pm
I look forward to reading your review.
It is my understanding that we are following a Gracie syllabus, though I do not believe that Coach is formally certified (though he teaches BJJ/GJJ and we are affiliated with the Mauricio Gomes/Marc Walder BJJ). I wouldn't characterise Dartford MMA as a 'sport BJJ school', though the regular BJJ class (versus the MMA, stick and other classes) can have a competition/BJJ v BJJ focus. It is my understanding that Coach has always been more interested in BJJ as a total fighting art (to deal with an aggressive attacker) than as a sporting art (and sees it as part of a progression from gi, to no gi to vale tudo) and has been working towards introducing such a class for some time. That's not to say that I believe Coach reckons the 'sportier' BJJ is 'deficient', but preparing for competition requires different emphases than self defence and indeed, preparing for competition can strip out much of the BJJ syllabus as lower grades aren't allowed to use a wide range of attacks. Comps are what they are, a useful form of training, but they aren't the only ends for which our training is the means. I speak for myself and may or may not reflect the views of Coach and my training partners.
10 Nov 2009 @ 1:15 pm
Definitely not suggesting your coach thinks sport BJJ is deficient, but the Gracie Academy certainly do:
You must, however, be cognizant of the fact that [in 'sport' BJJ] you are almost certainly developing reflexes that will be disastrously counterproductive in a real fight. Once you are aware of this, we recommend that you use your access to the Gracie Academy curriculum to learn the techniques in their purest form, consciously undo any bad habits you have developed, and begin building the reflexes that you will need to ensure victory in a real fight.
Like I say in my review, I'm doubtful that there is really a meaningful distinction between 'sport' BJJ and 'self defence' BJJ. Particularly from the Gracie Combatives angle, I'd suggest that its more about marketing than signficant difference. For example, 'sport' BJJ worked just fine in a self defence situation for this guy and this kid.
Good thread on the topic, with arguments from both sides, here.
10 Nov 2009 @ 1:27 pm
Indeed, slideyfoot, I just read your review, which is an excellent and balanced commentary. I personally feel that there is a distinction in how one trains for comps and how one might train a wider range of GJJ/BJJ, but this is from my own perspective and not quite in line with the Gracie perspective as you describe. For instance, training with 'noob energy' versus 'jiu jitsufied' energy is totally different; a person with BJJ skills is unlikely to bench press you off from mount and so beg for an arm bar, while this may be a good option with an untrained person (attacker?). Time limits, point systems and restrictions on techniques (and if you are lucky enough to get split by weight, which is not straightforward for female competitors and you can stop dreaming about age divisions) all play a role in creating conditions just right to test what you know versus an opponent of similar strength and skill. I think that this is useful, but I would argue, as for instance Judo, that training with competition and the artificial boundaries of that context detracts from the art and can promote the evolution of a 'sport' style that is distinct from a more holistic approach. I do not disagree with your analysis of marketing strategy, however from my own experience I feel that there is a distinction to be made between very sport-focused training and training that considers other contexts.
10 Nov 2009 @ 1:37 pm
I have never trained for self defence. It doesn't interest me, though I like to imagine I'd fare slightly better in an altercation now than I would have a few years ago. I train for fun, not for the streets.
However, I'd argue that for self-defence, BJJ (or indeed Gracie Combatives) is certainly not the full picture. It only covers ground fighting: if you want self defence, then you also need to understand striking, such as you'll learn in boxing, muay thai and the like. I don't agree with Rener's argument that you don't need to bother cross-training in striking, though I do think his 'punch block series' is a good system.
On top of that (and perhaps more importantly), there are all the psychological, environmental, chemical and legal factors involved in self defence, which few martial arts even begin to cover. For that, I'd go to someone like Geoff Thompson.
Of course, just my opinion, and considering I don't even train for self defence, not based on personal experience.
10 Nov 2009 @ 2:11 pm
I train for personal development and I have an interest in health, fitness and well being; self defence; sport; confronting the challenges of my size and relative strength and generally breaking myself down to build myself up better 😉
I absolutely agree that self defence requires a multifaceted approach and I have been training in striking arts for longer than I've trained in grappling, though that has been on hold over the past year due to a knee injury. Certainly the blend we learn at Dartford MMA incorporates Muay Thai, Boxing, JKD, Submission Wrestling, Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling, BJJ and Vale Tudo. Of course striking without gloves/self defence is an entirely different kettle of fish than striking for the ring, but that is tangential.
There are clearly limitations on what a martial arts discipline can provide 'out of the box' as a series of techniques and methodologies in order to confront the cluster of factors associated with self defence. Training for self defence includes an appreciation crime stats (how stuff is reported as going down), choosing an art that addresses these situations and working with instructors with an appreciation for self defence scenarios and the capacity to teach a blend that can addresses these scenarios.