Caroline Gracie
Caroline Gracie promotes GJJ from women's self defence

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!