“Know your roots!” We wanted to take a look at all the different styles of martial arts and sports that involve grappling and ground fighting to see how Gracie Jiu Jitsu distinguishes itself. Grappling has been a part of human history since tribal times and can be found in almost every civilization
around the world in different manifestations. Here are the major and definitive ones that we can still see practiced today:
Japanese Jujitsu: This art is the origin of Judo, Aikido, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and several other arts. It can be traced all the way to India and is perhaps one of the earliest martial arts. It was most famously used by samurai. Back then, Jujitsu focused on close quarter combat for defeating an armed and armoured opponent. Either no weapon or only a short weapon were used. Move such as takedowns, trips, joint locks, holds, gouging, disarms, striking, and kicking techniques were all implemented. In modern times it has developed both a sport and combat aspect. The gi is worn in both practicing and competition. Sport Jujutsu has two forms: A self defence demonstration where team mates present techniques as attacker and defender either knowing what the sequence of attacks will be or not. Judges award points to execution. The second form is free fighting which involves striking, grappling and submission. Protective gear such as helmets and gloves are often worn in this version and moves such as scissor takedowns, necklocks and windpipe chokes are prohibited as they are in Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Points are also awarded in this form.
Sambo: is a Russian martial art and combat sport. The word “SAMBO” comes from an acronym for “SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya”, which translates as “self-defence without weapons”. Sambo was widely developed in 1920s by the Soviet Army for hand to hand unarmed combat. Sambo has roots primarily in Judo and Japanese Jiu Jitsu with influences from several wrestling styles from both Russia and Mongolia. Its originator spent many years training in Judo in Japan under Kano Jigoro. It has both a sport and a combat element. Sambo allows many leg, hip, and ankle locks that are illegal in sport BJJ but it does not allow any chokes whatsoever. Matches begin standing and focuses on throwing, ground work and submissions. Closed guard is never pulled as it is not an advantageous position for leg locks. There are very few restrictions on gripping and holds unlike sport Judo. In competition competitors only wear the gi top and a rank belt and instead of gi pants shorts and wrestling shoes are worn.
Judo: Judo means the “gentle way” referring to its use of an opponent’s attack and force to against them when techniques are executed. It has a combat elements as well as an Olympic sport style. Judo was created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Though they are not allowed in sport or sparring practice strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defences are a part of combat judo, but only in pre-arranged sequences of forms or repetitions known at ‘kata’. In sport Judo, the goal is to either throw or takedown an opponent to the ground, and pin or immobilize them there. Takedowns can only be done on the upper body; the legs of an opponent cannot be touched until the opponent is on the ground. This in particular distinguishes Judo from both wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The gi is worn in competition and training and has a slightly different cut and weave than other gis. Matches can also be won by forcing an opponent to submit with either a joint lock or a choke but these submission must be applied within only 5 seconds of going to the ground.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Developed by the Gracie Family from both Judo and Japanese Jiu Jitsu roots. It has bothSelf Defence and Sport aspects. Like other martial arts and wrestling sports gouging, biting, digit manipulation and slamming are all illegal. The gi as well as ‘no-gi’ (shorts and a rashguard) are both practiced and competed in. Most leg locks are allowed at higher levels with the exception of heel hooks and internal knee reaps (rotation of the knee internally) that distinguish it from SAMBO. Unlike Judo, matches continue once on the ground and can return to standing. Unlike some forms of wrestling cervical and spinal locks are not allowed for either throws or submissions. Unlike sport JuJitsu padding and protective gear is not worn. Similar to some forms of modern Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Judo, techniques always focus on leverage and timing to overcome opponents regardless of size. In the self defence aspect primarily defences against unarmed attacks are taught with limited blows and striking techniques. The ultimate goal, weather in sport or self defence Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is to put the opponent on the ground, control, and then submit them.
Catch Wrestling: Catch wrestling is a classical hybrid grappling style that was first developed in Britain in 1870 and quickly became part of the travelling circuses and fairs. Catch wrestling means ‘catch as catch can’ or catch a hold of whatever you can. It is focused on pins and submissions such as catching hold of the legs, twisting the arms, and dislocating fingers. These types of submissions that rely heavily on strength and are called “hooks”. A “hook” is an undefined movement that stretches, spreads or compresses any joint or limb and includes many submission considered illegal by other styles of grappling such as abdominal stretch, Head Scissors, Chest Lock, Abdominal Lock, Body Scissors. Despite all these attacks, in catch wrestling chokeholds are banded. As is not surprising, Catch wrestling is not recognized by any organization as a sport and has no tournament system or governing body worldwide.
Greco Roman Wrestling: Has its origins in European folk wrestling and ancient Greek Olympic wrestling. Wresters are scored against each other two three-minute periods. The main difference between Greco and Freestyle wrestling is that Greco does not allow holds below the waist. Because wrestlers cannot use trips, ankle plucks, or any kind of leg grab to take down an opponent they instead use arm drags, bear hugs, and headlocks with the suplex throw being the most popular takedown. Techniques also used and rarely useful or effective in Jiu Jitsu or Judo are body locks and abdominal locks to aid in pinning and controlling the opponent. Once on the mats wresters must continue till they can pin both of their opponent’s shoulders on the mat. It has been included in the Olympic games since their inception in 1896. At that time body slams, choke-holds, and head-butting were legal and there were no time limits with professional matches going as long as 3 hours. By 1900 gouging with the nails, punching, and slamming the arms together around an opponent’s stomach were forbidden and time limits for matches were set. Points are awarded for takedowns, reversals, or exposing the opponents back for a few seconds. Victory can also come by getting a fall or ‘pin’- when one wrestler holds both of their opponents’ shoulders on the mat, by judges decision if a tie, by disqualification, or defaulting a match.
Freestyle Wrestling: This style of wrestling has its greatest origins in Catch Wrestling and is very similar to ‘Collegiate Wrestling’ a form of wrestling practiced throughout the USA in the high school and college level. Unlike Greco-Roman, it allows the use of legs in offense and defence to takedowns. With these exceptions in scoring and technique, the tournament set up and rules are very similar to modern Greco Roman wrestling. It has been included in the Olympics games till recently with attempts being made to include it once again. As with most styles of sports wrestling both a singlet and wrestling shoes are worn.
Pankration (athlima): This was an ancient Grecian form of combat at the original Olympic games that blended boxing and wrestling and allowed everything but bites, eye gouges, and blows to the head. Simple arm and shoulder locks as well as blood and windpipe chokes were the most common ends to these matches. Pankreation is still practiced and competitions are still held today (though usually with gloves and headgear) though it is not recognized by the Olympic committee as a sport.