Recently a new student came in and asked me a question “Isn’t all Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the same?”. Well I guess from an outside perspective it might appear that way, but ask any practitioner if their club/academy is the same as another they should answer with a resounding “no”. The proliferation of sport BJJ clubs is at an ever increasing rate and the age old debate about whether BJJ’s self defence applications has diminished with the UFC gaining in popularity and notoriety.
But essentially, what’s the difference? From Atos, to Zenith and everything in between each academy/ association has a particular style or philosophy that a new student should assess whether it is the right one for them. All Brazilian Jiu Jitsu isn’t equal and a quick trip to a few different academies will show you that. Even all Gracie Jiu Jitsu isn’t the same. For example Gracie Barra has more of a sport focus compared to Gracie Humaita, but Gracie Humaita uses the Jiu Jitsu that Master Helio prescribed, sport focused but also self-defence orientated. In fact few schools offer a complete self-defence curriculum and fewer still offer it the way master Helio did.
But why is self-defence so important? Everyone who comes in the door of an academy has a reason why they are there or a need that has to be fulfilled. Some want to get fit or lose weight, some want a social interaction, some want a sporting outlet and others want to learn how to defend themselves. Each is a valid reason to start a martial art or combat sport but the hidden gem in BJJ is self-defence. The confidence that it gives you to handle yourself in a given situation or altercation is not only important but can also be lifesaving. I’ve also personally seen it calm practitioners down from being quite angry individuals to the point where they will be the ones to back out of a fight. This is a huge step personally for them as they are managing their anger and also saving themselves and a potential aggressor from harm.
Understanding fight dynamics is an important tool for every practitioner, and misunderstanding this can have dire consequences as can be seen here:
So understanding what type of academy you are looking for is very important when deciding on where to train. There are plenty of people who want to be world champion, however only a few who will have the athletic ability, discipline, luck and genetic disposition to realise this dream. For the rest of us Jiu Jitsu is more than a sport. It gives us many things, like friends, confidence, and a healthy outlet that maintains our sanity. Just make sure that your academy can help you open to all of its gifts.