There were quite compelling arguments for either side, and I came to a few conclusions.
Japanese Jujitsu seems to be going through a bit of a rough patch, predominantly due to its younger, cooler cousin, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There is a massive Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu following and is ever-increasing in popularity, competition is increasing each year, and almost every county in the UK seems to host at least one BJJ comp a year… JJJ – not so much… so why is this?
I think it’s down to 2 factors:
- The lack of structure to JJJ, which divides into a further 2 parts: i) No way of vetting syllabuses ii) Less emphasis on lineage
- Understanding what JJJ is actually about
BJJ would not exist if it weren’t for JJJ, same for Aikido, Judo and Karate – they all derived FROM Jujitsu, so what’s the ‘Beef’?
Japanese Jujitsu’s syllabus lacks ratification. Who is the national governing body for Japanese Jiu-Jitsu? We have the UKBJJA. We have IBJJF. What about Japanese Jujitsu?
BJJ is predominantly measured on time, which is brilliant. It’s hard-pressed to be terrible at anything you’ve done consistently for ten years. Once you’ve done the time, won a few comps maybe, you are a valid black belt. The problem with this system is ‘holding people back. I know people who have gone from white belt to black belt in 5 years, no regular comps in Gi. Does this mean they are not valid? The speed at which you can go from white to black in JJJ is usually a lot faster, particularly if you are good at learning Japanese names and quick at acquiring and executing ‘moves’. Does it mean that you are not valid if you get a black belt in 3 years?
Which Is Better?
It’s like the age-old saying, which is better – the person who has a degree or the person that’s been doing the job for the past 10 years?
Japanese Jujitsu, for me, is the ‘Jack of all trades, master of none. If you want to learn how to fight better than the average guy, learn JJJ. The coaches should be teaching how to punch, kick, throw, choke, strangle, kick, elbow, knee… breaking grabs, breaks from bear hugs, breaks from strangles, defence from a baseball bat (the list goes on, and you get the idea) – all of these should be taught.
If your JJJ coach isn’t showing you all of these things, perhaps consider your future with that particular club. My coach is brilliant, he encourages us to not only to learn the Japanese names (you can’t move up in a Japanese art if you don’t know Japanese) but he also encourages us to take part in sports Jujitsu and grappling comps, to make sure that what he has taught, works. When he promotes, it’s justified.
Part of my blackbelt syllabus for JJJ was to have two people try and beat me up for an undisclosed length of time (it felt like ten years…. probably only about 5 mins!) We practice Ren Raku Waza when person after person comes at you with something (punch, kick, bat), and you have to block, move or strike before that person hits or connects with you – and YES, this does sound corny, I get it! But. It’s a safe environment to learn, to build up the automation, so if you are ever faced with a real threat, you have SOMETHING, which might (just) help.
Perhaps this unreal situation is what turns many people off? whereas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lives rolling, is… well. Live! the beauty of BJJ is you can practice, full whack, every week, JJJ, you can’t.
This is the issue. Not all coaches do this. I have met a lot of brilliant JJJ Black belts and a lot of terrible ones. I haven’t met many terrible BJJ Blackbelts.
Japanese Jiu-Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
I have read that BJJ guys say that they wrap them up, and I have no doubt that’s true. A BJJ blackbelt should have done 10,000 hours (or so) to be ‘at that level’. A JJJ blackbelt may only have been doing it for a couple of years. BJJ is the master of grappling (in my humble opinion!) So it almost goes without saying. However – we must remember dropping to the floor and butt-scooting isn’t always the way forward, and if you’ve ONLY ever trained BJJ and not learnt striking, you could find yourself in a spot of bother if faced with an actual fight.
We need to remember that a blackbelt doesn’t mean ‘The best’ – it also doesn’t mean that they’re now full-blown ninja, it’s the belt that says ‘This guy knows enough of this art to teach others.
A Blackbelt is only the beginning of someone’s martial art journey. It shouldn’t be viewed as the end.
Whatever your sports/martial art is, let’s stick together, be open-minded and remember where many martial arts came from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.
BJJ guys do it for the Gracie’s. They were the pioneers of BJJ, so let’s not forget that they were inspired by Japanese Jujitsu and that we’re all part of the ‘Jit’s Family’.
Which is better? Who do you look up to? Is the JJJ system too outdated, or does the BJJ way of grading take too long? Let us know!
Featured image credits to Embed from Getty Images