Do you believe BJJ is a magic set of moves that can overcome basic logic and simple physics? Do you take your understanding of BJJ from the movie "Redbelt" and believe "there is always an escape"? Some adherents of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu seem to...
After the last UFC event saw two amazing rear naked choke upset finishes, Joe Rogan reposted this photo:
Here was an early comment:
That's right, if only Holly knew the power of magical Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, she would easily be able to escape the most dominant submission in the known universe! And if you think that's the only comment like it, take a gander at Joe's Instagram and count how many rubes comment about Meisha's ankles being crossed, as if Holly attempting that nonsense ankle lock that white belts learn as the reason you should forever never cross your legs while holding back control, would make a damned bit of difference. This is the problem with instruction that lacks either depth, nuance, or the conception that human beings can handle and learn complex notions, or even notions beyond binary idiocy... it arms dolts with unnerving confidence in their expertise, creating a magnifying glass for the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Learning Jiu-jitsu is supposed to make you more knowledgeable about the reality of combat, not make you believe that you can defeat a more skillful grappler with proven superlative mental toughness who is seconds away from the apogee of her life and career, if you only knew a secret move that works on everybody! Spoiler alert A: it's not a secret move. Spoiler alert B: it barely even works under demonstration circumstances, let alone actual combat against good grapplers. Rather than having their mind expanded, people who receive this wisdom are trading one form of ignorance for another, like people who drift from one political dogma to another as though what will utopia-ify the world is opening their eyes to a different fixed world view impenetrable by reality than the one they previously held. It is in this sense that Gracie Jiu-jitsu in particular, rather than the BJJ community as a whole, is guilty of lowering the quality of information, because they embody the notion of appealing to the credulous with superficial notions under the guise of spreading jiu-jitsu (but not all jiu-jitsu, just Saint Helio's Anointed Pure Jiu-Jitsu) to the masses.
The adverse aspect of appealing to the ignorant in a way that maintains their ignorance while steering it in a direction beneficial to you, should be obvious, but considering the cultural zeitgeist of manufactured outrage replacing reasoned discourse, please permit me to elaborate. At its best, BJJ is a method for arriving at the truth. In this sense, it is precisely like the scientific method. Unfortunately, the level of scientific literacy in our society is so poor, that most people view science as a fixed body of thought or information, one often pitted against another fixed body of thought in some asinine debate designed only to appeal to rubes in search of their latest dose of righteous indignation and fallacy-ridden reinforcement of their existing worldview. Almost like the sport BJJ vs self defense BJJ binary bullshit the Gracie Torrance boys try to foist on people. What is sport BJJ? What is self defense BJJ? These are terms that describe a body of techniques that are applicable only to certain specific scenarios. This is also an attempt to promote the logical fallacy known as a false dichotomy in a cynical marketing strategy. I would like to offer an alternative perspective, the aforementioned idea that BJJ is not a fixed body of techniques, but a method for discovering what works. Just as the scientific method is the reason human knowledge has expanded exponentially since we stopped looking to works of fiction for our answers to understanding the nature of reality (well, some of us, and most importantly, the ones responsible for creating literally every single thing you use every moment of every day of your life), human knowledge of fighting has expanded exponentially since the spread of BJJ, due to the adoption of empirical research over received wisdom. This is BJJ. This is science. A hypothesis is put forth, it is tested and either it proves viable or proves false. Nothing is immutable, our belief on what works can always change based on new information. This is a healthy attitude to foster if you ever wish to become good at anything, contribute to the growth of human knowledge, possess any access to accurately perceiving and acting on reality, or avoid being a perpetual rube.
And this is not just BJJ, this is boxing, it is wrestling, it is Muay Thai, it is anything where we offer up ideas, and test them to see how well they represent reality. Everything else is just religion. Which, don't get me wrong, doesn't make it useless, it just doesn't make it useful in the discussion for what is the best method for incapacitiating an opponent, the same way a priest's opinion on electrical engineering isn't of any value if you're looking for advice on wiring your house. By offering a set of "self defense techniques", or for that matter, any beginner curriculum that involves techniques that only work on untrained, uninformed opponents, and practicing them through rote repetition or anything short of actual sparring, you are dumbing down BJJ. And in the end, there is nothing wrong with that, selling a cheap, inferior product is absolutely fine, most people don't actually want to learn how to fight, they just want to post about being a fighter on facebook, and that market should be served. But when those people are out there telling Meisha Tate, or Georges St Pierre, or Ryan Hall, that they shouldn't cross their ankles from back control because their superior system of GJJ would end you if you ever tried it on them, then you have a perfect example of an issue that has historically reduced every great society to rubble. Turning away from pluralistic expansion of trade and free exchange of ideas to focus inwards on enforcing your control over dullards who prize the junk food of the mind over the ability to learn and change their minds as they seek communion with reality and their fellow man.
Will our community continue to embrace what made BJJ effective (not this false notion of "self defense", but a focus on pressure testing and discovering what works without adherence to dogma), or will we slide into irrelevance while engaged in a pointless schism between sport and self defense, with both sides embracing absurd, fictional limitations* ("No reaping!", "You can never use 50/50 guard in the streetz!")? Who knows, but at Island Top Team we would like to contribute to the scientific literacy of the BJJ world, so rather than just bitching about rubes, in the next post we will have an explanation on when, why, and how you can or can't cross your ankles from back control.
*If you were paying attention, you just spotted the false dichotomy, of course there are other options, don't let demagogues hijack your mind!