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Self Defense… The Foundation of Gracie Jiu Jitsu by Felipe Grez

In this day and age of modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition, Submission Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition, it is easy for people to forget why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was created. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was created as a means of survival and self-defense for a smaller, weaker individual to overcome an attack from a stronger and more aggressive attacker! Helio Gracie spent his life developing and refining the techniques of Jiu Jitsu that we now know today as Gracie Jiu Jitsu (or more commonly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu).

Helio Gracie was the pioneer who applied the theory of leverage to the techniques of Jiu Jitsu and in the process began a revolution that allows men, women and children of all ages, shapes, size and athletic ability learn techniques to defend themselves with maximum efficiency and minimal effort. Gracie Jiu Jitsu was the catalyst for modern MMA competition and the UFC. And although MMA is soaring in popularity, it is important that we do not forget Helio’s original teachings and intention for Gracie Jiu Jitsu and that is Self Defense.

One of Helio’s many famous quotes regarding Gracie Jiu Jitsu is: “Always assume that your opponent is going to be bigger, stronger and faster than you; so that you learn to rely on technique, timing and leverage rather than brute strength”. Through the techniques of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, an individual is able to develop confidence, awareness and a sound technical arsenal to protect themselves should the need ever arise. Another great Helio Gracie quote is: “Jiu Jitsu is personal efficiency to protect the weaker, which anyone can do. It is the force of leverage against brute force”.

Just last Friday I began training a new student, Kimberley who had no prior Martial Arts experience, yet was keen to develop more confidence and learn how to protect herself. Kimberley took to Gracie Jiu Jitsu training like a fish to water and within the first 10 minutes was starting to develop some serious base! I at around 95kg was not able to push her or drag her around once she understood the basic principle of dropping her weight and establishing base even though I outweighed her by around 35kg!

Once Kimberley saw the results of good technique and the correct application of leverage we moved onto Bear Hug defenses both Front and Rear. Within minutes Kimberley was able to escape and throw me with remarkable ease and confidence! Again no small feat considering this was her first exposure to Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Martial Arts in general. After being beaten up and thrown to the mat over 50 times we moved onto mount Escapes, specifically the “Upa”. Again we started slowly and gradually added progressive resistance as she her technique improved and she gained confidence with her “Upa”. To say I was impressed with how fast she learnt and understood the movements would be an understatement… Shocked actually! 🙂 Kimberley soaked up the techniques like a sponge and was showing some real promise, all while smiling and having fun… As a coach I felt both proud and inspired by her progress and her new-found confidence in Gracie Jiu Jitsu!

On a side note in case you missed it, there was a little secret to success mentioned in the previous chapter and that is the idea of having fun while you are training. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing you wont put in the necessary time required to learn the techniques and develop your reflexes. A teaching principle I try to apply to every class is that of “S.S.L.”. “S.S.L.” stands for Smiling, Sweating and Laughing. If you can have your students doing all three while working hard on developing your technique you have the recipe to develop lifelong Martial Artists and Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Remember Gracie Jiu Jitsu has so much more to offer than just physical self-defense techniques, it can literally change your life as it has mine but that is a topic of another post! For now always keep in mind that Self Defense is the foundation of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and should always remain so.

Good Luck With Your Training And Happy Rolling!

Felipe Grez