Metamoris video, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, self defense & SBG

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For those who may not have seen the tournament, a new type of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition took place recently. The Metamoris event, hosted by the Rorion Gracie family, offered top level BJJ matches, for 20 minutes, with no points. Matches which didn’t end by submission were considered a draw.

SBG coach & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Steve Whittier wrote a very thoughtful piece on his thoughts post tournament, enjoy:

It is very clear that there are two very different philosophies at work here between the Helio Gracie style of Jiu-Jitsu and the world class IBJJF sport BJJ that Galvao represents… and then there is the whole issue of which approach represented in this fight is actually truer to a “self-defense” approach.

This is a very interesting conversation by Ryron and Rener Gracie about the match, and all politics aside what I like the most are their concluding thoughts about the ultimate goal of Jiu-Jitsu – and how they share my perspective on training for whichever goal you want, but always keeping that goal of longevity in mind!

Again, I respect Andre Galvao as a great champion. Clearly his controversial comments at the end were born out of frustration and self-expectation.

With no further ado, here’s their breakdown:

And if you missed it, here’s the Gracie vs. Galvao match:

Some thoughts.

The consensus seems to be that the matches were pretty amazing, and I agree. For many of the world class athletes who participated, this was their first time ever competing in a format like this, without points and double the IBJJF 10 minute
matches for black belts.

Matches included:
Caio Terra vs. Jeff Glover (Winner: Terra by Arm Bar)
Rafael Lovato, Jr. vs. Kayron Gracie (Winner: Lovato by Kimura)
Octavio Sousa vs. Kron Gracie (Winner: Gracie by Arm Bar)
Dean Lister vs. Xande Ribiero (Draw; the only No Gi match of the event).
Ryron Gracie vs. Andre Galvao (Draw)
Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida vs. Roger Gracie (Draw)

Along with the excitement, however, the reception has not been without controversy — especially with respect to the match between Andre Galvao, one of the very top BJJ and No Gi competitors in the world today, and Ryron Gracie, who has not competed in approximately 10 years and was very vocal coming into the tournament that he would
represent the Jiu-Jitsu of his legendary grandfather, Helio Gracie.

As many of you know, Rorion Gracie and his sons have always been proponents of Helio’s BJJ philosophy, which is oriented toward self-defense and a “survive first, then submit” (no matter how long it takes) mentality as opposed to the time limits and point structures of “sport BJJ.”

In the prefight videos, Ryron quoted his grandfather when describing his strategy: “If you don’t lose, you can only win.” And sure enough, he didn’t lose. In fact, promising that he would “Keep it playful,” Ryron appeared to concede the pass without much fight early on and was content to allow Galvao to attain dominant position after dominant position, only to escape without ever appearing to be threatened by Andre’s submission attempts. Clearly trying to both conserve energy and to prove that he could survive any of Galvao’s attacks, the Gracie fighter began to play a more aggressive guard and became more offensive in the latter half of the match.

The controversy over the draw was fueled by Galvao’s own post-fight comments, where he appeared to a bit of a sore sport (half frustrated and half embarrassed?) over his inability to put on a more dominant performance against Ryron.

The result has been some heated debate within the BJJ community about the implications of the match with respect to the “Gracie self-defense” philosophy and the modern “sport” philosophy.

There is no doubt that Ryron surprised a lot of people, including myself quite honestly. On paper many thought that Galvao would run through him and most certainly submit him. But Ryron not only showed he could successfully fend off all positional advantages and submission attempts from one of the best submission artists in the world, but also
appeared to be the fresher and more offensive grappler as the match came toward its end.

Arguing on the other side, others have pointed out the flaw in being too quick to celebrate Ryron’s performance as a victory for the old school Gracie philosophy… pointing out that if we were REALLY talking about a self-defense oriented game, it would mean more than just survival. Andre Galvao, after all, did attain and maintain dominant positions for the majority of the match, meaning that had this been a real fight with strikes he would have been in a much better position to dispense punishment (the Gracie self-defense approach, after all, has always advocated “position
before submission”).

Furthermore, the self-defense proponents point out that the BJJ of today has fallen far from its self-defense roots, and instead evolved into a purely sport oriented game built around winning by points rather than the original intent of the points system, which was to reward advancement to superior positions.

All that said, I’ll give my own opinion on the controversy. First off: Sport or Self-Defense BJJ?

My answer is ultimately that it depends on the motivations and desires of the individual. And before you call me a fence straddler under your breath, think about it. One student is primarily interested in learning BJJ as a self-defense art and either has no interest in winning sport BJJ tournaments, or only competes once or twice for the experience; a second student is interested primarily in competing and winning, becoming a grappling champion. He studies tape on all the top players in his weight class, spends endless hours drilling specifically to devise gameplans to expose their weaknesses, etc. As long as Student 1 isn’t deluded into thinking that she’s going to beat the top dogs in the sport arena and Student 2 is realistic about the fact that some of his sport-specific strategies could land him in a world of hurt in a real fight (or MMA match), then how could we place a judgment on their personal goals?

Ultimately, BJJ as we know it today has grown to encompass several facets:

BJJ for self-defense

-BJJ for vale tudo / mixed martial arts

-BJJ for sport competition with a Gi

-BJJ for No Gi (submission grappling) competition.

And no doubt, if the Metamoris format continues to be offered, we will see the differences in pace, strategy and emphasis become more pronounced as well, and potentially develop into another “branch” altogether.

To me it all comes down to intent and honesty.

Being interested in function (more on this below), I have no interest in doing pre-arranged forms. But that doesn’t mean I look down on someone who follows their bliss by studying T’ai Chi. (I would just hope they are not honestly thinking that they can actually lay waste to a bar full of attackers  using that form… seen that delusion come crashing down before, and it ain’t pretty!)

Second: My Personal Preference. By the time I was a purple belt I knew a LOT about technique. I thought about and studied BJJ constantly, went to as many seminars as possible, did private lessons, watched tons of tapes (yes, video tapes) and later DVDs. But it wasn’t until later, as a black belt, that I actually understood Jiu-Jitsu. The fact is, it’s as simple as it can be infinitely sophisticated.

With that in mind, I have always appreciated the approach of the great Rickson Gracie (which we saw well-represented by his son, Kron, in the tournament).

And by that I mean: my “ideal” Jiu-Jitsu is one that is essentially the same in all areas of the artGi, No Gi, a fight in a parking lot or a fight in the cage.

With some minor adjustments in tactics and grips, the thing that remains constant is what my friend Matt Thornton, the founder of SBG refers to as the “delivery system….” The core, root skill set.

I have always appreciated that Rickson Gracie, who notoriously has continued to shock top, world class champion BJJ competitors who’ve had the chance to roll with him (as one after another over the years has admitted that his control and skill live up to the hype), has always trained, competed in tournaments or vale tudo matches with essentially the same game. And his son, Kron Gracie, after submitting a world champion in Sousa on Sunday, was very sincere in saying that Sousa was still the legit (IBJJF) champion. Kron has been chasing that title for years, but with the ethic of always placing a higher priority on winning by submission than winning by points – even if it means risking the loss.

I am in no way suggesting that the aspiring athlete dreaming of a world champion title should follow that same philosophy, I’m simply saying that I appreciate it. Like many, I got into martial arts to learn real self-defense (which is often as much about confidence as actual fighting). Now I worry less about that and more about the learning, personal growth, continual mastery and teaching. But I’ve never strayed from the original “form” and intent of the martial arts, which is combat, so for me the true beauty lies in the FUNCTION. A solid delivery system rooted in fundamentals may not make you the best sport competitor, the best “street fighter” or the best MMA fighter, but it will allow you to be very formidable in any of those areas without having to change your game very much.

This is a very valuable point for the older grappler, because even if you’re a 40-something who is still able to out-hustle and out-muscle a lot of the younger guys in your school, as the saying goes “this too shall pass.” When it comes to relying on
our physicality, we’re ALL on borrowed time. The smart ones — or the smaller, weaker ones who have no other options — accept this or figure it out early on. Those who are stubborn or prone to a jock-riding mindset resist, until resistance become futile, and age, injuries or both result in a rude awakening.

So… if you want to compete and win championships, do what you need to do to achieve
that goal. If you want to train for self-defense, love of learning and fun, great. But either way, always understand that there IS a Jiu-Jitsu — uniquely your own but based on universal physical principles — that should always be your foundation… one that will serve you when your competition days or your fighting days are over.

-Stephen Whittier