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Roy Dean
12-16-2008, 12:45 PM
Originally published in Gracie Magazine, Issue #138.

My name is Roy Dean. I am a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Professor Roy Harris. Before training in BJJ, I studied several Japanese martial arts systems, receiving my black belt in both Kodokan Judo and Aikikai Aikido. Early on in my study of BJJ I realized that there were many overlapping areas with the arts I'd been exposed to, with surprising similarities in their movements and the avoidance of force on force. I would like to briefly explore some of those areas of common ground, and where the arts may compliment each other.

Each art operates in a separate range of combat, and are all unique flavors of jujutsu. Aikido focuses on the moment your opponent is grabbing you, pulling as they push, while turning and redirecting their attack. Judo takes place in the clinch range, scooping your partner off balance and obstructing their movement to tip them to the ground. Off course, BJJ is the premier groundfighting art, controlling the space and your partners movement options until your steer them into a joint lock or choke.

The yielding techniques of each system rely on distraction, angles, and leverage to work. As your timing and sensitivity improve in each discipline, so does your efficiency in affecting the techniques. They are all arts of pushing and pulling. Ultimately, awareness, timing, and sensitivity are the attributes that will take you the farthest in acquiring deep skills, and conserve the most energy when facing larger opponents.

Jigoro Kano's Judo is a selective synthesis of many older jujutsu systems, and was the seed of Brazil's own flowering of the art. Judo's focus has been narrowed towards competition strategies since it's inclusion in the Olympics, and this emphasis on tachi-waza, or standing techniques, has had positive and negative consequences. Grip fighting has been elevated, while submission oriented newaza has declined. Many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu champions have trained extensively in Judo, and the results of that combination are already proven.

But BJJ practitioners could also take notes from the art of Aikido, particularly their ukemi, or methods of falling, when receiving the dynamic wristlocks and throws characteristic of the style. Learning to fall is perhaps the most practical of all martial art skills, and the circularity of Aikido's blending movements translate well from the vertical plane to the horizontal. BJJ and Judo players could also expand their self defense awareness by using Aikido's elegant footwork to get off the line of attack against strikes, weapons, and multiple attackers.

Of course, benefits go both ways. I have found the effectiveness of my Aikido greatly enhanced after studying BJJ. Ground fighting not only gives you a back up plan if your initial techniques fail, but also a deeper sense of confidence in your martial abilities, expanding your options wherever the fight may go.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu's openness and wide technical palette adds not only to the sophistication of the art, but also to it's effectiveness against other styles. What gives BJJ the edge in effectiveness is Kano's genius of randori, or full resistance sparring, combined with the aim of finishing the fight. Throwing your opponent or pinning them may end an altercation, but BJJ picks up from that point, cutting off the avenues of escape in smooth and clever ways. Ways that work over and over again, against different bodies, strategies, and skill levels. Rolling keeps the art alive, with the its teeth sharp, so a player can take on an opponent's best effort and redirect it into a submission. With sparring, each player can re-invent effectiveness for themselves, using techniques that fit their body type and disposition.

A descendant of Daito Ryu Aiki-jujutsu, Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba used his interpretation of the art to stress non-violence and non-resistance. While Aikido is philosophically rich, competition and practicing at full resistance are generally discouraged. This is a reflection of the religious orientation of the founder, and makes Aikido accessible to all ages and abilities. The idea of a compassionate martial art has resonated with millions of people worldwide, and launched a philosophical movement that takes the principles off the mat and into daily life. BJJ is beginning to head in this direction, going beyond the idea of winning and losing, and creating more inclusive environments that stress brotherhood and camaraderie.

Personally, I feel Aikido could benefit from full resistance training. Working with non-resistant opponents can lead to a false sense of security, setting a student up for disappointment when their skills are needed most. Sparring clearly illustrates that the first attempt at a technique does not always work, and the secret to repeatable effectiveness is found in the transitions between one technique and the next. Ironically, Ueshiba's vision may be well served, and even enhanced, by incorporating the training methods of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Even if trained as a separate art, the lessons learned in one discipline can be transferred to another, enriching understanding.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is far more than a sport, and even more than an art. BJJ is a modern budo. A warriors way. Preserved tools of the samurai class, used to bring people together into a lifestyle, and allowing them to discover who they are and uncover their potential. Players from each discipline should not view the other styles as separate, but rather as sister arts, where even occasional cross training can expand awareness. The future is not about separation, but rather integration with these other styles of jujutsu, fueling the evolution of each art.

C. David Henderson
12-16-2008, 01:04 PM
Roy,

Thanks very much for that.

Regards,

David

Andrew S
12-16-2008, 03:56 PM
Roy,
Nice to see a BJJ person willing to talk about the history of their art (so many online warriors are quick to dismiss the judo connection), and talk frankly about the strengths and weaknesses of their training pedagogy. Too often the logic presented seems to be:
"The Gracies blah blah realistic training blah blah UFC blah blah tap-out blah blah Aikido is useless blah blah Uber!"
All the best with your training.

StevenR
12-16-2008, 05:43 PM
Roy,

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. As a BJJ practitioner (on a hiatus) and a former Aikido-ka I really enjoyed it.

All the best,
/Steven

Kevin Leavitt
12-16-2008, 06:16 PM
Thanks Roy! As you know it expresses my sentiments and experiences as well.

Adman
12-17-2008, 01:15 PM
Personally, I feel Aikido could benefit from full resistance training. Working with non-resistant opponents can lead to a false sense of security, setting a student up for disappointment when their skills are needed most.

I agree that we need to be critical, honest, have reality checks, etc. However, I'd say that the sentiments in the quote above, depends heavily on what it is your working towards.

Cooperation and compliant training has it's place in the development of skills for whatever it is you are training. For all of the arts Roy mentions, I would think that the beginning goals would be to use as little "localized muscle" as possible, while learning how to use the body in a new and powerful way. During this process, it is natural to ask one's training partner to lighten up on the intensity or strength of grab, etc., in order to keep certain unwanted muscular habits from engaging. However, I think what happens for some is that the compliant training begins to take the place of actually reworking the skills it was meant to teach in the first place. Suddenly dropping in full resistance into this scenario might serve as a wake-up-call, or it could just reinforce the "wrong" habits the compliant training was supposed to have been helping to correct.

So yes, add more "resistance" ... progressively with our eyes kept on what it is we are ultimately training. For me, "full resistance," at this time, would be a no-no for what I'm trying to learn (or re-learn).

Thanks for the nice post, Roy.

Adam

Kevin Leavitt
12-17-2008, 07:44 PM
It is interesting the differences in approach that BJJ takes vice Aikido.

Ironically I think the at the base neither practices really start from a base of "full resistance".

BJJ starts beginners out with what I would call a concentration on "Macro" motorskills. that is, you learn positional dominance and gross motor movements associated with the positions. The Mount, Guard, Side Control, Rear Mount. You also learn the basics of Kuzushi and gain an awareness of your center and how it relates to another persons.

As you are concentrating on the Macro of Gross movement, folks tend to be able to rapidily learn the basics of positions and then can begin to "Roll" or spar in a somewhat "resistive" or non-compliant manner.

You end up learning very quickly in the beginning this way and it can be quite fun.

A couple of other things are going on during this timeframe as well. You are developing the base and conditioning for further learning of more micro, fine or subtle skills.

Aikido on the other hand, starts from a position of micro or fine motor skills. You learn slowly, methodically, and practice in very correct, deliberate ways.

The Idea is to develop or correct bad habits and then gradually pick up the level of non-compliance or resistancee.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages I think.

Personally, I find that it is better to have students develop a sound Gross Motor skilled base (BJJ) then transisiton to developing a more aiki like base, but some find it better to go the other way.

Adman
12-18-2008, 11:48 AM
BJJ starts beginners out with what I would call a concentration on "Macro" motorskills. that is, you learn positional dominance and gross motor movements associated with the positions.

Macro to micro sounds good to me. I'm not suggesting otherwise. However, learning how to feel the ground and the middle through ... whatever ... seems to come before "positional dominance", doesn't it? I feel it falls in line with general conditioning.

As you are concentrating on the Macro of Gross movement, folks tend to be able to rapidily learn the basics of positions and then can begin to "Roll" or spar in a somewhat "resistive" or non-compliant manner.

And this perhaps goes to the point I was trying to make. Rolling or other resistive training might be fine, but with what kind of macro skills? I suppose it's not necessarily macro vs. micro, but rather it's normal or old-fashioned way of using the body vs. new ways of using the body. There are certainly ways of quickly becoming proficient with fighting skills, with old habits.

Roy's post seems to be be pointing towards the fighting, self-defense or martial viability of an art. And how one art can supplement another. That's all fine and good, but I don't believe simply dropping in resistance and sparring into "my aikido" would be of any benefit, unless I've actually learned what aikido is supposed to teach.

I'm mostly speaking out loud here, trying to voice what I'm working out in my own head and body. Hope I'm making some kind of sense.

Thanks,
Adam