Join Date: Mar 2007
Re: Aikido vs Brazilian Jujutsu
I think the "vs" thing is a bit juvenile of a topic, which is probably one reason it's relegated to this section. But since I have some knowledge that might be of interest I'll toss out one(1) post on it.
First and foremost, let's distinguish between "fighting" and self-defense. "Fighting" is what happens when someone gets in your face and your ego refuses to let you ignore it. It's illegal, immoral, and definitely against the spirit of Aikido. And it's one aspect where I think Aikido training may have a benefit over other types of training, because more aggressive, confrontational training may make it harder to suppress the ego. Or perhaps people with certain insecurities are more drawn to aggressive training, but in any case it seems to make it less likely for people to brush off aggression.
That said, it is not and never has been the strategy of BJJ to go to the ground in a multiple opponent scenario. It may seem that way, because people want to learn the ground stuff and that's where the focus is. But BJJ *is* jiu-jitsu, there is a fairly extensive standup syllabus, and the techniques are very solid. I don't know how it is now, but back in the day at the Gracie Academy, you had to finish a standup curriculum before you could focus on the groundwork. I remember Rorion Gracie saying something to the effect that he had an album of Helio that catalogued some 1000+ techniques, along with narratives and photos. If memory serves those were the standup techniques, or in any case there were hundreds of standing techniques, as with any jiu-jitsu ryu. I remember one instance of Royce getting ticked off because he was teaching a class, was demonstrating something from a headlock with the victim pushed up against a wall, and the student had forgotten the counter. He went around testing everybody on standup work, and ended up forcing a review of standup material so people wouldn't forget it. It's an oft-neglected area because students come to BJJ specifically to learn ground fighting in most cases, but the standup syllabus has some of the better counters for certain holds that I've seen.
Now the machismo culture of Brazil that gave birth to BJJ ensured that one-on-one challenge matches were not hard to find, but Brazil is sufficiently violent that anything could happen, therefore reliance on 1-on-1 fighting strategy is a non-starter. Various anecdotes in random order:
- On the general level of violence, I recall Rickson saying that to go to Brazil as a tourist is just foolish. Unless you know people who live there and will stay with them during your visit, you will simply be a likely victim. Despite his skills, if he went out at night he would carry a .45 and two extra clips. That's practical self-defense.
- Craig Kukuk, who became the first American black belt from the academy, shared a story that happened during his extended stay in Brazil. A number of students went there for intensive training, and came back much better for it. I forget how many months he was there, but he was only alone *one* time for a few minutes, and sure enough he was immediately attacked by three men. He was walking to his car from a building, or some other short walk, and was attacked. Did he go to the ground? Of course not. He threw one attacker with the standard hip throw taught on the first day of training, retained the arm, and broke it. The other two ran away after witnessing that.
- Rickson is an avid surfer, and one day he and bunch of surfing buddies were away from their normal stomping grounds in another city, and went to a bar. Some guy got into it with him, and he headbutted him and knocked him out. Note, again, he did not go to the ground. Suddenly, the entire bar stood up, since a local had just gotten beat by a non-local. Everybody burst for the door, most of Rickson's "friends" ran for it, and Rickson and one real friend who stayed with him wound up outside encircled by 20-30 people. I don't care what art you study, at that point it's all the same thing. You get buffetted around the circle here and there, engaging in mini-encounters, trying to put people in each other's way, and hope to eventually escape, which they did. No demonstration of taking out any one person is going to instill fear in a crowd that large, and if you do something too aggressive, you will simply increase their determination to stomp you into your grave. Awareness, conditioning, and the technique to keep your base and stay *on* your feet and counter attempts to grapple you, which you also learn in grappling, is what counts.
In order to find yourself in a multiple-opponent self-defense scenario, you pretty much have to do something foolish to get there. Going to bars and getting into fights would be pretty high on the list of foolish things to do. There are plenty of good martial artists who have been dumb enough in their young lives to do such things, but also many who just got a knife or shotgun blast in the back for their trouble. Summary points:
1) BJJ does not advocate going to the ground unless conditions warrant it, and in the case of multiple opponents it's hard to imagine how it would be warranted. But, it could happen against your will. Unlike most arts, BJJ doesn't say "I'll never wind up on the ground", and so has an extensive curriculum to deal with that situation, including how to get up and get away. What you can do in cage fights you often can't do in real fights, but the technique addresses how to realistically defend yourself in scenarios most arts just assume you won't find yourself in, like on the floor underneath someone 50 - 100 lbs heavier than you trying to choke and punch you out. Until the popularity of BJJ, there was much denial about how often such scenarios happen in real fights. Women's self-defense in particular needs to address that scenario or else it's delusional. In other words, it's one thing to say you don't want to go there voluntarily, which is undoubtedly often wise - and another to assume you have to tools to handle it if you find yourself there against your will. It's hard to remember with MMA all the rage these days, but BJJ was designed to be a *self-defense* art, not a beat-people-up art, so that a small person can survive attack *no matter how bad a position they find themselves in*. Like any other art, its ideal purpose is to be used in the same mindset as Aikido, to defend oneself only when necessary.
2) The non-confrontational mindset espoused by Aikido is hugely important in practical terms of not getting into stupid situations. If it makes you walk away from an optional fight, consider that a win, whether or not you had the technique to prevail.
3) The internal skills would make it much harder for anyone to grapple you, which is significantly more useful than any twisty technique. The goal is to be able to take control of the other person's balance as soon as they touch you (well, before if possible, but let's leave that to white-bearded old wizards) not to take their balance because you're twisting something on them. It'll still work as would any good external jiu-jitsu technique, but as has been belabored here recently, a high level of Ki abilities is probably the real Grail, not being fast at grab-and-twist.