Grappling has an image problem. Wrestling has been cut from the Olympics, displays of grappling at MMA events draw boos and chants of ‘bo-ring’ and fighters who lack a resume of highlight reel knockouts tend to be less well regarded by, and definitely have lesser box office appeal for mainstream fans.
Of course, everyone can appreciate a visually impressive submission, but the subtleties of grappling remain lost on the majority of sports fans, despite the attempts of educated and passionate commentators like Joe Rogan and Josh Palmer.
Jiujitsu has undoubtedly enjoyed a relative surge in popularity thanks to the raised profile of mixed martial arts – hell, that’s why I’m doing jiujitsu now, rather than returning to karate – but when informed and influential figures like Dana White quite happily go on record to say that the sport is boring to watch, something is clearly wrong.
Perhaps it’s the image of men in pyjamas rolling around the floor, the fact that you need a working knowledge to understand what’s going on, the idea that jiujitsu is a dry old martial art, but not as venerable or worthy (or in the Olympics) as karate or judo.
Hell, they call it ‘the gentle art’ and there is a lack of showy throws, flashy kicks and bloody faces… can you smell the box office?
However, jiujitsu IS big business, has a truly worldwide following and at the end of the day is probably the most civilised (and thereby mainstream friendly from a moral PoV) martial art of them all.
Why shouldn’t that see some truly bright lights and mainstream exposure? What needs to happen?
I believe that the answer is already with us.
This weekend sees the second Metamoris Pro Invitational, pitting some of the biggest names in jiujitsu against each other in twenty minute time limit contests. While the original event saw a ‘submissions only’ format where if there was not a submission within the time frame, the bout was ruled a draw, this event will see judges decisions if a match goes the distance.
Event rules can be found here in a firm which is a whole lot more digestible than the IBJJF’s rules PDF file…
This kind of marquee, one match at a time showpiece is exactly what grappling needs to snare a wider audience. I have to say, I’m a fan of the original ‘submissions only’ format as well, but you can’t have everything. I know how Americans hate a drawn contest…
Slick production and some insanely good promotional videos, building on some of the classic MMA rivalries – the main event of Kron Gracie vs. Shinya Aoki is in the finest tradition of Gracie BJJ vs. Japan, dating back to Sakuraba etc. and even right back to the roots of jiujitsu as Maeda & co. brought the discipline to the West – and presenting the sport as something transcendent and the event as something special, rather than the predictable procession of nationals, mundials and the ADCC really makes a difference.
I believe that jiujitsu, and grappling as a whole can only grow by being presented as an Event, with the ethos and lifestyle that goes with the sport along the personality of its elite practitioners promoted as something truly special, rather than the exclusive repetition of traditional events and forms.
At a more modest scale, I find events like SUBF15TEENvery exciting and I’d love to see such formats become commonplace, to the point where they start impinging on the mainstream consciousness.
Jiujitsu is a wonderful martial art, tremendously beneficial to both mental and physical health as well as being a nuanced and demanding sport which rewards both creativity and discipline as well as physical and mental strength in equal measure.
I’d love to see it transcend its oft-perceived role as the ‘dull’ part of mixed martial arts and gain recognition for the positive, compelling spectacle and lifestyle it can be. Sometimes, you need the gimmick and the glamour to really show off your discipline, and we need it to be in more immediate ways than Tom Cruise pulling off a rather nice triangle choke in his last movie.
Whether you are a big grappling fan or not, I recommend that you check out Metamoris 2 this Sunday at www.metamoris.com
Featuring UFC fighter Brendan Schaub, who usually best known for his boxing against BJJ standout Roberto Abreu, as well as dream matches between the likes of Andre Galvao, Rafael Lovato Jr, Braulio Estima and Rodolfo Viera, it’s gonna be a hell of a show.
It’s the future of grappling. Now.
If you need any more convincing…
“Out of all the shit I’ve done in my life…becoming really good at jiu jitsu is probably one of the most difficult things a person can do and I think it helps me with everything I do. I think the more I train and the more I meet people who are in jiu jitsu…people who are in jiu jitsu and train on a regular basis, they’re healthier people. Their egos are healthier. Especially men. They’re easier to talk to. They’re easier to hang out with. Because they’re facing reality on a regular basis.
Something that my tae kwon do teacher told me when I was a little kid that I never forgot was that martial arts are a vehicle for developing your human potential. And nothing in my life has ever put me in face with reality better than jiu jitsu. In life, we can all distort our perception of things in order to make ourselves more comfortable, in order to make ourselves accept where we are. And there’s a lot of people out there that are running around in life full of shit. You can’t be full of shit when you do jiu jitsu. When you do jiu jitsu, its impossible to be full of shit because reality comes at you in the purest form possible: A life or death struggle, using your determination, your focus, your techniques, your mind, and your training, over and over and over again.
“And its reality. And if you fuck up and you get caught in a triangle, you’ve gotta tap. That is the end of story. It’s as real as it can get and that has made me a better person. It has made me a better man, it’s made me understand myself, my weaknesses, my strengths, the shit I need to work on. Jiu jitsu has been one of the most valuable tools that I’ve ever had in my life.”
– Joe Rogan