Winston Churchill has been noted as saying, ‘Americans and British are one people, separated by only a common language’. Clearly, this statement was made before the introduction of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as I am continually asked, after training in the States, how American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training differs from what I’ve learned at home in England.
THE HONEST TRUTH
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has existed much longer in the States - emerging onto the martial arts scene in early 1990’s with the inaugural bare-knuckle tournament style Ultimate Fighting Championship events. The old UFC matches pitted styles against styles with limited rules, no time restrictions and no judges to taint any decisions. Two men walked into the cage and only one walked out as the uncontested victor. The UFC produced famous champions such as Ken Shamrock, Kimo Leopoldo, Dan Severn, Oleg Taktarov and the one man holding it all together: Royce Gracie – the father of modern martial arts.
Gracie’s early victories paved the way for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the United States and students rushed to learn this new style. Soon most major metropolitan cities in America had a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy with world-renowned teachers willing to
share their skills.
However, the UK would have to wait over half a decade for Maurição Motta Gomes (currently 7th degree red and black belt) to open the first Gracie Barra at the old Birds Custard factory in Birmingham. Followed shortly after in London by Roger Brooking (Jacare Calvacante BB). These schools became the early catalysts for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and set the stage for many great combats.
Soon the likes of Braulio Estima and his younger brother Victor, then brown belts, would make their way to the UK followed by Roger Gracie who would take over the teaching from his father. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu finally had a voice in the United Kingdom!
BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU IS STILL AN UNDERGROUND PHENOMENON
Even with the worldwide spread of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu creating a new generation of UK fighters such as Felipe Souza and Pedro Bessa, popularity still isn’t as high as it is in the States. New teams, including Alliance and TT, opened academies and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is spreading, though still only among a group of hardcore students who live and breath for the art.
As the UFC grows, small clubs are suddenly seeing an influx of new students who want to train in mixed martial arts. While the craze in the UK is currently MMA, there is still a growing population who love and compete in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and long for it to become mainstream.
SEPARATED BY BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU TRAINING
Is training in the States genuinely superior to what you can expect to receive in the United Kingdom?
The simple answer, right now, is yes.
Although technical ability of UK and US students is slowly growing closer, the US still has more of something the UK lacks – and that something is black belts. There is absolutely no substitute for quality instruction, and when you can get on a mat and see five or six black belts rolling, you know you’re being trained by the best.
Right now, most British training is still happening in YMCAs, church halls or even the odd spare room in a pub or social club. There are some great places to train in terms of full time academies, but Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is still considered a hobby and not a business. It’s not like walking through an American town and seeing karate or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dojos next to diners and in shopping malls.
America can also offer one thing that we have found it hard to do in the UK and that is proper funding. I know it a dirty word, but a top Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor will make more money in America, and money talks when it comes to recruiting big names.
BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU’S FUTURE IN THE UK
You only have to look at the Pan Am or Mundial Championships to see how well British students are progressing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the white, blue, purple and brown categories. The proof is in the results of great young talents like Ross Nicholes, Oliver Geddes, Pippa Granger and Leoni Munslow.
But the thing is we (us and the European’s) are playing catch up. The UK is talking about a governing body to oversee the growth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which could bring in even more talented instructors and better dojos. Finally, our two nations would no longer be separated by training and maybe, one day, this writer will be nearly as good as his American cousins.
**Update on 10/12/2010**
As some comments we’ve received state, please check out the following links for some excellent information on the subject.
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