Is Your Jiu Jitsu Pure?

A discussion about “Pure Jiu Jitsu” was brought to my attention yesterday. I must admit that the discussion itself didn’t really teach me anything I didn’t already know but it made me think.

The central question raised was: What defines Pure Jiu Jitsu? This situation is not unique if you look at many traditional martial arts. A family member(s) (usually the eldest son or brother or even most senior student) ends up "inheriting" responsibility for the art and feels, in a lot of cases, rightly passionate about preserving what they learnt and inherited. You see this in Karate (Wadokai v wado ryu or even ITF Taekowndo vs the WTF version), Jujutsu (Iwama ryu v Aikikai) and even weapon arts (family-based ryu or schools vs curriculums by the Budokai. I'm not agreeing with it, I'm just saying that it's a natural thing.

If I was to create a system (of any kind) and spent a very long time teaching the ins and outs of it to someone (especially blood related), then they will see my passion for it and may develop a feeling that they need to preserve it after my death, rather than open it up and develop/expand it. That is human. This is not even to mention the perceived financial advantageous of a monopoly!

On the other hand, you will often have a group of people who are more passionate about the art itself and how it can enrich people's lives. They respect what those who created it/discovered it/formulated it did but are more excited by the prospects that the future holds and they realise that for the art/system to thrive and expand, it needs to evolve and stay up-to-date. They form committees and they created federations and they bring in democratic regulations. That too is human and of course welcome.

Which way to go then? Well the beauty of it is that it's up to the instructor, as long as he or she is honest, it all adds to the art and by being honest, I mean honest in all your communication with your students and the public. If you focus on preserving techniques that were meant to deal with a set of circumstances (be it sword attacks, BJJ competition or Vale Tudo) and you tell everyone that that’s your focus then great. If they like it, who’s to stop them/you.

The original question (What defines Pure Jiu Jitsu?) is really just a trap. A trap of attachment and measurement. “Pure” simply implies that something/everything else is “impure” which we have come to feel is something negative, turning the question into, in essence, marketing. The word is not the thing. If you want to know the thing, go roll. Don’t power your way thru, leave your ego outside and flow with the go and you will experience the thing and no one will be able to take it away from you or make it “impure”, whatever the hell that means.

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Meerkatsu said...

Good post. My thoughts echo yours. Namely, that purity in itself is a misnomer (when applied to martial arts). As we all know, no style can truly claim to be untainted by events and happenings over time.

My personal memories: I first did karate when I was a green and innocent 18 year old. I thought it rocked. I learned the history and Mas Oyama's kyokushinkai style was his own take on the shotokan system. It didn't matter to me, I thought it still rocked. My shotokan rivals at Uni mocked my 'impure' version of karate. I didn't care because karate ruled. then I got into a fight. Karate no longer rocked.

Years later, I picked up ju-jitsu (japanese or trad, but not the BJJ form) and I thought it rocked. This was it! The hidden gems in karate kata all laid out for real. Oh and it was surely more pure because the samurai did it, right?
It took me many years to discover that 'ju-jitsu' as practised by 99 percent of schools in the UK, Europe and USA was a made-up hodge-podge of stuff nicked from several styles and formed into a syllabus roughly around the early 1980's. It was certainly far from being a 'pure' art. But I thought it rocked. Until, I sparred for the first time on the ground. It no longer rocked.

Then I discovered BJJ...I've yet to get involved in a 'street' tussle so can still proudly say BJJ rocks.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Thanks Meerkatsu. What's important is that you enjoyed it all and that you are enjoying it now. That's as pure as it gets IMO.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Just for the record, if was ever to get into a so called "street" fight, chances are I'll get battered. Nothing to do with my Jiu Jitsu skills or otherwise and it wouldn't exactly put me off BJJ in any shape of form. Statistically, "street" fights are not based on even odds and often involve the elements of surprise, outnumbering and edged weapons. Nothing can completly prepare you for that and worrying about it is paranoia :)

I remember reading way back when I was still training and reading about Karate that the old masters only bothered training the versions of Kata-bunkai (interpretation)that suited their particular life style. For example, a bold master would never waste time learning defense against hair grabs...etc. In a way, that's a smart way of looking at it. I try to minimize situations in my life where my life and/or health would be unnecessarily threatened, rather than learn 12 ways to disarm a gun.

A.D. McClish said...

One of the great things about BJJ, in my opinion, is that it is not stagnant. The BJJ of today is a little bit different from the BJJ practiced 20 years ago. As people learn and try new things, the sport evolves and grows. Different styles develop. One style is not necessarily better than another (although there are some b.s. schools out there to watch out for).

The Part Time Grappler said...

Haha yes thank you Allie. It makes you wonder what Jiu Jitsu model year 2020 and 2030 will look like!