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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