If you are at all familiar with Gracie jiu jitsu, you probably know that it has revolutionized the martial arts world, and you probably know that Royce Gracie is perhaps the most recognizable and influential person in modern era martial arts. What you may not know is that the Gracie family began teaching their unique style of jiu jitsu as a means of self-defense, beginning in Rio de Janeiro in the 1920s.
Unfortunately, as Gracie jiu jitsu has come to dominate the world of martial arts an unexpected emphasis on the “sport” of jiu jitsu has emerged; the street worthiness of the art is in danger of becoming obsolete. Despite current trends we at Scranton MMA are committed to keeping Gracie jiu jitsu pure! Royce explains, “An attack does not begin with a referee materializing out of thin air and asking if you are ready then turning to the aggressor and asking ‘Are you ready?’ A real fight starts with an aggressive action, an unexpected attack. If you can not escape that attack and bring the situation into your comfort zone, then you are in for a long day.”
What is it about the Gracie Jiu Jitsu that makes it the most effective self-defense system in the world? We can break that answer into four main points: the techniques are designed to work even when you are surprised and in a poor situation, the system was designed by small people to defeat larger ones, the system allows you to develop instantaneous reactions by practicing in extremely lifelike exercises, and the techniques provide you with a range of severity in dealing with your attacker. Let’s take a moment to examine these points one at a time.
To understand Gracie jiu jitsu you must understand the difference between a grappling art and a striking art. Grappling arts (such as jiu jitsu) use wrestling like holds to control an opponent, while striking arts (such as karate, kung fu, and boxing) use kicks and punches to incapacitate an opponent. Striking arts work best when you are aware of an attacker. Grappling arts are designed for close contact, so even if you have been attacked from behind or are caught in a clinch – even a headlock – you will have a range of effective responses at your disposal. Gracie jiu jitsu famously turned the martial arts world upside down by showing that when flat on his back with an attacker on top him a skilled Gracie jiu jitsu practitioner was still in an extremely favorable position. Having an instant and effective reaction to an attack makes all the difference in the outcome, and Gracie Jiu Jitsu places much emphasis on the element of surprise.
Size and Strength
A karate chop is not always the answer! It is very important to realize that striking someone larger and stronger than you will more often than not just aggravate the situation. Take for example a petite woman trying to punch a 260-pound man; the punch is likely to make him angrier. With our techniques we use the pain from a joint lock or chokehold to control the situation. Because men of relatively small build developed Gracie jiu jitsu the system had to develop ways to defeat larger opponents and moreover these techniques had to be able to be employed effectively by a smaller person. This reason alone makes Gracie jiu jitsu the ideal self defense system. It takes little strength – just proper technique – to execute the locks and holds that will have your attacker begging for mercy and completely in your control.
A further drawback to the striking arts is that, when training against a live partner, you have to “pull your punches”. The striking arts are designed to injure an opponent with punches and kicks and therefore you can only go so far during training before risking injury to your partner. You never get the feel of how quickly things happen in a real fight, or what it is like to actually strike someone. Gracie jiu jitsu has little use for punches and kicks – instead relying on joint locks and chokeholds – therefore Gracie jiu jitsu can be practiced exactly the same way as it would go down in a fight. This may not seem significant at first, but in the precious seconds of a real self-defense situation it can make all the difference in the world. Time and time again “skilled” martial artists have turned out to be hot house flowers during a real self defense situation; when faced with a no-rules attack that did not follow the carefully prescribed rules of their training forms and katas, they wilted. In contrast, a Gracie jiu jitsu practitioner by practicing again and again under lifelike conditions develops an almost automatic response to a full variety of attacks. Virtually no thought is required. Like hitting a baseball, surfing a wave, or riding a bike, each technique becomes muscle memory.
Gracie jiu jitsu provides techniques that allow you to choose the severity level of your response. If the person you are facing is a friend or relative that is temporarily out of his senses you can control the situation without hurting him. However, if you are dealing with a criminal or a deliberate act to injure you or a loved one you can apply a more suitable response and inflict as much damage as you need to in order to stop an attacker.
There in a nutshell are some of the reasons why Royce Gracie jiu jitsu is the perfect self-defense system for most people who want to protect themselves. We will explore all of these issues in further detail during your training. But where, you may ask, did Gracie jiu jitsu come from? Why was it able to revolution the martial arts? What makes it so unique? To understand the answers to these questions you can watch a Biography Channel special about the Gracie family and the history of Gracie jiu jitsu here.