If you don’t subscribe to the Tristar Gym YouTube channel, you should! World class MMA coach and BJJ black belt Firas Zahabi regularly shares his thoughts and analysis of big fights in the world of MMA and teaches some great BJJ techniques.
Coach Zahabi brought up a an interesting question: Is your jiu-jitsu universal?
What does he mean by “universal jiu-jitsu”?
A jiu-jitsu game that is not based on a specific rule set (no leg locks allowed!) or for your opponent requiring to wear a kimono to be effective. Some BJJ minds describe this as an old school style of BJJ.
The art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu has in fact splintered into different expressions of the BJJ tree. To extend the analogy, the branches might be no-gi submission grappling (with heel hooks a la EBI competition), IBJJF rules with the points system, BJJ for MMA, and the self defense school of techniques.
The rules of any specific competition will dictate the way the competitors train and which strategies and techniques they specialize in. Intelligent competitors will exploit the rules to their best advantage to win within those rules. If a heel hook or takedown is the best way to achieve the gold medal, then that is what we will see rise to the top.
Coach Zahabi challenges BJJ students to develop a jiu-jitsu style that is transferable to any and all of the other rule sets. That will mean spending less time, for example, on spider guard and more on guard styles that depend less on sleeve control. A style of jiu-jitsu / submission grappling that depends heavily on leg locks may leave one open to head strikes were they to try it in MMA. Not all of the techniques and positions in BJJ are effective when the rule sets change.
At least some attention must be paid to the reality of strikes when you are grappling. Ask yourself “in a real fight, could my opponent easily strike my head here?”. That effective deep half guard may suddenly take on a different view in your BJJ mind.
Now many are going to say “Hey, I have no intention of getting into street fights or stepping into the cage for an MMA fight. Let me berimbolo, bro!”
The legendary (and I don’t use that word lightly!) Carlson Gracie Sr. said “Why train a technique that only works with the gi?!”
Sure, train how you wish and what you most enjoy. To stay true to the spirit of the original style of BJJ, which was tested and developed in the ruthless world of Brazilian vale tudo by the Gracie family, do not lose sight of the purpose of training a martial art: to be able to defend yourself in a real fight!
Heed the words of one of the best MMA coaches on the planet and analyze your own style to see if you have developed a universal jiu-jitsu?
Read also: All About Heel Hooks