Learn Wherever You Can

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When my Jiu-Jitsu journey first began, it was in someone’s garage. I was a poor college student who had joined a free Tae Kwon Do class on campus and quickly grew tired of it. The instructor called for daily “sparring”. During these sparring sessions, I would use my wrestling background to catch kicks and take people down and control them on the ground. The instructor would reprimand me for it, saying things like, “There’s no need for that in real life. You would end the fight with your kicks before it ever hit the ground.”

Don’t worry, it wasn’t this ghetto.

Being that you’re likely BJJ people, I don’t need to explain the absurdity of that statement. I then found a BJJ club on campus, run by what I later learned may have been a phony black belt (I still never did find out). However, the semester ended after my first class with him and there was no more club. I searched google to find a place I could afford. It ended up being with the guy in his garage I mentioned earlier.

I trained there for just over a year before moving across the country and training here and there before I finally found a BJJ home, only to end up moving again. Since then I have trained in a variety of gyms, under a variety of coaches. The most important thing I’ve learned while grappling? Learn wherever you can.

I hate that some people hold the mentality that only one branch of grappling (GJJ/BJJ) is useful. There’s still this lingering idea that the Gracie family holds a monopoly on grappling, and no other style, even “sport” Jiu-Jitsu, can ever compare. This simply is not true. While I love what the Gracie family has done for grappling in the United States (I would have never found BJJ had it not been for them), I also recognize that there is more.

Getting back into wrestling has added major improvements to my grappling game. Watching Josh Barnett use a catch wrestling submission to win a match over Dean Lister added further evidence that we ought to expand. Seeing Ronda Rousey’s success in MMA shows the value of Judo. Rustam Khabilov has introduced to many the importance of Sambo. All grappling martial arts hold value for every BJJ practitioner.

The idea of sticking to one specific style without branching out at all is dangerous. It creates stagnation within the art itself. To sit back and say Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the only way to go is foolish. We run the risk of becoming just as the Kung Fu “masters” from years before that Bruce Lee school. Tradition is a wonderful thing, but it should never stop us from branching out. Don’t be prideful. There is always more you can learn, even if it doesn’t come from the source you think it ought to.

To quote John Green, “Study broadly and without fear.”

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