Change is a terrifying thing. We don’t like for something to suddenly be different around us. We want our environments to stay the same. Hell, I get upset when I have to change speeds while driving. So what is it that makes us fear and fight change so much? And why is there such a fight against evolution in the world of BJJ?
The truth is, most of us fear change in our everyday lives due to fear. We end up creating anxiety over the perceived change and the impact it may have on us. Let’s create an example here.
Let’s say you work a job that you neither love nor hate, but you’ve worked it for years. A buddy calls you up one day and asks if you want to come work with him. Higher pay, better benefits, the works, but you have to move across the country for it. Chances are, you aren’t just going to jump at the opportunity.
Why? Well, Dr. Hilary Glasser says,
Fear of change and fear of failure typically go hand in hand. We can feel worried when we even think about undertaking new challenges because we doubt our abilities, our intelligence, or our ability to overcome obstacles that may arise. We fear not measuring up, making a mistake and being judged. The possibility of failure may be so threatening that the perceived outcome does not merit the risk.
Essentially, we’re afraid we’ll mess it up. We’ve already got a good thing going, why risk making it worse? Anyone who has ever gained a new rank in BJJ has felt the anticipation and anxiety of entering a new skill division in competition. It’s a very real fear. We don’t want to suddenly be not as good as we once were.
One of the most common fears in the Jiu-Jitsu community is the fear that sport Jiu-Jitsu is ruining the art. Everyone was up in arms when Keenan Cornelius started using the worm guard, and Copa Podio even considered banning the use of it.
So why fight the change? Fear. Some think the evolutions that have come into BJJ will turn it into a spectacle rather than a martial art. I believe this is a false claim. The idea that a sport version of a martial art is useless in fighting is absurd. Ronda Rousey only did sport judo before entering the cage; Daniel Cormier only did wrestling as a sport before joining the ranks of MMA; Holly Holm only boxed before tearing through plenty of seasoned martial artists.
The fact of the matter is people who believe we need to be “street” ready have a false idea of what a fight looks like in their minds. Very few fights begin with two opponents mutually agreeing to meet and fight. Often, a fight consists of a sucker punch, or a group of people attacking one individual.
However, many BJJ practitioners seem to have the Hollywood version of things in their minds. That’s not the way the world works though. “street Jiu-Jitsu” will prepare you for a real fight no better than “sport Jiu-Jitsu” because a person has no control over the conditions they are forced into when fighting. It’s foolish to think that they will.
We need to overcome our fears of what sport Jiu-Jitsu is going to do to the art. Instead, let’s allow the art to evolve. If we ignore the evolution of the art, we will be no better than Tae Kwon Do “masters” who refuse to learn what a takedown is. We’ll be stuck in a falsified version of fighting reality, and will live our careers in the “olden days” of the Gracies’ early UFC success.
Time has moved on and the art has moved on. If you want to be any good at the art, you will too.